“The way you get meaning into your life is to devote yourself to loving others, devote yourself to your community around you, and devote yourself to creating something that gives you purpose and meaning.”
Morrie Schwartz, from “Tuesdays with Morrie“
In December of 2014, we asked Joey if he would consider starting a jazz band for us because we did not want our sons to miss out on the opportunity to work with Joey and be in one of his bands.
If you have seen Joey work with kids, you’ll understand. Joey is one of “those” teachers. The ones you always remember. They are respected because of their knowledge of their subject. They are liked because of their ability to engage and speak in the student’s language, and they are listened to because they treat the students with respect. In the midst of adolescence, these are the teachers that make each kid feel like they belong and have a place. When teenagers no longer want to talk to their parents, these are the teachers they go to talk to.
I had two of those teachers in my life, Sonya Grib and Nancy Pinto, my piano teacher and high school music teacher. Like Joey, they were working professionals as well as teachers and it wasn’t until much later that I realized the benefit I had from their high standards around performance as well as their honesty about the reality of being a working musician. When I decided not to pursue music as a career, Mrs. Grib said to me “Go out and make a lot of money, but always remember to support the arts”. In the intervening years, from getting married, to pursuing my career, and raising children, her comment was long forgotten until I met Joey and he reminded me what a difference those special teachers can make in our children’s lives.
At the same time, we were discussing forming The Westchester Center for Jazz and Contemporary Music, I happened to be reading “Tuesdays with Morrie”, and the quote above resonated in a way I had not expected. When Joey suggested, that we rent our own space, have several ensembles and provide courses in theory and improvisation, it all came together. This organization would be more than a jazz band. We could create an organization that would give kids the opportunity to perform and work with world class musicians. We could give kids the benefit of the real-life advice and instruction that is unique to a working professional musician. This organization would promote the arts, and give back to the community at the same time.
It is never our intention for my husband and me to derive any income from the Center. This is for Sonya Grib. This is for Nancy Pinto and all “those teachers” who make teaching about more than the subject at hand, but about how we live and act in the world.
We want the Westchester Center to be a place that is built on respect for self and others, hard work, appreciation and gratitude for the gifts of others.
And finally, we want to create a safe space, where every person can feel like they belong.
Liz and Paul Sander