Sunday, September 18, 2011

40 Years, Give or Take: Senior Year, Part I

I now had a year at JCSHS on my resume.  I was a Jay. 

The summer between my junior and senior year was busy.  Jerry Hoover, band director, had pushed me to do more musically; to at least try; to learn more; to stretch my musical boundaries.   I’m still not sure what he saw or heard in me, but for some reason he made it his business to help me achieve more.  

So, that summer, he had me taking trumpet lessons from Mike Matheny (brother of renowned jazz guitarist, Pat Matheny, and an incredible musician in his own right).  At the same time, Mr. Hoover had me teaching trumpet to an incoming freshman.  I was learning.  I was stretching.

He had arranged a “scholarship” for me to attend Lakewood Music Camp that summer.  Wow.  Talk about guerrilla training!  We had approximately 6 hours of music rehearsal each day.  I was learning jazz styles, symphonic styles, and also picking up some very useful tips in some of the greatest stunts ever pulled in the name of mischief by young teenaged boys in a summer camp environment.  I learned from the best. 

Before long, it was time for early morning marching band rehearsals.   I had done most of the previous season as part of the marching band my junior year, and I was never more proud in my life.  Not only because of the legendary band, of which I was honored to be a part, but because I was a part of something much bigger.  I was a Jay, and as such I felt a part of every good thing that came out of the school system.

I can still feel the cold early fall wind on my face as I drove my ’66 Volkswagen Beetle to school to get there before 6:30 every morning, my head hanging out the window like a Retriever because the windshield was still frosted over.  (Anyone who has ever owned one of those old bugs can tell you that the heaters never worked in the first 30 minutes of driving.)

I can still see King Shollenberger, hands in his pockets to ward off the brisk morning air, walking along the top of the ridge above the parking lot that served as our practice field, smiling as usual, and encouraging us, sometimes with a wink to me personally that said, “Aren’t you glad you decided to march?” 

All the while, Mr. Hoover gave directions through his ever-present megaphone, and guided us through formations and step-two drills.  I swear, I will not be surprised if “knee-lift and swagger!” are my dying words.

During my “Integration Period” late in my junior year into my senior year, I was introduced to more musical styles than I knew existed.  It was during this time that I became aware of a burning desire to learn more musical styles.   If a song had a trumpet, I wanted to be able to play it.  If it had lots of guitar, I needed to learn the chords.  If it had trumpet and guitar, well…that was heaven.   Then came “Chicago”, and “Blood, Sweat, & Tears”, and “Chase”.   I was OD’ing on music! 

I mean, think about it…has there ever been a time when music was in such transition as 1971-1972?  There was Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young, and John Denver.  There was The Who with “Won’t Get Fooled Again”, but also in the same Top 100 was Perry Como’s “It’s Impossible”.   There was Rod Stewart’s “Maggie May” in the same Top 40 as Tom Jones’ “She’s a Lady”.  The Billboard Top 100 was occupied by both Rare Earth’s “I Just Wanna Celebrate” and the Carpenters’ “Rainy Days and Mondays” simultaneously.

I was growing musically, maturing as a person, and discovering who I was amidst a climate of an unpopular war and a generation dedicating itself to changing things. 

School started and I could not wait.  I knew who Jefferson City Senior High School was now in the world of high school sports.  I had learned who Pete Atkins was and what he had built there.  It was my senior year and Stan Horn was to be our starting quarterback.  It was my senior year and I knew what a Concert Eb scale was.   I was no longer scared.   And I no longer felt alone. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

40 Years, Give or Take: Junior Year

Feeling alone in a sea of new faces, I tried my best to blend in during the first few weeks of my junior year at JCHS in 1970.   I was so confused by the order of things and all the extra processes involved, that when “M through Z” was called to come down for class pictures, I walked up to the photographer, gave him my name, and ended up in the 1971 Marcullus with the rest of the---sophomores?  Yes, I had my school picture taken with the sophomores instead of the juniors. 

Music was my common tie from Eugene to Jefferson City, so I decided to immerse myself in the band program.  But as I have said, I felt like I was starting out several yards behind the other band students.
The first day in the band room, during warmups, director Jerry Hoover called for a "concert Eb scale."  I had no idea where to even start playing that scale on my trumpet!  I had never even heard the term "concert Eb scale!"  Then, Mr. Hoover stopped the entire 180+ member band, looked at Jon Scott (class of '71) seated next to me, and said, "Show him the concert Eb scale."   So much for blending in.

I opted out of marching band, not because I didn’t want to be a part of it, but because I felt completely inadequate.  For one thing, there was the whole move-from-tiny-school-to-big-school thing.  But I also have this thing with my leg.  One leg is a bit smaller than the other due to a slight case of polio when I was a baby.  (Remember, we were born prior to the Salk vaccine!) I have this limp, and that made me somewhat self-conscious when trying to march in a band I considered as close to professional as a school band could be! 

