There’s an old wives tale that Teachers teach because they’re not capable of Performing! As for me, I began Performing at a very early age.
My first performance was on stage as a fourth grader at Francis Parker School #23 in Rochester, NY. I was hooked early in life!
By eighth grade at Monroe H.S., I was performing professionally 3 nights-a-week with musicians in their 50’s and 60’s. Smartly, I banked the money quickly!
Throughout high school, I was performing regularly throughout Rochester at night clubs and concert halls.
As soon as I enrolled in the University of Buffalo, performance opportunities opened a new world of Jazz-Rock at places like “The Mug,” not to mention bars and frat parties galore.
It didn’t take long for me to compose original music and direct the UB Jazz Orchestra, attracting the attention of the UB faculty! They immediately offered me a Graduate Teaching Fellowship, with free tuition and a monetary stipend to boot!
By now an accomplished performer, I was eager to be a Teacher, paying no attention to that old wives tale! I chronicle my career in education with a rollicking memoir, reminding myself that Life’s Lessons are certainly not taught in the classroom!
My first teaching job fresh out of college came my way in North Haven, CT. This is where I realized that this a teacher could perform along with the student musicians under my direction.
The Jazz Workshop toured towns throughout Connecticut, earning a reputation for excellence, despite the long hair, beards, etc.!
In the years that followed, I enjoyed teaching (and performing) in Rochester, Palmyra and Batavia, NY, Morgantown, WV . . . on and on. Teaching is all about unselfishly Learning and Sharing, precisely what makes teaching a worthwhile profession, despite the many challenges we surely encounter. My thoughts all these years later are for teachers, administrators, student teachers, college education students, parents, and the general population looking for a few good laughs along the way. Enjoy the ride!
Written from the perspective of seniors enjoying the fourth quarter of Life, even as they wonder about Sudden Death Overtime. These universal reflections on Life are the perfect excuse for family communication across generations. And a reason for creating your own family history. Past, present, and future.
But don’t feel left out if you’re a much younger reader. Learn how your parents and grandparents grew up. Maybe even your great-grandparents, if you’re lucky enough to have them around. All you have to do is ask them to tell you their stories. Listen. Think. Understand who you are, how you got here, where you’re going, what it means, and why it matters.
When it comes to the human mind, the shortest distance between two points is certainly not a straight line! So prepare yourself. Conquering your fear may not be easy. I've been where you now are, and I learned a crucial lesson. I figured out that I knew the answer all along, but I just didn't want to accept its uncomfortable truth. And you'll understand once and for all that your fear is deeply hidden in the only place that matters.
Conquering your own internal demon will be as easy as admitting how and why you let it invade your fragile psyche in the first place. From there, you're Home Free!
We’re walking a deserted college campus on Day One of the Covid-19 Pandemic. In the distance, a man on a riding mower manicures a grassy field of green. He waves from afar. A man of stature. Retired military, I wonder? So I raise my right hand to my brow in salute, which he returns. Cass waves to him as we move on.
Returning on Day Two, we are the only walkers on the deserted college campus. Sure enough, the man on the riding mower sees us on a distant hillside. He salutes us. I return his salute, Cass waves to him, and we two move on.
Day Three confirms our new ritual. We eagerly salute and wave to our new friend. He just as eagerly responds. Cass and I devote the remainder of our walk to discussing how wonderful it is to construct a respectful friendship. At a distance, no less.
Day Four. Our new friend suddenly appears before our eyes. Closer than yesterday. Smile unhidden by a mask, we notice his silver goatee. He can’t help but notice mine. Our skin colors? Meaningless. Our smiles say it all.
The days pass, often without seeing our valued friend. After all, we’re merely aging walkers, immersed in our half-century tradition of walking together. He, on the other hand, is a working man with responsibilities. Sometimes we even worry about him. But on this cloudless and sunny morning our new friend drives a trio of subordinate workers down a dirt service road. Only yards away from us, he stops his truck, laughs loudly out the driver’s window, and speaks to us for the first time. “Well, well, well! How are y’all doin’ on this beautiful day?” His colleagues chuckle, unafraid to show their sincere liking for this man. We share their communal laughter. And the moment. The months pass quickly. Our respectful friendship and trust grow.
In 2004, The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation hired me to perform for the entertainment of worldwide visitors to Williamsburg in the elegant 450-seat concert hall housed in the new Kimball Theatre on Merchants Square.
I created a one-man stage show appropriate for the venue!
I performed 3-shows-per-week, playing a Yamaha EWI (Electronic Wind Instrument), accompanied by my original electronic musical arrangements, focusing on American music of historical significance: Jazz!
I knew it would be essential to craft a show that would hold the audience’s attention, not only with the music, but also by vocalizing little storytelling vignettes of the history of the times and the musicians, demonstrating how the music was indeed a reflection of our ever-changing society. After my performances all those years ago, “Standards: Volumes 1 - 10” were sold only in CD format at the box office for $150!
