Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Sibling Assignment #100: The Humility of Glenn Exum

Silver Valley Girl decided that for this historic occasion of us siblings reaching our 100th assignment together that we should do the following:

Think back to your music education from the Kellogg School District,and talk about the influence one of your instructors had on your life and how they influenced you musically.
On the 13th anniversary of his death, InlandEmpireGirl went outside the assignment a bit and wrote about our father, here; once Silver Valley Girl is done single-handedly rescuing the Sixth Street Melodrama from financial peril, I'm sure she'll be posting her piece. (It's not easy being the single most industrious person in the Silver Valley.)

I wanted permission to post a picture of Glenn Exum at age 88. The photographer didn't respond to my request. It's a superb photo. If you'd like to see the picture go here and here.

Around the world, Glenn Exum's legacy rests with his distinguished career as a mountain climber and guide, especially in the Tetons. He was the first to climb the exposed ridge to the summit of Grand Teton which now bears his name. The Exum Ridge remains one of the most popular routes to the summit of Grand Teton (Wikipedia).

Exum Mountain Guides was Mr. Exum's summer gig. In the fall, winter, and spring, he labored with instrumentalists of all ages and with high school singers as a music teacher in Kellogg, Idaho.

I can't say that Mr. Exum had much of an influence on me as a musician.

I'm a crappy baritone horn player and mediocre singer who's always been a tweener: part tenor, part baritone. I loved singing in high school and I loved playing in the band, but I'd be exaggerating the truth if I made any claims that Mr. Exum did much to help me improve.

I just played and sang. Did my best.

I didn't know the word in high school, but I know now that Glenn Exum was a pontificator. Mostly his pontificating focused on personal character. He hated quitters. If he was walking down the street and a quitter was coming toward him, he'd cross the street so as not to come face to face with a quitter.

The strong horse is best at the end of a race.

Still water runs deep.

Glenn Exum used to advocate a hunting season that would license the shooting of creeps. He was especially adamant about creeps, who sent him in orbit, whenever he returned from the University of Idaho and saw all the long-haired creeps there.

Sometimes creeps would be on the news. For example, Eastern Washington State College in Cheney held a kiss-a-thon. A mixed race couple won it. This mixed race couple engaging in a marathon kiss on television sent Mr. Exum into orbit and he ranted about it for quite a while.

I think back to Mr. Exum's rants and I think today about all the fretting I hear about teachers who have an agenda. Mr. Exum had an agenda. He wanted students to come out of Kellogg High School disciplined. He wanted us to be in good physical shape. We did push ups in boys choir. He wanted us to stick it out. He wanted the world cleansed of creeps and radicals. He gave us merits for the good things we did and punished us with demerits if we messed up.

He indoctrinated us, especially boys choir, with his points of view, often at the expense of the time we could have spent singing.

Was I brain washed by Glenn Exum? Hardly. Did he shape my mind in ways I couldn't resist? Nope. I admired him. I respected him. I played and sang as hard as I could for him.

I also thought he was a bit of a nut, kind of out in orbit himself, and my friends and I had a great time laughing off his diatribes and imitating his many funny pronunciations and other ticks.

I recall one of Glenn Exum's ongoing diatribes. It had to do with rock and roll music.

Mr. Exum was not impressed with these long haired screamers, ultimate creeps, who could only play three chords and sounded like banshees when they sang.

My sophomore year, a senior music student had had enough. Jim Etherton confronted Mr. Exum about his prejudices regarding our music and brought Blood Sweat and Tears self-titled second album to class. He might have brought Chicago's first album, too.

The timing was perfect. Mr. Exum had just come back from the University of Idaho Jazz Festival raving about Hermiston's jazz band and their trumpeter John Sheeley. He loved playing John Sheeley's stratospheric work on "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy".

To his everlasting credit, Mr. Exum played the album(s) Jim Etherton brought. As he listened, we could see Mr. Exum's features soften, and a look of pleased surprise cross his faced. The fusion of jazz and rock and roll in Blood Sweat and Tears and/or Chicago worked for him.

Mr. Exum then manned up.

He said he didn't know young people were listening to this kind of music. He didn't go so far as to ask Jim to put on a Steppenwolf album, but he acknowledged that he'd been too harsh. He admitted his ignorance.

That day, my already high estimation of Glenn Exum went into orbit. It was a moment when he wasn't indoctrinating us, but a moment of spontaneous humility and appreciation that will live with me forever.

I'll take it one more step. I do my best to remain accepting of the music my students enjoy and stay humble in the face of the things they do that are outside my little orbit. If, however, I fail at this and if a student does for me what Jim Etherton did for Glenn Exum, I follow Mr. Exum's example.

I appreciate learning from my students and show them my humility.


Christy Woolum said...

Great post.... you could have done a whole other post about practice sessions to get ready for the Torchlight Parade or The U. of Idaho homecoming parade!Can you say augment?
This was amazing timing again. Just this week I decided to explore my students' music likes in preparation for a photo essay I am doing for their 8th grade celebration next week. I tried to be accepting and was pleasantly surprised. I downloaded quite an eclectic mix of music.... songs from Bette Davis Eyes to Brown Eyed Girl to some hip hop and Sweet Child of Mine!

joe arnold said...

loved your comments on Glenn. Where are you getting permission to publish photo? I am using a quote of his in a book.

raymond pert said...

I never got permission.

joe arnold said...

who did you ask?

raymond pert said...

the photographer...no response to an email...I didn't pursue it hard...I just let the link be the way to see the picture...for me, not that big of a deal...