You and I were a team. We were the yin and yang, the passion and the patience. You pushed me when I needed it. (“Let’s do a strings festival with every kid in the program.”) I pulled back when you needed it. (“No, you cannot send that letter to the school board.”) I was your enabler—the one who made sure the permission slips were sent and that the printed program was not only finished on time but grammatically perfect. You were my musical inspiration and my go-to person for all things strings. If I wasn’t sure about a bowing or stylistic approach for a piece, you had the answers, and they were spot-on. I watched you get squirmy middle-schoolers absolutely lit up about Mozart and Beethoven, and I learned a thing or two about what to do when you step on a podium.
We built a program where there had been none. We made music and we created art, and although other wonderful people joined us later, you and I started it. So many lives are better because of the lessons we taught in elementary school hallways and storage closets. Because of endless rehearsals and orchestra trips with long bus rides and because we fought so hard for music to be valued at a time when all that mattered were standardized test scores. And the product– from little fiddlers scratching out Twinkle, Twinkle, to the high school orchestra playing a full-blown original symphony– was second to none.
Working with someone who’s passionate about what they do isn’t always easy. I remember the frequent drama, the frustration, the texts and emails written in all caps, and that you made the F-word part of the music department’s own private mission statement. But there was always humor and laughter. The cone of silence in the stairwell for the latest juicy gossip. The stories you’d tell at our Lion’s Pride lunches. The third-grader who looked up at you after a recruiting demo and said, “Nice hair.” The comments you’d make to your high school kids that they would write down and then read back to you at the spring concert. Kids remember things that make them feel something and no one could sit in your orchestra or be around you and not feel something, even if it was occasionally fear.
Few people get to have a work relationship like ours. Back in the early days, you propped me up through my divorce and I did the same when things were rocky for you. And when we were walking down the hall a few years later and I said, “I’m in love,” you said, “Well, my God, Anne, it’s about time you got it right.” Our work together spilled over into a mutual love of church music and choral singing. What a gift it was to sing that glorious cantata last Christmas with your wonderful choir and others who were like friends and family from our teaching careers. And despite being in treatment, you still demanded the very best of the musicians in front of you.
I know these are terrible days, but I hope that hearing how you touched others brings a little comfort. I remember sitting in the auditorium with your colleagues watching you rehearse the high school orchestra. We would mutter to each other, “That music is too hard. He’s making them play it too fast, they’ll never get that right.” And yet, in the concert, your kids always came through. They got it right. You showed all of us that we can play it better than we think we can. For that, and for being such a wonderful part of my life—the annoying brother I never had, thank you, my friend.