The Claflin Hill Symphony Orchestra in Milford, MA — for whom Jamie Clark plays the trombone — will be honoring music teachers on Tuesday, August 22 at 6:30 at the Milford Town Park.
Signed copies of Mr. Clark’s Big Band, whose main character is a hero music teacher from nearby Southborough, will be available at the performance.
Image credit: Claflin Hill Symphony Orchestra.
I 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.
D’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.
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.
Image credits: Bay Path University’s MFA in creative nonfiction program.
Trottier School Principal Keith Lavoie emceed the event, introducing me before I read several excerpts from the book–specifically a segment about members of the 2012-2013 Big Band debating, during a January 2013 rehearsal, which would curdle one’s stomach more: eating boneless chicken-in-a-can or “gas station sushi.” I also read excerpts including one which describes a student triumphing over her fears in order to play a solo, knowing that Mr. Clark had her back, and another about the pre-performance jitters that occur when band members learn that their lead trumpet player is heading to the hospital for an emergency appendectomy an hour before showtime.
After thanking the nearly 150 people who crowded the cafeteria decorated with sunflowers, sheet music and enlarged copies of the book cover, Trottier music teacher Jamie Clark (THE Mr. Clark, see pictured on the left) led the current members of the Big Band in several pieces including Paul Clark’s swinging “A Band’s Gotta Do What a Band’s Gotta Do” and Doug Beach’s sassy “Late Night Diner.”
Big Band alumni, including many students who were profiled in Mr. Clark’s Big Band and are now in high school–therefore they towered over their middle school counterparts, joined the group for the hard-charging final number, “Groovin’ Hard,” the chart made famous by drummer Buddy Rich.
Suzy Green–Eric Green’s mother–was on hand, as were the Northborough-Southborough School Superintendent Christine Johnson, former Northborough-Southborough School Superintendent Charles Gobron and Mass. State Rep. Carolyn Dykema.
Trottier Principal Keith Lavoie looks on as I read from Mr. Clark’s Big Band.
Jamie Clark speaks in front of his current Big Band
Clark surprises me by pulling me up in front of the band after they finish “Groovin’ Hard.”
Clark, Suzy Green and me celebrate the joyousness that is the Big Band.
Clark is a world-class bear-hugger.
Image credits: Sharon Shoemaker
The Worcester Telegram & Gazette published a long piece in advance of the book launch party at the Trottier Middle School in Southborough.
The article, “Book charts Southboro school band, leader’s coping with member’s death,” began this way:
Today, parents, teachers and music students in Southboro will meet to honor a rather special story. It’s told in a book about kids who lose their fellow band member and experience the harshness of grief at a vulnerable age — poised on the brink of adolescence and not really equipped to figure out their feelings.
Writer Ann Connery Frantz continued:
Subtitled: “A Year of Laughter, Tears and Jazz in a Middle School Band Room,” the book contains a virtual text for grief management, made human by the kids’ stories (anonymously) and their difficulty in setting aside fear and grief over a buddy’s death to move forward as Clark melds individuals into a team, rocking their approach to life and music.
A weekly local paper in the Southborough, Massachusetts area, the Community Advocate, has profiled Mr. Clark’s Big Band.
“For residents of small, tight-knit Southborough, the morning of Jan. 11, 2012 brought with it deep sorrow and mourning as news of 12-year-old Eric Green’s passing swept through the town,” Sue Wambolt wrote in the Advocate. “A seventh-grade student and member of the P. Brent Trottier Middle School big band, Green died in his sleep from an undiagnosed heart condition.”
“While friends, neighbors and townsfolk struggled to come to terms with the loss, big band teacher Jamie Clark demonstrated the power of music to heal wounds as he guided his students through an emotionally challenging year,” she continued. “Mr. Clark’s Big Band: A Year of Laughter, Tears and Jazz in a Middle School Band Room, penned by resident and ‘big band mother’ Meredith O’Brien, chronicles this journey and gives an inside look at navigating bereavement in middle school.”
Image credit: Community Advocate.
Teacher and author Robert Wilder has praised Mr. Clark’s Big Band:
In Mr. Clark’s Big Band, Meredith O’Brien paints a moving portrait of how a grieving school can heal through the power of music. It doesn’t matter if you’re in the woodwind, brass or percussion section, this book hits all the right notes.
Image credit: Amazon.com.