Zoë Rose Colegrove’s Eulogy Given November 1, 2015
(includes Zoë’s email to her band teacher that was read at her service)
The context behind this email is that Zoë’s grades had slipped and she was considered academically ineligible to participate in “extracurricular” activities, which includes music concerts and performances. (Which I strongly disagree with on a personal level. A concert is a culminating activity, much like a chapter test. Have you ever heard of a failing student forbidden from taking a math test?)
In enforcing the school’s policy I informed all ineligible students that they would not be playing in the Spring Concert but that the right thing to do would be to attend the concert and view the performance as a spectator to understand their value within the ensembles.
This would not be any sort of graded activity, simply something to tangibly demonstrate that their musical contributions are truly meaningful, no matter their academic achievement. During the concert I was busy with logistics, warming groups up, conducting, etc. and had no opportunity to see if any ineligible student had actually attended.
Wrapping up the evening, just before closing my laptop to head home, this email arrived in my inbox from Zoë. She flawlessly wove together her experience that very night in the audience with words I had spoken the day previously to the string orchestra. This is the best email I’ve ever received as a teacher. From a student who supposedly was “failing” at school. Quite a beautiful failure if you ask me.
Rest in Peace, Zoë.
On Mar 20, 2014 10:59 PM, “Zoe Colegrove” wrote:
Again, I want to thank you for making Orchestra what it is.
This is my 5th year playing violin. Never once have I sat and listened to any group that I’ve played in, every time that I was not eligible or something of a similar nature, I’ve been too ashamed of myself to go to the concerts. I’m glad I pushed that off and went to the concert tonight.
I often cry about emotional music. As Summer Was Just Beginning is one of those pieces that bring me nearly to tears. Without you, the quotes you read, the storied you shared, I would have never understood what the song really meant and how powerful it really can be. Sure, I could have looked it up on my own when I recognized the name James Dean and found out that he was lost much too soon, but the ways that you put it made it mean so much more. I know it often comes up in our talks that people can put such complicated ideas, things that seem impossible to explain, in one sentence. One. Damn. Sentence.
You’re one of those people to me. Sometimes you just say things in class or when we talk that make me just think “god dammit Mr. Algazy… was it really that easy the whole time?!” And often enough, it makes so many things just click together (like Legos) and stick together (also like Legos. Damn those thin bricks that you need to break your teeth just to get them apart), and in my mind for days. One of those times was just yesterday. “Don’t worry about how much music happens in the next 15 minutes. Just let it happen.” Before that, I always tried to make the music happen, and not let the music make something happen to me.
“Mr. A, you’re a genius!”
Never before have I cried during an emotional piece not because of the music, but because of the people letting the music happen.
I’ve seen countless orchestras, wind ensembles, concert bands, jazz bands, marching bands, drumlines…..
But never before have I seen my own.
I’ve heard our music. I’ve played our music. I’ve felt our music.
But never before have I seen our music.
What I saw however, wasn’t the music, but the many talented people letting the music happen.
I saw the music in all of them…all of us… We are all musicians.
Weather or not one is more talented than another, invests more time than another, is smarter than another, is happier than another… We are all musicians.
What I saw today was probably one of the most beautiful things I’ve seen in my life. We may not be the best high school orchestra around, but we are Buena High School’s orchestra. We are Buena High School’s musicians.
What I saw today was not a class of high school students trying to get the credits to graduate.
What I saw was two or so dozen people.
What I saw was someone who is such an inspirational roll model to me; someone who is dedicated.
What I saw was an orchestra and a director, together as one, making the music happen.
So thank you, Mr. Algazy, for letting the music make something happen to me.
NOTE: Published as a precursor to what is coming next, almost 7 years down the road now I think I might be able to write and publish about Zoe.