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Christine Howe Black

“It was his approach that earned him respect of all students, despite ability or interest, his passion for music and kindness was what always shined brightest in the classroom.”

Former Student – George Stevens Academy – Class of 1990

Instrument: Clarinet/Alto Clarinet / Sax / Tenor Sax

Describe how music has impacted your life.
To me music is foundational. I started playing clarinet in grammar school and liked it. I fell in love with music in High School at GSA…I still remember the first time I played String of Pearls and listened to Benny Goodman. I never really considered myself musically gifted but I am a hard worker and could put in the practice. Somehow I got voted with the Most Musical superlative my senior year, something I attribute to Mr. O’s constant encouragement of me. I’m an executive at Bank of America now, but music is something I return to center myself when needed. It is calming and restorative and I now have a love of learning new instruments (been working on banjo and guitar slowly).

Describe your connection to Mr. O
He had just come to GSA my freshman year. We went to the Big E to play in front of the Maine Building with the regular band, it was the beginning of the year and he had so much enthusiasm as he played the role of conductor. It was hard not to catch that energetic bounce! He started a Jazz Band and we had incredible talent (Dana Goodwin) on Sax…Jazz Band was a new thing then and he really whipped up enthusiasm and brought a whole group of students in that may not have been participants in with the traditional band. He also was incredibly patient with those who had ZERO interest in music and yet had to take music electives like key boarding (my husband is also a GSA Alum tells stories of trying to send Mr. O over the edge and the worst he would get would be a “O Come on Dana don’t be like that…”; it was his approach that earned him respect of all students, despite ability or interest, his passion for music and kindness was what always shined brightest in the classroom.

I loved the Alto Clarinet, that wasn’t exactly the instrument you found in most Jazz bands, but it was my instrument. Mr. O wrote countless pieces for me so i could participate. In return when he asked me to switch to the sax i did, but my love of the sax wasn’t there (and quite honestly i was following in some BIG footsteps especially in the improv just feel the groove arena) so didn’t put as much into it as i had the clarinet, and may have even stepped away from Jazz band (in fear of disappointing those around me). Mr O. took that on himself, what he probably never realized it how grateful I was that he pushed me outside of my comfort zone, I may have backed away, but the music never left my soul.

Describe Mr. O in three words.
Energetic Affable Caring

If you could ask Mr. O any question, what would it be?
How will we ever fill your shoes?

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