|My dad, middle of three seated, at retirement picnic in his honor, 1978.|
|A young Ralph Williams shows his directing forte.|
|My mom, at right, with fellow UMMer Bonnie Tipcke.|
At the advanced age of 62, I am now trying to connect a little with the U in a way which, if all else fails, is meaningful and real. That way is with money. We have made a substantial monetary gift to UMM music. So now maybe I can be viewed as an eccentric benefactor.
Up by the bootstraps, I guess
As a child I wasn't going to be that dependent on formal education. I was dependent on my mother. She saw to it that my literacy got pushed forward. She had me read aloud from books that were a little higher than my normal reading level would be. She pushed me and pushed me. Then as a junior in high school, I took a typing course under a fine teacher named Mr. Roberts at Morris High School. The building blocks were in place for me to write seriously.
I consumed lots of news media as a kid. Therefore I got filled with notions about how it was important to hold our society's leaders' feet to the fire. We're talking the late 1960s and early 1970s, that cauldron of unsettled feeling throughout our U.S. society. It's possible I was too impressionable. There is an important current movie that reminds us of how the air of skepticism got fueled back then. It's an important movie for young people to see. They might not believe it: the U.S. government had been lying about Vietnam for a large number of years. The movie is about the Pentagon Papers. Any government that could facilitate and feed something like the Vietnam War is never to be trusted.
I could have sworn the Vietnam War was going to go on forever. I remember when I learned the word "strive." It was from a World Events poster. There was an item bout how the South Vietnamese leader was "striving" to accomplish something. We were taught to take the Vietnam War seriously as something that merited our attention and efforts. The seeds got planted for a lifetime of cynicism for me.
|Mom, at left, with co-worker and friend Betty Payne.|
I graduated from high school at the height of the Watergate revelations. Media people were viewed as the heroes in that. Media people of today are not viewed so generously. But maybe if we eventually find out that Donald Trump was in fact some sort of a Manchurian candidate, representing interests outside the U.S., and if media people end up with their essential role revealing that, a cloak of glory will be returned to our free press. It will not in fact be "fake news."
And BTW, happy holidays
I am writing this post on the day after Christmas, 2017. I'm sure you're interested in my mother's health/condition. She is actually quite stable in spite of certain issues that limit her. We attended the Christmas meal at our church, First Lutheran, on Christmas Day. People her age - she's 93 - are like snowflakes with their mental condition. No two are exactly alike. She has a basic awareness and she can form thoughts and sentences. But she can be erratic too. She doesn't like to leave the house after dark. I'm sure many younger people have that impulse too!
We just got past the winter solstice. We don't celebrate holidays the way we used to. It's very understated now. Our relatives are basically all gone. I find I'm relieved when any holiday is over. I find holidays a little unsettling. We cannot celebrate them like we once did. Memories come back from when we had more relatives and friends with whom to actively socialize. And when we had our dogs: Misty, Heidi and Sandy.
I appreciated that Jacqueline Johnson, when she was UMM chancellor, had a very real interest in UMM's history. She was vividly aware of my mother's background with UMM as well as my father's. I'm not sure the administration continues to be as interested.
Through all my life, I have felt sort of a curse with UMM-associated people looking down on me. I am sorry if I could not live up to all your expectations. Our monetary contribution to UMM music is a major attempt by me to "make good" with the institution, an institution I was never smart enough to attend myself.
Time to confide a little
I am going to share here an important little tidbit from my past. Was I really a good musician? So many people expected me to be. And yes, I picked up a couple music credentials which on the surface seemed impressive. Let me say this emphatically: if I were to audition in a carefully controlled situation where I felt no undue pressure, I could seem brilliant. But it was largely an illusion. You see, I could in certain situations "pretend" to be an outstanding musician. Once I got really pressed on what I could do, I'd break down quickly.
So I really wish I had never gained those credentials in the first place. I realize that certain people were probably trying to do me a favor. I should be grateful. I appreciated their thoughts on this but I would have been better off just being left alone, sorry.
I should have switched from band to choir for my senior year in high school, then I'd go to choir director Ms. Hjembo and say "don't treat me like anyone special please. Forget my father's standing in music - forget it. Treat me like any other kid." And I would have been greatly relieved not having a band instrument that I'd be required to take home every night. God I hated that. I should have told ol' director Woell that "I'm not taking my instrument home and if you want to give me a failing grade, fine." One of my peers finally spoke up against Mr. Woell in practice one day. Woell was an old-fashioned disciplinarian. Being in band was like being a slave.
Today I ply my musical interests as a songwriter and it is 100 percent more interesting and rewarding. Public schools do not teach the guitar and piano. The reason is that those instruments can be tools for individual expression and rebellion, and the purpose of our public schools is to promote conformity. Band is a perfect example.
I'm 62 years old and now with lots of time to wonder how my life could have gone better. I know, I know, forget about the unpleasant stuff and just move forward. I appreciate the wisdom of that and I'll try. Sorry if this blog post comes off like the Robert Stack character at the end of "Airplane."
"I had a rough childhood, Striker."
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - firstname.lastname@example.org