The Day the Music Died

I began today as I do many others: pensively. It was a still, quiet morning and there was something almost melancholy about it. I opened Pandora, as I usually did and for the very first time, American Pie was in my playlist. I’ve heard the song before (obviously) and I’ve read about the secret theories behind it, but I never really thought much of it. I sang along, as best I could, and when it got to the part that says:

Something touched me deep inside
The day the music died.

I raised my drink, like I was toasting the sky and sang it anyway.

The thing is, the music did die today. But let me tell you why.

Ms. Eileen Ruffing was known as a steadfast music educator who instilled discipline, passion and work ethic into each of her students. Spending decades of her life as a musician and as an instructor, she maintained the utmost professionalism of any human being I have ever known. Her classes were run with a strict policy and it was impossible for you to get away with something wrong without one of her characteristic eye rolls.(It was like she could see through her closed eyelids-you knew you were in trouble.)

She not only ensured that four grades of students had multiple concerts each year for years, she ran a middle school jazz band as well as privately coached students for Solo and Ensemble (a competition event). She was a clarinet by nature. This is the blurb offered by her church: (It’s an option for lessons.) “Band for fifth through eighth grade students with Mrs. Eileen Ruffing. Mrs. Ruffing was the band director at Highland Schools for 35 years and retired in the spring of 2015.  She is a clarinet player and brings with her an enormous amount of personal talent and experience as a band director, and is a long time Saint Vincent de Paul church member.” She was active in “pit” music sections for the Mount Vernon theatre programs. She was involved in several “band” camps at the University of Wooster, as well as at the high school she taught at for 35 years.

Cleveland-Indians-Logos

(She had a poster in her office of the Cleveland Indians for as long as I can remember.)

I remember the very first day of fifth grade band. It was a little before-right when we were signing up for our instruments. I couldn’t decide what I wanted to play-I just wanted to play music! I remember she asked me if I remembered how to  “bite down” to play a clarinet. I thought I did, but I bit my top lip instead of bottom and she rolled her eyes at me and said “No. You’re biting the wrong lip.” I felt so embarrassed! I eventually chose flute, and stayed with that for my high school career-although I did learn other instruments on top of that. She was there for every performance, gave me my first solo and was my biggest supporter when I decided to become field commander.

I was a new commander, and I found out that some of the band members I commanded were doing things that I perceived to be dangerous. I was so upset that I had to be taken aside by the color guard coach. She said, “You know, you’re not the only one who cares that much.” And I said “I know. I just worry so much. I love my friends. I don’t want them to get hurt.” And she said:

That’s how much Eileen loves you. You’re all her kids. But she’s the reason you became commander. She believed in you and you’ll be okay.

I never doubted my abilities to command after that.

So as I sit here, reminiscing about the wayward flute player I was, I’m reminded of the great things about having such a wonderful woman as the one who introduced me to music. Music was the one thing I turned to when times got hard. It’s still my first line of defense. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that the music will always find you in your time of need. And so, as your eyes have closed one last time, I offer these words as your soul joins those who have come before.

And I would liked to have known you
But I was just a kid
Your candle burned out long before
Your legend ever did.

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(This is her several years before I met her. I knew her when her hair was salt and peppered with the stresses of the education system. But I’ll never forget her laugh. It may have happened rarely, but it was something that remains.)

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Angels on the Moon

I shared, a while ago, about how there were some quotes that really spoke for me, almost. As though those words embodied all the thoughts I had about a particular subject. And although I know that there is need elsewhere, I need to once more, complete a mental purge with some quotes. This time, though, there is only one song, and it’s been the “fight song” of my heart lately, guiding me even when I’d rather sit and “go dark”. I want to bring it up, because it’s more than just that though, it’s my lullaby, my mantra, my shield. And something that powerful has to be worth discussing. I’m copying the lyrics in and then in parentheses, I will add what I “hear” when I listen to them.

Do you dream that the world will know your name? (Do you need validation?)

So tell me your name (You can validate yourself)

Do you care about all the little things (Do you obsess about things?)

or anything at all? (Or drown in apathy?)

I wanna feel, all the chemicals inside (I want to live, without medication)

I wanna feel (I want to breathe freely)

I wanna sunburn, just to know that I’m alive (I want to live a life I’m proud of)

To know I’m alive (A life I can be sure has no regrets)
Don’t tell me if I’m dying (Don’t tell me if I made a mistake)

‘Cause I don’t wanna know (Because I can’t let that get me down)

If I can’t see the sun, maybe I should go (This depression isn’t the only way)

Don’t wake me ’cause I’m dreaming (But neither is mania)

Of angels on the moon (I have to be my own angel)

Where everyone you know (For myself, but also for those I love)

Never leaves too soon (To enjoy my time with them fully)
Do you believe, in the day that you were born (Do you have faith in yourself?)

Tell me do you believe? (In the you of the future)

Do you know, that every day’s the first (Each step you take)

Of the rest of your life? (Is just the beginning of a better adventure)
Don’t tell me if I’m dying (Don’t tell me I’m not worthy)

‘Cause I don’t wanna know (Because I’ll know you’re lying)

If I can’t see the sun (Even if I don’t always believe it)

Maybe I should go (I have to keep trying)

Don’t wake me ’cause I’m dreaming (And I won’t let you steal my sunshine)

Of angels on the moon (Because I’m finding hope in the darkness)

Where everyone you know (My light will shine brighter)

Never leaves too soon. (Each time the wind extinguishes it)
This is to one last day in the shadows (Just get up one more time)

And to know a brother’s love (Find happiness in the world)

This is to New York City angels (Find the path to where you want to be)

And the rivers of our blood (To make your sacrifices worth it)

This is to all of us (Because you’re worth it)

To all of us (I promise)
Don’t tell me if I’m dying (Let me find my own way)

‘Cause I don’t wanna know (Even if it may take me a while)

If I can’t see the sun (I know it can’t always be heartache)

Maybe I should go (But hold my hand when it is)

Don’t wake me ’cause I’m dreaming (I’ve got a heart worth fighting for)

Of angels on the moon (And dreams to be believed in)

Where everyone you know never leaves too soon (And I have to keep them alive, for my sake)
You can tell me all your thoughts (If I speak, someone will listen)

About the stars that fill polluted skies (Because I’m worthy of validation)

And show me where you run to (Embrace your biggest secrets)

When no one’s left to take your side (You are your biggest ally)

But don’t tell me where the road ends (Don’t wait for all the bad things)

‘Cause I just don’t wanna know (They will come, that’s true)

No I don’t wanna know (But you’ll make it through, each time)
Don’t tell me if I’m dying (Keep looking for the sunshine)

Don’t tell me if I’m dying (Keep finding reasons to love yourself first)

 

So a big huge thank you to Thriving Ivory, because this song is seeing me through so many dark paths and helping me reestablish the love I have for myself.

angel

(Source: Google)