Years later, I took the show on the road throughout the Mid-Atlantic states, performing at concert halls, coffee bistros, restaurants, night clubs, schools, senior citizen communities, farmers’ markets, music festivals, First Night . . . on and on! Yes, Jazz in the concert hall ruled!
We were 1960's Hippies! Somehow, we managed to find our way through Life despite moving every year; seeking the ideal job in our naive youth; raising a family; and, eventually growing into maturity. Years ago, we loved bicycling along the historic Erie Canal and walking for miles across the mostly flat terrain of our home town. It keeps us fit and enhances our physical and emotional well being!
We love our daily routine of long walks through the surrounding hills of our sleepy little village.
Steep hills make it difficult to navigate on our bicycles. Loading them onto our car and driving miles to a flat terrain proves tiresome, so ultimately we rode less and less. Hey, give us a break! We’re seniors, remember? But we missed our bike riding.
We searched the Internet looking for an Electric Bike that would fit our lifestyle and solve our hill climbing challenge! One stood out above all the rest.
Pedal When You Want. Throttle When You Don't. An Exhilarating Return To Youth!
I was a student at the University of Buffalo in 1968.
My two best buddies at UB were freaky, to say the least. Stu and Phil. (I'm the handsome one).
I was walking on campus one day when I heard a loud roar along side me. That was Phil. Actually, it was Phil’s motorcycle. He had just bought an ancient Harley Davidson. “Hey, dude,” he said as he pulled to a stop next to me.
“Phil! Is that yours?” I asked.
“No, it’s my mother’s, you dork.
“It’s an old Harley, dude. 1,200 cc’s,” he added, whatever that meant. “Built in 1949.”
“Where’d you get it?”
“Bought it from a dude who rides with the Road Hogs. I guess he needed the money more than the bike.”
“Really? How much?”
“Ready for this, dude? 75-bucks! So here I am, ridin’ a Harley Beast! Gotta split,” he shouted as he took off in a roar, smoke belching from the pipes.
A week later, I’m sitting out on the second-floor porch of my apartment on Bailey Avenue, a mile south of the old Main Street campus.
And there’s Phil, pulling up on his Harley. Without noticing me up on the porch, he climbs off the beast and heads for the stairs leading up to my front door. I hustled inside to thwart his customary two knocks.
“Who is it?” I shouted.
“Who do you think, dork? It’s your momma! Now open the door before I kick it in!”
“Want a sandwich, Phil?”
“Balogna, Balogna, or Balogna.”
“Okay, I’ll have Balogna. But don’t forget the Mustard.”
Suddenly, two more knocks at the door. We looked at each other, eyebrows raised, knowing who it would be. Then, a muffled shout from the hallway.
“Hey, you guys, open the door, will ‘ya?”
“Must be Stu,” Phil grinned.
I got up and opened the door, Phil following close behind.
“Took you long enough!” Stu complained. “You guys hidin’ somethin’? Or, someone?”
“If only,” Phil mumbled.
We three sat on the porch to peruse the chicks walking down Bailey Avenue. There weren’t any. Looking over the railing, Phil pointed at his old Harley.
“How would you like one of those? Only better!” he challenged me.
“What’re you talkin’ about, man?”
“Just shut up and listen, dork! The Road Hog I bought mine from? He’s got a line on another one. Wants to buy it at auction, sell it quick, make a buck or two. Needs more bread, I guess. A hundred-seventy-five bucks and it’s yours. But I’m gonna need the cash today, dude!”
“Jeff, you gotta see this Hog!” Stu piped in.
“Hog?” I pondered stupidly.
“My bike may be a Beast,” Phil chimed in. "But a Hog is outrageous! 1,500 cc’s. More power than some cars. And it’s in mint condition, dude. This is one of those once-in-a-lifetime deals.”
Shame on me, but Phil had my attention.
“Where’s the auction?”
“Police Garage,” he replied with a grin.
“Stolen?” I pressed.
“No way, dude. It’s a retired Police Cycle! Built in 1946, only 20,000 original miles. Knucklehead engine, still got the siren, flashing lights, single cop seat. And suicide shift.”
“What the heck’s a suicide shift?”
“You dork! It’s a stick shift, on the tank. Clutch on the foot pedal. Thing’s a monster! Double roll bars. Must weigh over 650 pounds.”
I stood there, looking over the balcony, taking in Phil’s beast in its full glory. The more I looked, the more I was hooked. Without even realizing my lips were moving, two words slithered out of my mouth.
Phil and Stu laughed loudly, patting me on the back with a sense of misplaced pride in my decision. I rode Hog for about a year, then passed it on to Stu.
Yeah, friends for life!
