gar lockrem and arts education
one of my favorite high school teachers passed away this weekend. gar lockrem taught at henry sibley senior high school for the past 400 years. he was my music teacher in the early 1980s and my mother's art teacher and choir director in the late 1950s. i mostly recall mr. lockrem as an old dude who connected unusually well with the long-haired rockers who signed up for his music theory course.
ok, so i don't remember all that much music theory. but i can still plunk out my piano compositions from the course and i learned just enough about classical music to pass for semi-cultured at faculty gatherings. mr. lockrem would read hokey motivational books to cynical teenagers with wide-eyed sincerity and a look that said: is this a great world, or what! what i mostly remember about gar -- and he was cool with a 17-year-old dirtball calling him "gar" -- was that i felt okay about being in high school during his class.
these are tough times for arts education, so i can't help but worry about the counterfactual case of what schools would be like without teachers such as gar lockrem. like wayne coyne, my high school experience would have been brutal without drama, poetry, and music. i wasn't a great student then, but these courses gave the space and encouragement and confidence that somehow helped me morph into a scholar.
when a counselor suggested i wasn't quite ready for college, the drama teacher (mr. veale) said, "you must go to madison. you will blooooom in madison." so i went! when i was struggling with delinquency and court appearances, the poetry teacher (we called her "apple") said, "you've gotta publish this stuff, you've just gotta." so i tried! and gar lockrem was reading us zig ziglar and telling wild stories about mozart.
my mother must have been similarly inspired by mr. lockrem -- she spoke of him often and became an art teacher too. one can never trace all the direct and indirect ways in which a teacher influences students, but i should note that mom passed the inspiration along to sis, who teaches art in nyc. like most high school students, i had absolutely zero chance of making a living as an actor, poet, or musician. still, i can't imagine getting through high school without arts courses and teachers such as mr. lockrem.