Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Midwest Young Artists: A Touching Tribute to the Value of Music

It's been awhile again since I posted.  Time is the factor.  We are getting ready for our April 10 benefit and the work behind the scenes is something that could be another topic for a blog.  But, an email from Patrick Pearson, our beloved Orchestra Director, gave me an opportunity to post something that follows up the last blog. 

In addition to conducting our Cadet, Concertina and Philharmonia orchestras, Mr. P is the Orchestra Director at Oak Park River Forest High School.  Like Wilmette, Oak Park will be voting on a referendum in April.  If it fails, instrumental music is one of the many programs that will be cut in elementary schools. 

I’m not going to belabor you with studies that show how music uses both sides of the brain or how music students’ GPA’s are significantly higher that non-music students….blah, blah, blah.  Please allow me to share a personal story.

I grew up in a middle class, blue collar family in Sandusky, Ohio.  My father worked nights at a factory and my mother was a pediatric nurse.  Both worked very hard to raise 6 children in a tiny bungalow.  I didn’t realize at the time, but they worked very hard to make ends meet.  I distinctly remember some of the things my mother, in particular, would do save a couple of dollars – like making us purchase our popcorn for the movies at the Hills Department Store, instead of at the actual movie theatre.  Hills’ popcorn was 15 cents.  I was so embarrassed to walk into the theatre (matinee, of course) as the ONLY family with Hill’s popcorn.  I also remember wearing the same Halloween costume for several years in a row.  The costume was actually white thermal underwear (long johns – top and bottom) which worked great as an angel costume.  Just add a halo made of a wire hanger and wings made out of paper.  That was 2nd grade.  In 3rd grade, my mother dyed that same pair of thermals the color red, to convert that same angel costume into a devil costume.  I was mortified, but she forced me to wear it.  All of my classmates wore store-bought costumes.  You remember – the hard mask held on by a rubber band and a plastic costume, sort of like a garbage bag – usually a superhero or a princess for the girls.  Do you think it ended there?  Nope - In 4th grade, she dyed, yes dyed, that same set of underwear the color, black and turned it into a cat, converting that devil’s tail to a black cat tail.

That was it.  I was ready to run away from home.  At the time in my life, I felt like the biggest outcast.  Oh, I failed to mention that I had horrible grades, poor eyesight (I began wearing thick glasses at age 5) and suffered with a speech impediment.  I stuttered – particularly with words which began with a “W”.  I was constantly teased and bullied by my classmates.  Then one day, angels sang (They weren’t wearing white thermals).  My music teacher, Mr. Blake and Ms. Dunphy, the orchestra director held a presentation in the evening at the school.  My parents were too busy to take me, so I went alone.  It was music instrument demonstration night, where we had an opportunity to try to play instruments, ultimately deciding if we wanted to play in band or orchestra.  I was immediately drawn to the violin. 

To make a long story short, I began taking the group violin lessons with Ms. Dunphy and Mr. Blake taught me music theory in an afterschool program.  Rhythm was my strength.  That same year, I won the “Rhythm-Bee” for the entire school.  In 5th grade, I immersed myself with practicing my violin and piano, which Mr. Blake was teaching me. I begged my mother to buy me a piano, but we just couldn’t afford one, so my neighbor gave me a toy organ, so I could practice.  I entered a composition contest for the Daughters of the American Revolution and won 1st place - $50.00.  5th grade was the first year I made straight “A’s” in every subject.  I made friends, many who were in music and some not.   I became more confident. In 6th grade, I was chosen to give the farewell speech to entire school at the final assembly.  I did it without stuttering and never stuttered since.  In Jr. High, I joined band (alto saxophone) and choir, which were in-school curricular classes.  I was able to take band, orchestra, and choir as a curricular class during school, while taking Honors and AP classes.  (Yes, we had AP in the 80’s) Throughout my primary and secondary years, I achieved the Honor Roll (elementary/junior high) and Dean’s List (high school, all while continuing to participate in curricular orchestra, band, and choir. 

You know, I think I turned out to be an o.k. guy!  I wonder if MUSIC had anything to do with it.
Patrick A. Pearson

We think he is an OK guy, too, and we are all so lucky that he shares his talents and time with MYA! 

Does anyone else have a story of how music influenced their life? 

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