Coda: Responding to the Changes
Funny thing about the changes and the ebb and flow of life. Often we end up in places or situations we never imagined we’d be in. That’s as true for our lofty ambitions as it is for what we may initially interpret as a disaster. I’ve experienced times in my life when things were going really well, and then suddenly everything changed and I needed to embrace new priorities. I’ve learned that successfully fighting life’s unexpected battles requires tailor-made strategies and determination. After the smoke of the battle begins to clear, we see that victory has a different face than the one we had imagined. In hindsight, we see that there is a sweetness to overcoming difficulties and that we are comfortable in the new landscape of our lives.
I came to Berklee from Nyack, NY, and lived in an apartment on St. Stephen Street behind Symphony Hall. Back then, Michael’s Pub—a small bar around the corner that I frequented with my roommates—reminded me of my father’s place, the Office Bar. One day I convinced the owner to let a few of us jam there on Tuesday nights. Each week we drew more students from the surrounding colleges, and before long it was a huge success. Ultimately Michael’s became a full-fledged jazz club with many Berklee folks and well-known musicians performing there.
A Detour Ahead
Things were going well for me until I encountered my first major roadblock. I was in my final semester as a music education major doing my student teaching when I received word that my father had suffered a heart attack. My parents were in their seventies, and their only means of support was the Office Bar. My mother panicked and wanted to sell the business. I tried to convince her to wait until I finished college, but she was in a bind. So I quit school, to return home and run the bar.
By that time, many of my Berklee friends had moved to New York City and wanted work experience. I invited them to come jam at the Office, just as we had done at Michael’s. We couldn’t pay much at first, but as my business grew I remembered the players that were there from the start. A patron of the bar who loved jazz gifted $10,000 to the club, which was enough to build a stage and buy a Yamaha grand piano and a sound system.