A Tribute to Roger Snow

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Photo/Obituary Published by Maine Sunday Telegram

Photo/Obituary Published by Maine Sunday Telegram

There are very few teachers during my years in school that had such an impact in a couple of aspects of my life as Roger Snow did.  Posted above is his obituary as it appeared in the Maine Sunday Telegram this week.

 

His passion for his craft exceeded anything that I ever saw from anyone.

 

It is difficult to call him a real teacher because he traveled amongst the different schools here in South Portland, Maine to spread his talents of teaching others the fine art of music.

 

When I was in the 5th grade, I wanted to learn a musical instrument.  So my parents and I went to my cousin’s music shop to look for an instrument.  My thoughts were that I really didn’t want to have any instrument that I had to blow because I usually had a shortness of breath so this type of instrument was out of the question.

 

So my choices were limited to something like the piano or violin.  Since my parents could not afford a piano and it would be heavy to bring to school, I decided on the violin.  The violin that my parents purchased was new and it cost about $500.  After shelling out that much money for the instrument, they could not really afford to purchase a new case which would have set them back a couple more hundred.  So I ended up buying a used and sort of rough-looking case.  It didn’t look great and was a little discolored but it served its purpose.

 

I used a DYMO label maker to put a label with my name and address on the case so it could be returned if ever lost.  Ironically that label has lasted many years later.  Unfortunately, my violin career hasn’t lasted that long.

 

I was one of two people at my elementary school who were interested in playing the violin, me and a girl.  As it turned out, her affection for the instrument varied and she would not show up for the practice sessions set up by Mr. Snow, our teacher.

 

I practiced the violin for about an hour everyday trying to learn the notes and songs from the songbook which was provided to me.  The learning of the notes was extremely difficult for me as I could not read music that well.

 

However, Mr. Snow was persistent that I could learn to read the notes even if I had to write down every translation below the bars in the book.  That, unfortunately, is exactly what I had to do.  Mr. Snow did not care if I did that because he felt that it was the best way to learn.  Unfortunately for me, I did this all the time throughout my short but beneficial musical career.

 

My high point of my musical career came at the 6th grade Christmas school program.   The girl who was supposed to perform with me was no-show.  So a decision had to be made:  would I perform alone or not perform at all.

 

Mr. Snow came to the rescue.

He encouraged me to go out and face the audience and perform what I had long been practicing.  I could feel the sweat dripping down my back as all of a sudden I felt the tie I was wearing suddenly tightened like a noose around my neck.

 

So Mr. Snow and I walked out onto the gymnasium floor together, where we started performing together.  Shortly he would stop, leaving me to continue the songs by myself.  I was still nervous even though he was sitting beside me.  After performing my 3 Christmas songs, Mr. Snow prompted me to stand up and take a bow. The crowd had given me a standing ovation.  Nervously I held my instrument with bow in one hand and violin in the other and bent over like I was going to have a stroke or something worse.  At this point, I could not wait to leave the floor and go out into the entry way.  Mr. Snow congratulated me on a job well done and I watched the remainder of the show from in the back of the room.

 

This night was probably the high point in my entire musical career.  Correction, this was the high point as things sort of went downhill from here.  The girl never returned to violin class ever again after this particular night.  So I spent the rest of the year alone in this class.

 

When I got into junior high school (7th grade), I was not alone.  There was one other boy, Michael, and 3 girls in the violin class.  Michael was not a great student, but he excelled at the violin.  As a group, Michael led us when we needed help because he had been playing the violin for several years and was a couple of years older than the rest of us.  His passion along with the passion of Mr. Snow  made our time very enjoyable over the next year and we performed well together during all the junior high programs that we were invited to.

 

Then came 8th grade and for some reason Mr. Snow was removed from the South Portland school music department.  It was never known if he retired or if he was forced out of the department.  This was the worst thing that could have happened to us.

 

His replacement wanted to transform Mr. Snow’s orchestra into the new head’s band.  What this meant was that the violin section would be history.  We had a choice: pick up a new instrument or leave altogether.  However, Michael would have none of that.  He led a protest to keep the violin section and keep the whole group as an orchestra.

 

Michael’s passion led to failure and unfortunately for the 5 of us, we were shown the door.  It took a few weeks before the final decision to oust us happen but when it did, Michael took it the worst.  He became so distraught over the whole situation that he dropped out of school and allegedly got hooked on drugs.  As far as I knew, he never went back to school becoming a victim of the ignorance of the school department.  I saw Michael a few years ago and he seemed to be off drugs and much more mellow, but he looked much different and appeared to finally be at peace with the world and himself.

 

However, the real question for those of us who cared was what happened to Mr. Snow.  Rumors circulated that he was fired; others said he was forced out, and others thought he just retired.  My violin ended up getting retired living in the storage space in my parent’s garage.  It has not been opened in many years so I don’t know the condition of the instrument, but I have no intention on selling it.

 

That question would always remain unanswered for me, but his disappearance would not be long as during high school in 10th grade he made reappearance in my life.

