Elizabeth Ford, Director of Children’s Ministries
As I write this, I am at a choral music workshop in Denver. We’ve been presented with the standard topics: breath, pedagogy, music selection. However, for reasons that seem to be coincidental, the true focus of this workshop has been musical legacy.
Nearly ten years ago, on my first day working at a music store the owner warned me, “Ok, our instrument repairman, Steve, is coming in soon. You aren’t going to like him, so just keep your distance.” I followed directions all morning and avoided the larger-than-life, 82 year old Italian man. As a former band director, he had a reputation for having very high expectations and a low temper threshold. When it was time for lunch, we ordered spaghetti. Mike watched me twirl my spaghetti the “correct way” onto my fork and from then on he decided he liked me.
As time passed, I found myself working more and more with Steve. He was a master craftsman and I got the impression he took on very few apprentices. He shared all the secrets he’d gained in his decades of practice with humor and patience. One day, we were soldering a sousaphone. We’d been at it all day and eventually got to that point where you’re 100% focused on the project at hand and only speak when necessary. Then, Steve looked down and noticed a tiny bug walking across cardboard on our workbench. All work stopped as we studied our new friend that Steve named “Oscar.” In the minutes that followed, Steve and I began to draw a playground for Oscar. Our world was about a square foot for half an hour or so as we drew a swing set, hot tub, car, and mansion. Eventually Oscar crawled away and we giggled at how silly we’d been.
As educators, we’re reminded that what we teach doesn’t matter as much as how we make our students feel. After 10 years, I imagine that I could still clumsily adjust a saxophone if I had to. However, that day, Steve taught me the importance of humor, whimsy, searching for beauty, and living in the moment. I may have forgotten music repair secrets, but I’ll never forget Steve’s friendship or how he made me feel. Steve passed away a few years after I moved on and the last gift he gave me was a little ceramic figurine. On the bottom, he’d inscribed, “Remember Oscar.” Clearly, that moment had meant as much to him as it had to me. To this day, the little figurine lives on a shelf in my classroom. The porcelain angel helps me find perspective and reminds me to look for beauty even on the most difficult days. Thank you, Steve.