In Memoriam

Jun. 1st, 2014 02:10 pm
One of the unfortunate results of being a conscious objector to Facebook & Facebook culture is that you miss important information on a semi-regular basis. Yesterday while driving up to Salem, Berg passed along the news that our high school choral director, David Pool, had passed away earlier this week. While this was not necessarily unexpected--Pool was a long-time smoker, who suffered from diabetes, shingles and a variety of other ailments in the years that I knew him--it still came as a blow. My friend Francesca (another one of Pool's ex-students) & I had been trying to arrange a coffee date for weeks, and I had just been thinking about him again the other day.

I sang for Mr. Pool--or, Pool, as we were encouraged to call him--for the four years that I was at Crescent Valley High school, and I credit him as the inspiration and impetus for the positive changes I made in my life and in my person during those years. Having arrived at CV from a disastrous middle school experience (basically, I was flunking out due to lack of interest, depression and general laziness, but because of Budget Issues, I wasn't held back), I had been given a "new start" in HS, but by the end of my Freshman year, I didn't seem to be heading in a different direction. That year I was in Singers, the "lowest" of the four choirs at CV. By this point, I had been singing in Heart of the Valley Children's choirs since third grade, and while I had a decent opinion of my vocal talents, I was not expecting to move beyond Women's Treble Choir (the next step up from Singers) for my Sophomore year, especially since I didn't feel that my year end audition for Pool had gone particularly well.

Instead, when I checked the choral postings a few days later, I discovered that I, along with two other freshmen gals with whom I'd previously had little to no contact, had bypassed both Treble and Concert choirs and had been placed in the Women's Chamber Choir, the "apex" of our high school choral hierarchy. This group was comprised of 16 women that first year, mostly Seniors, and Theresa, Alyson and I were the very youngest of the bunch. To this day I don't know exactly what Pool saw that made him give me a chance, as I was mousy, aloof and generally silent if we weren't singing, but I'm eternally grateful that he did, because this changed my life. Being in the Chamber and Concert choirs that year not only allowed me to use my musical strengths to their best purpose, but it provided me with excellent role models in the form of my dear Chamber sisters, and laid on my shoulders a responsibility for excellence that hadn't been previously present, which allowed me to take a leadership role during my Junior and Senior years and made me a mentor to younger Chamber girls as they arrived.

Chamber Choir was different because it wasn't just about the music, it was about the community. These girls became my second family; I loved them all dearly, and they taught me a great deal about myself. When trying to explain it to other people, I try to avoid using the word "sorority," but that's maybe the closest. We sang together for an hour and a half, five days a week, and we all had to work together to make it the best it could be. Pool expected a great deal from us, and he gave us a great deal in return. He was an enthusiastic and charismatic leader, a man who prized feeling and interpretation over exactitude and who would often devote entire daily lessons to poetry and/or discussions on an idea or thought related to whatever piece we were working on. He read poetry to us often, his expressive, musical voice introducing us to artists & writers we might not otherwise have encountered. He had favorite "sayings" & stories which he would repeat on a yearly basis, fables & lessons that would shape not just my artistic adventures but my spiritual and soulful strivings as well.

Pool's beloved wife, Jan, was ill for as long as I knew them, and she grew increasingly feeble as the years progressed. By my senior year, Pool was often absent for long periods of time, and I became the default student director/music librarian of the Concert & Chamber choirs. I spent a great deal of time with Pool outside of class hours, organizing events related to our three yearly concerts, helping with end of the year auditions, and just hanging out. My immediate family lives far away from our relatives, and Pool became a kind of substitute grandparent/uncle for me; I prized his opinion over anyone else's.

I would recognize this same depth of devotion in a majority of his other former students when, in 2001 (the same year I graduated), Pool retired, and we held a celebration in his honor in our school theater. It was packed with folks eager to give their testimony to this man who had touched so many lives. I get teary just thinking about it now.

That is how I like to remember Mr. Pool. I did remain in contact with him for a number of years beyond graduation, but after Jan's death in 2008, his health started to take a sharp turn downward, and I hadn't seen him for many years when I heard the news of his death. I keep waiting for there to be some word regarding a memorial service. I need to mourn with other people who knew this wonderful man. He was a mentor, a teacher in the truest sense of the word, and one of the most important people in my life. I will miss him greatly. ♥



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