Greetings! First off, let me tell you who I am. I am a clarinet picker from Milan, Tennessee, population 9000 on a good Saturday night, that has been around the world. I would like to offer just a snippet of my professional studies and life so we can get to know each other.
Bear with me, this is the first time I have put this to pen and paper.
Coming from an educational standpoint, it’s not necessarily the teacher’s complete responsibility to guide each and every student to the trough of knowledge and wisdom, that responsibility lies in the laps of the parents and families of the children also, perhaps more than the teachers themselves. There is a very old adage, “You can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make it drink!” Well, for me, I would drink, but I’m not a horse, I don’t think I am at least, but then, I had the want to know feeling about who and what I am and how I can impact myself and the world around me. There is a wonderful experience in my life, studying with a great mentor, perhaps an icon of artistry and intellect, Mr. Robert Marcellus. In many people’s eyes and in mine, was one of the greatest and most prolific of the performing artists of the day. As I ended a rather exhausting lesson experience with him (as a point of reference, the second one I had with him), he, in his unobtrusive way made the statement “Jere, There is nothing I can teach you, you already know all there is to know. If you ever want to learn from me, let me know, I’ll be glad to share with you my knowledge and teach you my ways of doing things.”
At the end of 3 years of very personal and down to earth working with a colleague, Mr. Marcellus said, in his very soft and gentle way with “My Wife Marian” standing beside him, “Jere, when you came to me, you were already an accomplished musician, I just put finishing touches on you!” I cried for 30 minutes after that statement, sitting on the floor in the music room of his summer home in Sister Bay, Wisconsin.
The reality for me is, the only thing I ever auditioned for was the Marine Band, and everything else was done on a more congenial level, non-competitive. Of course, if you ever were involved in my life during these stages, you would have seen dedication, determination and a massive growth experience. 12 to 16 hour practice days, performances left and right as well as managing 3 very different careers at the same time, all my life.
The aspects of a professional artist working under a call system, good at what you do, top of the list for every pick up orchestra in the world. Amazing, isn’t it? Perhaps a very different understanding of the way the life of an itinerant musician is…
When I first performed with Ray Charles in Memphis, Tennessee before 100,000 people, he actually stopped the orchestra in the rehearsal that afternoon and made the comment “That’s got to be a black clarinet player! Well, No Sir, Mr. Charles, I’m white, but my first teacher was Robert Hodge…and his response to this statement we “Count Basie’s Lead Tenor!” Yes Sir. One of the best performers I ever worked with.
I have taught over 150 professional (Grammy and Tony award winners) in my sharing career and consider this aspect of my life as a personal gift from a much higher power than all of us. Perhaps it is time to look at the growth value of an “education” and not at the judgmental part of Academic life.
Thank You Mr. Marcellus for summing things up for me!