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Survivor's guilt...a bass player story


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You hear about some plane going down, and only a few survive...and they somehow feel guilty because their fellow passengers died and they didn't.


Now I've experienced this first hand.


Last week, I was scheduled to play my HS musical...but I was needed at both the praise band and the recording session, so I needed a sub.


So I have this student in my school, Ryan C. who I started on bass in fourth grade. Ryan has developed into a great musician and plays in the Jazz band and my orchestra at school.


I asked Ryan to play the entire run of the musical. First rehearsal, I sat next to him, taught him how to mark the part, handle countoffs...all that stuff. He was so proud, and happy, and did a great job.


At 17, he had 2 school gigs Saturday...First Chair in the All District orchestra at 4:30, and then closing night of the musical at 7:30.


On Sunday afternoon, Ryan had 2 strokes. He's 17 years old. He is currently in ICU. His parent's tell me he will probably recover, although he can't remember names, move his face, speak properly.


Then, I get on with my life. I sit in a pit this week, playing a run of Grease...remembering just last week when he and I did this together.


Today, Victor Goines, Director of Jazz studies at Juilliard and tenor sax in the Lincoln Center Jazz orchestra, high school classmate and friend of Wynton Marsalis, gave a Master class to the Ft. Worth ISD jazz bands.


Ryan is in ICU; I took my bass and played with the band, or they wouldn't have been able to participate.


But I have survivor's guilt....why should I get to still play and this wonderful child suffer. There is a possibility he may never play again.


And all of his dreams...the fun of exploring bass is put on hold.


Gents: take your joy where you find it...and play with all your heart. If a 17 year old can have a stroke, anyone can. And our next gig could always be our last.


Peace, luck and long life to you all.

"Let's raise the level of this conversation" -- Jeremy Cohen, in the Picasso Thread.


Still spendin' that political capital far faster than I can earn it...stretched way out on a limb here and looking for a better interest rate.

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dave that is really unfortunate. I'm sure he would rather have you play in his place than the whole thing going without the low end. Don't feel guilty. Sometimes I feel like I could go at anytime but all you can do is just keep on moving on..................... :cry:
"Don't Ask Me I'm Just The Bassplayer" UBP
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Now theres a topic to make a guy stop and think things over for a bit...

Give him our best Dave, and carry on. 'Sall you can do. You can't feel guilty for something you have no control over, but I'm sure you've already heard that line over and over.


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DBB and Ryan C. are in my prayers.


We might not always understand things but continue to be strong in the Lord



Famous Musical Quotes: "I would rather play Chiquita Banana and have my swimming pool than play Bach and starve" - Xavier Cugat

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Ok thats scary. He being 17 and having a stroke makes me think about myself very hard. Tell him I hope he gets better.
"Cliff Burton (the "Major rager of the 4-string mother f***er", from Metallica)" Direct quote from Wikipedia (censored out of respect for the forum)
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Dave, My sympathies. The guilt thing is natural. It really is. So just go with it as long as it's there. The guilt seems to "cover" the fear we're feeling at suddenly realizing how fragile our lives really are or can be.


Even at 17, there may be genetic/inherited tendencies to have a stroke at a young age.

Things like that are time bombs that no one may have had any inkling about. You have already been an extemely posistive force in this young person's life and that is a great gift.


Perhaps you can feel better by participating in his situation. Visiting, trying to help out the parents, or playing music for his ward, whatever you're up for at this point.

"When people hear good music, it makes them homesick for something they never had, and never will have."

Edgar Watson Howe

"Don't play what's there. Play what's not there" Miles Davis

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let your friend know that the brotherhood of the bottom end is thinking of him and hopes to check his gig in the near future. i have twins about his age and spend alot of time these days thinking about the randomness of events which affect us.
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Dave, so sorry to hear about this young man, and sorry for you too, as your grief must be strong. This is such a tragic story.


After his recovery, which will hopefully be complete and quick, he will undoubtedly enjoy hearing the stories of how you handled the bass work in his absence. And of course, I am sure he will be fully aware of your genuine concern for his welfare.


... Connie Z

"Change comes from within." - Jeremy Cohen


The definition of LUCK: When Preparation meets Opportunity!



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Wow. This is so sad. While it makes us all think that bad things could happen, we need to take your advice and enjoy each moment (musical and otherwise).


It makes me pray especially hard, because I have kids around that age. What a heartache for the parents.


Dave, you're a faith-person. So you can believe that God speaks to you through this experience. Let that thought relieve the guilt a bit.




Acoustic Color


Be practical as well as generous in your ideals. Keep your eyes on the stars and keep your feet on the ground. - Theodore Roosevelt

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Here's an update.


It turns out Ryan's condition was caused by an aneurism; a weakness in the brain blood vessel taht suddenly burst. As best as they can tell, it was a congenital weakness and was bound to go sooner or later. Aneurisms are frequently fatal...Ryan was saved because of the location and small size of the break.


Ryan got out of the hospital yesterday. One of my orchestra members (another kid I've had since fourth grade...he and Ryan are bookends) spent a lot of time...they were cutting up...laughing about all the rumors going around the school.


He said Ryan has no memory of the past week.


Ryan will spend some extensive time in a rehab school.


Now, for the bad news. Ryan had ordered a Fender Jazz bass in just his color before the incident. The bass arrived while he was in ICU.


On Sunday, Ryan got home, picked up his new bass...and discovered he'd forgotten how to play bass.


The doctors are hopeful it will come back quickly...but this is absolutely scary. Imagine...if you can....one week from now you might have forgotten how to play.


Thank you for all your concern and prayers. They are effective and appreciated more than you can know. Your support recharges my batteries as I deal with both Ryan and the other students in my Orchestra who are in shock...nobody's playing very well right now...and contest is just 10 days away.


By the way, if you'd like more information about me and my program, here's a link to my school's band/orchestra page: www.shsband.org


Even though much of the content is band specific, you'll find a lot of information about our orchestra. In the pictures page, Orchestra sections (Superintendent's Scholar) you can see Ryan (as well as other basses.) Ryan is the tall one with mutton chops. In the All District page, there's a shot of me playing guitar with Ryan playing bass (you only see his hands in that one.

"Let's raise the level of this conversation" -- Jeremy Cohen, in the Picasso Thread.


Still spendin' that political capital far faster than I can earn it...stretched way out on a limb here and looking for a better interest rate.

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Hey DBB,


Thanks for the update and the link to the pics. Being able to see Ryan certainly makes the sad story that much more real. I'm glad to hear that he's out of the hospital, and hope to soon read another e-mail from you about how well and how rapidly he's recovering!


All the best in this tough time. As a former teacher and as the spouse of a teacher, I understand how profoundly tragedies in our students lives affect us. My sympathies.


Hang in there, boss.





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Messiaen knew how to parlay the funk.

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