Sunday, March 27, 2011

Sorry, Son - No Music Magnet For You. The Koch Bros Need To Pay Less Taxes.

(cross-posted at the Smirking Chimp)

 A couple of years ago, my older son got bumped out of a place at Cal State Northridge because of budget cuts. He had been accepted - recruited - into the highly-acclaimed jazz department at CSUN because of his excellence in music in high school. He was fortunate enough - and worked hard enough - to earn a place in the Hamilton Academy of Music, one of the finest public high-school music magnets in California, if not the entire country. The video I'm posting is of the award-winning performance of his Vocal Jazz group that competed in the Reno Jazz Festival, led by one of the best vocal directors I have ever heard (and, believe me, I've heard a few), R. John Hamilton.

I owe my career in music - the joy of my life - to my music directors in high school; my choir director and my band director. They saw a shy girl who never took band like all the rest of the band and choir kids, and didn't have the confidence to think of herself as a musician or a singer at all, just someone who picked around on the piano when she though no one else was watching, and they literally dragged me into choir and band. They wouldn't let anyone laugh at me because I didn't know how to read music as well as the rest of them; they encouraged me, challenged me, put me into situations that were above my level and made me rise to them. Because of their seeing something in me that I didn't see in myself, I learned how to play jazz; I learned how to sight-sing, and I ended up being one of the 20 best sight-singers in the state of Florida in All-State competition 3 years in a row, and got superiors in both piano and voice at State Contest. It wasn't because I was all that; it was because as teachers, both those directors cared enough to go out of their way to drag me into their programs.

A similar thing happened to my son. He has always been a fine tenor sax player, and he had a  wonderful director in middle school. She was a no-nonsense martinet who scared the living daylights out of the kids who didn't really care about music, but she made sure that my son had every  opportunity available to him to grow as a player - and made sure that he got into Hamilton Music Academy, where he played in the C jazz band there under the direction of new band director Jim Foschia. My son and Mr. Foschia bonded, and he stayed in that band for the next couple of years to get the leadership opportunities that Jim Foschia saw for him. He gave Sam room to lead and mentor younger students, even though his skills were good enough for the A band. His senior year, though, he moved up to the A band, and he was also recruited into the Vocal Jazz group, the elite singing group at the Academy, even though he had never sung a note in public - because John Hamilton saw something in him that he did not know was there. He did what my directors did for me - he didn't take 'no' for an answer, he challenged Sam, and in regional competition in Reno, Sam ended up winning solo awards for scat-singing. In Monterey, John Hamilton's group took first place and was invited to sing at the actual Monterey Jazz Festival. This was no accident. These are great teachers, who knew how to bring out the best in their students.

A great teacher, with a teacher's heart, is a national treasure and a gift to any student lucky enough to encounter them. They don't make more money than any other teacher; they don't get million-dollar bonuses and corporate jets - yet they contribute to society in a way that none of these lavishly-compensated corporate CEOs would or could ever do in a million years.

Friday, March 04, 2011

In the Midst of Re-Design and Updating Hooterville

Well, it's time, I think, to give Hooterville a facelift. I have not been blogging steadily for quite a while. My family and I have been in survival mode, just trying to hang on, and so it has not been easy to find the time to do anything that is not immediately related to survival. However, I'm still trying to keep on writing - slowly, perhaps; but slow is better than not at all, and bringing Hooterville up to date seems to be a good way to keep moving forward.

Plus, I just discovered that my Blogrolling blogroll has vanished (as has the company itself), and with it all the blogs I have linked to since 2004! So maybe it's best to just start again and collect the blogs that are still relevant into a new blogroll, as well as change to the new Blogger format.

So, friends, please send me the links to your blogs so that I can add you again. As Skippy says, link to me and I'll link to you! It's probably a good idea to start fresh with blog links, because many if not most of my old ones are probably dead anyway.

I look forward to adding you back and spiffing up the place. Maybe I'll have a little blog party when it's done. You're invited!

Update: I'm adding blogs to the roll as I find them, so if yours isn't up yet, it's not because you've been left out. Holla back atcha girl! I'll get you on there ASAP.