11 May 2007

One Month

It has been one month since my son Jeffrey died. This evening I took his big brother Doug out to eat at a good local BBQ joint. We had a nice time, chatting about this and that, telling one another too how much we each miss Jeff. Tomorrow Doug has another game, playing lacrosse again without his best friend and most talented teammate. Sunday Doug turns 18.

Tonight I want to convey something else about Jeff. He played the trumpet pretty well. Not Miles Davis well, but pretty well. He enjoyed playing but not practicing. He was, after all, just 14! He resisted playing in the school band which was prerequisite to playing in the more interesting ensembles. So, he was out of luck in that respect. But he loved taking lessons with his teacher Jonah Levy (in the picture) who was a trumpet whiz kid at the Eastman School here at Rochester. I say "was" because Jonah didn't much like the regimentation and hurdles at the Eastman School and he left town earlier this spring. He and Jeff were peas in a pod in that sense, among many others. Unfortunately, when Jeff died we couldn't find Jonah, who has moved back to San Francisco for a spell. But we've since spoken and I want to let you hear what he has written about and for Jeff:

"The piece "Final Lesson" is written in honor of the amazing person whose life was cut way too short, Jeff Milano-Johnson. For the past three years, I was Jeff's trumpet teacher, and got to know both him and his wonderful family. Even though he may have been younger than I, and I was the "teacher", it never really felt that way; we were friends. Over the span of time that we got to know each other and work together, Jeff taught me just about as much, if not more than I could ever show him. Many people know that Jeff was a star athlete, an unfortunate few who played against him might also know how good he was at video games (halo...?), but he also had the capacity for great artistry in music. Now sometimes he'd be upset that his trumpet technique wasn't where it could be (Jeff loved doing things as well as they could be done), but when he would relax a little and I'd give him some chords to solo over, he would blow me away with his creative, thoughtful, and unique voice. His personality really came through the horn, and that is the mark of a true artist. In composing "Final Lesson," I used many of his favorite "licks," or melodic lines that he would often play to construct a melody. He'd always play this one middle-eastern sounding melody that he made up, and I'd always tell him that that was his lick. I feel, in a way, like he and I composed this piece together, and this was my final lesson that I would get to take away from him. Thanks Jeff for being an awesome person, and it was truly a joy to be around someone who loved life as much as yourself. Peace....."

You can hear Jonah play "Final Lesson" here on his 'My Space' page. To me it is a really haunting tune; the opening makes me cry each time I listen to it. But this music also makes me realize something truly important. Jeff had a wonderful life in part because of all the people who taught him how to be and to make his way in the world. Jonah really did an immeasurable amount in that regard. There is no way to repay that debt. Jonah has been a gift to Jeff and, through him, to me. I find it remarkable that so talented a young man would give so much time and energy to my boy. Thanks Jonah.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

beautiful tribute to Jeff and the friendship...time stopped for a moment while I was listening...

28 May, 2007 13:36  

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