For most of us, sixth and seventh grade fall into the half-light zone of twilight. Too much came afterward for us to remember much more than fading recollections of what happened. In fact, most of us would gladly eschew any intense investigation into those awkward days. Shudder!
I have to say that I have gladly forgotten most of those pre-high school days. They represented the beginning of a determined attempt on the part of the New York City school system to package me, tape me up, and ship me off to storage. I turned out to be challenging to teach.
Surprisingly, one teacher retains a name and vivid recollections of his appearance and take on life. That person is the joyous Mr. Gloss. Mr. Gloss appeared in music class daily in his signature bow tie and houndstooth tweed jacket. He was always waving his hands, gesturing, smiling, and encouraging. Somehow, and this was the unique part, he seemed to exude the confidence that every glee club member, everyone in the band, and all who just casually showed up would be an incredible artist.
Mr. Gloss just seemed to exude this positive attitude daily, despite the lack of involvement on the part of many students. He was one of the first to exclaim how thrilled he was that I had taken up the guitar. He had labored tirelessly to involve my interest first in the violin and then in the flute, so perhaps he was just plain grateful that some seed had sprouted – at last.
Not long ago, the subject had come up in a conversation about which teachers we remembered. There were glowing recollections of high school teachers who’d made a difference. But unfortunately, high school for me was a blank spot between junior high and going to be a folksinger in Greenwich Village. The City of New York had successfully warehoused me, and not being willing to be wheeled into their storage, I had walked out.
So when the memories of Mr. Gloss came pouring out, I was more than a bit surprised. Then I thought about it. All the emphasis was placed on academics in school. How well do you perform in math, science, and language? The message we got was that these were what would make us successful in life. – make money.
But the music and art teachers gave a gift that probably was not aimed at profit. On the contrary, they directed us towards inner richness that made us more complete individuals. And yes, some of us turned this into economic gain as well.
Appreciation and participation in some form of art and music is one thing that does not depend on your ability to spend on it. You come equipped with hands, feet, and a voice. Instruments have been improvised since the first musician discovered percussion. It’s one thing that elites can not rob from you even if they selfishly emulate you.
It’s all aided and abetted by someone like Mr. Gloss. So take the time today to thank that person for the gift.