 

During my sophomore year in high school, when I had the first chance, I decided to take the driver’s education course offered in the school.  Since the course was held at the school, we all were sitting there on the first day anxious to find out who the teacher was.  To my surprise, and the surprise of others, the teacher was Mr. Snow, the music teacher who inspired my musical aspirations.

 

He was a great teacher of driver’s training, but when it came to actually getting behind the wheel of a car that became a different story for some.  I remember the car being a bright red Chrysler K car, a popular type of front-wheel drive car of its day.  The car clearly was labeled a driver’s education car with a big sticker on both front doors and on the trunk.  The label had the Chrysler logo on it with the words “STUDENT DRIVER” clearly written on it.

 

For me, it should have said “LOOKOUT CRAZY LOON ON BOARD”.  Given that Mr. Snow took out 4 students per day for their driving lesson, my day was always met with the same sort of sweat that haunted me years earlier at the solo Christmas concert back in elementary school.

 

My first time behind the wheel, the vehicle was parked near a cliff overlooking Sebago Lake.  Naturally, the first thing I did was to put the car into drive and almost sent the car over the cliff.  Thankfully, Mr. Snow had a brake pedal on his side of the car to stop me from making him, me and the others a stupid lesson on how not to drive and end all of our lives in a heartbeat.

 

Over the next few weeks, each of the four of us, were allowed about a half hour of drive time so we were together in the car for about 2 hours a week.  While everyone else in our group progressed rather well, I still struggled with the whole driving thing.

 

However, Mr. Snow was persistent in seeing me succeed as I did in music class.  When the course ended, everyone else was ready to take their driver’s test, but Mr. Snow did not want to see me fail.

 

Since he had the driver’s education car for another few weeks, he decided to give me additional lessons free to give me more time behind the wheel.  This extra time made a huge difference as this extra training along with the time my father gave me driving his car allowed me to pass my driver’s test in the first try.  I was extremely proud and happy that Mr. Snow did this much to help me succeed for a second time in my life.  Also, the Chrysler K car survived with all the bumpers and 4 wheels still on it.

 

He went above and beyond anyone in wanting to help me.  I think he would have done this for anyone who needed the help.  It was just part of his nature.  However, I believe that anyone who would do something without pay just shows his dedication to his craft.  He had the drive to make anyone succeed whether behind the wheel or behind a musical instrument.  (Writer’s note:  Sorry about that pun I could not resist.)

 

In the years that followed, I only saw Mr. Snow a couple of times when I worked at the mall.  He pretty much kept a fairly private life despite having such a talented existence.  Maybe that is why he was so great, he knew when to stay out of the limelight and let others get the glory.

 

But here in this blog post, I felt it was time that he got the glory that he long deserved.  Unfortunately, I had to write it as an obituary tribute rather than as a lifelong tribute to someone who always went that extra mile.  (Writer’s note:  Sorry about that one too.)

 

When I decided to write this, I wanted to find a current picture of Mr. Snow to put into this post, but I could not find one.  Since my old yearbooks were not accessible, the only picture that I have is an old picture of someone at the beginning of their career rather than the older white-haired gentleman that I knew all those years.  Either way, he had a long honorable life and always had my respect.

 

Rest in peace, Mr. Snow.  I know someone up there wants to hear you play one of your many instruments that you played so well.  You will never be forgotten especially every time I get behind the wheel of my car.  Just as long as I don’t ever find that cliff and forget which way to go.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why I Didn’t Attend My High School Reunion (Part 2)

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Writer’s note:  This is the second part in a series as to the reasons why I didn’t attend my high school reunion.  While the information is true, it still may offend some people.  Reader discretion is advised.

 

The high school yearbook.

 

This is the book that is supposed to bring back memories of what happened over the past year of one’s existence in school.  In fact, as I have mentioned in a previous post, my senior high school picture is my profile picture of all my connections on the internet.

 

Not that I am really happy about that picture, much less my existence during my senior year.  Except for the one picture in the book, I am really nowhere to be found.

 

At least that was the way it was for the first 2 years of high school.

 

This story begins during my sophomore of high school.  Actually, this is the first year that I was physically in the high school.

 

At that time, the grades of 7-9 were in junior high and 10-12 were in the high school.

 

When I got to the 10th grade, I started a significant number of computer classes.  Not only that but I was spending as much time as possible after school in the computer lab.  It was not uncommon for me to stay afterschool everyday whether I needed to or not.

 

All this time, I spent in the computer lab caught the attention of the business teacher head, Marshall Sawtelle.  If ever there was somebody who was a teacher’s pet, I was it.  I spent so much time with him that at one point, it seemed that I was a member of his family.  Actually, I met his family at one time and after his passing, his wife said that he always talked about me even years after I left school.

 

Anyway, he asked if I wanted to take control of the billing of yearbook advertising.  It seemed that I wasn’t really asked, but instead forced to do it.  At least, that is how I saw it.

