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My Doghouse Bass: Rocco Carver and Friends (A Collection of Stories)

My Doghouse Bass: Rocco Carver and Friends (A Collection of Stories)

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My Doghouse Bass: Rocco Carver and Friends (A Collection of Stories)

218 pagine
2 ore
Feb 10, 2019


Genre: Realistic Fiction
Rocco Carver, a double bassist in his early twenties, reflects on his journey of learning to play the double bass in school. Join Rocco and his friends—Cilla, Percy, Caden, Allie and Jubilee—as they take on the world of school music. See them compete for the honor of being first chair in middle school. Observe Allie’s courage as she faces the dreaded “doomsday” audition in eighth grade. Plus, get a front-row seat to the audition that could change the direction of Rocco’s life—and perhaps the future of jazz in America. You will also meet unforgettable adult characters, such as the legendary blues musician Mr. Stevie Fringe.

Feb 10, 2019

Informazioni sull'autore

Cheryl Dykema is a new children's author. She has a BA in English and prior experience as an assistant copy editor and writer. She is a lifelong resident of Michigan and currently resides in the Kalamazoo area. I wrote My Doghouse Bass to inspire my nephew (a cellist) and other young musicians to not give up on their instruments—especially when the going gets tough. The best things in life are not the easy things. I hope my book is an enjoyable read, especially for those who are, or were, involved in school music.

Anteprima del libro

My Doghouse Bass - Cheryl Dykema



My name is Rocco Adrian Carver. Today, I’m known all around the world as Fingers Carver. I earned that nickname because of my quick finger work on the double bass.

Like most kids, learning how to play an instrument was super challenging for me. In the beginning, I wasn’t very motivated. Putting rosin on my bow was about the only thing I could do well. I had a few friends—and you will meet them—whose experience was very different from mine. Music must have been woven into their genes because learning to play an instrument seemed to come easy for them, almost as easy as breathing.

But, even though I struggled, I stuck with my double bass. In fact, I am proud to say I was in school orchestra all the way from fifth grade until my high school graduation.

Most of my friends were also in the music program at school. We may not have been the coolest kids on campus, but we always had one amazing thing going for us: our music. No one could deny that. And, no one could ever take that away from us. We might have started out playing lame songs like Mary Had a Little Lamb and Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star, but we ended up playing classical pieces by Beethoven and Mozart, and hit songs from Broadway musicals like School of Rock and Wicked, and even the iconic music of Queen and the Electric Light Orchestra (ELO). As I look back, that made us beyond cool!

Step into my world for a time as I share how my life as a young double bassist unfolded. For me, it was mostly about harmony, vibrato and string-plucking. For my band friends, it was more about melody, mouth technique and proper breathing. But, more important than all of that, for each one of us it was about a young life unfolding. A life of promise and dreams and tomorrows and, of course, mountains to climb. There will always be mountains to climb.




"Life is one grand, sweet song, so start the music."

—Ronald Reagan,

40th president of the United States


The music started for me, Rocco Adrian Carver, when I was in fourth grade. It was just the second week of the school year at A.C. Hoogenboom Elementary School. Miss Lorentz, Hoogenboom’s much beloved music teacher, called us one by one to the front of her classroom. She carefully placed a shiny new black recorder into each of our hands. A person peeking in from the hallway might have wondered if our teacher was placing a baby bird into our hands. That’s almost how gentle she was. I can still hear the jingle-jangle of her charm bracelet as she presented me with my very first musical instrument.

That same day, Miss Lorentz taught us how to hold the recorder correctly. The left hand went first—closest to the mouthpiece—and then the right hand followed. It was the same whether you were a leftie or a rightie.

For me, the placement of my hands felt very awkward. My hands wanted to go in the opposite order—right hand first and then left. So, I asked Miss Lorentz if I could switch my hands. She delivered a kind, but firm, no. That was when I discovered there were things about music you just had to accept and not question. Things that wouldn’t change no matter how much you grumbled about them. It would seem the rules of music had been set a long time ago.

Next, we learned how to blow into the recorder’s mouthpiece, or blowhole as some kids liked to call it (like the blowhole on a whale). We quickly discovered that if we blew too hard, or if we didn’t cover the holes completely with our fingers, the recorder made a horrible screeching sound. Back then, I imagined that sound was how a swan with a Skittle candy trapped in one of its nostrils might sound. It was a sound that should never come out of any instrument or any living creature. It was the type of sound that hangs around in your ears long after it has faded, like a stench that hangs around in your nostrils too long.

One student wore neon-colored earplugs during music class, but that was because he sat next to a girl named Jubilee T. Sweeney. Jubilee had a unique talent for screeching.

Miss Lorentz, if I learn how to play another instrument someday, Jubilee announced loudly, right in the middle of class, it’s not going to be an instrument like this one. You know, one you have to blow into.

"You mean you wouldn’t want to learn to play another woodwind instrument?" Miss Lorentz clarified.

"Yes. I sound too much like a screech owl. That’s what my brother says anyway. He never likes anything I do." Jubilee rolled her dark brown eyes very dramatically and flicked a thick strand of black hair off of her shoulder. She must have rolled her eyes and flipped her hair like that a hundred times a day. A lot of the other girls copied this move of Jubilee’s, and it was not done in a kind way.

Miss Lorentz walked part way to where Jubilee sat. You know, Jubilee, I can help you get rid of the screeching. Come to my room for a few minutes during lunch. We’ll figure out just what you need to do differently.

