Sharing the Story of ‘Mr. Clark’s Big Band’ in Southborough, Milford

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The book talk/signing at the Southborough Library finally — finally! — happened after being rescheduled three times following snowstorms and a bout of the flu.

claflin obrien and clarkParents of current and former Trottier Middle School students who attended the reading at the library (see video below) told me they were mentally and emotionally brought back to the days when our children roamed the halls of the middle school, when some of the kids played music for Mr. Clark, and when all of the students mourned the loss of their friend, Eric Green.

Two days later, Mr. Clark and I chatted about Mr. Clark’s Big Band with music fans at the Claflin Hill Symphony Orchestra’s final performance of the season, a season in which music educators were celebrated.

Some current Trottier Middle School students attended the show in Milford’s historic town hall and stopped by to greet Mr. Clark, who couldn’t play the trombone with his pals in the Claflin brass section because he recently had elbow surgery (see the sling he’s sporting in the photo below).

claflin obrien and clark2Several folks also paused at the book table to fondly remember former Algonquin Regional High School music director Dennis Wrenn, the man who helped Mr. Clark get his job in the Southborough school system and who is mentioned several times in Mr. Clark’s Big Band.

It can sometimes seem like a small world indeed.

Image credits: Southborough Access Media (first image), Scott Weiss (other two images)

Signing Arms & Sneakers: Scenes from Granite Valley Middle School

ac82ea3d-b0de-4adb-b1d4-4a76ff1c0fd6It was in Monson, Mass. where I autographed my first arm.

And my first sneaker.

And a slightly sweaty palm.

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Students from the Granite Valley Middle School — where I spoke in March about Mr. Clark’s Big Band — were full of questions, energy, and requests for me to use my green Sharpie to sign … their various limbs and footwear. (They SWORE their parents would be totally okay with this. For the record, I remain skeptical.)

Before I spoke in the auditorium, I visited the Granite Valley band room where students assured me that their Mr. Clark — who goes by the name of Mr. Topham in Monson — is just as lively and off-center as the lead character in my book.

 

a012dafb-8c38-4c57-9cb9-84193fa88e57Later, I shared stories about how and why I came to write Mr. Clark’s Big Band about a middle school jazz band about an hour’s drive to the east, told them tales about Southborough’s Mr. Clark, and read passages aloud while a PowerPoint presentation behind me showed various images of Mr. Clark (including one of him in a goofy pink wig during a performance), and of the Trottier Middle School band room.

The image that got the loudest response? The one of chicken-in-a-can that was on screen as I read a segment from the chapter called, cleverly enough, “Chicken-in-a-Can.” At least the presentation was AFTER lunch so it didn’t spoil anyone’s meal.

a1e0c588-b981-4df5-a402-4b3fc295c218I also got the opportunity to catch up with my friend from West Springfield (MA) High School, Granite Valley’s Principal Mary Cieplik (above, on the right), who generously invited me to address her students.

If you’d like me to visit your students, or your book club, send me an email: mereditheobrien@gmail.com.

Images from Granite Valley Middle School’s “In the Loop” newsletter.

Book signing with Claflin Hill Symphony Orchestra, 4/28

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The Milford (MA)-based Claflin Hill Symphony Orchestra — for which Mr. Clark plays the trombone — has invited me to sign copies of Mr. Clark’s Big Band at their final concert of the season on Saturday, April 28 at 7:30 p.m. The concert will be held at the beautiful Milford Town Hall, 52 Main Street, Milford.

Mr. Clark, who will not be playing due to an elbow injury, will be joining me as we sign books, discuss the importance of music education, and talk about the process of writing the tale of his 2012-2013 Trottier Middle School jazz band.

The concert will feature the world premiere of Vermont composer Keane Southard’s “An Appalachian Trail Symphony” as well as the playing of Antonín Dvořák’s “Symphony No. 9: The New World” and Aaron Copland’s “Rodeo.”

Image credit: Claflin Hill Symphony Orchestra.

