My mom worried about her kids hanging out with the wrong crowd, the wrong crowd being kids or families of ill-repute.

Unfortunately, my buddy in grade school was a girl whose family was known to be dysfunctional. Her parents fought verbally and physically, and their kids suffered as a result of this. My buddy’s older siblings were known for cursing and beating up kids, and cursing and being defiant with schoolteachers and principals.


Surprisingly, these “hoodlums” were generally polite with other adults in their community and attentive and cooperative in Sunday school.

Neither my buddy nor her siblings did well academically. They barely passed most of their classes, and I’m sure, in retrospect, teachers passed them along just to get them out of their classrooms. But my buddy was likeable. She struggled during classroom participation and homework assignments, but at least she tried.

Our schools mandated music classes once or twice a week. This was probably the school’s effort to introduce us kids-in-the-middle-of-cornfields to musical instruments and the larger world of music. Some kids were fortunate enough to have parents rent or purchase instruments for them for music lessons at school, but if a student showed an interest in an instrument the school had available, the school would lend the instrument to the student free of charge.

The latter was the case for my buddy. Our music teacher liked my buddy and interested her in playing the drums. It was amazing. My buddy took to the drums like a duck to water.

She quickly learned how to read notations for drums and how to play a variety of drums, and she practiced faithfully. By the time we were in high school, my buddy was a member of the orchestra and band.

When she marched in the Fourth of July parade, beating her drums, people waved and called to her. She had become someone of whom the community was proud.

My buddy’s schoolwork improved a bit, but more importantly, thanks to a music teacher who cared, my buddy was given a world of pleasure and pride, beating the drum.

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Peggy Tarr

Peggy Tarr has been a columnist for the Evanston RoundTable since its founding in 1998. Born in Bruce Springsteen's hometown of Freehold, New Jersey, she graduated from Rutgers University with a degree...