Marcus Pimpleton talks a lot about family. When he's teaching music, Pimpleton might compare a decrescendo to the way teens yell at their parents: they start loudly, but quickly get quiet when they realize it's a bad idea.
"People [in the band] appreciate you and treat you like family," Pimpleton told RadioActive's Farhan Vohra. He was describing the close-knit group of 150 students and mentors from the greater Seattle area who participate in the All-City Band. "They make it a comfortable place to be who you are."
Pimpleton has been the director of All-City since 2003. He's also the band director at Chief Sealth International High School and oversees the music department at Denny Middle School.
Pimpleton grew up in Seattle. When he was in elementary school his grandmother wanted him to play the flute, but his family couldn't afford one so Pimpleton asked to borrow an instrument from his music teacher, Ms. King.
"Ms. King was kind of like, 'Hey, trombone player!' and so I ended up playing trombone," Pimpleton remembered. "I really loved it and you know I like it a lot better than the flute so I'm glad it turned out the way it did."
Unfortunately, Pimpleton had only been playing the trombone for a short time when everything changed. In fifth grade, his grandmother died. She was the rock of his family and Pimpleton's legal guardian.
Pimpleton went to live with several aunts before ending up with a friend's family. This manner of being ping-ponged around gave Pimpleton a collapsing feeling, as if he would never have a firm grounding on life.
Through it all, however, Pimpleton kept playing trombone, and band became a second family to him. He said in band "[I] really ... found my own voice and became someone totally different than who I was when I started out."
In only his freshman year of high school at Chief Sealth, Pimpleton became trombone section leader. After only a short time, Pimpleton led both the Chief Sealth and All-City marching bands as a drum major. "[Band] was a very important stabilizer during my high school years," he said.
Being in the All-City Band, Pimpleton was given the opportunity to perform at a very high standard and he learned lessons about respect, pride and teamwork. That's why he returned to All-City as a staff member while he studied at the University of Washington. After graduation, Pimpleton stayed on staff, and became director in 2003.
Pimpleton's students buy into his notion of band as a family. Sawyer David Wells is a member of All-City who said that Pimpleton "would help me out a lot in middle school." Wells lost his own father when he was in fifth grade. He said that through band, Pimpleton became "like a father figure to me."
Hear Farhan's interview with All-City Band Director Marcus Pimpleton, and a selection of songs played by the All-City Band: