I received a copy of “Mr. Clark’s Big Band- A Year of Laughter, Tears, and Jazz in a Middle School Band Room” ($15.00 value) in exchange for this promotion. Any opinions expressed here are honest and my own.
About Mr. Clark’s Big Band:
When 12-year-old Eric Green, a student at the Trottier Middle School in Southborough, Massachusetts dies unexpectedly in his sleep, the entire town finds itself plunged into mourning and shock. The members of the jazz band where Eric was a trumpeter are shaken to the core.
From the throes of his own grief, the jazz band’s unorthodox, fortysomething director, Mr. Clark, becomes the children’s guide and their catalyst for healing. With his face resembling Santa’s and his eyebrow-raising antics that range from bonding with the band members through hugs to bathroom jokes and poking fun at his own girth, Mr. Clark elicits the children’s raw emotions and teaches the students to express these feelings in their music. Accepting nothing short of excellency, he leads them through mastering an extremely complicated piece written for their friend at his standing-room-only, emotion-laden memorial service and winning regional band competitions despite daunting setbacks, all the while playing well beyond their years.
From the back of the band room, author and Southborough resident Meredith O’Brien – whose son plays in the jazz band—observes this stunning process. In Mr. Clark’s Big Band: A Year of Laughter, Tears and Jazz in a Middle School Band Room, she chronicles it, giving readers a celebration of the power of music and team camaraderie, of the big heart of a risk-taking teacher, and of a small town which closed ranks to help its children emerge on the other side of grief.
Review: Not an easy book for O’Brien to write since she was personally touched by this story and then to take the time to spend an entire school year figuring out the WHY of Mr. Clark’s jazz band being possibly therapy for the students’ grief? In this story, O’Brien writes the daily on-goings in the band room and regarding jazz band performances. Some stellar, most were not as she was trying to unravel the meaning and tightness of this band and their band leader. Why was it that everyone loved this class and respected the band leader, Mr. Clark, so much? Was it because he pushed them, believed in them, made them feel they had something more to share? Join O’Brien as she daily reflects the monotony of practices and performances of achievement failure and closure in this non-fiction novel. This novel is geared toward adults, but highly recommended for Middle School and up as it will touch some great points for students.
Mr. Clark’s Big Band – A Year of Laughter, Tears and Jazz in a Middle School Band Room can be purchased at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and anywhere books are sold.
About the Author
A former newspaper reporter, investigative journalist and columnist, Meredith O’Brien (mereditheobrien.com) is the author of Mr. Clark’s Big Band, as well as of Mortified: A Novel About Oversharing, and A Suburban Mom: Notes from the Asylum. She is a co-author of The Buying of the President, a finalist for an Investigative Reporters and Editors book award. She teaches journalism at Northeastern University and lives with her family in the Boston area.