Thursday, April 28, 2016


Tonight's newspaper had someone grabbing the headlines...
and up in the smaller spot, appropriately above the fray, someone smiling and showing us the way.

Take a look for yourself:

Chancellor Katehi meet Jim Sochor.

Jim Sochor was the beloved football (and golf) coach for UC Davis for 30 years.
He was humble and soft spoken.
He was a gifted listener and genuine in every way.

People responded to his work ethic.
His kindness.
His ability to out-perform against more talented and more funded football programs.

Mostly, they knew they were in the presence of integrity.

He was honest.
True to his word.

Chancellor Katehi, are you listening?

There is a reason that Coach Sochor could walk around town 
and talk to anybody at any time with that shy smile.
He was approachable and appreciative.
We could feel his authenticity.

He was the definition of beloved and admired.

In this time of uncertainty and shady-doings by our Chancellor, 
Jim Sochor's legacy is a reminder of what an Aggie really is.

UC Davis isn't lost.
We know what is valued.

We're not flashy...
or shady...
or attention-seeking...

We're the Jim Sochor version:
head down, working hard,
letting the effort and the work speak for itself,
finding a way to be the best when the odds are against us.

This quote is what it means to be an Aggie:
"We knew that everybody we played would be bigger, stronger, faster and 
more talented than we were. 
We had to find a way. 
And that way was that no one would be closer as a team than we would be. 
Our central values became trust, unity, togetherness." 
-- Jim Sochor in a 2007 interview

Trust - Unity - Togetherness

This, right here, is the way we find our way back.
Our path to healing.

I went to school at UC Davis when Trust, Unity and Togetherness were real 
and available right on campus...
students, they still are -- available right this minute.

Integrity matters.

We can lift the pepper-sprayed pages of our recent history and dive deeper to to our shared history with this man who leaves such a remarkable legacy.

He leaves a legacy of love.

Those who knew Jim Sochor well - and even those of us who only knew him from short, quick limited conversations - knew what mattered most to him:

But, funny enough, he pretty much considered all of Davis to be his family...
and we all happily signed up to stand in his sunshine.

We each get to choose how we spend our days.
Our micro-choices add up.

Do we choose kindness?

I do.
I choose Jim Sochor's Aggie Pride.everytime.

Instead of Googling pepper spray,
Google Jim Sochor.
Google Larry Vanderhoef while you're at it.

Those two don't need any internet scrubbing. 
Just a chance to internet shine.

This coming Saturday will be a day that we all stop and remember a terrific human.
He's deeply missed...his absence so painfully noticeable.

But, he crossed our path for a reason.
He showed us how.

Strive for unity, trust and togetherness.

Seek the good.
Stay honest.
Work hard...and make the magic happen.
Jim did.
We can too.

"Fame is a vapor.
Popularity an accident.
Riches take wings.
Only one thing endures
and that is character."
-- Horace Greeley

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Seeing What Hasn't Been

He arrived into our school following on the heels of a woman 
who had taught music at our school for decades. 
She was beloved and gifted.
She taught the students hymns and songs that were inspirational.
She taught the students to play the bells at Christmas.
She loved music and she was a professional.
Teaching music with a pride and a respect that was mirrored with her singers.

He came bearing a guitar, strumming the kindergarteners toward the music room like a Pied Piper.

I liked him immediately.

She was traditional.
He liked Coldplay.

He played so many instruments I lost count.
He jammed.
He flowed into Classical music.

Mostly, he believed every single kid could become a musician.

And so he set out to do just that.
His first motley group of 3rd graders attempted the recorder.
They practiced and adjusted and considered learning notes.
Meanwhile, he jammed with the kids who wished for a garage band in the upper grades.
He guided beginning band kids.
He created a choir.

He listened to kids who had dreams.

And he dreamed.

Only two years into this job, he wished out loud:

Our students are going to sing at Disneyland. 

