by Ivan Sayles
My father was a teacher in Brownsville, Brooklyn for 30 some odd years. We’re all teachers in a way: we teach our kids, employees and underlings everyday. But to teach as a profession, now that is something wonderful. Then every once in awhile there is that “needle in the haystack,” that special teacher that took the tests, passed the classes, has all the credentials hanging on the wall, but has a gift.
Do I remember Mr. Rice? Of course I do. Who wouldn’t? Bright orange hair and a beard, bouncing through the hallways, wearing jeans, a smile and patchouli. But that’s not why I remember him. I remember him because he enlightened me; he made me aware and taught me to open my mind.
I’ve heard teachers say, “If I can make a difference in one child’s life, then it’s all worth it.” Well, the fact that I’m writing this on the Jack Rice Memorial Scholarship Fund’s page shows that Jack has exceeded the call of duty in touching the lives of his students. For me, Jack touched me through music. Steve Silverstein introduced me to Yes, Ryan Quinn forever made me a fan of the Geddy Lee Trio and Russ Asch got me into Southern Rock with Lynyrd Skynyrd. But it was Jack Rice who got me to “listen” to music and to “hear” the words. I’ve no idea what class I took in high school that afforded us the opportunity to listen to music but it was in that class that I first heard Neil Young’s After the Gold Rush. Fifty years later I remember that day as if it were yesterday. Jack taught me to listen, not to turn up the volume but listen. As we are fast approaching putting human beings on Mars and the fantasy of “flyin’ mother nature’s silver seed to a new home in the sun” becomes a reality, I can’t help but remember the gift Jack gave me every time I read or see something about space travel.
What he gave wasn’t part of any curriculum or lesson plan. He used music as a conduit to teach me to think and open my mind. I see life not through Jack’s eyes but my own, as he taught me to do. As I get older and the memories of my youth fade, I realize I’ve forgotten many of my teachers’ names. When more years go by and I forget more and more, I know I will forever remember Jack Rice.