I've been feeling a bit sentimental lately. It could be attributed to any number of recent occurrences or events in my life...pending arrival of Mr. Baby, celebrating the 12th anniversary of my 29th birthday, my many friends who have lost loved ones recently, who knows?
At any rate, it seems that I've been more and more appreciative of life and those who have played an important role in my own.
Last Thursday, George Parks died unexpectedly.
To the general populace, that name probably doesn't jog any memories. But for those of us who actually have a personal story to tell that begins with the phrase "One time, at band camp...", that name may immediately bring forth emotions and memories of years gone by.
George Parks was the band director for the UMass Marching Minutemen, and a Professor of Music at UMass Amherst, teaching tuba and conducting. He was known across the marching band world for his drum major academy, teaching thousands of young people throughout the years.
I was in marching band throughout high school and for two years in college. I have an undergraduate degree in Music Education. "When I grew up" I wanted to be a high school band director, and for five years in the 1990's (seemingly a lifetime ago), I was just that.
I never met George Parks in person. George Parks never encountered me at a Drum Major Academy, in the UMass Band or in a class at UMass. My only experience, other than his textbook or stories from others, was seeing him in action a few times at his Drum Major Academy at the BOA Summer Symposium at Illinois State University.
He was amazing. The type of educator that is so in-tune with and adept in his chosen field, that a willing student learns by simply observing the master.
His passing brought forth not only fond, sweet memories of my musical history, but of mentors past. Those who have had a significant impact on my life, whether they realize it or not. Those men and women who, in casting their influence to the world, set in motion ripples that, to this day, far outside of my original involvement with them, impact who I am and what I do.
One of those mentors (whom so many others hold dear as well) once said "If you have had five people in your life who you can say have truly made a difference, you are blessed."
Some of my mentors are still around, doing what they do. Teaching others, leading by example.
Walking the walk, not just talking the talk.
Some are aware of the impact they had on my life. Some may never be aware.
Some have gone from this world, too soon, or in the right time. No longer with us here, but living in my heart and mind and everyday life.
One thing that all mentors have in common is their commitment to excellence, striving for success, and doing things THEIR way.
So to Tim, Mallory, Rita, Gary, Jeff...thanks for being in my five. Whether you know it or not, you made a difference.
And to George, you taught countless young people (and their teachers) about music, excellence, leadership, and pride.
Thanks for doing it "your way".