Thursday, December 10, 2015

Thank you, Thomas Sweezey

Dear Mr. Sweezey,

We do not always get the opportunity to tell teachers what they meant to us. Most of my 8th grade – high school memories revolve around you and the band. I will always be grateful for those years you were my teacher.

At the beginning: your military background resulted in language that we had not heard teachers use before. You cleaned it up a lot, and those who stayed in band got used to it. I was a little intimidated in the beginning. Okay, more than a little.

When you came, I was playing at a Grade 2 level and I think all the concert music was Grade 2, also. I managed to progress up to a Grade 6 (which I did not practice enough) solo and the concert music was Grade 4, I think.

Those competitions! My clarinet keys got bent while I was waiting for Chris and my turn for our duet. Somehow, I fell off my platform shoes while standing still in the hallway. We had to track you down very quickly to fix them, or we would not have been able to compete. And we each still had our solos, besides. Mike’s “I Got Rhythm” marks we picked on him about on the bus back to Lake Placid.

  • Veteran’s Day - includes the day the flag was raised in honor of my father, who served in the Army during World War II
  • Memorial Day        
  • Firemen’s parades – where the heat was pretty awful in those ugly, wool uniforms. I remember the trip to Alexandria Bay, because Patrick and I watched the sunrise while sitting on the hill alongside the school driveway before getting on the bus.         
  • Annual Saranac Lake Winter Carnival - where I got frostbitten fingertips at least once, not to mention it felt like my toes had fallen off inside of my shoes.  In all honestly, I never did memorize all the sheet music, but I got better at it       
  • And my last parade – the groundbreaking ceremony for the Olympics. I think that is the one where Lori lost the end of her flute, which ended up flattened somewhere along the parade route

Pregame and half-time shows when the school still had football. The Buddy Rich concert – I had no idea who he was beforehand – at Potsdam State.

Pit orchestra (since I cannot sing) for a number of plays, including the one where Mrs. Money’s head landed on my shoulder and her wig landed on Mike’s drum (or was it Bobby’s?) during the parade passing by us. I still remember you telling me that I looked stunned, then lifted her head up for the actors to continue. The line, “Mrs. Money, what did they do to you?” was never funnier!

The biennial concerts and competing with Chris for first chair – sometimes I won it, sometimes I lost it. I took it as a compliment when you asked me to not compete with her my junior year/her senior year, because you needed a strong second clarinet player – we only had one first and one second then.

You worked with my mother to get me a wooden clarinet, because I had progressed so much and it would sound better. Music lessons, even during the summer. You taught me how to play the saxophone so I could join the stage band – and did not eliminate my turn during the improvised solos, even though I was horrible at it.

Playing first clarinet my senior year and doing a terrible job as the music librarian. And, finally, graduation. It seemed so strange not to be sitting with the band when “Pomp and Circumstance” started playing!

So, I am taking this selfish opportunity to tell you that I appreciate your hard work with me, and all the other students you taught throughout the years. I am very happy that Facebook has allowed so many of us to reconnect with you and each other.

Thank you,