I have a student going through a tough rejection from her music school of choice. It’s leading to all sorts of questions about career, future, worthiness, and on and on. When I see a student going through this, it bring me back to one moment at the end of my own high school years.

In April of my senior year, I decided to scrap previous plans and seek a music career. After that choice, my family turned on the dime with me (I hope I can be so wonderful to my children!) and we moved forward together. At school, I didn’t feel the same support – from fellow students or from teachers (including my music teacher).

However in mid-May, the school vocal jazz group, directed by my amazing mentor April Arabian-Tini, did our annual year-end concert, with group numbers and solos. This music was what I lived for and what I hoped to spend my life doing!

At the concert, unbeknownst to me, was Janet Seagram – she had twice been my English teacher and then was my school counselor for my senior year. She was a tough but wonderful teacher and one whom I respected deeply. A day or two after the concert, I got a note handed to me by my Latin teacher (the type of note that usually says, “please report to the office.”) Here’s the note.


Your performance on Tuesday was marvelous. I’m not an expert, but you appear quite versatile in all you do with the music. Best of all was seeing how much you were enjoying yourself. You should have a wonderful four years at Western.

I carried that note in a small side pocket of my backpack for at least six years, till it was just a tatters of paper. It had a talismanic quality for me – when I was low it reminded me that people believed in me. I’m sure that she hadn’t intended to imbue the note with such power, but it was there.

And lately, as a music teacher, I’ve learned a new lesson from that note. Because of it, I try to reach out and communicate with my students as many ways as possible. You never know when someone is ready to hear what you have to say. Or when you’ll be the only one to say what they desperately need to hear.

Thank you, Mrs. Seagram, for the many layers of lessons in that little note.

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