Sunday, May 4, 2008

Alumni found living in Sweden

I am sort of a late reactor. A very late reactor ... here goes.

I was in the class of '64 at Westmoor High School but never graduated with my class. I was so involved with music that I neglected my studies. (One year I got 3 A's and 3 F's - A good C-average but that didn't impress my folks.) I was very active in the music at Westmoor High School. Maybe you remember that piano player (I even started playing the clarinet and saxophone) - but that was many years ago.

In the mean time I continued persuing music. So much that when I was drafted into the military, I went there to inlist! I was thinking: "If I'm drafted, they can do with me what they want; if I inlist, I'm in the drivers seat." I went to the Oakland Army Terminal and auditioned for one of the clarinet chairs. (I went there as a pianist, but was told there was no piano player MOS (Military Occupational Specialty) in the Army. But there was one for clarinet and since they needed a clarinetist I was there man. I had to go to Norfolk, Virginia (Navy) for further studies on the clarinet. On the first day of theory class, the commanding officer asked the class: "Do we have any piano player MOS's?" I was surprised that a number of students raised their hands. I mentioned that I was told there wasn't such an animal but they explained to me that because the Oakland Army Terminal needed a clarinetist they told me that. To make a long story short I recieved a secondary MOS on piano.

Since the Military likes to play with their soldiers, after one year at the Oakland Army Terminal I was sent to Europe to be stationed at Stuttgart, Germany. (I was reminded that it was a one-year guarantee at the place of my choice. That year was up!) During my stay at Stuttgart I became acquainted with many other musician-soldiers, one of which was a trumpet player I gigged with in Oakland. He was stationed in Heidelberg which was the headquarters for the military band. This trumpet player informed me that they had a piano player but a real song-and-dance man and they really needed someone of my caliber. But, because my primary MOS was clarinet, there was nothing that could be done. I travelled to Heidelberg to talk to and play with the other guys since I was told only the best musicians get chosen for that gig. After playing (auditioning) I was asked into the commanding officer's office and was praised for my talent. I was once again told there was little that could be done at that time. But, one of the clarinet chairs would soon be vacant and that I could come as a clarinet player. And since the piano player would also soon leave I could change my primary MOS to piano and clarinet would become my secondary MOS.

Well, it turned out that my stay at Heidelberg proved successfull. I became famous, so to speak. There was one professional musician that would come to the military base and pick out musicians he needed. One day he walzes in and says he needs a piano player. So I started gigging with him.

The rule of the United States Military is that if you are stationed in a foreign country, you can stay in that country for up to one year and the United States would still pay for your trip back to the States. I took advantage of that one year and it became 20 years. I was gigging so much that I had jobs all over Europe. At the end I had my own band and we gigged in Finland. One evening a Swedish agent heard the group and asked us if we wanted to play at Luleå (å=o) Sweden. I met my wife and sent the musicians back home to Germany.

Now it's been about 25 years and I have become an accomplished musician here in Sweden. I started off this letter with how much I was a sort of late reactor. I have been following the reunions of the class of '64 realizing that I live so far away there wasn't much that could be done. It's not like hopping on a bus for a visit! During the years I got in touch with Mel Ellison one of the saxophonists at Westmoor High School. We have been corresponding on and off for awhile and he has sent me one of his original compositions. I am planning to send him some recordings I have made here. You see, when I was at Westmoor High School I wasn't much of an improvisor in music, wasn't into jazz that much. 45 years have passed and I have excelled in almost any form of music there is - even becoming a composer and arranger. (I have lead the local Big Band here in Luleå and written nearly 200 arrangements for them.) I suddenly had this urge to meet with Mel once again and show him how much I've developed. I have been listening to some of his works on the internet and was very impressed. I had the memory of his saxophone playing still ringing in my ears after all of this time. Now I wanted to show him what I've been up to. He invited me to come over to his house in South San Francisco - but, once again, it's not like just taking a bus - but who knows what time will tell.

I still have the yearbooks and occassionally browse through them - especially when I hear of a certain achievement from one of the alumni.

Carl Thomas John Jacobson

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