I had an amazing experience in my master's program. I cannot say that enough. But the best part, by far, was the people I had the experience with and the advisory group that has resulted since. Because of this program, I have a group of masterful teachers to call upon at all times. My classmates are wonderful friends and wonderful resources, all doing amazing things in their own professional lives. They have all individually made my life richer. And when I need their help, as I often find that I do, they never let me down.
We graduated in 2014, and less than a year later, the advisory group became one smaller. One of our own passed away out in California, unexpectedly, at age 36. He was an unforgettable person, confident, capable, great musician, and knowledgeable of so much. He could carry on a conversation with anyone, really, and could go on for hours about the influence of the Bulgarians on Western music history. Some might have perceived him as a know-it-all, but his brain was indeed a tremendous resource. He and I had brief conversations about continuing our education, and doing research in the future. While some of us just wanted to get our major masters research projects over with, he meticulously collected data and interpreted it, trying to garner as much information about high school sight-singing as a human could. He was just that kind of fellow.
And then in February 2015, he was gone in an accident. All of that knowledge, all of that resourcefulness, everything that was going on in his head at breakneck speed at all times, was just gone. All of my classmates are spread out fairly far and wide, so while it is a strange thing to mourn someone who you valued but did not see every day, I also mourn for our profession. Music education lost someone who was going to become, if he was not already, a luminary.
I had a question for my peers the other day, and while they provided me with some great information, it was about a topic of which I knew that our fallen brother had a great deal of knowledge. And I found myself mourning again. In grad school, we would all be at social engagements over summer semesters, and he'd be thinking already of how to stage a concert next spring. He was always thinking of his students and the opportunities that he could provide them. He did everything he could for his students, and so many kids will miss out on the opportunities he would have undoubtedly provided them.
He had so much to give. And then he was gone. And it made me think.
As I was thinking about him, specifically while driving to work the other day, I heard it.
"Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes..."
Apparently, a 20th anniversary production of Rent is coming to my town, and so the iconic first line of "Seasons of Love" started playing during a radio advertisement. It more than caught me off guard. I had seen videos of our fallen brother's chorus performing that song, prior to and after his death. I programmed it for my own kids the spring after he passed.
As the song played, I thought about the knowledge that we all have, the experience that we all garner, and that it is our duty to share as much of it as we can with our peers, our friends, our colleagues. Our fallen brother did that, at all times. We have a responsibility to leave our profession, our calling, better than we found it, and to share our body of knowledge in whatever way we possibly can.
So if I can pay tribute, even in some small way, to my brilliant friend by writing things down that I know well and that have helped me in my work, that might help carry the torch. If we can create resources to help and inform each other, then we continue to honor his memory.
" and when you're gone / who remembers your name / who keeps your flame / who tells your story"
(I have absolutely no doubt he would have loved Hamilton, too.)