 

For those of you who don’t know what yearbook advertising is, they are ads placed in the back of the yearbook to promote their businesses and to congratulate the current graduating class.  Most importantly, without these ads, the price of the yearbook would be significantly more.  Sometimes it took several times of sending out bills before the advertiser would pay their statement.  This actually was a very important job and I had to keep on top of it to make sure everything kept running smoothly.  So, actually, I was a member of the yearbook club.

 

Or so I thought.

 

When I went to attend my first meeting, I was greeted with hostility.  I tried to explain my job function, but those who were part of this group refused to listen and asked me to leave.  Apparently, under NO condition was I ever welcome to this group even though I was heading up the billing.

 

When I explained the situation to Mr. Sawtelle, he was exasperated that they would do such a thing.  I also explained the same thing to both an assistant principal and the actual principal with no result.  It was apparent that the administration cared nothing about the groups at the school or whoever attended them.

 

I never tried to return to another one of their meetings ever again because I just didn’t want to get embarrassed by the whole situation.

 

However, the group’s hatred toward me didn’t end there.

 

It was too late to get my name on the acknowledgement page during my first year.  However, apparently my name was supposed to be in the yearbook during my junior year, but was edited out by the yearbook group.

 

However, this did not sit well with Mr. Sawtelle.  Rarely did I ever see him not be his jolly self, but this time his buttons were pushed and he decided to do something about it.

 

So as my name was deleted in the senior year as it was in the junior year, Mr. Sawtelle got his revenge by putting my name back into the page at the bottom right before the final copy was sent off to the printer.  Of course, he and I were both happy with the acknowledgement and the yearbook group was not happy.

 

In fact, despite revenge being sweet, those people who were part of the yearbook group continued their hatred of me for what would be the remainder of the school year, which would also be graduation day.

 

I think many of these same people still hate me right up to this date for my name being featured on the yearbook acknowledgement page.

 

At least one person appreciated all the work I did and made sure I finally got the credit I deserved no matter what others thought.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That Profile Picture — 30 Years Old

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You have probably seen the picture many times across various sites that I am on such as Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Google+, and LinkedIn.  Chances are you might be sick of it.  I have been asked many times why I never update the picture on any of my sites.  The reason I will explain below.

First off, a little history of the picture.  This picture was the picture featured way back in 1983 in my senior yearbook.  The actual picture was taken back in August of 1982.  So this makes it the 30th anniversary of this picture.  Anybody who knows me knows that I do NOT take a good picture, okay I am probably the worst person in pictures.  You won’t find me in anybody’s album or even in any family pictures.  No, I am not a ghost, but I might as well be though.  I hate everything that I am ever in.  Simply put, I hate the way I looked then and I hate myself even more now.  It is the story of the picture that is most interesting though.

It is was a midweek day back in August in 1982 in the morning.  It was going to be the day in which I would be getting my picture taken for the high school yearbook.  It was the decision of my mother that something should be done with my hair.  Anybody who knows me that I have absolutely the worst hair in the world.  I can’t part it because I am bald, I can’t push it back because it would look bald that way as well.  So I decided to go for my one and only time to a beauty parlor.

This was a very interesting experience to say the least.  After the beautician spent several minutes playing with my limp hair, she suggested that I get a perm.  Easier said than done on that.  The first time she tried curling my hair, it failed miserably.  So she tried a method of tighter curls and more of them.  Thankfully most of them stayed and so I was off to my photo shoot $30 lighter from the hairstyle.

There was about 3 hours between when I finished my hair and the photo shoot, so I had to be careful not to damage the hair.  I was lucky it stayed up that long, but somehow it did.  The photo shoot was at Loring Studios that was located on Congress Street in Portland Maine.  The entire photo shoot lasted about 2 hours and included about 7 different shots.  It would take about 2 months (mid-October) that I would receive the test pictures back and choose the one that would make the yearbook.  This one by far was the best as the others were absolutely horrid.  Sadly, the hair only lasted through the day and was pretty much back to normal by the next day.

Now the real question:  Why do I continue to use this picture?  There are several reasons for that and here are the most important ones:

  • It was a happier time in my life.  I had a somewhat of a girlfriend and was happy about that.  Little did I realize that girlfriend was really lying to me after 10 years and she NEVER really cared at all.  Unfortunately, I never got another “girlfriend” ever again since.
  • I had “friends”.  I say it that way because I believe that many of them are fake and one of them has since turned out to be a real social backstabber and had to be avoided at all costs.  Only these “friends” know if they are real or fake.
  • I knew I was going to have a pretty easy year ahead.  Since I had completed almost all of my required courses, I was able to spend most of the year in computer based classes, most of them in one room.  Bad news:  I had mostly computer classes and they were mostly in one room thus leading to no variety and really lacked social interaction.
  • I was in good health.  Back then I could get out and walk for hours on end, today I can barely complete a lap around the mall without sitting down half way around.  I blame my former employer Staples for that.  (Follow my other blog on that ongoing story)

So I hope I have cleared up part of the reason why I use this picture for everything as everything was much better back then and sadly has never been that good since.  However, tomorrow is another day unfortunately.