Pauls Valley, OK, Pauls Valley Democrat

October 6, 2010

Building on the lessons learned from music

Confessions of a Dislocated Texan

Ezra Mann
Pauls Valley Daily Democrat

Pauls Valley, Oklahoma — Look at the history of any great individual from way back when to the stars of today and the most common theme is that they all have someone to thank for their road to success.

I haven’t quite been able to strike my superstardom quite yet, but as I delve further and further into my role as Schroeder in “You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown,” I wouldn’t have the talents I have without some tough love along the way.

I might as well begin with Debbie Settler, the person who taught me both to love and at times despise all things musical. I could spend a whole series of therapy columns discussing all the things I learned and got away with under her tutelage, but for now I’ll only make you suffer part of this tribute.

Mrs. Settler is the kind of person who you think is either completely off her melodic rocker or you are fascinated with the things you learn as one of her piano students. I suppose only the nuttiest of individuals survived long term exposure to my childhood hyperactivity, which is why the teaching tenure lasted from the time I was in third to tenth grade.

When I wasn’t busy learning that my right hand was not the left hand she wanted me to play with I learned to appreciate how much more I liked to listen to than play pieces from the masters like Beethoven. She also was the dealer that got me hooked on musical theater at a very young age, treating me to classics like the “Phantom of the Opera,” “Les Misrables” or “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat.” Sure, my sarcasm didn’t need her assistance, but I wouldn’t have traded those moments for anyone else’s life.

On the vocal front, I had a number of sources to gain wisdom from, though the most influential was Kim Clowe, the choir director when I attended First Christian Church in my hometown. My first choral experiences also date back to Mrs. Settler, but the first regular choir experience was in 7th grade, right about when I hit the second most agonizing period of anguish spread to adult-kind.

I will always hold close to my heart the many warm up exercises like “My Mommy Made Me Eat My M&M’s and I am Happy” and though I rarely had more than a bit part back then, it began the realization that my vocal chords could be used for other purposes than just to defy authority. I enjoyed singing so much back then that I joined the adult choir when I was 16, just because I felt I wanted to try ever more challenging music. I’ve rarely spent much time away from my bass to barely tenor range, save some time near the end of college, because even if you move all it takes is one elderly lady in the church to find out you can bolster their choir’s ranks.

Then again, despite all that I have learned, not a rehearsal has gone by where I haven’t been able to take some sort of lesson away from it. I’ve been able to rediscover some of my own creativity, though at the same time discover how much more tired I can get now that I have a full time job. I’m pretty sure the few gray hairs hiding on my head may be a forest by the time it is all over.

In the end, these kids though most likely the beginning of the karma payback for all the torture I bestowed upon adults in my childhood, are becoming like another extended family since I came to Pauls Valley. I could have written a whole series of columns on missed opportunities in my life, but the rest of the Peanut Gallery are a reminder that you don’t have to be a child to keep experiencing those wonders. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a battered brain to finish cramming the rest of my lines into.

Additional info: Musical will be Nov. 18-19 at 7:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. as well as 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 20 at Pauls Valley High School Auditorium.