First the obvious - I've been in school a long time. I'm done. The only jobs I can get that work around my schedule pay horribly and destroy my body. I'm lucky to have a great private studio, and an adjunct job, but that's not enough. Also - writing an entire book is stressful and time consuming.
The not so obvious - I am heavily invested emotionally in this project. If you haven't checked out www.roilives.tumblr.com you can see more about that there. The Cliffnotes are - LeRoi Moore was very much a saving grace in my life. There is a void in his legacy and I have jumped in to fill it. Never mind the people who knew him that could be let down, or my committee members who could bash it - if I screw this up I will never forgive myself.
In the midst of all this I still have a family to support. My wife is carrying a monumental amount of the load on her shoulders; I was raised to carry her, so this bothers me.
In a constant effort to shore up the financial situation, I ran across a mentorship position which asked for student appraisals. So I contacted some former students and asked if they'd consider writing a letter. What I received was the shot of motivation I needed. The letter, written by former student Dylon Jones, is posted below. Dylon is a fantastic musician, writer, and human being. He received a full ride to Louisville to study jazz, but decided that journalism was more his speed.
His letter struck a nerve with me. I have always tried to be the teacher I didn't have growing up, the support system that didn't exist in my life. At a time when I was feeling at my lowest, Dylon reminded me that what I do is positive and makes a difference.
This is not posted to pat myself on the back, it's posted because there are a lot of guys out there asking tough questions. Why am I doing this? What's the endgame? A lot of cats eating ramen, trying to tell their kids that Chuck E. Cheese is not happening in the foreseeable future, and packing up their gear to trudge off to a studio or school and keep hammering away. I have been second guessing myself a lot, and Dylon's words reminded me how silly it is to do that. It also helps that Dylon is a gifted writer. Thank you for the kind words, my friend.
To Whom It May Concern:
My name is Dylon Jones, and I’m an editor at Louisville Magazine in Louisville, Kentucky. I met Bob Fuson when I was a sophomore in high school, and I cannot overstate his influence on my life.
I grew up in a dried-up coal town in McCreary County, Kentucky, a place of grocery stores and graveyards. No park, no art, no cinema, nothing. I knew poverty like I knew pine trees; it seemed a part of the landscape, natural as the oak beyond my bedroom window. My mother kept the two of us alive on her own, working as a secretary at the Department for Family Services, where she helped some of my friends from school, victims of domestic and sexual abuse, kids who knew meth from crack by the smell. For many of us, the future seemed a story already written: struggle, marry early, try to keep off drugs. What else? Grocery stores. Graves.
But I had something else: a saxophone, and, a few towns over, in Williamsburg, a mentor. Every week, my mother drove me over a winding mountain road for private saxophone lessons with Bob Fuson. He built my technique, familiarized me with classical repertoire and theory, introduced me to jazz vocabulary, and encouraged my interest in art. We worked hard, but it never felt like it. Each new scale, tune, record, and concept was a revelation. I won first chair seats in district- and regional-wide honor bands. I played in the all-state jazz ensemble my junior and senior years. Both times, I was the only student from my school. Both times, I was the poorest kid in the sax section. Both times, professors scouted me out at the concert, asking me to audition for them. Eastern Kentucky University offered me a full-tuition music scholarship. I turned it down for an identical offer from the University of Louisville. I owe my education to Mr. Fuson’s tutelage.
But none of that matters. What Bob Fuson really did was show me I could do anything, no matter where I came from. In a region that dismissed art as a mere hobby, Bob Fuson worked hard at his craft, and made a life sharing knowledge. He wrote his own story. Now, thanks to him, I’m a musician and journalist, making a living writing mine.