Dear Mr. Gaillard,
I wanted to take this time to write to you. Albeit my feelings are disheveled because I know that this is a letter you’ll never get to read, I’m still writing it anyway. Where do I begin? You had such a profound impact on me as a beginner band student and ultimately as an adult. I’ll never forget the day I auditioned for you. We were using a red/pink sparkly snare drum borrowed from Demetrius Bluford. I had been playing drum set for a few years but had been unaware of the world of instructional music. “Alright, Mr. Brown,” you started. “Hold the sticks like this,” you said sternly, handing me the drumsticks and turning my palms down. I felt a bit awkward, considering it was different from the self-taught technique I had already perfected. “Okay, roll.” I saw the person ahead of me do this roll thing, but I didn’t know what if I could do it. “Roll,” you said, assuredly. I put the sticks to the drumhead and the rest is history.
That first buzz roll was like a whisper in my musical ear. I haven’t been able to shake that feeling since.
You revolutionized my approach to music (and life) in a way that I struggle to put into words. My mind has been blown ever since. I made me giggle when you called everyone by their last name. I didn’t know it then, but you were teaching me how to respect people; regardless of age. The way you would check our practice cards, making sure that we practiced at least 30 minutes per day, set the tone for my practicing regimen. Eventually, I wouldn’t need a practice card, because I fell in love with playing. You taught me to tap my foot when I was performing music. I tapped through college.
You were the first teacher that looked like me. I revered you with the type of respect given to a father. Speaking of fathers, do you know that you’re the only teacher that had permission to give me a whoopin’ if I misbehaved in school? Yeah, I was shocked that my dad gave you permission, too. Haha!
Although you were only my teacher for to (2) years, you provided an excellent foundation for me and other students. I was prepared when I got to high school. It took me a while, but I finally tried out for All-County and All-Region Bands. I made them both!
Oh! By the way, I became a music teacher. True to form, your musical DNA transferred to me. I respect my students (and adults). They know that I love them, just as I knew you loved me. You were one of the best at it. I understand better now, some of the frustrations you had with me back then. I would write on the board,”Pitch, Balance, Blend=Intonation,” just as you did many years ago.
I guess what I’ve been trying to do throughout this letter is to thank you. Thank you for the humor that we didn’t know how to take at first, but we got used to it. It helped us, kids, respect you. I, too, have used this in my educational bag.
I am thankful for your patience with me and just being a great person. I will always remember you, as I do every year on your birthday.
With GREAT Respect and Love,
Mr. Gaillard passed away in November of 2004. When I heard the news, my heart broke. He was, by far, one of my favorite teachers. At that time, I had already graduated from college with my degree in Music Education. I always wanted to find him and tell him how much he meant to me as my teacher, but sadly I never got that chance. I feel a little sadness thinking about that. I hope that he is proud of the musician, educator, and person I have become.