I had the chance to direct Fiddler on the Roof in the Theatre Department. I asked him to direct the pit orchestra. I learned from Mr. Tuveson that the choral director sometimes is the best person in the pit. They consider the vocalists as they conduct and it has a better flow. He said he would do it this once as a favor. That was many years ago and he still hasn’t escaped the pit. I count our times golfing as some of the best I have had in the last 20 years. We have a great time. We don’t score well but we have a great time sucking at golf together. He is also famous for his Soup Parties for New Year’s Eve. He showed me a whole world of other friends. I am shy (Okay, stop laughing!) and I have always struggled in social settings. The hardest thing I do every year is attending the staff holiday party. I usually sit in a corner and spend time talking to just a few people. James has forced me out of that mold a lot and I am better for it. We also have other connections. His mother’s birthday is a day before mine and in the same year. When figured this out he blurted out “you are old enough to be my father! So now every year make sure to pass along birthday greetings to his mother Val. We have also taken a group of students to Hawaii together. You learn a lot about people when you travel with them. I can see where he gets his good nature and love for others. We spent an afternoon at his grandmother’s house and had a cookout with the whole family. What a great trip that was but I am afraid that I am getting too old for Uncle Alex to teach me how to surf. They did get me to jump off the rock at Waimea Bay and had shaved ice at Matsumoto’s on the North Shore.
Music is one area that often gets a raw deal in education. I believe that music can tell the story of your life and can be a means of expression for people that are unable to in any other way. Music education for me goes back over 4o years. In high school, I was lucky enough to have a choral director that changed how I perceived myself. Mr. Tuveson took a chance on me. Invited me into the family of music in high school. In retrospect, I now know what a big deal that was. I was a capricious student and not one that fits in most places. I can imagine him going home at night exhausted and frustrated with me. He never showed his frustration with me as a student. That is my beginning with music education. Now move ahead thirty years later to someone I am thankful for every day. James Laguana is the choral director at Rangeview. He has the same qualities as Mr. Tuveson and I see him invite kids into his class and the family of music without any judgment. When he started he made an immediate impact on the building and the students. I can always count on him and the choir coming by my room every year during the holidays. There is nothing like being serenaded in a computer science classroom. This year was no different and we got the Carol of the Bells. One of my favorites. This year had a special twist because I could sing along. One of my students tried to get his attention but James didn’t hear the question. I however did hear him. A student who is like I was in high school asked the question as James walked out. “Did you have to pick one Mills knows?” He was having fun with me but I suspect that the reason James chose the song is that he knows I know the words. I have also been serenaded with Danny Boy on my birthday. This is only the school connection. It is the personal connection that is more important.