A Musical Homecoming


A few months ago, I spotted a post from my old high school announcing a tribute concert for my former band director.

A few months ago, I spotted a post from my old high school announcing a tribute concert for my former band director, Joseph Kaschak. It invited Madison Central High School alumni to play a few songs with the Old Bridge Concert Band.

When I checked the date and saw that I was off that weekend, I knew I had to go. So, I had the music sent to me, literally dusted off my tenor sax case, and started practicing.

After a day of sounding like a gander in heat, I remembered to shave my reed down like my neighbor Norman Paley had taught me, and I got something resembling a good tone. Then, I worked on the sheet music. By the time the concert rolled around, I thought I had a good feel for what I was doing.

The Kaschak Music Axiom #1 clearly states that sheet music is the universal language, and if you do your homework, you can sit down next to someone you never met and play in sync. I was about to find out if that holds true.

I arrived at the old MCHS (now Carl Sandburg Middle School) and began what Julian referred to as my “nostalgia trip.” I sat on the stoop that we always used to sit on and took it all in. I went into the band room, put my horn together, and warmed up to get ready to go.

I met the conductors, took my seat, and got rolling through all 3 songs. After we were done, I noticed a clarinet player who looked familiar. It was my old neighbor, Mr. Paley! The Norman Paley Trio was well known in woodwind jazz circles, and Mr. Paley still wails on the licorice stick like the pro he always was. He had a solo during the show and blew it away.

There were 2 special tributes to Mr. Kaschak. The first was a slideshow that featured his voice giving a lesson on humanity. I felt like I was in the band room 30 years ago. The second was a cornet that I immediately knew was his. It was like looking at Luke Skywalker’s lightsaber, only cooler. A solo was magnificently played on it.

The school alumni joined the concert band in playing “Just a Closer Walk with Thee” (which was played at Mr. Kaschak’s funeral), the bawdy “St. Louis Blues,” and “Our Director,” which was the MCHS “touchdown song.” It felt amazing to perform again.

I rounded out my nostalgia trip with a mass at St. Ambrose parish and a quick pass at Walter M. Schirra elementary school and my childhood home. It was fun to go back, but it was better to go home. My present is better than my past, and my future is so bright that I have to wear shades.

Jay Sochoka, RPh, did the time warp.

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