I became a drummer in the 6th grade. I should probably say, a percussionist. I never really played a drum set, but boy did I play some snare, xylophone, marimba, tympani, chimes, triangle and slapstick! (I have a great story about my abilities as a slapstick player!) Anyway, I had the best band director, Mr. Monroe! Not only was Mr. Monroe my band director, but he was also our church music director and our church youth director. My dad was the pastor of the church, so you can see, that I had eyes watching me ALL the time! Haha! Yes, we lived in a very small town!
Mr. Monroe, was also a percussionist, so he was AWESOME at being able to teach us and mold us into the best little drummers we could be. He was kind, encouraging, harsh when he needed to be, and a great leader! I had the best years being a drummer under him! I was that girl, that loved being a girl, but put some sticks in my hands and I could “beat” with the best of them! Percussion was my thing, and I even received some significant honors along the way.
Because Mr. Monroe was so amazing, he would always find another band director to help critique us both as a marching band and as individuals as needed. I was super lucky, because one of those band directors he chose for me, was none other than the FAMOUS Ms. Diane Baker! Oh the stories that preceded her would make you shiver in your boots, but also make you shine those same boots like you never had before because you wanted to impress her and show her your best. Ms. Baker, was also a drummer! A GIRL drummer who was COOL and AMAZING! She did not mess around! To hear words like “way to go” or “you’ve got this” or “I want you to do this instead” or “you are going to do great” from her was like a trophy in itself! She always believed in you, and made you believe in yourself. I was lucky enough once, to be in a percussion jazz ensemble with her. Honestly, she was the coolest! I wasn’t great on the set, but she wanted me to have something unique to play, so I got the vibraphone. She was always looking for ways to build you.
This week, Ms. Diane Baker passed away due to pancreatic cancer. I would never even pretend to be able to speak of her legacy like those band members and friends who were under her instruction daily. Oh the stories! There was a facebook page set up in her memory, and it is filled with story after story of how she touched and changed the lives of those she came into contact with. I was great friends with many who were students of hers, and each of them feels the loss in a big way. There will never be another one like her.
I am thankful to Mr. Monroe for introducing me to Ms. Baker. I am thankful to Ms. Baker for the encouragement she gave me over the years, and the legacy she leaves behind. Most of all, I am thankful that she gave her life to Christ and is now rejoicing in heaven where there is no more pain. One day, I wilI be there with her, and whether or not there is a band…I KNOW there will be a BIG BIG hug!