Tuesday, March 17, 2015

"Stool-Kicker" is the new "Awesome"

               Yesterday I was honored to welcome the participants of the Leadership Development Institute to the Long Beach VA.  This is a program designed to create the next generation of leaders from VA facilities in California and Nevada.  When I get these opportunities I always strive to inspire others to get excited about learning and growing.  And you know I took more than my allotted minutes.
                Whenever I have the opportunity to speak to an audience of one or many, I want to challenge them to be bold, creative and passionate.  I tell them to look around and see what’s missing and then fill that slot; whatever it may be.  Be the change you want to see.  Be the passion you can’t find.  Be the creativity that you think is sorely lacking.  And never be afraid to display your talents.  Own your awesomeness, I always say.  And The Dad would agree.  His most famous saying, not related to flatulence or food, is, “It ain’t braggin’ if it’s a fact.”
                I have some musical talent.  I sing, play the trumpet and can dance like no Baptist ever should, y’all.  And it’s a family thing; music, not dancing, although in the spirit of full disclosure, my mother did teach me how to do The Stroll, The Twist and The Mashed Potato to the tunes of the American Graffiti soundtrack.    I guess we were Methodists on Saturdays?
               I have always loved music; singing, dancing, listening, you name it.  My tastes run the gamut from Christian and country to folk and dance music, both hits of the 80s and club music from the 90s. I also love four-part harmony.  Prior to 6th grade I thought the only music that existed was the Beach Boys and the Statler Brothers.  My mother stated it was her car; her music.  I love to sing tenor in a mixed quartet or alto when it’s an all-male quartet.  The point is I love me some music, y’all.  Can I get an Amen?  
                Whenever I think of music I can’t help but remember Ms. Neva Jean Oates, music teacher extraordinaire at Bogata Junior High.  You want to talk about passion?  How about a woman who would pound out the melody to any song you could name, while yelling chord changes to the beginner guitarists and keyboardists, who were sharing the stage with vocalists, both lead and back-up?  I can picture her now, just going to town playing and yelling, “C! B flat! G!” and the musicians would strum or finger the note until the next one was yelled.  It was fun and riotously entertaining.
                I have mentioned Bogata, TX many times and I mention it again as this was a tiny, tiny, tiny town chock full of talent; not to mention our tiny, tiny, tiny sister city, Talco.  There were so many student bands at our schools that the year-end Variety Show was a musical extravaganza. 
               As a member of the briefly existing Pine Branch Boys, I feel my musical roots are here.  If memory serves our group was formed for the sole purpose of a barnstorming tour of not just Bogata Elementary/Jr. High but also Deport.  That’s right, y’all.   I was on tour for exactly one day.  Try not to be jealous.  My rendition of Alabama’s “Roll On” brought cheers and applause unheard of until, at the very least, the Rodeo.
                There were other bands that were more legitimate, meaning they had a name and t-shirts and sometimes even backdrops.  My memory is sometimes cloudy, from the Aqua Net haze of the 80s, but I remember an all-girl group called Midnight Lace, a country/pop band named Stardust, a hard rock group with the interesting moniker Plexus and a country/crossover group called The Derricks; there are others I’m sure I am forgetting.  And I won’t bother to try and recite all the members, but I’ll throw out a few names like Allen Dale Huddleston, Marty Burns, Kendra Moore, Ray Lou Damron, Matt Case, Jody Thornton, Donita Lewis.
                I remember one unforgettable performance at the Variety Show in 1980-something.  The Rebel Flag Corps had finished their routine to “Addicted to Love” for which the previously mentioned Wood Sisters and I were costume designers and assistant choreographers.  The performers were resplendent in white shorts and white ripped sweatshirts as an homage to Jennifer Beals, with matching neon tank tops and socks.   My bangs are starting to feather just thinking about it.
              Tricia Duffer was normally the lead singer for The Derricks, but for this particular song, Tim J. Wood, pianist and the Wood Sister’s brother, was in the spotlight.  It was a cover of Yes’ “Owner of a Lonely Heart” and Mr. Wood displayed about eleventy-seven kinds of passion when during his piano solo, he stood, kicked back his stool and finished that song standing up, y’all.  I remember thinking, “I have never been so passionate that I kicked a stool on stage in front of people.  I need to get more out of life.”
                Now I’m not saying that was a turning point in my life, but I will say that for some reason I still remember it, so draw your own conclusions.  They always say to dance like no one is watching and I agree. But don’t forget someone is always watching, so make it good, y’all.  Show out a little bit.  You never know what could happen.
                And that’s all I’m saying for now.

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