Three time’s a charm: 4/26 Southborough Library talk

Screenshot 2018-03-29 11.51.24Let’s try this again, shall we?

My book talk/book signing at the Southborough Public Library–located in the town where Mr. Clark’s Big Band is set, not too far from the Trottier Middle School–has been rescheduled for a third time. Hopefully there will be no snow or flu complications on the new date: Thursday, April 26 at 7 p.m. (*knocking on wood*)

I’ll be discussing how I came to write Mr. Clark’s Big Band and what the writing and researching process was like. I’ll read several select excerpts and, afterward, have copies on sale.

Image credit: Southborough Public Library. 

 

 

Southborough Library event POSTPONED from Wednesday, 3/21, 7 p.m.

Screenshot 2018-03-19 12.15.52UPDATE: Due to the continued snowy forecast, the Southborough Library is going to postpone my book talk/signing. I will post new details when I have them.

A perfect storm of the flu and the second of three nasty nor’easters colluded to cancel my March 7 book talk/signing at the Southborough Library.

I am slated to appear at the Library (25 Main Street, Southborough) THIS Wednesday at 7 p.m. in the main floor.

The event will be filmed by Southborough Access Media and I’ll be selling and signing copies of Mr. Clark’s Big Band.

Fingers crossed that the new nor’easter the meteorologists are discussing for mid-week goes out to sea!

Image credit: Southborough Library.

Blue Umbrella Book Reading Recap

Thank you to Westfield (Mass.) independent bookstore Blue Umbrella Books for hosting my book talk and signing.

It was great fun to visit my old stomping grounds and chat with friends from high school and college. Family members who live in western Massachusetts also came out to represent!

If you missed the event, signed copies of Mr. Clark’s Big Band are still for sale at Blue Umbrella.

The bookstore folks live-streamed my book talk on Facebook. You can watch a recording here:

Image credits: Scott Weiss.

Western Mass. book signing: Blue Umbrella Books

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I’ll be heading to western Massachusetts for a book signing on Nov. 11 from 1-3 p.m.

The independent bookstore, Blue Umbrella Books of Westfield, MA, will play host as I sign copies of Mr. Clark’s Big Band.

My ties to the city run deep. I lived in Westfield for my first six years, did my first journalism internship there (at The Westfield News) and covered the area as a young reporter for The Republican.

I’m looking forward to seeing friends from my hometown, the neighboring West Springfield. If you’re in the area, come join us!

Image credit: Blue Umbrella Books.

 

Talkin’ ’bout ‘Mr. Clark’s Big Band’ in Longmeadow, Mass., Oct. 15

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I’ll be participating in a panel of writers at Bay Path University’s 16th Writers’ Day on Sunday, October 15.

Come hear me talk about how events in my town of Southborough, Mass. inspired me to write Mr. Clark’s Big Band, and how I wove events that unfolded during the time I shadowed the middle school jazz band into the narrative. During the 2012-2013 school year in which the book is set, outside events such as the Newtown, Conn. elementary school shooting and the Boston Marathon bombing had direct impact on the students at the Trottier Middle School as well as on their band director, Jamie Clark.

Appearing on my panel, which is slated for 4:10 p.m., are fellow authors Joan Dempsey and Ellen Meeropol.

Stop on by. I’d love to see you and chat about Mr. Clark’s Big Band.

Bah Hah-bah: Signings in a seaside town

Over the Fourth of July week I once again shadowed Southborough’s Trottier Middle School music director Jamie Clark. Only this time, it was to watch him play his trombone with his brass quintet, Brass Venture (see below), during the Bar Harbor Music Festival, as well as sign copies of Mr. Clark’s Big Band before and after Brass Venture’s performances.

brass venture bar harbor 2017

The day after meeting music aficionados at two Brass Venture shows, I met former music students and teachers at Sherman’s Books as they told me about the

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affection they still hold for their music directors. Several folks said they miss their own days in middle school band rooms.

If you happen to be in Bar Harbor, I left behind some signed copies of Mr. Clark’s Big Band at Sherman’s.