Sunday, December 30, 2012

Darkness in the Morning in Newtown, Connecticut

Sunday, December 30th, 2012

My Dear America:

It was a typical Friday morning in Newtown, Connecticut just a little over two weeks ago.  The Children and their Teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School were preparing for the last school day before the weekend.  The Teachers were looking forward to Christmas shopping and spending time with their families and friends.  The kids were looking forward to Christmas visits from Santa Claus in the near future and a weekend playing video and other games with their friends and relatives.  There were smiles on the faces of the kids, as well as the Teachers and other Professionals working at the school as the day began.  A little after 9:30 AM no one was worried about very much in this pleasant school in this prosperous area of Connecticut.  It was just another day in Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Now, at the end of 2013 as we stand on the edge of the Fiscal Cliff, we know that on that seemingly pleasant Friday in Newtown just a short time ago that another young "Troubled Loner," had another agenda in mind for the Children and Staff at Sandy Hook Elementary School.  Adam Lanza, a bright young local Autistic man with access to his mother's guns had apparently found out that his mother was planning to have him hospitalized for Mental Health Concerns.

We now know, after the fact, that those Mental Health Concerns that Adam's mother, Nancy Lanza, had were quite justified.  After killing his mother, Adam and his guns headed for Sandy Hook Elementary School.  Why did he go there to continue to take out his rage on other people and finally on himself?  We may never really know what was the reason that Adam wanted to put himself in the history books as the man who killed the most very young children in the history of school violence.  

Since Nancy Lanza had volunteered at the school and was friendly with the principal and school psychologist (who turned out to be two of Adam's murder victims) it is possible that Adam was jealous of his mother's caring for the children in the school, as well as the friends she had there.  We will never know for sure why Adam did what he did on that dark and disturbing Friday morning.  All we really know for sure is that he did it. 

We suspect that although he certainly killed a lot of beautiful children, as well as school staff and himself, that he intended to kill many more before he was stopped by the arrival of First Responders.  First Responders indicate that they heard the shot that they think was Adam's last shot when they entered the school.  After that no shots were fired and Adam was dead.

Certainly when a tragedy of epic proportion like this one happens it is hard to have sympathy for the lunatic who orchestrated it and carried it out.  What did this young man have against the youngsters who were just going to school like it was a normal day before either their lives were taken or their sense of safety was taken?

Certainly there is no excuse for Adam Lanza's actions but there is also no excuse for the inaction on the part of State and Federal Legislatures and Leaders who continue to express their "regrets" following incidents like Newtown but fail to follow through with legislation to try to control and even possibly eliminate the prospect of unnecessary individual and mass shootings.

In Adam Lanza's case it will be argued that his weapons had been obtained legally.  It is hard to understand why Nancy Lanza, who apparently recognized that her son was unstable, lived in a house with him and with several extremely dangerous and destructive firearms on the premises.

Unfortunately we are never going to be able to totally eliminate gun violence without eliminating rights guaranteed to Americans by the Second Amendment.  We can, however, re institute the Assault Weapons Ban and eliminate the Gun Show Loophole in the area of Background Checks for individuals purchasing weapons.

We can and also should start using what little Government Funded Mental Health Services wisely.

We need to recognize also that in the case of nearly every school and other mass murder scenario that the shooters involved were almost always people who were fans of X Box, Playstation  and other Electronic Video Killing Games.  

Clearly there are no easy answers as to how to prevent gun violence in the Land of the Free. If we want to be safe and secure in the United States of America, however, it is certainly time to attempt to find a solution to how we can keep our country, not only free, but also safe, as well.  

President Obama has given Vice President, Joe Biden, the task of coming up with realistic recommendations quickly through a hastily formed task force of Law Enforcement and Mental Health Professionals, as well as others who have something positive to say regarding how to curb gun violence.  

We can, should and do wish the Vice President good luck in his endeavors to search for solutions to this incredibly complex and important problem.

Sincerely Yours

Jerry Gallagher


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Dave Brubeck's Dead: Long Live Dave Brubeck

Tuesday, December 11th, 2012

My Dear America:

Certainly there are other topics for me to write about today such as our race toward the Fiscal Cliff but I still find myself thinking about a subject that is not very political but may be the most significant American Story to have occured since the recent election of President Obama in November.

Last week Dave Brubeck died.

Dave Brubeck was an extraordinary musician who lived a long and musically prolific life.  His musical career took off in the forties and especially the fifties and sixties.  He was musically active throughout his later life and continued to tour well into his later years and also wrote and recorded an extraordinary amount of mainly Jazz.  He was not limited to writing and performing Jazz, however and he wrote classical and religious music, as well.  

In 1959 Brubeck recorded and Columbia Records released his "Time Out" album in which Dave Brubeck explored the jazz possibilities of mixing different rhythm signatures and timings within the same tune.  Columbia Records was not happy with "Time Out" and threatened not to put it out, apparently feeling that it was not commercial enough to make money.  They did finally release it, however, and found to their amazement that the album instantly became the first million selling Jazz Album.  Brubeck was on the covers of such prestigious magazines as Time and Newsweek and the album received rave reviews for its courageous and successful musical experimentation.

I am listening to "Time Out" on CD as I write this letter and I am once again overwhelmed by the talent of Dave Brubeck and "The Dave Brubeck Quartet."

I was lucky enough to see The Dave Brubeck Quartet" in the early 60's at Wilkes College in Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania, just down the street from my College, King's College.  

I was not a Jazz lover before the concert and primarily went to the concert to see what all the fuss was about with "The Dave Brubeck Quartet" and "Time Out."    

I did find out what all the fuss was all about and after that concert by Dave on Piano, Joe Morello on drums, Eugene Wright on bass and Paul Desmond on Sax, I was a total Jazz convert to the gospel of Dave Brubeck.

I was lucky enough to see Dave many years later playing with another great Jazz Band, this one made up of his Dave and his Jazz playing sons.

That concert was incredible too and after the concert Dave stuck around to talk to anyone who wanted to talk to him.

I didn't talk with him long and I don't really remember what we talked about but I found him to be a very friendly, engaging and humble guy.  His sons were awesome musicians, as well.

As I think about Dave Brubeck I am also taken back to an incident that happened several years ago.  I stopped in at The King George Inn, a local club  where a great jazz band was playing.  After the performance I began to talk to the band leader and Jazz pianist, Eric Mintel.  I told Eric that his piano playing reminded me of Dave Brubeck's and clearly Mintel was thrilled at what I had said.  Eric then told me that he had met Brubeck and that Brubeck had taken him under his wing and had become his Mentor.  Clearly Eric Mintel was thrilled with this happening.

Last year my wife and I went to see Eric Mintel play at Symphony Hall Jazz upstairs.  It was an extraordinary concert and you could hear Dave Brubeck's influence throughout the concert.  I bought the CD, "A Tribute to Dave Brubeck," that night and the band signed it.  I have been playing that and "Time Out" a lot this past week.

One other thing about Brubeck that I hadn't known until my wife pointed it out to me in the Morning Call Newspaper is that back in the early sixties Dave's Quartet played many black and white colleges in the south at a time when integration had yet to be accomplished.  Brubeck's incredible Quartet, including remarkable black bassist, Eugene Wright, helped to integrate several Colleges in the south.

So now that Dave Brubeck is gone after over 90 years on this earth how do we go on without him.  Well, Dave lives on in his countless recordings and in musicians like Eric Mintel, who have followed his lead and are now taking jazz to their own levels of expertise.  

We will love you and miss you, Dave but we are grateful for your music and your life and we will not soon forget you.  That's for sure.

Sincerely Yours

Jerry Gallagher