We continue our four part series by contributer Dave Davidson about his journey into community music.
The Importance of Community Music, Part 2:
The Path Less Followed
There are those days when we just want to flop down in a comfy chair, have a good look
around you and ask, "How the heck did I end up here?" There are those paths that we follow in life that are more conventional - the ones that people, usually parents or teachers, tell us we should be following. They want us to do well and be successful in our lives. They take great care in their guidance and advice as they lead us toward our future. Or is it really "their" future? Parents, teachers and other mentors in our lives mean well and try their best to guide us with the very best of intentions, but sometimes they miss the mark.
In school I was not exactly your model student. Don't get me wrong, I did well - straight
A's in Elementary School and decent marks in High School - but when I turned 13 I became like a fish swimming upstream. What I accepted as fact in Elementary School I began to question in High School. I had a 'why' question for everything. Today I might be encouraged to follow that path, but then (yup, 1963!) I was rudely yanked back on track. My enthusiasm for learning waned in many classes as I jumped through the necessary hoops to graduation. The one thing that held it all together for me was my music.
Thanks to my Elementary School Principal, George Campbell, I had learned how to play
the trombone. That wasn't his original intent. He ran a large recorder group in which I played and he had noticed that I was pretty good. One day in late Fall he called me into his Office. Now in those days nobody ever wanted to be called into the Office for ANY reason. Knees knocking, in I went only to see Mr. Campbell standing there smiling with a very old clarinet in his hands. He had noticed my ability to play the tenor recorder and was offering me a chance to learn the clarinet. Now I knew that Mr. Campbell was a fine Math and Grammar teacher but there was a safe bet he knew nothing about the clarinet. I knew that he had once played the trombone. So there I stood looking him squarely in the face as I blurted out that I would rather learn how to play the trombone. I had deduced that he probably knew a lot more about that than the clarinet. He listened. The result was a group of six young boys that all shared an early love for music coming together to learn how to play trombone, clarinet and trumpet. The "Six Tones" were formed! We met three mornings a week and were his pride and joy. We were having fun! Little did we know that this group would be the forerunner of an active instrumental music programme at Elgin Avenue Public School. Path number one.
In 1964 I was still taking piano lessons with Mrs. Pond, she of white hair and stern
demeanour. But the trombone got me out of the studio and into the band room, making music with 50 other young players. This was cool! And I was pretty good - and pretty cocky too! My Music teacher, Bruce Sharpe, recognized my eagerness and talents and opened up many doors for me along the way through High School. He even got me my first gig - playing trombone in a pit orchestra for a local amateur theatre company. I enjoyed Music in school but it was the stuff outside the building that really turned my crank. I played in the schools jazz band and soon my love for that music landed me a regular gig with the house band at the Summer Gardens. Mr. Sharpe listened. Path number two.
As I stumbled my way through High School it finally came time when I had to decide
what I wanted to do with my life. I loved English Literature and I loved Music. As the day drew nearer to decision time there was one day I'll never forget - the day I told my Mother I had made a decision - I wanted to be a musician. She must have cried for three days through eyes swollen and red. It wasn't a 'good' path in her eyes and she had tried so hard to guide me. You see, my maternal Grandfather had been a musician, and a fine one at that - they called him the "Harry James of the North", the 'north' being Scotland. My Mother, being the eldest of five, had the responsibility of ironing his white shirts (starch and all) and polishing his patent leather shoes. She never saw a lot of her father as he played most nights and when he rose later in the day he practiced his trumpet - not to be disturbed! This was not a life my Mother wanted for me and certainly not the way she had raised me. On day four we talked. She knew what music had meant to her Father and she recognized just how much Music meant to me. If that's what I wanted to do then do it with every fibre in my body. She listened. Pathway number three.
The next few years rushed by at a frantic pace. Four years at UWO Faculty of Music, a year at Althouse College, Faculty of Education, and then on to teach! I wanted to touch as many young students as I could and turn them on to the joys of making music. Teaching and sharing that joy became my passion. Pathway number four.
I believed then, as I do now, that a great deal of learning goes on outside the classroom. My bands competed in festivals annually and we toured extensively - England, Scotland, Germany, France, the East coast, the West coast, New York! The list goes on. The joy of making music together can last a lifetime and I wanted more than anything to see my kids graduate with great memories, an instrument in their hands and a song in their hearts. The joy of making music doesn't end in High School - Music is for life! Pathway number five!