Ed Trongone, founding Instrumental Music dept chair at HSPVA, told a story about his earlier days in education. This tale went back to Lamar High School, probably from the early 1950s, possibly earlier.
"The district wouldn't let us teach jazz as a part of the curriculum," Trongone recalled. "I ended up scheduling a regular class and called it 'Orchestra.' That's when we formed the first jazz ensemble at Lamar."
The word got out, however, and Ed was eventually called to the carpet by the school district for infracting the rules. It was rumored that the jazz instruction would be eliminated and Trongone would be disciplined. At the review hearing, Ed was accused of breaking written policy and forming a jazz band during school hours for academic credit.
"But it's not a band," Ed replied. "It's an orchestra by any standard."
One of the panelists objected. "Orchestras don't play jazz. They play classical music."
"That's not always true, sir," argued Trongone. He produced a stack of record albums and showed them to the panel. "These albums advertise the Glenn Miller Orchestra, the Duke Ellington Orchestra, the Stan Kenton Orchestra, and many others. They all play jazz, but not one of them is referred to as a band."
"Fine," stated a panelist. "But it's still against policy for you to teach jazz as curriculum."
Trongone countered, "The policy states my bands may not be taught jazz for credit. And they aren't. But there's no limitation placed on the kind of music my orchestras may play. I ask the panel to honor the letter of the language. We're not breaking the rules at Lamar."
Ed HAD them. The panel decided to drop the matter against Trongone and written policy was eventually redrafted to be inclusive of jazz performance throughout HISD schools. True story. Ed slew an old-school dragon with first-rate logic. And an excellent lesson about dealing with contract language.
Mr. Trongone went on to head the Instrumental Music division for all of HISD before becoming a founding faculty member at HSPVA. It's my understanding that he took a pay cut to do so.
"T" or "Mr. T" as we called him, was formerly an oboist for the Houston Symphony, free-lanced as an oboe player and saxophonist, taught private lessons and was the principal conductor for the Houston All-City Orchestra for many years. Mr. Trongone maintained a small double-reed manufacturing business as well. On a side note, it's said that 'T' initiated the recipe for the sauce used for the famous "Spaghetti Suppers" that annually showcase the works of all the art areas at HSPVA.
Pretty good stuff for a crusty old Boston-Italian with a dog named "Dago."
OK Jinx, as requested and thanks for all you are doing for the up coming event.
Greetings to all. I have been taking part in exercise where you list something you truly grateful for each day for 30 days and write a brief reason as to why, It seemed appropriate to share today's post with this group.
Day 16 of the gratitude list. The High School for the Performing and Visual Arts. I wrote about how music is one of the things I am extremely grateful for and I got to thinking about other forms of art and my early exposure to them. Visual arts have always played an important role in my life. I graduated from The High School for the Performing and Visual Arts in Houston in 1978. I doubt I would have graduated from high school had it not been for HSPVA and the staff and teachers. And if I had somehow managed to graduate from a different high school I believe life would have turned out much different for me. And not in a good way. We were a weird bunch. The staff and teachers somehow guided us not only through high school, while allowing and encouraging us to embrace our individuality, but they also gave us an education and an understanding and appreciation of all art forms that I can’t imagine living life without. Almost 40 years later, (that’s hard to see in print), I still remember the incredible talent we had at PVA. The appreciation of that kind of talent has followed me through life. I spent over 20 years as a professional photographer and my love of photography is still as strong as ever. I still have a passion to create images for myself and enjoy doing so and also enjoy seeing shows and other photographer’s works. I think my world would be very different if PVA had not exposed me to how necessary the arts are to my existence and happiness. So for today, I am grateful for everything from ballet, to a great brass section or live band, to a writer’s words you remember forever, to a play or movie that moves your soul, or just a groove that you feel in your toes for days and makes you want to sing along. I am grateful that Ruth Denney, Jean Nipper, and all the countless others involved, created that wonderful place called HSPVA.
Gary W Willbanks
Class of 1974
What a break!
What an opening!
What a wormhole!
What a slot!
What a shot!
What an opportunity!
What a revolution!
"What a", were here again?,
but it's not?,
do ya dig it?!,
It's done its fabulous deed,
man, but it's never done,
it's never over,
prior to '71 had little meaning,
like a lost little boy with only a few musical friends with which to relate,
bullies&dullzville in school,
and the TV, too,
it was not real to me,
it was too boring,
can ya relate?,
freaky, like flying solo dude!,
what is known as,
what a rack it was!,
my love affair began with a small large-minded group of talented, free-willed, fee-spirited, free-spoken, expressive, receptive, respecting, accepting, passionate, brilliant, eager young men and women,
a select group of nurturing educators, teachers, mentors both artistic and academic,
a gorgeous synagogue,
that set the stage smack dab in the middle of the venue we all called home,
it needed revamping with our visions, muscles, sweat, love, patience, high-esteem,
And to top it off,
Ruth Denney, Ta-Da!,
and her hand-picked cast of,
from the front&back offices,
to the tiny little-known library tucked away behind the orchestra hall,
all melded to achieve,
TranquilityBase, at which to learn,
to succeed to take the next steps in life to,
remembering all of the family, don't ya?,
O yeah, there was,
weed, booze, LSD & what have you,
that's OK 'cause ya got ya buzz, cool!,
but not for me,
that's OK 'cause I'm just too cool too!,
Yes, we had no,
but we had everything we needed,
we had it altogether!,
We Were the World,
we were all & accepted all,
we were gone man, really gone!,
Only then came,
you were there & became aware of,
FreeExpression of LoveLife,
a different person,
a better person known as,
I didn't aspire to the rigidity of the prime objective,
but I did in effect accomplish,
'cause ya understand!,
I'm the man,
who has a good, nay, more than good life, future, thanks to my formative years at,
a lifelong gig,
really gone-on man!,
could ya ask for,
Peace + Joy + Love + Infinity,