I met Rafael Méndez  - David Hedrick


I met Rafael Mendez in January 1970 when I was a senior in high school. A friend of mine was the son of the band director at East Central State College in Ada, Oklahoma. Along with my friend and his father, we picked up Mr. Mendez from the airport in Oklahoma City. His plane was the last to land before the airport was closed down due to a terrible ice storm. It was a very slow trip to Ada on the black ice, but I couldn't have cared less. I was just mesmerized being in the presence of the great Rafael Mendez.

There are many recollections that I have of that weekend. Sitting next to Rafael in a restaurant, I asked him about his formal eduation in music. His reply to me was that he had never gone to school. Yet he was a guest lecturer at the University of Michigan (Mr. Gant, the band director's alma mater) He was a totally self educated man.

I have so many memories of that weekend; sitting around the dining room table listening to everything Mendez said. He was so unpretentious and he was so nice to me. He brought 2 trumpets with him. One was a brand new Olds large bore that he had not played before. The other I believe was a medium large bore that he was more familiar with. He let me hold that brand new Olds but I never played it even though I wanted to. I would have been to embarrased to play anything in front of the great Mendez.

The concert on Sunday was not one of Mendez's greatest performances. He had just gotten over 2 weeks of pneumonia, and I don't think he was particularly well. He struggled with one number playing that large bore trumpet. When he did his encore, he went backstage and got the medium large bore horn and he played flawlessly

After the concert, we went back to the house. Mendez seemed somewhat despondent over his performance. I'm sure it was not up to his standards though it was still extrordinary. The band director collected model trains and he gave a train set to Mendez. He said he was going to take it to Mexico for the children there.

It has been 50 years since that weekend. My memory may not be entirely perfect, but it remains one of the great experiences of my life.

David Hedrick, D.D.S.
Centennial, Colorado


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