……and 32 years later!

32 years ago, I began my music teaching career (age 24) at San Pedro High School in San Pedro, California.  It was 1985 and I had just completed my Master’s Degree at USC.  Later that school year, Liz and I married in Los Angeles.  Professionally, I was torn between teaching and performing.  High School music teaching demands 12 hour days.  I would leave for school at about 6am, and arrive for marching band practice (before school) at 6:30.  I often didn’t get home much before 6 or 7pm.  At the same time, I was practicing daily and playing professional symphony gigs all over the Los Angeles area.  Needless to say, between football game half time shows, concerts, competitions with the marching and concert bands and then gigging at night with various orchestras, I was nothing short of exhausted.  I put my all into the band program at Pedro, but only lasted that one year.  (I next took a job at Luther Burbank Jr. High in Burbank, California and subsequently went back for my Doctoral degree so that I would be qualified to teach University level students. This type of teaching position would be much more compatible with a performing career.)

Before I arrived, San Pedro High had 3 tumultuous years of bad band directing.  In the end, the band director was fired for pilfering $$ from the band program.  I came in and took over a band of 17 students.  The attrition over the previous 3 years had been devastating.  (By the end of the year, we were 45 strong!)  The core 17 players in the band were incredibly devoted to the program and we all became very close.  I had no idea, at the time, how devastated the students would be when I decided to leave.

About 3 years ago, I received a phone call from Colin, a saxophone player from my time at San Pedro.  He was getting married, and about 10 of the students were with him.  They were waiting for the ceremony to start, and decided to see if they could find me.  The call lasted about 30 minutes and I was able to chat with all 10 of the students.  They told me that 1985 was their best year of high school and that every time they got together, they relived the memories of all of the things we had done as a band.  (Anyone who doubts the power of teaching and teachers is clueless about our profession!)

Earlier last week, one of the students emailed me (Mike, trumpet player, age 47) and told me he would be in Salt Lake City for the weekend.  Was I close enough, and if so, could we get together?  Liz and I were planning to be in Park City, so indeed we would be able to meet for lunch.  3 hours later, I was able to get caught up on Mike’s life and the lives of the students that I hadn’t seen in 32 years.  I brought with me, two photo albums from the year at San Pedro, and decided that Mike should have them.  The first two pictures are from one of the photo albums.  Kenney and Jose hoisted me up on their shoulders when it was announced that the marching band had made it into the finals of the LA Marching Band Championships (competition).  It had been many years since the band had advanced to the finals.  The pics that follow are from our lunch together.20707948_10210052239002638_6242006998922125419_n.jpg




Mike is a longshoremen in the LA Harbor and commutes in from the Lake Elsinore area.  He would like to get out of California altogether and is considering the Mountain West to relocate.  Since work is many days on/many days off, he is considering flying in to his job for each stint of work.  Incidentally, he decided to cross off Salt Lake City as a relocation possibility.  It is too much like LA!!  Yes, and it will only get worse ie traffic and smog.

As I head back to work after my sabbatical (Aug 28), I reflect on the impact I have had on so many students over my 32 year career.  It has been rewarding to say the least.  Knowing that I have made a difference in all of these lives makes it all worth it.


Annual Hootch Tasting……

6 Years ago, we started a hootch tasting with musicians from the opera orchestra.  We each bought a bottle of hootch, brought out a few dozen glasses and compared various spirits.  So far, we have tasted Single Malt Scotch, Bourbon, Rye, Tequila and the complete line up of Park City’s High West Distillery Spirits.  This year, I decided to switch to wine tasting.

There were about 13 of us to taste this past Sunday, and we tasted 9 different Pinot Noir wines from various regions including California, Oregon, France, Canada, and New Zealand.  I will save you the trouble:  117 glasses on the counter (thank goodness for Liz’s 20 year catering career!).  I asked that everyone spend at least $30 for their bottle of Pinot.  Although you can find drinkable Pinot for less, usually it just isn’t very good. (Disclaimer:  We had one $18 bottle of New Zealand’s Oyster Bay Pinot, and it wasn’t too bad!)  Everyone brought food so that we wouldn’t get overly sloshed.  Each person had about a 1.5 ounce pour – so the equivalent of about 3 glasses of wine over a 3.5 hour period of time.  Here are the wines:

Calera Pinot Noir 2014 from Central Coast California – First trombonist and First cellist

Boen Pinot Noir 2015 from Russian River Valley California – Violin section player

Champ de Reves Pinot Noir 2013 from Anderson Valley California – Principal Oboe

Meyer Reimer Pinot Noir 2015 from Okanagan Falls, British Columbia – Todd and Liz!

Domain Eden Pinot Noir 2014 from Santa Cruz California – Principal Flute

Cedar Creek Pinot Noir Platinum Block 4 2014 from Okanagan, British Columbia – Second Oboe (her sister lives on Victoria Island and brought the Cedar Creek – what a pleasant surprise!)

Cristom Mount Jefferson Pinot Noir 2014 from Willamette Valley Oregon – Second Oboe

Oyster Bay Pinot Noir 2014 Marlboro, New Zealand – Principal Viola

Bourgogne Frederic Magnien 2014 from Burgundy, France – Principal Viola (she brought 2!)

A few tasting notes:

The Boen was very earthly, “dirty” in flavor.  The Oyster Bay was peppery and slightly spicy.  The French was the lightest of the nine Pinot’s.  The Calera was the sweetest in flavor.  The most balanced Pinot (robust at the nose (smell), palate (taste) and savor (after swallowing) was the Willamette Valley Cristom Pinot.  The Meyer was appreciated by all.  The top 3, after polling all of the wino’s, were Anderson Valley Champ de Reves, Willamette Valley Cristom, and Okanagan’s Cedar Creek.  I would agree with the polls.  These were by far the best 3 that we tasted.  Although some had the 3 in different order, all agreed that these 3 were the stand outs.  Here are a couple of photos with the complete line up.




The third pic is me waxing eloquently about the evening’s line up.  Meghan (Principal Viola) is on the left.  A great time was had by all.  Everyone really looks forward to this annual event and this year’s gathering did not disappoint.  Next year, we decided we would try high end sipping Rum.  Cognac is probably in our future as well.  But good Pinot is a beautiful thing:  it goes well with most foods and is a nice red wine to drink during the hot Utah summers.  Cheers!