A collaborative, community-driven project to crowdsource the story of Mr. O and those who have connected with him during his forty-two (and counting) years of teaching music.

There are certain people that once you cross paths, you’ll never forget them… and then there’s Mr. O. Hot-puppy-pie that man is unforgettable. And it’s not only in the sense of being unique – playing and learning music with him leaves a roaring fire inside your body that carries into all aspects of your life.

Life can be complicated, and sometimes we wonder if it’s acceptable to get a bit obsessed with something, fearing judgement or criticism. For Mr. O though, he’ll reassure you that you could never practice or play too much music. His commitment to play and teach music to the best of his ability is unparalleled.

As I’m in the midst of finishing my senior capstone project at The University of Maine in Orono, I’m realizing the importance of unapologetically being yourself. To do what you love, and to never look back. When I think of people who embody this mantra, Mr. O is at the top of the list.

In the fall of 2018, I heard a rumor that he was considering retiring. Knowing his story had to be told one way or another, I set out to shoot a documentary about his life and careers in music and teaching. Not long into filming this, it became very clear that a huge portion of the story of Mr. O extends to the hundreds of students and their parents, colleagues, bandmates, friends, and family that collectively know this story far better than just I do. When finally realizing I was in over my head with trying to capture this on my own, the idea to capitalize on my senior capstone project to crowdsource this story began to develop: to allow this story (whether told in a documentary or not) to form from the unique perspectives that you all have. 

If you know Mr. O and have your own stories of either working with him, learning from him, or maybe even just observing him, I encourage you to join this project. The deeper I get into this story, the list of impacted young musicians, absurd quotes, and unforgettable moments grows each day. What you could bring to this project is meaningful and impactful, and I hope you’ll consider helping tell this story.

Thank you for being here. It means the world to me, and I know it means the world to Mr. O.

– Tate Yoder, GSA ’15