I first wrote this little missive about the music teachers who started ME out on clarinet several years ago.
Mr. John C. Salamone gave me the start on a lifetime of music and study on September 30, 1968. After I started out in elementary school with him, I then began private lessons with another Enfield CT public school teacher, Mr. Lawrence J. Climan, who was also my Junior High Band Director between 1972 and 1974.
Mr. Salamone passed away in 2015, Mr. Climan died in 2006.
Just after Mr. Salamone passed, his daughter Maria Salamone VanNostrand, (a fellow clarinet student in the Enfield Public School Music Department – she was two years behind me) – wrote to me that she had somehow stumbled across this little blog out there in the Internet ether, and had read it to her father just before he died. Although he was suffering from some dementia, she said he remembered me and I’d like to think that in his last days, he received thanks and recognition for a lifetime of dedication to teaching music to young people.
As we launch our Eighteenth Season, and celebrate “The Year of the Music Teacher” at Claflin Hill Symphony, I’d like to bring this humble note out of our archives as the beginning of a year of dedication, thanks and support for all of those “Mr. Salamone’s and Mr. Climan’s” who toil in the vineyard of our education system.
Thank you Mr. Salamone and Mr. Climan, I think of you both almost every day, and tell YOUR stories to my own students now.
With Extreme Gratitude . . . .
John C. Salamone and Lawrence J. Climan – two names that will mean absolutely nothing to anyone reading this, and they have most likely already been long forgotten in my hometown of Enfield, CT, but they were “laborers in the cultural vineyard,” working for a public school teacher’s salary in the 1960s and 70s, and teaching thousands of kids like me.
Like most students in our region’s schools, I began clarinet studies in the public school system of Enfield, Connecticut at the age of nine. I can still remember my first day – September 30, 1968 – we were called down to the “health room” – our small elementary school didn’t have a dedicated music room – and there we waited in the hall – 6 or 7 nervous fourth graders – to receive our brand new clarinets. The door opened, and Mr. Salamone stood in front of us, regarding us sternly – a gentleman born of Italian immigrants, with a dark mustache – and he waved us into the room. (I now tell young students that with that wave, he waved me into the rest of my life – a continuing journey and exploration of study that still has many miles to go).
I was the worst one in the class that day – while everyone else was walking around the room tooting and squeaking their first notes, I couldn’t even get a sound to come out of the alien object. I was trying to hum through it like a kazoo, while Mr. Salamone patiently tried to get me to calm down and actually blow air through the thing. I rode my bike home for lunch with my new clarinet proudly riding in the bike basket, and promptly forgot how to put it together the right way at home. However, I was a very determined little boy, and by February, Mr. Salamone looked at me in my group lesson and said, “young man, someday you will be a fine clarinet player.”
After my first year, my parents sought out and engaged private lessons for me, with Mr. Climan, who was the Director of Bands at the junior high school. Mr. Climan was a Hartford boy, from the tenements and educated in the Connecticut state schools. He built a band program at our John F. Kennedy Junior High School through the 70s that would put most of today’s high school programs to shame. He had the nobility to send me onto the Hartt School of Music for lessons by eighth grade, recognizing that I needed even more advanced instruction.
There began my musical journey, the first steps of which were nurtured by two men whose job positions don’t even exist today in many of our public school systems – two men who I never got to thank properly for what they gave me and so many others – two men whose names will fade into oblivion, probably like my own – but here in the annunciation of their names one more time, they live forever – two heroes who lived meagerly amongst their neighbors and labored for the cause of culture.
Today, many communities in our region look immediately at their arts budgets for cuts in the quest to grapple with this economic crisis – they cut here and there, snipping away at the underpinnings and foundations of our culture, without the foresight to look upon the future cultural and societal desolation they will leave for their grandchildren.
Art is For Man’s Sake.
Executive & Artistic Director
The Claflin Hill Symphony Orchestra
Paul Surapine can be reached at email@example.com