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.
The newspaper for which I used to be a reporter, The Republican (in Springfield, MA), was kind enough to run a large piece about Mr. Clark’s Big Band.
Here are the first two paragraphs:
When Meredith O’Brien’s son, Jonah, was a seventh-grade drummer in the Trottier Middle School jazz band in Southborough, 12-year-old trumpet player Eric Green died in his sleep from an undiagnosed heart ailment. The members of the jazz band were shaken to their core.
From the throes of his own grief, the Trottier Big Band’s director, Jamison Clark, became the children’s guide, their catalyst for healing. With a face resembling Santa’s, coupled with eyebrow-raising antics ranging from bathroom jokes to poking fun at his own girth, Clark coaxed the children to pour their grief into their music through a challenging year of mourning.
A number of blogs have published an essay I wrote about the advantages of having your child in a classroom taught by someone who takes risks, who puts his or her emotions out in the open, who is willing to give the students what they really need.
Bernetta Style: This blog ran the article under the title, “Your Child’s Teacher May be Doing Right by Giving Students What They Want.”
TwinMom: This site featured the piece which also highlights how school officials at a Southborough, Massachusetts middle school ditched their concerns about precedent in order to provide students the support they craved.
Books By T. Smith: This blog also published the essay whose main point can be summarized by these two lines:
To the children at Trottier Middle School, breaking down the emotional barriers between student and teacher–which many faculty doggedly maintain as a badge of professionalism, not worrying about precedent-setting in order to tend to the emotional needs of its students was just what these children needed to emerge on the other side of grief. What I learned by watching this school for a year: sometimes you need to set the rules aside and give the students what they need.
Reading with Frugal Mom: The Frugal Mom published this piece on its Reading with Frugal Mom website and promoted it on its Adventures with Frugal Mom Twitter account. Thank you!!
Image credits: BernettaStyle website, TwinMom website, Books By T. Smith, and Reading with Frugal Mom.
Saxophonist, composer and educator Dave Pietro–a native of Southborough, Massachusetts–has lauded Mr. Clark’s Big Band calling it: “a chronicle of all that is good and precious in music education and how it can help young people to learn so many important lessons of life; lessons about compassion, respect, bravery, listening to others, working together as a team, accepting others for who they are, and finding one’s inner passion.”
The New York University assistant professor jazz studies continued:
It’s a heart-warming, funny and delightful account of a family of young musicians coming together to collectively grieve the loss of a classmate, led by a band director who demonstrates what it means to be a great teacher and a compassionate human being.
Pietro is a member of the Grammy Award-winning Maria Schneider Orchestra and the Grammy-nominated groups the Gil Evans Project and Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society.
Image credit: Dave Pietro’s website.
Blogger Kelly Reci knows what it’s like to be a middle school student who suddenly and unexpectedly loses a friend:
Teen bereavement is real. Many of our tweens and teens will struggle with the loss of a friend. It’s heartbreaking, but sadly its life. When I was an eighth grader, (all the way back in 1992,) we lost a friend. He was just a year behind us, and the older brother to three younger children. Billy passed away while caring for their yard. He was the “man” in his family, and he often did chores that his mother and sisters couldn’t. That horrible day he happened to be mowing the lawn on a riding mower. He fell off, and the mower landed on him. He was asphyxiated before he was found. I’ll never forget the day we found out, or the days following. Our group of “bus buddies” mourned for months. Driving passed his house twice every day, and seeing the exact spot he departed our world, was virtually torture. Grief counselors were called in, but they didn’t stay longer than a week. I guess we were all supposed to be “healed” by then. Most of us weren’t. We could have really used a teacher like Mr. Clark to help us all heal.
In reviewing Mr. Clark’s Big Band, which shines a spotlight on how a small Massachusetts middle school–its jazz band in particular–handled the sudden death of a 12-year-old student, Reci recommended the book for those who have experienced loss:
Following these kids journey to healing was touching as well as inspiring. It was a very cathartic experience for me. Mr. Clark is amazing, and I really can picture him as jolly Santa Claus type. If you or someone you love has experienced a loss, whether they’re tween or older, I think you’ll love this book.
Meanwhile, blogger Cassandra McCann also posted a review of Mr. Clark’s Big Band saying it is: “a great book of healing with the magic powers of music in a way that seals the town in a mix of emotions that the readers will surely feel.”