Did he see different kids than we did?
Was he best friends with someone at the Magic Kingdom?

Pretty sure that you have to be on the A Team to get to do that.

But he prepared his students, sent in an audition tape and got accepted.

Now, when that is happening at your school, you're happy for those kids.
But you're not really sure your kid can be one of those.

Our family...we have nice people and we are definitely good fans...but music?
Not our strong suit.
Zero musicians.
Zero singers.
Not counting the shower or the car, of course.
[I rock that.]

So, my kid tells me after playing the recorder that she wants to do band...
and I support her...
rent the clarinet and smile.

Because I think I know the way this story goes.

Only I don't.

Once a week, she grabs her clarinet case and heads to school early and in a few weeks, 
she's reading music!

She's whistling.
She's singing in the shower...and around the house.
She starts looking up songs online.

This becomes normal.

And we just go with it...because, you know, you never know.
And the Disneyland gig is coming around again...
and well, maybe your kid can sing in it.

So she trots off to choir and brings back candy to sell, and songs to sing and finally a permission slip.

It seems that we will be going to Disneyland.

And poof!
Something I could never picture before now enters my line of sight.

We make our way to California Adventures.
We find the Monsters, Inc. ride...
we see a stage...
and yes, there they stand.

This is real.

This 4th grader of mine is up there.
Singing and harmonizing and holding notes.

I've heard her group sing...but this is different.

"I felt the music like a physical thing; it didn't just sit in my ears, it flowed through me, around me, made my senses vibrate." -- JojoMoyes from Me Before You

Those words.right.there.

It was a waterfall...
droplets of sound landed on my body...
tears sprang to my eyes.

The words they sang kept circling around me like an embrace:

Let every heart be filled with music...
it's a never ending gift that circles back again.

Take my hand and sing with me.
Music builds a bridge -- it can tear down a wall.
This is why we sing.
Take my hand and sing with me.
Share the joy, find a friend.

Live your life out loud.
Let your voice be heard...if you dare.

The music teacher, Mr. S to the kids...paused and explained about dreams and America and how we live in a place where anybody can dream...

and then he handed the stage over to an 8th grader.
She wrote a song.
And Mr. S. -- with all that he has going on -- stopped what he was doing and listened to that song.
Valued those words.
Honored that dream.
Supported that student in the biggest way that he could...
his choir sang back up for her.

Singing behind her and through her wisps of hope and future,
these back up students shared the dream too.

What kind of teacher takes his shining moment and turns the spotlight onto his student?

Someone who is the business of teaching hope...
not just music.

Someone who can see what hasn't been...
who can visualize great accomplishments for any child.
Who believes in his students. 


Mr. S. had all sorts of students sing solos.
So many had a chance to shine.

But this moment...that's was the one where I just sunk into the words and the transformation that was happening right before my eyes...

"What would happen, if we tried?
Could we spread our wings...and learn to fly?
And together we could see that the world is ours...
we could shine like stars...
we can dream.
We can dream.
We can dream.
We can dream."

We can dream.

In this world that is busy telling you to be sensible,
and to hurry things up,
and squish all those feelings underground,
we have Mr. S....
actively building bridges to opportunity
and chances
and dreams.

He offers the chance to dream
and then builds the staircase...
one step at a time...
bit by bit.

This is no joke.
No Easy Street.

Skill +Practice +Determination +Personal Investment = Dreams Coming True

But Mr. S. will be there.
Every step of the way.
Telling you what he sees...
and seeing what's never been.

Mr. S., there are no words.
Only great big sobs of joy...
tears of appreciation...
sighs of seeing something so beautiful that came to be because of your hard work.

In a little music room, day in and day out, 
during recess and before school,
you make it happen.

You're in the business of teaching
but you're also in the business of building.

Tonight, I'm grateful for the grace of a musician turned music teacher turned dream maker.

This sky full of stars...
what a heavenly view!

Thank you.