Monday, March 9, 2015

The Most Important Question

Last week, Mr. Wilson, my like-a-dad-to-me-junior-high-school-band-director, said, “I was wondering this morning what people would say if you asked them what the most important question was that anyone ever asked them.”

“I know what your question was,” I said.

“Yep,” he said.  “My mother handed me my brother’s old horn and said, ‘Think you’d like to try to learn to play this trumpet and be in the band?’”

“Changed your life,” I said. 

“Yep,” he said.

He took that proffered trumpet, joined the band, and learned to play the devil out of that old horn.

Mr. Wilson’s mother’s question gave him friends he would have never otherwise met, a sense of belonging to something greater than himself, and a band director who became a father to him just like he became a father to me. 

Her question gave him direction to his life, a career he loved, an avocation as well as a vocation, and a way to serve. 

Her question led him to a position of leadership in his faith community: at almost 80, he’s still the Cantor and Director of Music at his church.

Her question even led him to his beloved wife of more than fifty years (a cute little bassoon player who became mother to his seven musical children).

Because he became a composer and arranger, the question that his mother asked Mr. Wilson lives on; both of the bands I play in have performed his compositions this year. 

Because he is a teacher, the question that his mother asked him lives on: he taught music to countless youngsters, a gift that has enriched the tapestries of their lives. 

Because he is a band director, the question that his mother asked him lives on; a thousand students, of whom I am one, grew up to be who they are in part because of who he taught them to be in lessons learned in the band hall, on the marching field, and hanging around in his office after school. 

So what’s the most important question anyone ever asked you? 

I don’t know what the most important question is that anyone ever asked me, but I do know this: the most important question that anyone ever asked my like-a-dad-to-me-junior-high-school band director- Think you’d like to learn to play this trumpet and be in the band?- turned out to be a question that changed my life and made me who I am today.

Thanks, Mr. Wilson’s mom.  We never met, but your question to your son changed my life.


  1. Questions we never knew should be asked change lives every day. But more important than the questions posed are the answers given. Sometimes, even the answers given to the questions never asked are just as vital.

    1. You are here not only to acquire knowledge, faithful friend, but to impart it. Thanks once again for sharing your insight.