“Music has opened doors for me that I did not even know to look for, and has made my life so much better in ways that I can’t describe to people who don’t play.”
Former Student – George Stevens Academy – Class of 2015
Instrument: Tenor Sax, Piano, Flute, Accordion
Describe how music has impacted your life.
Music has opened doors for me that I did not even know to look for, and has made my life so much better in ways that I can’t describe to people who don’t play.
Describe your connection to Mr. O
Mr. O made me a musician. I’ve always loved music, and before I got to High School I did play a little, but Mr. O took what my middle school music teacher had started and went “okay but now you practice all the time and also here’s 10 songs to learn by the end of the week.” Iconic.
Describe Mr. O in three words.
Elderberries, Elderberries, Elderberries.
What is your most memorable story involving Mr. O?
When I was a senior, our set was pretty much unbeatable. We opened with a song called Alice in Wonderland, slowed down with the Nearness of you, and then ended with Whiplash. We practiced for hours, knowing that there would probably be stiff competition. Music is completely subjective, and it would take more than simply playing better than the other guys to actually win. So we practiced. And practiced, and gave up Activity Period, and went to lessons during study halls, and stayed close for ISIP, until states finally came. They were held in South Portland that year, and because of the distance, we had hotel rooms to spend the night.
After being taken to the practice room, we played through our set, knowing that this counted more than any other time we had played all year. This would take us to night finals, and everyone got serious. We had 25 minutes to do it all. Get on stage, play the music, get off stage. Nothing more. We did well, and went back to the classroom to discuss night finals and wait for our scores.
The auditorium filled quickly once the performances were over, as everyone waited to hear who would be going to night finals, and who would be taking the bus back in the snow. Then, in no particular order, it was announced that for Division 4 the two schools participating in Night Finals would be Mattannawcook and GSA. Since we had played in the morning, we had the afternoon to go back to the hotel and talk about our performance that night.
However, before we could get too comfortable, Mr. O called us all into the lobby to tell us some news. “Mattanawcook has already gone home.” He told us. “It’s been so long since they made it to night finals that they didn’t make hotel accommodations, and with the snowstorm, they decided to leave early. So we’ve won.” It was the most anticlimactic winning of anything I have ever experienced. But when the time came we still packed up and got back on the bus. Arriving at our classroom to shed coats and pick up instruments, knowing it would not be long before our turn to perform.
But since we had already won, we didn’t know what to do. Did it really matter if we played through the set again? Or finally nailed a few measure that had been bothering us? Mr. O stood with a smile on his face, looking down at his music for a moment, before turning his gaze up to us.”Well,” he said, “what do you guys want to play?” The decision was reached to play “Hip to be Square” by Huey Lewis and the News, and instead of last minute tuning, we did. We relaxed and laughed off the disappointment from earlier, and only Mr. O knew how to make it happen. The competition aspect had been taken away from us but we could still play for us. That was what he showed us with letting us play whatever we wanted. That we were all gathered, in that science classroom in South Portland to play for us, because we wanted to. Because music was about more than the trophies for us, it was the love of making music and the simply pride in doing it well.
We stepped out on stage and took our seats, tension gone from our shoulders, nerves no longer crippling our focus. This performance was for us, and we were going to play however we wanted.
The strategy seemed to work, as our scores were the second best of the whole night, falling 1/3 of a point behind only South Portland themselves, and going home with the 1st place trophy once again. As a senior, at first I was angry at the idea of my final performance being meaningless, why did we have to play if we had already won? But Mr. O made all of us see the reason that we had been too stubborn to see on our own. Play because you want to, play well because you can.
If you could ask Mr. O any question, what would it be?
Will you come to my birthday party again?
Favorite Mr. O quote or phrase:
“I move so fast the Germs can’t catch me!”