When my wife and I moved up into the Sierras, we chose a great spot in the Upper Mokolumne Watershed in Calaveras County, near the Amador County line. The nearest large town is Jackson, CA. A local newspaper somehow picked up our move into the area and ran a short blurb, which was read by a local family with two trumpet players in one of Jackson’s high schools, who needed lessons. I started teaching them and learned that there was not a jazz band in their school district.
I got ahold of their music teacher, Chris Tootle, who is also a trumpet player, and asked if I could be of some assistance with his brass players. He asked if I would mind holding a mini-clinic with them and I did that the same day. The results were amazing and their enthusiasm was fantastic. I asked why there was no jazz program there and he said they last had a jazz band over 25 years ago, but there was just no interest in continuing the band after that. I found this unacceptable and offered to help get one started again. Chris said he’d be happy to try, and introduced me to both of the high school bands in town. I told them I was looking for musicians who wanted to play in a “fun” band and within a week, we had auditions, as well as a full band.
Chris introduced me to Hank King, the music teacher there for many years who had recently retired, and we asked him if he would consider returning for this one purpose. He jumped at the chance, and the rest is history. The band is in its second year now and is a credited class at 7AM, five days a week. For the first year, there were no credits, just dedicated student and the 3 of us adults, all donating our time and energy to this effort. Some of the best time I’ve ever spent in a classroom. We are called the ACUS’D because all of the players are from Amador County Unified School District, ranging from 7th to 12th grades. I am very proud of what I helped start, and the new “legacy” is in place and growing, thanks to dedicated students, parents, boosters, and two fine educators. All For The Students! – Mic Gillette