When I was attending Central Catholic High School in Toledo, I learned to play clarinet and then went on to tenor saxophone and bassoon. I was not a very talented musician, but it gave me the opportunity to learn more about music and be exposed to a wide range of music types.
My clarinet teacher, Gerald V. DePrisco was also the music and band director. Being the late 1960′s, and just being a teenager, I was a bit irreverent. Don’t get me wrong, we’re talking about someone who not only played in band, but participated in the Science Club and all the area science fairs. I attended Mass in the school chapel on a regular basis. I worked at the main library downtown after school, so we’re not talking about a James Dean, “Rebel Without a Cause” Type.
We had one of, if not the best band in the city. We played well, marched complex half time shows, participated in numerous parades and had a great time throughout.
The band met in a separate building that had been where the high school had started. Originally it had housed maybe a dozen classrooms, but the intermediate walls had been removed to provide rehearsal rooms for the band, orchestra and Glee Club. There were also a few offices, one of which was Mr. DePrisco’s. A number of us used to hang around the outer office.
Each day I’d greet the band director with, “Hello, Uncle Jerry!”
He’d respond with, “Don’t call me Uncle Jerry! And get those sideburns trimmed!”
“Right, Uncle Jerry!”
A few years ago, his daughter started contacting alumni of Central Catholic’s band to have a band banquet and Music Hall of Fame. I wasn’t able to attend what became an annual event, but I wrote him a letter. His daughter called and gave me his phone number and I did have a chance to talk with “Uncle Jerry” on the phone. Naturally I bragged to him that although the talent gene skipped me, my children were much better than I.
It was a nice chat.
Yesterday his daughter sent out an e-mail saying that Uncle Jerry had died.
However the love of music that he infused in me has stayed with me and I’ve done my best to pass it on to my family.
Thanks, Uncle Jerry. You will not be forgotten, and yes, you’re in our prayers.