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.”
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.
— Robert Wilder, author of Tales from the Teachers’ Lounge, Daddy Needs a Drink and Nickel. Wilder has been a teacher for 21 years.
Image credit: Amazon.com.
Jazz performer Dr. Steve Raybine, a jazz educator and recording artist, lauded Mr. Clark’s Big Band:
Meredith O’Brien hits all the right notes in her new book, Mr. Clark’s Big Band. This is a warm-hearted story about a charismatic middle school jazz band director. He both comforts and inspires the members of his jazz band who are grieving the loss of their fellow bandsman. Written with insight and affection, this will take you back to your own years as a middle school band student.
Dr. Raybine is a virtuoso vibraphonist (nicknamed the “Master of the Mallets”), percussionist, composer/arranger, instructor and clinician. He has recorded four jazz CDs
including Cool Vibes
, In the Driver’s Seat
, Bad Kat Karma
and Balance Act
Award-winning writer Suzanne Strempek Shea, author of nine books, including novels and works of nonfiction, praises Mr. Clark’s Big Band:
With a journalist’s commitment, a teacher’s passion and a mother’s heart, Meredith O’Brien brings her readers to a community leveled by sudden loss then bundled in music’s ability to heal. As well as illustrating the author’s stellar talent, Mr. Clark’s Big Band shows her radar for a timeless story, one that underlines in gold the power of the unsung heroes all around us.
Strempek Shea teaches creative writing in the University of Southern Maine’s Stonecoast MFA program, and is the writer-in-residence and director of the creative writing program at Bay Path University.
Image credit: Amazon.
Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and University of Massachusetts journalism professor Madeleine Blais has praised Mr. Clark’s Big Band. Blais is the author of several books including the award-winning In These Girls, Heart is a Muscle and Uphill Walkers: Memoirs of a Family:
A drumroll, please, for Meredith O’Brien’s endearing and inspiring Mr. Clark’s Big Band. Modeled in part after Tracy Kidder’s Among Schoolchildren, this book focuses on one school band in one small town after the sudden death of one of its members. In the end, music is the main character: the joy, the hope, and the solace it delivers to a bereft community.
Image credit: Amazon.