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Brothers of a Band is a very funny satire about a unemployeed classical musician who joins the Army Band to ride out the recession and ends up on patrol in Afghanistan.
Brothers of a Band, a debut novel, is a timely satire about American culture and the Afghanistan War. Witty, irreverent, humorous, and at times poignant, the story follows the life journey and musical career of Theodore “Tooter” Rawlings. The story begins when Theo is in the fourth grade and joins the band at his elementary school in the suburbs of Phoenix, Arizona. He eventually becomes a classically trained woodwind player and lands a job with a local community orchestra. When the downturn in the economy causes the orchestra to go bankrupt, Tooter joins the Army Band to ride out the recession. To his surprise, he ends up deployed to Afghanistan patrolling with a rifle, instead of playing his instrument at Army ceremonies and social occasions.
“I’m a classical oboist! What do I know about killing insurgents? I didn’t sign up for this,” Tooter wailed.... “I signed up to play the ‘Washington Post March’ at welcome home ceremonies.”
With thinly veiled references to actual state and national current affairs, Tooter encounters plenty of nonsense, absurdity and short-comings of the human condition as he ventures through life; and he represents young people who have had their dreams for the future detoured by circumstances beyond their control. Luckily, two things transcend it all - music and the human spirit.
Civilian readers also are given an insightful and informative look at the “almost forgotten” war in Afghanistan, and perhaps gain a better understanding of, and appreciation for, those members of the U S military and their families who shoulder, on behalf of all Americans, the entire burden of war.
After graduating from college with a MFA, Tooter has trouble finding a job with an orchestra.
"He did receive an offer from the Billings Symphony Orchestra. But after careful consideration, the $7,000 part-time position would not provide enough money to pay rent and buy food, let alone purchase the protective clothing required to survive a miserable Montana winter. He also had second thoughts about what kind of audience would show up for a classical music concert in Billings, and about his ability to have a beer at a bar without being harassed by a local camouflage wearing, outdoor enthusiast retuning from an elk hunt.
He was living at home and hanging drywall with his dad when one of his former music teachers from ASU called to let him know the principle oboe player from the Mesa Community Orchestra (MCO) had just died, creating an immediate opening for second oboe. Apparently, she perished in a bizarre accident.
On a visit to the Grand Canyon, the oboist decided to take the mule ride along the narrow paths that lead to the bottom of the canyon and the famous resting spot called Phantom Ranch. She took along her oboe, with the intention of producing a memorable surprise for all those along for the ride. On the way back up the steep climb, she took up her oboe and serenaded the others in the mule train by playing “On the Trail” from the Grand Canyon Suite by Ferde Grofe. Well, it was all too much for the mule upon which she was riding.
Either the mule became distraught, thinking the rest of its life would be spent hauling increasingly heavier and heavier tourists in and out of the canyon, up and down the same old trail….. day after day; or, the haunting melody played in time to the clip clop of its very own hooves on the rocky, narrow path hugging the canyon walls was too annoying for its ears. Whichever it was, the mule had enough. He suddenly stopped on the trail, turned to face the great abyss, and leaped over the edge.
The oboe player, too busy trying to express just the right timbre and nuance fitting for the piece and the occasion, was unaware at first of the mule’s sudden change of direction. For a second or two the mule and rider took flight, resembling a cross between the mythical duo Pegasus and Pan, until, alas, gravity prevailed.
The mule and oboe player were recovered by helicopter and an impromptu memorial service was held at the historic El Tovar Hotel, where the entire Grand Canyon Suite was played over the public address system and all the other mules were given oats, black leg bands and two days of rest out of respect for their fallen trail mate.
The owners of the mule ride concession quickly contacted their attorney, who informed them to be prepared for a visit from officials representing the Animal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (AOSHA), a new division of the federal, cabinet level Animal Health and Humane Services Department. There was certain to be a lengthy investigation.
While Tooter was sorry to hear about such an unusual incident, he thought this was rather fortuitous for him. Perhaps the mule’s suicide plunge might turn out to be a leap of fate."