“Why does music matter to me….?”
*Ponders in silence*
*Turns on Holst Suite in Eb*
As I sit here staring at a blank screen, memories flood my mind and heart from experiences that can only be described as extraordinary. The scope of defining this question is like putting limits on the universe. Music and its importance can’t be measured, but it is always felt.
My life in music is ongoing, and continually grows in new ways. I’ve been fortunate enough to have my music take me around the US and to share the love with others everywhere I’ve been. Simply put, I would not be me, without music. It calms my soul and forces me to live in the moment. It is raw expression without judgement. It is hard work that always pays off, and it is a gift I can share with others. Music is about community, and it emphasizes the importance of each individual doing their part to accomplish a task. Reminding us that if we work together we can do anything.
Music saved my life and it will always continue to. I started band in 5th grade at West Point Elementary School under the direction of Ms. Hess. I started it to get out of class because having the break was nice. It wasn’t much more than that at first. Just an excuse to get out of class for awhile and break up my week. I started off on bells, then started instrument hopping. I landed on the flute, and made the practical choice to play the flute because it fit in my backpack. I soon fell in love with the flute and still consider it my primary musical voice. The memories of why I started and what I played, and why, still make me chuckle. Once I committed to the flute, Ms. Hess gave me her own personal flute so I could practice and grow. I still have that flute today and have used it to teach my niece the flute as well. It is a prized possession that can never be replaced. Although it may have been a small act to her, it changed my life. Music saved me because it taught me personal accountability, that hard work pays off, and that we can always give of ourselves selflessly without expectation of reward. Music is selfish and selfless as it meets needs of the player but can also touch the lives of the listener. You don’t have to know what Is being done to enjoy it. It is universal and can touch people deeply. It can create instant bonds and remind us why we need each other. Kindness was all around me in music. It was rarely asked for but always given.
In Junior High, I had Robert Wise as my teacher. He was a goof ball that made every moment of class fun. He didn’t even make it feel like work and he will always be remembered as one of my best teachers. He showed that technical music could be fun and pushed us as hard as we could. Mr. Wise was my teacher from Junior High to my Freshman year at Calaveras High School. I was fortunate enough to go with him and others on the band to the Havasupi Peach Festival and Rodeo in the Grand Canyon. I remember packing my flute down with me and playing Amazing Grace in the canyon. You could hear it echo for miles and it was natures reverb. That trip was amazing and once in a lifetime. Between field trips, melodrama performances and competitions, Mr. Wise pushed us to enjoy every opportunity. He always thought outside the box and shared his love of music with us. I also got to work with him in a community band outside of school and he was a true mentor.
Once Mr. Wise stopped teaching at Calaveras there were several band teachers that were there for a year or so. As soon as I had another open elective spot I decided to join choir with Mr. H Jr. I always knew Mr. H senior and Ms. H. They were never my teachers but they were always kind and giving. Starting choir was a new challenge and continued to push me in new ways. I never had a solo voice, and still classify my vocal skills as best for a choir setting ;). I was never the best, and loved it. I sang in concert choir and men’s choir and occasionally accompanied the choir on the flute. It was a blast even if I wasn’t the best. Mr. H was full of musical insight and made us know and believe that we would jump past any hurdles and do our best. He was perhaps the kindest teacher I had and was always sensitive to his students. He cared about all of us and our successes were personal to him.
Finally. I had Mrs. Buringrude as my final band teacher at CHS. She was strict but passionate. She pushed us hard and made sure we knew what we were doing. She was also a flautist so I looked up to her. She also gave a composition assignment that started my career in composing. Although I can say now it was bad, she was supportive and offered suggestions that made me approach music differently. To this day I still compose and have been fortune enough to compose for a Documentary about the Vietnam War and have written music for performers all over the world. Composition was something that never came easy but pushed me again to grow. I was also fortune to be a charter member for both the Bi-County Honor Band and the Motherlode Youth Symphony. Through the help of local scholarships I was able to take private lessons for three years where I learned how much I didn’t know. Musically I transformed and my eyes opened up to how ignorant I was. It reinforced the value of hard work and to not accept limitations. I saw that hard work can make almost anything possible.
I worked hard to get into University of the Pacific on scholarship where I went to study Music Education and Music Competition. I met Angela Lang there ( Now Mrs. Allured ) and we shared experiences in CMEA and in the flute studio. I knew when she went to CHS that my school was going to be in good hands and she has gone above and beyond to be the best teacher she can be. Compassion and passion are easy for her and I believe any student that has her is lucky. Mrs. Allured is kind, talented and caring. I know how hard she pushes her students to grow because she wants to see them succeed. Having time with Angela at UOP made me know that CHS was and is in great hands.
Although I didn’t complete the degree in music, music is still a part of my daily life. I still hold myself to professional standards and push myself to keep growing. I still compose, I still play the flute and I regularly connect with others through music. I am an active performer in my local area and I still strive to give back in every thing I do. Music was only possible with the help of others but they never asked for anything in return. It taught me humility and to appreciate everything. It also showed me how important it was for me to do the same whenever I could. Giving back and helping others reminds me that a single act of selflessness can change a life. Something that is now more important than ever as we deal with the potential loss of these great programs.
I was involved in every musical group I could be a part of locally and academically. It was my home base and it allowed me to be comfortable in who I am. I came out as gay to friends, family and teachers while at CHS and I was openly supported for who I was. I tried to be a gay role model as much as I could and music helped me find, accept and allow me to be who I am. It was never judgmental and those around me never made issue of it. It allowed me to have friends and make new ones with people who were accepting and caring. It was always safe and I knew I would always have people to talk to.
Music will always be my home base. It will always be where I go to in complete safety. As much as music is a part of me, so is Calaveras and all of the programs I was able to be a part of. Music has taken my life new places I could never imagine and taught me more then just music. It taught me how to succeed and accept and move on from failure. Most importantly it taught me to connect with others and that by working as a team we can make beautiful music.
I don’t know what the future holds. Just that I am me because of what I’ve experienced. Music has given me more than I could have imagined and I know at 29, it is still only the beginning.