The school year has yet to begin, but the ribbing has been going on for weeks now.
"My band hall is bigger than yours."
"Maybe so, but I've got the best school in the county."
"Well I've got new carpet that isn't water-damaged."
"Well I'm getting new paint on the walls."
It's a friendly kind of tete-a-tete between a father and the son who has risen through the ranks, moving from student to teacher and now contemporary.
At 48, Russell Schmidt is looking forward to his 26th year teaching and his 14th as director of the Marching Bulldogs at Zephyrhills High, one of the oldest schools in the county. His final days before the start of the new school year have been spent cleaning and preparing his classroom for a new coat of paint to spruce it up after it flooded last May, suffering thousands of dollars worth of damage.
Brian Schmidt, 23, is the eldest son of Russell and Donalee Schmidt. He used to play French horn in the Marching Bulldogs under his father's direction. Now he's about to start his own band for the first time at the brand-new Fivay High School in Hudson.
His recent days have involved putting together music stands, learning how to input grades in the county computer system and sorting through the sheet music his dad loaned him.
It's kind of funny the ways things have turned out, according to Dad, especially when he thinks back to the soccer years when Brian wanted to do anything but pick up an instrument.
"He used to swear up and down that he'd never be in the band," the elder Schmidt said.
But music, along with a quick wit, seem to be genetic traits in the Schmidt family. Middle son Michael, 20, works as percussion instructor for his dad's marching band and is in his second year at the University of South Florida. He has expressed an interest in taking his dad's job should he decide to retire or perhaps return to directing on the middle school level as many high school directors eventually do.
"I keep telling him I'm not going anywhere yet," Russell Schmidt said.
The youngest, Aaron, 12, has taken up the euphonium in the Stewart Middle School band.
"Believe it or not, I never pushed them or forced them into music," Russell said. "I always told them to find something they like to do. I told them, just like I tell all my students, don't go into a job for the paycheck because that's a horrible way to live.'"
Now, all these years later, Brian has found his niche in a bigger band room with brand-new instruments including the four baritones that he likes to remind his dad "are all silver, without dents."
He also has a new, grounded ambition.
"My goal for the band this year," he said, "is for us to go to evaluation and march in parades and have people not to be able to tell we are a brand-new band."
He would also like to take his Falcon Regiment Band to Orlando to perform at Universal Studios.
"I know it might be hard with the budget and all, but I want my kids to have fun," Brian said. "And marching and performing is what band is all about."
Dad's goal is to replace much of the sheet music that was lost in the flood, take his students on the same trip to Universal, and approach the new school year the same as he always has.
"I love my job," he said. "I can't wait to get to school in the morning. I have more fun with the kids than I do with anyone else.
"And to have my own son doing it too, well it is kind of neat."
Even as they work out the new dynamics that come with suddenly being peers.
"I've been talking to him about things he might want to think about — making friendly suggestions," Russell said. "I tell him, 'Don't do things necessarily the way I've been doing them. Do what's right for you.' "
Maybe so, but Brian is sure to borrow some of his dad's methods along with a few of those older, dented instruments while he awaits the arrival of his new stuff.
"No one,'' Brian said, "does it like my dad does."
Michele Miller can be reached at email@example.com or at (727) 869-6251.