SHADOW HILLS ELEMENTARY SCHOOL INVITES AUTHOR

I didn’t know what to expect this morning when I entered Kathy Tokarz Leon’s 7th grade class at Shadow Hills Intermediate School in Palmdale CA at 7:00 AM. She had invited me to talk to her class about my experiences as a big band and jazz musician, a subject close to my heart. She had bought my book, “Diary of a Young Musician, Final Days of the Big Band Era,” and thought that would be an interesting topic to discuss with her students. Of course at their age they had heard very little jazz if any, but knew every present day pop star in existence.

As the kids strolled into class half asleep, I realized it wouldn’t be too difficult and that I would talk off the cuff. I had a general idea what I would say. But to my surprise an 8th grade teacher walked in and began setting up chairs before the class began. In came a larger class of kids ready to take me on as to “Who is this guy” attitude in their eyes.

I had seen posts on the wall at the front desk of the school office that said, “by law, NO PROFANITY ALLOWED IN SCHOOL.” There was also another sign that read, “NO WEAPONS ALLOWED ON SCHOOL GROUNDS.” There was a large banner near the ceiling that said, “WE WELCOME YOUR IMAGINATION.” So I opened my talk by saying, “I was given a pat down as I entered the school, then was told I couldn’t use any profanity, and that was half of my talk to you. You have a big banner outside the office that says, ‘We Welcome Your Imagination,’ but no one was there to welcome me. But the scary part was that I felt totally defenseless when they took away my AK-47.” That brought on some snickers and smiles from the students, and few laughs from the adults in the back. I knew I’d have no trouble with the rest of my soliloquies.

I started the talk about my mother and father’s background and what they went through before coming to our country, or “This beloved country,” as my father would say. This all led up to my family, being the seventh of seven children and how my mother and father were too tired to pay much attention to me, especially my school work. I told them the story how I was pulled out of a study hall when I was in ninth grade by the principal, who introduced me to the new band director. The director, Mr. Jacobs, gave me a baritone horn to play and my life took a new turn. To go to band or my individual music lessons in school, I first had to do my school work, a rarity for me, and then the teachers would let me go. That was the beginning of me taking an interest in learning again after having been turned off on education a few years earlier. That was one of the many salvations that I had during the course of my life. As I’ve said, I felt there was always an angel with me directing the course of every major event of my life, and it hasn’t ended.

The kids who were a little noisy when they came into the class, sat there enthralled during my entire discourse. There wasn’t a single interruption.

Speak Your Mind

*