‘bay state parent’ features ‘mr. clark’s big band’

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Bay State Parent recently ran a long feature story about the story behind Mr. Clark’s Big Band. Writer Melissa Shaw began the piece this way:

A Southborough mother and writer has transformed the unexpected death of a 12-year-old into a book detailing the true story of how the bond between a music teacher and his students helped them grieve and grow following the loss of their friend.

Shaw — who solicited comments from Suzy Green, the mother of the 12-year-old — also spent time speaking with Jamie Clark about the book:

Published in May, the book has been well-received by the community, former Big Band members, and the subject himself: ‘I have read the book and I love it!’ Clark says. ‘Reading it was an emotional experience, as I relived all the events covered in the book. I am incredibly proud of how the students [specifically] and the community [as a whole] rallied to support each other in that difficult time. … I hope that it helps others who are grieving and offers some guidance for the caretakers of children who have suffered a loss.'”

Read the full article here.

Image credit: Bay State Parent.

celebrating bay path university’s mfa program, graduation

bpu_mfa_readings_067I was honored to join fellow 2017 graduates of Bay Path University’s creative nonfiction MFA program this spring in the Hatch Library and to read aloud from my thesis, Uncomfortably Numb.

The rapidly growing MFA program, in which I enrolled in the fall of 2014, is staffed by a number of writers and editors with real-world experience who provided support and encouragement to the graduate students, something for which I remain grateful.

Among the faculty members whose guidance had a powerful, personal impact on me and my writing: Anthony D’Aries, Yankee Magazine’s Mel Allen, Susan Ito, and Adam Braver.

bpu_mfa_readings_063.jpgD’Aries, who will become the coordinator of Western Connecticut State University MFA program this fall, introduced me at the MFA event with generous and gracious remarks. (Photo right.) D’Aries offered valuable feedback as I worked on Mr. Clark’s Big Band — published in May 2017 — and workshopped large swaths of the narrative nonfiction work in his classes.

Meanwhile, Braver, my thesis adviser, was instrumental in helping me sculpt and develop my medical memoir into a richer and more reflective work. I am currently developing the memoir.

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After completing the creative nonfiction program, I was more than happy to share my thoughts about it for the Bay Path MFA program’s website, where a number of my classmates also weighed in on their experiences.

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Image credits: Bay Path University’s MFA in creative nonfiction program.

column: what are the consequences of misogyny?

I went political with my latest column, this time for the Worcester Telegram & Gazette.

Entitled, “What are the consequences of misogyny,” my piece was written in the wake of the president’s tweets which personally attacked the physical appearance of a female cable journalist. This is hardly the first time the president has stooped to this level.

Overall, the column is a plea for honorable people across the political spectrum to hold the president accountable for his misogynistic behavior, and it also expresses a likely unfulfilled hope that there be actual consequences for treating half of the nation’s population like objects with which to play or ridicule.

… I see treatment of women as an issue that transcends party. It is about basic decency. People who respect women and don’t simply offer hollow lip-service to women’s equality, should condemn all sexually harassing and exploitative commentary and actions. If you are a harasser and/or a demeanor of women, you are a problem. It doesn’t matter if you’re a Democrat or a Republican or an Independent or if you work for the man. Full. Stop.

Read the full piece here.

‘mr. clark’s big band’ goes to bar harbor music festival

Heading to the 51st annual Bar Harbor Music Festival over the July 4 holiday? 

I’ll be helping to celebrate the magic of music by signing copies of logoMr. Clark’s Big Band before and after performances by Brass Venture, the brass ensemble featuring Jamie Clark, the music teacher (Mr. Clark) featured in the book.

Brass Venture is slated to perform on Wednesday, July 5 at 8 p.m. at the Bar Harbor Congregational Church, 29 Mount Desert Street, Bar Harbor, Maine. The group will be playing music by Aaron Copland, Leonard Bernstein, Alan Hovhaness, and John Philip Sousa, as well as premiering a piece by Jeffrey Kaufman. Brass Venture will also be participating in the Young Audience portion of the festival, performing earlier in the day on July 5 at 1 p.m. at the Bar Harbor Congregational Church.

I will be on hand at both events signing copies of Mr. Clark’s Big Band. And since Jamie Clark will be around, you could get him to sign your copy as well.

recent press for ‘mr. clark’s big band’

smartmusic.jpgHere are some pieces I’ve written about Mr. Clark’s Big Band recently, as well as a link to a review:

Music Lessons from Mr. Clark: A column I wrote about the lessons I, a non-musician, learned from watching Jamie Clark teach his students over the course of a school year. An excerpt:

When the Big Band performed an aching rendition of “Kaleidoscope” — the jazz piece composed for them by Erik Morales — at the Eric Green memorial service in June 2013, in front of Eric’s family in a packed auditorium, I, personally, graduated from music school, the school of Mr. Clark. I didn’t learn how to read sheet music. I still couldn’t sing. I couldn’t blow a note on a trumpet, but I learned, firsthand, about the stunning power of music and one teacher to give young people the guidance, safety and comfort they desperately needed in order to move on.

Mr. Clark’s Big Band — A Year of Laughter, Tears and Jazz in a Middle School Band Room: The blog Michigan Mom Living reviewed the book saying,

Not an easy book for O’Brien to write since she was personally touched by this story and then to take the time to spend an entire school year figuring out the WHY of Mr. Clark’s jazz band being possibly therapy for the students’ grief?  In this story, O’Brien writes the daily on-goings in the band room and regarding jazz band performances.  Some stellar, most were not as she was trying to unravel the meaning and tightness of this band and their band leader.  Why was it that everyone loved this class and respected the band leader, Mr. Clark, so much?  Was it because he pushed them, believed in them, made them feel they had something more to share? Join O’Brien as she daily reflects the monotony of practices and performances of achievement failure and closure in this non-fiction [book].  This novel is geared toward adults, but highly recommended for Middle School and up as it will touch some great points for students.

5 Lessons from Mr. Clark: How Risk-Taking Teaching Can Benefit Kids: A blog post I wrote for SmartMusic about how Clark’s unorthodox teaching approaches to his students helped them get through a difficult year. This includes quotes from Clark’s colleagues and former students. A sample:

Tom Griffin, a teacher at Trottier, said students are drawn to Clark’s honesty. “I think they adore him,” he said. “He is so open with them and truthful. They are willing to go to the ends of the earth to do what he wants. … They trust him beyond all belief.”

Former student-teacher [Scott] Morrill said students tolerate Clark’s frankness about their playing because they say he cares deeply about helping them perform their best. “I think, a lot of time, teachers sugarcoat,” he said. “You know something, they needed [the honesty]. A lot of times, you get from teachers, ‘That’s good.’ What is ‘good?’ Sometimes you need colorful, graphic language.”

Image credit: SmartMusic via Twitter.

 

 

looking for signed copies of ‘mr. clark’s big band’?

Looking for signed copies of Mr. Clark’s Big Band? There are several available right now at Stax Discount Books, 193A Boston Post Road West, Marlborough, MA.

I spent part of Saturday afternoon signing books at Stax and chatting with the charming owners Stacey and Mike. Love me an independent bookstore!

Image credits: Stax Discount Bookstore.