In 1978, I was commissioned by the Rochester Institute of Technology . . .
. . . to compose original music for a film promoting RIT’s School for American Craftsmen and the School of Art & Design. Given the positive new enrollment results attributed to that film, the Dean insisted that I produce a Vinyl LP to be distributed worldwide to attract potential students to attend RIT.
I totally surprised music aficionados everywhere
by releasing my original RIT music score in CD format,
satisfying Jazz Fusion fans who favor CDs over Vinyl LPs.
Think about it! The first time ever putting the exact same LP music on a CD!
Available now to Music Lovers everywhere!
I was raised in the Cobbs Hill neighborhood in Rochester, New York. Notice, I didn’t say I grew up there. Big difference!
Eastman Kodak was still a vibrant company, the very foundation of the city. Nobody had yet heard of digital cameras, let alone the global marketplace.
A quick two-minute walk from my house took you to a bridge over the trolley car that traveled to downtown Rochester.
During summer vacations from school, we kids gathered outside on our bikes, banished from the house by our parents, with nothing but a sandwich bag- lunch. “Whattaya wanna do?”
“I dunno, whatta you wanna do?”
Good thing for us, Cobbs Hill was just around the corner. And what a bee-hive of activity it was. We rode down a path to one of the giant fields where we saw dozens of other kids sitting in a circle around a group of adults, each with a badge on his shirt. “Hey, guys, welcome! Come and join the fun.” Little did we know that we were about to join our first summer day camp. No sign-up sheets. No rules. And no homework! If you enjoyed yourself the first day, you came back the next day. If not, no big deal, tomorrow was another adventure.
“Pow-wow time,” the counselors announced. We had nothing else to do, so why not? We learned all about the Indian tribes native to our part of the country. The Cayuga; Iroquois; Oneida; Onondaga; Seneca; Tuscarora; and, Mohawk. Then we each joined a tribe in preparation for the day’s games. After a quick bag-lunch, we learned what turned out to be our absolute favorite game. It was called ‘Capture the Flag.’ You’d be amazed at the ingenuity and teamwork this game required. There were never any arguments. It was all about teamwork. The best part? All these years later, I still remember the names of the Indian tribes of Western New York. To this day, I am a proud member of the Mohawk tribe.
Every day was a different adventure, since every Cobbs Hill field hosted different activities. Summer Olympics. Baseball. Soccer. Half-court Basketball. Each one focused on the necessity of teamwork. Each was a learning experience. Each started and ended on the same day. And each and every one was pure fun. We kids needed no motivation to escape our houses early every morning, bag-lunch in our bike baskets. We became friends with kids from other neighborhoods. We learned together, played together, grew together. And today, I’m left to wonder if kids have these same opportunities in their neighborhoods. When you get right down to it, is there even such a thing as a neighborhood anymore?
I arrived at the hospital on a wintry February night in 1967, given a room reserved for elderly men with little chance of surviving the night! I turned my head to look from my darkened room into the brightly lit hallway. Walking through my door was an angel, a halo of light clearly visible above her head. I had never seen such sparkling blue eyes! She took my pulse, counting the heartbeats on her wristwatch, careful to avoid eye contact with this grubby young college student. Then the fun started. Her next task was to take my temperature . . . with a rectal thermometer. Let’s just say she saw my better side first and leave it at that. I soon realized she must have been covering her eyes, for that mighty thermometer began its first of several undirected jabs in the general vicinity of my derriere. The next morning, I was disappointed when I didn’t see my angel from the previous evening. But she walked into my room at three o’clock sharp, the start of her eight-hour shift. Once again, she took my pulse and, yes, my temperature. I asked her name. She wouldn’t tell me. I begged. It worked. “Cassie,” she said. Over the next two weeks, Cassie and I spent hours talking every day, getting to know each other. If asleep, I would awaken to find her sitting at my bedside, hiding from the head nurse. The day I was to leave the hospital for the 80-mile trip home, she secretly handed me a note with her name and address. I was in seventh heaven. When I arrived home that day, I immediately began my daily ritual of crafting a long letter to Cassie, unabashedly professing my growing love. Thankfully, she wrote back. Every day.
In April, I was well enough to return to school to finish the semester. I arrived at Cassie’s house, decked out in my coolest blue jacket emblazoned with the University of Buffalo logo, eager to impress. I rang the doorbell. When Cassie opened the door, I was sure those blue eyes would never let go of my heart. It was a glorious day, the temperature already in the 70’s, two months early for Buffalo, New York. We enjoyed a day of hand-holding walking through Ellicott Creek Park in Tonowanda.
I have no doubt that our Love for each other was truly born that day, a strange force drawing us together as if destined to be so. How we wished the day would never end. From that day forward, I picked Cassie up from work every day. Two years later, we married.
And the rest, as they say, is history. What a beautiful time of life!