Mr. Reynolds' Opus
Delta Winds: A Magazine of Student Essays
A Publication of San Joaquin Delta College
Mr. Reynolds' Opus
Most adolescents attend junior high school and hope to find their way through the two years of blather and lecture from teachers on their way to high school. It was my intention to get from beginning to end of junior high without detection from anyone in an authority position. My family life wasn't the typical post-nuclear family. Born to an abusive father who took pride in turning drinking into an Olympic sport and a mother who could have been voted "High Times" magazine's Woman of the Year, I had developed an exceptional talent for appearing invisible to adults. To amplify my insecurities and self-doubt, just as I was ready to step into the arena of junior high, my parents divorced and my mother moved my family to a small town in Oregon. I dreaded my first day at a new school with no friends. However, my first day changed my thinking in ways I couldn't have imagined. Mr. Richard Reynolds taught my first class, Music Appreciation, and it was the only class I had any interest in at the time. Mr. Reynolds' amazing style of teaching would unlock my inhibitions and help me to cultivate my musical talent. Because of his ability to see his students as separate individuals, his commitment to hard work, and his patience, Mr. Reynolds will forever rank as one of my greatest mentors.
Most of the teachers I have encountered see their classroom of students as a collective brain or a single entity. Mr. Reynolds never approached his students in such a fashion. I remember the feeling of amazement I had on the second day of class when I walked down the hall toward my class and saw Mr. Reynolds at his door greeting each student walking through the threshold. It was awkward to me the first few days, but soon I felt a sense of belonging when I attended his class. He would always take a moment to ask about me. Up to that point in my life adults had just seemed to tolerate me as an annoyance. Mr. Reynolds became so familiar with each of his students that he could tell when one needed a little extra attention. My family difficulties had stymied development in some areas. Mr. Reynolds appeared to notice my social deficits and encouraged me to open up and let others see my talent. I had enjoyed singing from an early age. To this day I walk around singing aloud without realizing it; I did back then as well. Mr. Reynolds was the music director for the school, and one day he heard me singing "Yesterday" by the Beatles. He suggested that I join his chorus class. Early on I was resistant, but he never pushed or told me to join like most of the adults in my life would have done; he just kept telling me I would be an asset to his choir. Since my first day of class he had been a constant, stable, and jovial figure in my life, so I let my guard down and joined the choir.
Once I joined Mr. Reynolds' musical group, I discovered his dedication to hard work and perseverance. He had the talent to get his students to open their eyes to new ideas and push themselves further than my fellow classmates thought possible. Mr. Reynolds loved to teach our group very challenging vocal harmony arrangements. These were arrangements advanced high school and college students were performing. As a unit we grew intensely motivated, and when Mr. Reynolds asked us to take on extra practice sessions after school, several parents began to complain that he was pushing their little kids at too young an age. The parents eventually backed down when they noticed none of the children in the group appeared to be under duress. In reality, Mr. Reynolds had instilled a passion and drive in each of us that set in motion several events to come. During my 8th grade year, our ten-person choir was invited to perform for the various social functions along the coast of Oregon. From a performance for the state governor to the opening act at the Portland Opera House, we were on the move. The pinnacle of our year was when our group was invited to compete in the Newport Jazz Choir Competition. This was incredible because up until we were invited it was only open to high school groups. But our dedication and hard work paid off tenfold. We took third place out of 22 groups of performers. At that point in my life, Mr. Reynolds showed me what hard work could generate.
Looking back at my days with Mr. Reynolds, I can now begin to understand the insane level of patience he must have had. Taking junior high school children and molding them into fine-tuned instruments when their major focus at the time was Star Wars couldn't have been easy. Sculpting unformed minds to not only learn the musical pieces, but to also comprehend what the meaning was behind each piece of work was time-consuming. Mr. Reynolds was definitely from the same school of thought as Carol Bly, who wrote "Growing up Expressive." She believed that children must be exposed to different forms of expression and given new questions and insights to stimulate their creative minds (Bly 42). I remember a time when Mr. Reynolds met with me separately from the group because I was having some difficulty with a tenor harmony part on a song called "Birdland," by Manhattan Transfer. He explained to me that the part I was singing was designed to imitate a large bird taking off and that it was an important piece of the harmonics in my overall vocal part. He stayed after class and practiced it with me until I performed it correctly. While it took several extra sessions, when I finally nailed the part I was ecstatic, and judging by the look on his face, Mr. Reynolds was also.
After years of reflection, I can at last see the turning point in my personal development. Mr. Reynolds was the figure who appeared to me when I was a troubled youth. He taught me to look outside the narrow view society had established. He took time to ensure each of his pupils was on the right path to success without the constraints of time. His flair for empowering youth with the skills to allow the inner self to flourish was a tangible gift I could only hope to repay. Maybe it's the reason I find myself, over thirty years later, being drawn to the field of teaching. I hope to utilize Mr. Reynolds' teaching attitude along with my own personal philosophy, which is best summarized in Pay it Forward by C. Ryan Hyde: "Knowing it started from unremarkable circumstances should be a comfort to us all. Because it proves that you don't need much to change the entire world for the better. You can start with the most ordinary ingredients. You can start with the world you've got" (271). I believe that, like Mr. Reynolds, I, too, can make a difference.
Bly, Carol. "Growing up Expressive." The Dolphin Reader. Ed. D. Hunt. 6th ed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2003. 36-44.
Hyde, C. Ryan. Pay it Forward. New York: Simon-Schuster,1999.