Raves for Mr. Clark’s Big Band

Writers from two parenting blogs, Atlanta Mom and Michigan Mom Living, recently reviewed Mr. Clark’s Big Band and raved about it:

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Meanwhile, over on the Michigan Mom Living blog, Cynthia Tait reviewed Mr. Clark’s Big Band saying:

Not an easy book for O’Brien to write since she was personally touched by this story and then to take the time to spend an entire school year figuring out the WHY of Mr. Clark’s jazz band being possibly therapy for the students’ grief?  In this story, O’Brien writes the daily on-goings in the band room and regarding jazz band performances.  Some stellar, most were not as she was trying to unravel the meaning and tightness of this band and their band leader.  Why was it that everyone loved this class and respected the band leader, Mr. Clark, so much?  Was it because he pushed them, believed in them, made them feel they had something more to share?

Join O’Brien as she daily reflects the monotony of practices and performances of achievement failure and closure in this non-fiction [book].  This [book] is geared toward adults, but highly recommended for Middle School and up as it will touch some great points for students.

Image credits: Atlanta Mom Facebook pageMichigan Mom Living.

Bloggers recommend ‘Mr. Clark’s Big Band,’ said could’ve used ‘a Mr. Clark’ in middle school

Blogger Kelly Reci knows what it’s like to be a middle school student who suddenly and unexpectedly loses a friend:

Teen bereavement is real. Many of our tweens and teens will struggle with the loss of a friend. It’s heartbreaking, but sadly its life. When I was an eighth grader, (all the way back in 1992,) we lost a friend. He was just a year behind us, and the older brother to three younger children. Billy passed away while caring for their yard. He was the “man” in his family, and he often did chores that his mother and sisters couldn’t. That horrible day he happened to be mowing the lawn on a riding mower. He fell off, and the mower landed on him. He was asphyxiated before he was found. I’ll never forget the day we found out, or the days following. Our group of “bus buddies” mourned for months. Driving passed his house twice every day, and seeing the exact spot he departed our world, was virtually torture. Grief counselors were called in, but they didn’t stay longer than a week. I guess we were all supposed to be “healed” by then. Most of us weren’t. We could have really used a teacher like Mr. Clark to help us all heal. 

In reviewing Mr. Clark’s Big Band, which shines a spotlight on how a small Massachusetts middle school–its jazz band in particular–handled the sudden death of a 12-year-old student, Reci recommended the book for those who have experienced loss:

Following these kids journey to healing was touching as well as inspiring. It was a very cathartic experience for me. Mr. Clark is amazing, and I really can picture him as jolly Santa Claus type. If you or someone you love has experienced a loss, whether they’re tween or older, I think you’ll love this book.

Meanwhile, blogger Cassandra McCann also posted a review of Mr. Clark’s Big Band saying it is: “a great book of healing with the magic powers of music in a way that seals the town in a mix of emotions that the readers will surely feel.”


Mr. Clark’s Big Band book to be published May 2017

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After a seemingly healthy 12-year-old boy died in his sleep from an undiagnosed heart ailment on a brisk New England winter night, Eric Green’s small Boston suburb was overcome with sorrow. Its residents closed ranks. Quickly.

Slashes of green duct tape were adhered to mourners’ shirts all over town. Green rubber bracelets bearing his name adorned wrists of the young and old. Emerald grosgrain ribbons were looped through safety pins and affixed to shirts and winter coats. “Green-out” days at the elementary, middle and high schools were organized on social media. In the Trottier Middle School band room, his music stand—with green tape wrapped around its post—stood empty as his bandmates demanded the school formally honor their fallen friend. A committee was organized. A service in honor of Eric’s brief life was slated for 18 months later, where two musical compositions commissioned by the school in Eric’s memory would be played by the children he left behind.

big band room smallerIn the spirit of Tracy Kidder’s Among Schoolchildren, journalist Meredith O’Brien shadowed the Southborough, Mass. Trottier Middle School Big Band during the 2012-2013 school year to witness how making music and working with a charismatic, unorthodox fortysomething music director who looked like Kris Kringle helped this group of 33 children overcome their anguish. Mr. Clark’s Big Band: A Year of Laughter, Tears and Jazz in a Middle School Band Room chronicles how these children performed well beyond their years, won jazz competitions—in one case, playing just before the Newtown Middle School, another band coping with fresh, searing loss—and mastered the extremely complicated piece written for Eric at his packed, emotion-laden memorial service.

Mr. Clark’s Big Band celebrates the power of music and team camaraderie, of the big heart of a risk-taking teacher, and of a small town which closed ranks to help its children emerge on the other side of grief. Wyatt-MacKenzie will release this book in May 2017.

eric green service2A journalism instructor at Northeastern University in Boston, O’Brien is a former newspaper and investigative reporter, award-winning columnist and blogger. She is the author of A Suburban Mom: Notes from the Asylum a collection of humor columns (Wyatt-MacKenzie 2007), Mortified: A Novel About Oversharing which was a finalist for a ForeWord Reviews debut novel competition (Wyatt-MacKenzie 2013), and a co-author of The Buying of the President which examined the connections between campaign donors an presidential candidates (Avon 1996). She has been published in an array of publications and sites including the Boston Globe, the Boston Herald, the Baltimore Sun, the Huffington Post, The Nation and the Avalon Literary Review. She is currently working on a memoir.

Visit her web site and follow her on Twitter.

Image credit: Top image courtesy of Karen Travins. Other images by Meredith O’Brien.