Gilbert Zermeño grew up on the plains of West Texas. He came from a big family that didn’t have much.
At StoryCorps, Gilbert told his wife, Pat Powers-Zermeño, they got by on $100 a week that his father made working the cotton fields.
So, when Gilbert wanted to join the school band in 6th grade, his parents had to get creative.
Click here for the transcript.
So what I did was, I took this little statue of the Virgen of Guadalupe, and I put her on the window. And I said, "I really want to be in the band. Please make this storm go away."
10 minutes later, it just stopped. And I went over to mom. I went, "No wind." So now, she's in a really tough spot. (Laughs)
Patricia Powers-Zermeño (PPZ): (Laughs)
GZ: So we get in the car, and we drive to the school. And there's all these new shiny instruments. And the parents are just writing checks out. And my mom looks at one of the checks, it's like 650 bucks. That's six-weeks worth of work for my dad. So she says, "Where's the band director? Dónde está el director? So we went in, and the man said, "Well, a senior left behind this trombone." It's not a saxophone. It's not shiny.
GZ: It has a bit of green rust around it. And he opens it up and the crushed-velvet is no longer crushed. It's like annihilated inside.
GZ: And I'm just looking at it going, that is so pathetic. And my mom says, " Cuànto? How much?" The director says, "$50."
And mom worked out a payment plan. She sent $20 initially, and then she sent him $5 every week.
But I was horrible. So I sat on the toilet in the bathroom, because it was the only room that had a door. And my poor mother had to listen to me play the same thing, over and over again. And she would be turning up the radio (laughs) as loud as she could.
But, I also noticed that, the more I practiced and the better I got, the radio was turned down a little further.
And I still have that trombone to this day.
PPZ: And that's why our child plays…
GZ: …the trombone.
She could have played any instrument she wanted, and I encouraged that. I said, "No, mi hija. Really, you can play any instrument you want. " I could be one of those parents who could write a check out for a saxophone, anything you want. But she goes, "No, I want to play the trombone."