A couple of weeks later, the event registration information showed up in an e-mail and I wasted no time in getting registered and placed it on my calendar. As fate would have it, the reunion was at the end of the same week Georgette and I were booked for our annual week at a condo in Estes Park, CO. However, we were scheduled to return to Omaha on Friday which meant I would skip the Friday night reception, but would drive over early Saturday morning in time for the breakfast. With a full day of activities on Saturday, it would still be worth the trip. Sounded like a good plan to me.
One day, checking on the registration site to see who was attending that I might know, 2 names in particular caught my eye . One was Robert Lake and the other was Tom Lee. Surely this was more than a coincidence. After all, I had just attended a reunion recognizing a teacher 45 years after my last class with her. But now it seemed that I would also be attending a reunion where 2 men who, as young Drake students some 48 or 49 years ago, introduced me to the world of music education. Obviously they were attending for similar reasons as was I-they had attended Drake and studied under "Chief", had performed in the Drake Band as undergrads, then gone on to long successful careers as music educators. Yet, here was another opportunity to come face-to-face with teachers who had influenced and shaped me, this time in the area of music, something that has given me so much joy and purpose throughout my lifetime.
When my Dad asked me back in 1963, if I wanted to play a band instrument, I gave him a rousing "yes, I want to play the trumpet" and he responded with, "Good, but you can't play the trumpet. Your teeth aren't straight enough. But you can play the saxophone". My response, if I remember correctly, was " OK, what's a saxophone?". Dad rented an old Conn alto saxophone from Leach Music in downtown Des Moines so I could join the newly formed instrumental music program at St. Augustin School. I was to take lessons on Saturday mornings and my teacher was to be Mr. Bob Lake. Eventually, there would be a few organized band rehearsals and they would be led by Tom Lee. Mr. Lee, then a graduate student working on his Master's at Drake, had taken the job of developing the instrumental music program for the Catholic Schools in the Archdiocese of Des Moines. He hired Drake undergrads to work in the various schools as private teachers with beginners like me. Lake and Lee were my first instrumental music teachers and they would be at the reunion.
I keep things. In an old trunk, in boxes, piles of stuff. Music stuff, programs, race numbers from road races I ran in the 80's, record albums, memorabilia, lots of stuff. I keep it without a practical reason for keeping it. I keep it just because. You might be thinking that I just changed the subject of this story. I didn't. Sometime after discovering that Mr. Lake would be attending the reunion, I began to have an inkling that there were some old saxophone lesson books down in my trunk of stuff. I wouldn't have bet on it, but I had a hunch. Yep, there were 2 to be exact. My first 2 lesson books, complete with all kinds of notes and markings from Mr. Lake as he patiently and skillfully attempted to teach me how to play the alto saxophone beginning back in 1963. When I dug them out and thumbed through them, the memories began to came back-a memory of Mr. Lake picking me up outside our house on 35th Street in the winter, in his old 1943 Dodge parked out front with the heater on. He stopped by before 8 o'clock and gave me a ride to my lesson at St. Augustin School, then I walked home, about 2 miles. As I looked at the notes and markings on some of the exercises I must have struggled to master, I never once thought of quitting or giving up. I was given a solid start at playing a musical instrument that would turn into a lifetime of experiences. I was lucky and blessed....again. The lesson books would make the trip to Des Moines as I anticipated the reaction they might induce.
|My first 2 lesson books found in trunk o' stuff.|
|Progressing to the Intermediate Book|
|Lesson book dated 7-10-63|
|Bob Lake, Tom Lee with me at the Drake Marching Band Reunion|
Time went by quickly and there were more conversations with these 3 men throughout the day as well as with many other old friends and classmates. I had gotten lucky again, I thought as I drive back to Omaha that evening. Lucky that someone had put a saxophone in my hands at an early age. Lucky that I had been blessed with great teachers who made me want to continue to play and perform. Lucky that music has been a central element of my life. Lucky that this opportunity presented itself out of the clear, blue sky. Lucky that our trip to Colorado ended just in time where I didn't have to pick one event over the other.
You still may not believe that things happen for a reason, and it is not my intention to convince you that this story, on top of the Betty Hyde story, is anything more than a mere coincidence. For me, however, it was no mere coincidence. In the year 2012, I was meant to cross paths with teachers who had shaped and contributed to my life in significant ways. Why? I'm not entirely sure yet, but I will be forever grateful that I took the opportunity to recognize them when the opportunity presented itself.