Follow your Dream

I started to write this to encourage graduating seniors, but then realized it might just encourage some underclass types. And as I shared some of my personal circumstances, I can think of individuals in the band facing similar challenges… I hope you take the stories as encouragement and not as anything else. Thanks for reading.


Anyone with a face book can find entries like, “Ugh, have to work today” or “only 2 more hours ’til I get off”…. How many people do you know who are in jobs they hate?


High School and College students often have to work jobs to help pay their way through college…. and sometimes those jobs actually encourage them to continue the college trek. My college grunt work jobs included dishwasher, fast food handler and 3rd shift custodian and my summer work was often as a stock boy in a large Cincinnati dept store. They were not fun, but were temporary and served a purpose. Do the work and don’t complain. Focus on the goal.

As seniors (and even juniors) begin to decide on college majors and career directions, I often hear variations of, “I’d love to do music, but I want to make more money, so I’m going into…..”

“God Bless, Good Luck,
and may you and your money
live happily ever after.” -G


But what do you WANT to do?

I experienced three life changing events in 7th grade. 1) I was baptized as a Christian, 2) My parents divorced, and 3) I discovered and declared my dream job.

I was a 7th grader at a Band Clinic at Morehead State University when I purchased my first conductor’s baton. I wanted to be a band director.

Step one: DECLARE your dream.

It was good that I had five years to get ready for college because my sad realization was that, as one of five children to be raised by a single, physically handicapped mother, the money was not going to be there.

No one on either side of my family had ever been to college, so I had no family mentor or example, but I knew I had to get there if I was going to be a band director.

Given my financial reality, plus the clear indication that my mediocre grades were insufficient…. I concluded that my only chance was to be good enough on my clarinet that someone would pay for me to come to their school.

Step two: Plan your Work and then Work your Plan. I started taking clarinet lessons in 8th grade, partly at the insistence of my band director who told my mother I needed and deserved them, and that she should find a way to make it happen. So…. I got a paper route. If you want lessons, make them happen — don’t lament what you think you CAN’T afford.

In high school, my director insisted that I study with a particular teacher. We couldn’t afford him, but he agreed to let me “audition” for his consideration. He made me a deal….that went something like this:

“You do need … and deserve clarinet lessons … and I can teach you. The problem is, you can’t afford me. I have a bad heart, a big house with  a big yard and I need help cutting grass, shoveling snow and doing other things around my house. If you will help me take care of my house and grounds, I will give you clarinet lessons UNTIL the day you show up here unprepared.”

I took the deal.

You can read about my band director and clarinet teacher in an article I wrote called “Four Influential Men“.

When they told me I needed a better clarinet, my dad offered to pay for half. So, I continued my paper route and added some grass cutting … and a lemonade stand on the golf course down the street — to raise the other half. Thanks for making me work, dad.

After a high school career of solo/ensemble contests, district and all-state bands, clinics and summer music camps…. I was able to go to college on a full ride scholarship. I bought my first car as a senior in college with excess scholarship monies….so that I could do my student teaching.

I continued to focus on that dream during college and accepted my first teaching position four days BEFORE college graduation.

Step three: FOCUS like a laser and NEVER GIVE UP!



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