“You never know with a child whether it’s going to be something they will really stick with or not,” says Ann Techau, “It’s a gamble,” she adds, talking about the moment she agreed to buy the silver bFlat trumpet for daughter Mia.
Ann, who is a teacher at Copper Rim Elementary in Globe and a single parent of her daughter Mia, whom she adopted from China seventeen years ago, says she knew Mia gravitated to music from an early age and started her on piano lessons at age three.
In sixth grade Mia picked up the saxophone and was later asked to play trumpet in the eighth grade to balance out the sound according to her band director and mentor, Richard Franco.
Ann laughs at the memory. “Actually he told me at the time that Mia could play anything he threw at her. And he needed another trumpet player.”
Although it is not an easy transition to go from a reed instrument like the saxophone to a mouth piece like the trumpet, Mia performed as Franco had predicted. She became proficient. She likes the trumpet she says because it’s more diverse with a much greater dynamic range of octaves. Something that makes the trumpet both more challenging and rewarding to play.
That, and Mia likes to play loud.
Looking at the diminutive girl with short cropped hair, a boyish charm and the fine features of her Asian descent, you might be surprised to find she’s the one stepping forward during a half time performance with the Globe High School band during a Diamond Backs’ game last fall to play a solo in front of thousands of spectators.
Ann explains they rented Mia’s first trumpet from United Jewelers in Globe.The shop has an agreement with Milano’s Music to supply instruments to local kids. While the school district does have some instruments, many of them are in need of repairs and parents often find themselves footing the bill for their child’s musical passion through other means.
When she and Mia decided it was time to buy a trumpet, Ann says she took a deep breath, cashed in on the equity they had built up through the rentals, and paid an additional $1000. She laughs and mutters under her breath that she just figured she’d live on rice for the rest of her life.
Last summer, Mia and Ann traveled to Phoenix to watch a military band concert and Ann noticed an advertisement in the program for the Phoenix Youth Symphony. She encouraged Mia to try out for it. The Youth Symphony, which grew out of the prestigious Phoenix Symphony, dates back to the ‘50s. It now serves 6000, attracting top conductors and youth talent from all over the state.
When Mia was accepted, she and her mother signed an agreement stating that they would attend all rehearsals, concerts and other events scheduled for the group – and Mia would maintain her responsibilities for all practices and performances in Globe High’s band. When she later tried out and won a seat on the Chamber Winds, (an elite ensemble for winds and percussionists) it doubled her involvement and practice time with PYS.
All together it has meant four-hour practice session each week, coupled with a four-hour round trip drive to the Valley, but Ann and Mia both say the sacrifice has been worth it. Mia explains,
“I just wish we had known about this earlier,” says Ann.
What’s it like playing with the 216 member of the Symphony?
“In the symphony group, they move really fast, and you have to be able to adapt quickly. Every week we have rehearsal and the conductor expects improvement.” Mia explains,
“He’ll call you out in front of everyone if you don’t [improve.]”
I ask if she had ever been called out.
“Yes, I was called out and made to play this piece five times. It was embarrassing at first but I actually learned something…and now I’m not afraid to be called out in front of people.”
She goes on to explain the difference between her experience in Globe versus her experience with the Phoenix Youth Symphony.
“In Globe, they spend time with you one on one so you learn a lot…but you also learn slower.” She pauses and continues, “A band or orchestra is only as strong as the weakest link, so everyone has to move together. Down there, because they know so much already, it’s sort of ‘boom, boom, boom,’ ” she gestures with her hands to make her point. “ We are so large, and everyone knows their stuff, so you feel the pressure to catch on quick if you don’t know something.”
She describes a variety of music from classical to slow ballads, and fast paced pieces where she is required to move her fingers two hundred times a minute.
“And then you have ones that don’t make any sense; they have so many sharps and flats…they’re confusing and the music just looks like lines and dots on a page. So you just have to follow along and our director is moving his hand like this,” she says, waiving wildly. And we’re trying to follow him and we are all site reading the music and it sounds raunchy.”
She pauses and reflects on the process, adding, “ From the beginning to the end it’s a very stressful journey…but in the end it’s worth it.”
Ann steps into the conversation, and says she has seen Mia grow so much through her music – not just as a musician, but in the way she handles herself. It’s easy to see her point.
Mia, who says she has always considered herself a shy person and one who is happy to let others take the lead, has taken the lead so often among her peers that one could be forgiven in mistaking her for a born leader.
She was voted “Spirit of the Band” during a period of uncertainty when one band leader left and a new one took his place. The band dwindled to just thirteen members, and Mia said she thought briefly of quitting.
She didn’t. Instead, she hung in there and the band got better…and bigger. It now numbers 25 members, and although she is among four seniors who will be graduating this year, Mia talks excitedly about the music teacher at High Desert, Tara Brewer, who is preparing kids to come up to the high school ready to play. If all goes well, the band could gain twenty five new members next year.
At a time when Mia and Anne both say they know of other schools in the Valley which are scuttling their music programs, they are grateful for Globe’s continued investment in a music program for the kids and the opportunities that Mia has gotten here.
“Mia wouldn’t be doing what she is doing now without the music programs at Globe,” Ann says.
Writer, photographer. Passionate foodie, lover of good books and storytelling. Lives in Globe. Plays in the historic district. Travels when possible.