"Hmm . . . Okay, but I still think I should choose a different instrument . . . like maybe the violin. My cousin Trista Mae June, who is two years older than me, plays the violin, and she never screeches."

Well, a string instrument, like the violin, is an option, Miss Lorentz patiently explained. There are other instruments in the string family, too, like the viola, cello and double bass. They all sound deeper than the violin.

Miss Lorentz then demonstrated with her voice how each of those string instruments might sound compared with the violin—the larger the instrument, the deeper the sound of Miss Lorentz’s voice. Of course, her imitation of the double bass was the lowest and deepest of them all. The class broke into laughter when Miss Lorentz imitated the double bass. Her voice sounded like a man’s voice.

There are a lot of other instruments you can choose from, too, Miss Lorentz shared. "In fact, next year, each one of you will have the amazing opportunity to choose the instrument you want to learn how to play."

Miss Lorentz crossed her hands and put them over her heart. "Music is my baby! She looked upward, closed her eyes and very gently moved her head from side to side. Seconds later, Miss Lorentz opened her eyes and settled back into reality. I know . . . I know. I get too sentimental about this stuff. However, my hope is that music becomes your baby, too . . . someday."

At the time, Miss Lorentz’s hands-over-her-heart gesture seemed strange to me. And, her dream that we would one-day love music as much as she did went right over my head.

Anyhow, circling back to Jubilee, I highly doubt she went to see Miss Lorentz about the screeching. Although there may have been a tiny improvement in her recorder skills over time, Jubilee still screeched far more than anyone else. The classmate nearest to her continued to wear those earplugs. He changed the color of them about as often as a girl changes the color of her headband or hair clip.

Our fourth-grade music class always ended the same way. You must practice at the very least five minutes a day, five days a week. Okay? Practice makes perfect. I will be excited to hear how much you’ve improved at our next class, and . . . Miss Lorentz’s voice trailed off as we exited her classroom.

Slowly, over the next several months, we learned a bunch of notes—first the high notes, then the low ones. Later in the year we even learned how to do a trill. A trill is when you rapidly alternate between two notes. Think: High, low, high, low, high, low.

By the end of that school year, our class had learned a small repertoire of songs, including Mary Had a Little Lamb and Amazing Grace.

When fourth grade came to an end, I could count on one hand the number of kids who played the recorder halfway decently. I wasn’t one of them. And neither was Jubilee.


When fifth grade began, just as Miss Lorentz had promised, we got to pick the instrument we wanted to learn how to play. Miss Lorentz held her annual Get to Know Thy Instrument Day. That was her clever way of introducing her students to several instruments in just one class period. Miss Lorentz’s goal was to get us about as fired up about playing an instrument as we got playing video games or having a sleepover.

For that special class, Miss Lorentz set up 10 or more stations around her room. Each station had a different instrument. Examples of the instruments included were clarinet, double bass, drums, flute, French horn, oboe, saxophone, concert tuba (not the larger marching tuba, or Sousaphone) and violin.

Miss Lorentz explained that the instrument we chose would determine if we were in Hoogenboom’s orchestra (string instruments) or band (all other instruments).

On that hectic day, Miss Lorentz jumped from station to station with great enthusiasm. She showed us the proper way to hold the instruments and how to play a few notes. She also invited students from higher grades to perform for us. A seventh grader played a portion of a Justin Timberlake song on her clarinet. We thought that was just the coolest thing. Suddenly, a huge number of my classmates were interested in learning how to play the clarinet.

Not me. It was the king of strings, the double bass, that grabbed my attention. I loved its deep, resonating sound. The first time I pulled a bow across its strings, the sound waves from it vibrated through my entire body. It reminded me of one of those low-riding cars that pump out bass while crawling down the street—every molecule within 100 feet vibrates wildly.

Miss Lorentz explained that the double bass is large because longer strings are needed to create its deeper sound. She said that is also why the strings of the double bass are so thick.

The double bass has had a bunch of different names through the years, including acoustic bass, bass fiddle, bass violin, bull fiddle, contrabass, stand-up bass, string bass, upright bass and, my all-time favorite, doghouse bass (and thus the title of my book).

Whatever the double bass is called, back then I figured an instrument with that many names and so great a size deserved respect.

From this point forward, I will call my acoustic bass by the name that is most commonly used in the United States today: double bass, or just bass.

You can play the double bass with a bow, which is known as bowing. Or, you can pluck it with your fingers.

The technique of plucking a string instrument is known as pizzicato (pĭtz ē kah toe). Pizzicato is used a lot in jazz.

The double bass is just an all-around cool instrument.


Shortly after my attraction to the double bass, I had a dream that is as fresh in my mind today as the night I dreamt it. I was at some fancy nightclub with a double bass propped against my hip. I was performing a solo. The large circular stage I performed on rotated very slowly. The crowd sat at tiny tables all the way around the stage. As the stage turned, one person slowly exited my view as another came into view. A huge light that looked like a mirror ball and a chandelier all in one lit up the stage and sent sequin-like flashes of light into the crowd.

The walls of the club were the awful color of Pepto-Bismol. There was a huge aquarium that went all the way from the floor to the ceiling. The aquarium was full of colorful fish. There were bright yellow ones and puffy orange ones. There were also long skinny ones that were a brilliant, shimmering blue. There were even a few green sea turtles moving slowly through the clear water. (Note: We had just studied the Great Barrier Reef in science class.)

In that wild dream of mine, after I finished my solo, my baby sister, Lulu, took center stage. She was all grown up and playing some strange-looking instrument that I had never seen before. Her instrument looked like something from a Dr. Seuss tale. It was a piano with a

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