But Mr. Hoover wasn’t having any of it.  Where I thought I was doing him a favor, he was determined not to let me miss out on an opportunity.  That would be a pattern with him for the next two years. 

So, I ended up in marching band.  And what memories I have from those experiences during my junior and senior years!    The band trips, the early morning marching practices, Mr. Shollenberger pacing the sidelines with that ever-present grin.  Some specific memories from Jazz Band and the Marching Jays will be covered in the next few installments of this blog.

My junior year was a blur.  There were so many firsts, it’s hard to pin them all down.  Not to mention that the passing of 39 years has crowded a lot of memories together.  And I’m old…er.

There was my first high school football game.  Now, how cool is it that the very first high school football game I ever saw was as a Jeff City Jay?!  Then there were the Majorettes!  (sigh)  The first band contest, practices, school musicals, the Jayettes, and of course walking 2 miles farther between classes than I ever had to at Eugene.  And then there were the Majorettes! 

I picked up guitar, thanks to the inspiration of Paul Duke (class of ’71), and became involved with a folk group from First Baptist Church with Paul and Jim Ailor (class of ’71), Greg Morrow, Greg Hernandez, Donna Haldiman, and several others.  It was a great time!  

I was actually beginning to improve my musical skills, so I felt less inadequate.  I was actually growing!  And there were opportunities there at JCHS that  I would never have had in a smaller school.

I slowly began to fold in to the rest of the school, and the more I became involved with music, the more I felt I belonged there at Jefferson City Senior High School.  I was becoming a Jay.   

Thursday, September 1, 2011

40 Years, Give or Take

I have recently been informed that June of next year, 2012, will mark 40 years since I graduated high school.  That sentence is huge in terms of "bulging with back-story."  (For those uninitiated in literary terms, that's a literary term meaning "bulging with back-story.")

First, I received this news via a postcard from the reunion committee.  Secondly, I reconnected with these people via facebook.  Wow.  Hello, 19th Century meets 21st Century!  I mean we went from stamp to social networking in the blink of an age-dimmed eye!

Of course, all this contact with folks whom I hadn't talked to or seen since 1972 brought back a flood of memories--and a few traumatic life experiences--from those formative years.

There were 459 young idealistic souls who graduated that year.  True, there were many of those whom I never had contact with during school, and most of them probably didn't know me from Adam.  Nonetheless, we walked the track together, and we graduated together, on June 1, 1972.

With that in mind, these next few blogs (note the current, trendy, and somewhat hip terminology I now incorporate into my everyday spoken language) will be devoted to those life-shaping years, leading up to my graduation from Jefferson City Senior High School.

Please note that any and all names used from this point forward have NOT been changed to protect the innocent, nor anyone else who may have wandered into that era.

Let's begin where it all started. It was the summer of 1970.  I had just finished my sophomore year at Eugene Cole R-V High School in Eugene, Missouri.  Now, my family was moving into the Jefferson City school district. Three years earlier, my father had resigned his position as high school principal and Social Studies and Speech teacher there at Eugene and taken a position with the State Department of Education as Transcript Review Supervisor.

By 1970, he had moved his family closer to Jefferson City, and the Jefferson Building in which was his office. And of course, I would be attending Jefferson City Senior High School. Thus was I initiated into the "big city" school system of Jefferson City Public Schools.  I turned 16 just a couple of weeks before school started the first week of September, 1970.

I had one major school activity to which I could tie my Eugene and Jefferson City school experiences: band.  I was a trumpet player.  I went from a school band with 20 members to one with 180.  That was about three times the number of my entire sophomore class.

I went from a school in which the music teacher made me play 3rd trumpet because there weren't enough players to cover the parts, to a school that had way more than enough to cover all parts, with several students left over.

I went from a school band in which I was taught music by the teacher singing my trumpet part to me (and so I learned music more by ear than by theory), to a school in which my grades were dependent upon my reading music.

I went from a school that had such a small band that, when we marched in the Jefferson City Christmas Parade, I was asked to play cymbals because there weren't enough students in the percussion section to cover the cadence.  I declined because I was a trumpet player!  (That year, by the way, the Eugene Cole R-V Schools Marching Band was placed in the parade between the Jefferson City Senior High School Marching Band and the Lincoln University Marching Band.  As I recall, we played a lame arrangement of "Good King Wenceslas", and I lost my mouthpiece somewhere between humiliation and embarrassment, and wished I had agreed to play cymbals.)

I went from a school that, during registration, handed out a sheet of paper for the student to fill out to choose classes for the coming year, to a school that used data punch cards, and had a labyrinth of different lines to go through to register for classes.

The first day of classes came, and I didn't have a clue. I roamed the halls trying to find my locker, Rex Adams looking at me like the principal in Napoleon Dynamite looking at Pedro.

I had no idea what was in store for me.  But I knew I was scared.  And alone.