In the spring of 1982 I visited a 5th grade class at St. Dominic Savio school in Bellflower, California that I had been doing some student teaching with. I told them I was going to be leaving to go to New Jersey to continue my college studies. One of them asked if I would be back for their 8th grade graduation. Based on my plans at that time that seemed very unlikely.
While in New Jersey, I started working on musical ideas at a summer program called “Don Bosco Day Camp.” I made an attempt to organize some young musicians into “The Don Bosco Band”. I did write a few songs (even one called “We’re The Don Bosco Band”) and we did some small performances but nothing much came of my idea of a group.
As the spring of 1984 approached, my initial plans changed and I applied and was accepted into Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. I ended up back in Bellflower! I stopped by the local day camp and those 5th graders were now getting ready to start 8th grade. I played them a few new songs I had written (and even a mediocre rendition of the then popular Footloose) and they seemed excited.
When the school year began, I started an after school drama program at Savio. Even though none were musicians, the name “Don Bosco Band” stuck and we were able to put together a short program for their Christmas Show. The show went well, but somewhere along the line, another student made some disparaging remarks about “the band” – and they shared that frustration with me. That inspired me to write “We Love Our Band”: We love our band and we don’t care what they say. We have a song within us and we’ll sing it everyday.
The success of that Christmas show gave me the idea of putting on a spring production of just the Don Bosco Band. These were the days of MTV and I envisioned myself as the next Quincy Jones. I enlisted the help of my good friend Tim who had access to a four track recorder. He and I layed down the basic tracks: I played drums and a synth bass, he played electric guitar and provided background vocals and we both clapped into a microphone for 3 minutes to give it that 80’s feel. The students liked the song and it became a bit of a theme song as we put together our spring production.
Those 3 months of preparing for that show was my true education and preparation for all my musical experience over the years. I learned how to work with performers - coaching them when they couldn’t get a song right, dealing with bruised egos when they didn’t get the parts they wanted and listening to the stories of their lives (“My science teacher is driving me crazy!”). I took music theory at LMU and realized those classical music masters had something to teach me about writing catchy songs. I also realized that I’d better learn something about audio if I ever hoped to figure out how to mic performers so they could be heard without creating feedback.
That show in the spring of 1985 made it clear to me that no matter what I did with my life, music and performances were going to be a part of it. The students from that version of the Don Bosco Band taught me more than they would ever know. As a thank you to them, I wrote “How You’ve Grown”: You’re looking so familiar yet so strange; you’re looking like the ones I used to know; Oh how you’ve grown. In reality, I was the one who had grown. And yes, I was there at their 8th grade graduation.
Over the years I’ve had the honor of working with so many talented performers: the 1986 version of the “Band” at Savio; 3 years of the Don Bosco Band in Edmonton, Canada; Modern Harmony in Rosemead, California; winter programs and talent shows at elementary schools in the Bay Area; Streets Filled Talent and Chance of Reign – the garage bands that featured my own daughter and son during their high school years. Each of these groups taught me more and helped me to realize the hopes I first had in the early 80’s.
I recently had a Facebook conversation with members of that 1985 spring production. I was amazed and touched at how fondly they looked back at that experience. I pulled out a box of old tapes from my basement and found the original four track tapes from those days. I transferred them to my computer. I also found some audio (and video) of those students performing and managed to find an old cassette player and a VHS deck and digitized all of those. I created some new tracks and managed to get everything synched up. I wrote some new lyrics – and the result is the 2022 version of “We Love Our Band”.
Someone once told me you never realize what will be important as you grow – but when you look back, you realize all the loose threads that put together the tapestry of your life. I will be forever grateful to all the people who have shared my musical journey - and I am excited for all the new songs ahead: I can’t wait for what comes next; I will always love our Band!