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Kate Durost

“During the district jazz festival at Ellsworth High School one year… we were playing and Mr. O was doing his typical thing—bouncing all over the place… All of a sudden, he disappeared. He had bounced so hard that he fell off the stage! I think he barely hit the floor before he scrambled back up on stage and kept going as if nothing happened.”

Former Student – George Stevens Academy – Class of 2003

Instrument: Clarinet, flute, tenor sax, bass guitar

Describe how music has impacted your life.
Music (and Mr. O) was a huge part of life through high school and college. In high school, I played any instrument I could get my hands on. Freshman year, I taught myself how to play bass because Mr. O said he needed a bass player for a jazz combo. A couple years later I taught myself how to play trombone because he said he might need a trombone player in the jazz band. I grew up in Bucksport, but had the opportunity to attend GSA because my mom taught there, and honestly the opportunity to play in the GSA band and jazz band was a deciding factor in my decision to attend GSA. I played in any and every band or group I could.

While I didn’t pursue music as a career, I auditioned for the jazz ensemble my freshman year of college, and continued playing for my college career. I was one of only two or three members of that group who wasn’t a music major, and I loved the opportunity to continue doing something that I loved.

Describe your connection to Mr. O
I have known Mr. O for my whole life. My mom worked at GSA, and when I was learning alto sax in sixth grade (my second instrument) I first sat down with Mr. O for a couple lessons. Getting to play for him—in the band, jazz band, jazz combos, chamber music ensemble, and in the pit band for musicals—was the highlight of my high school years.

Describe Mr. O in three words.
Energetic, passionate, loveable.

What is your most memorable story involving Mr. O?
It is so hard to pick just one, so I have to share two.

First, during the district jazz festival at Ellsworth High School one year (maybe my senior year?) we were playing and Mr. O was doing his typical thing—bouncing all over the place, feeling the music as only he can. All of a sudden, he disappeared. He had bounced so hard that he fell off the stage! I think he barely hit the floor before he scrambled back up on stage and kept going as if nothing happened.

One of my other favorite Mr. O moments was my freshman year, driving with him (and I think Dan MacLeod and Hayden Cummings?) to Farmington for All State auditions. I was beyond nervous, and he knew it, so he spent the whole ride telling us stories about his career as a musician—from his college days to his first few years teaching and everything in between. We were all laughing so hard, it was just such a wonderful time and took my mind off how nervous I was for my upcoming audition.

If you could ask Mr. O any question, what would it be?
If you could pick a “dream team” jazz band, made up of former students from your whole career, who would you pick?

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