Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Letter to Mr. Gross

One neat thing about the Internet is that you can leave a message for anyone.

When I was in third grade, I began taking music lessons. It was sort of a strange, one-room-schoolhouse music class. I had just enrolled at Blessed Sacrament School in Walpole, and the school had an arrangement with Coffey Music in neighboring Norwood to supply students with rental instruments in order to participate in a schoolwide group music class.

These weren’t one-on-one music lessons: It was like a band class, except it was comprised of mixed ages from third grade to eighth and some of us were literally just learning our instruments. We worked from individual instrumental books, not playing band arrangements. We sat in chairs on the school’s stage, usually with the curtain closed, and Mr. Gross would go down the line helping us. It was a small school, and there were maybe fifteen of us taking these “music lessons” together.

Our teacher was named Mr. Gross. I think he was employed by Coffey Music, or at least I think they arranged for him to come to Blessed Sacrament to teach. I don’t know what his first name was, because back in those days third graders were never told what their teachers’ first names were. My classroom teacher was Mrs. Brown and I don’t know her first name, either. But Mr. Gross was my first music teacher and he taught me to play clarinet.

I wish I could say that I remember much about Mr. Gross. I don’t. I remember him being soft-spoken, probably the only music teacher in my life who never got mad at me. I remember him seeming tall, but hey, I was eight. What I do remember was that I really had zero interest in playing the clarinet for myself, but Mr. Gross kept me going.

I kept playing clarinet for another five years. Like most boys, what I actually wanted was to play electric guitar, but my parents thought I needed to study an “actual” instrument. Finally when I reached high school, they let me have a guitar and my clarinet went in the closet. Guitar changed my life. My senior year in high school was mostly spend playing and teaching music, and from there I went to Berklee College of Music for my bachelor’s degree.

Ironically, three years later I pulled my clarinet out of the closet…for a girl. I joined the school band. That’s right, I traded my electric guitar for a clarinet to get a date. And it worked. I wouldn’t have been able to pull that slick maneuver if I hadn’t already learned how to play a mean clarinet. So thanks, Mr. Gross.

I would love to write Mr. Gross a letter. But Coffey Music is closed, and I doubt Blessed Sacrament had any records in the first place, let alone kept them. I don’t know whether Mr. Gross is still alive. But my grandmother taught second grade and I know that sometimes her children search Google for references to her (and find some), so I thought I’d leave this message here. Maybe Mr. Gross’s children or grandchildren will someday Google his name and the name of a school that he worked at, wondering what they’ll find.

Mr. Gross helped get me started on a path that took me far and brought me a lot of joy. He made a difference in my life, and I’m thankful for that. If you are related to him, maybe you can pass that along to the rest of his family.