As a 10-year-old, I was growing up in Viroqua (veer-OH-qwa), Wisconsin, a small (3,500) town in rural southwest Wisconsin, hardly big enough then or now to fill even one section at Safeco Field. Just into sixth grade, my father had died recently. My mother was once again totally blind, as she was to be much of her life. And I had a developmentally disabled younger sister. I was “the MAN of the family.” Somehow, we were scraping by on Social Security. But we were most definitely an “other side of the tracks” kind of family.
Left largely to govern myself, I was getting into the wrong crowd. In Viroqua at the time, that meant nothing much more than throwing tomatoes at cars and stealing into the Temple Theater. But I was a kid headed for trouble. Maybe big trouble.
And then Emory Nordness stepped into my life. “Nordy” as we called him put a tuba in my hands. He took me off the streets and gave me something meaningful, fun and positive to do with myself. And to this day I believe he literally saved my life. He and instrumental music. Because Nordy also opened the wonderful world of music to me, something I’ve continued to enjoy and appreciate for the rest of my life. My second, and long-term, life.
For quite some time, I wondered how I could adequately thank him, and others who had helped me along the way. Somehow, “thank you,” even earnestly spoken, just didn’t seem enough. And finally I realized what I could do: pass his gifts on to some other kids.
And that’s why I support Music4Life. It gives me an adequate way of saying thanks to Nordy, to recognize his gifts, to do something meaningful in my community in the Northwest and to have some fun along the way. Thanks, Nordy.