Thanks To My Teacher…From A Really Crappy Student
I’d like to tell you a little bit about Dr. Wee Kee Brody. Dr. Brody was my sophomore Theory and Musicianship professor at the University of New Orleans. She was an accomplished pianist and composer as well. I’d like to say that while I was in her class I learned a whole bunch of incredible stuff about music that I still use today, but honesty prevents me from doing so. I was a terrible music student, and most of the songwriting I do today has pretty much nothing to do with anything I learned in college (roman numeral analysis of sonata form…yeah, not so much). That being said, what I did learn from her (and was able to retain) had much more to do with the theory of life than the theory of music.
I was really worried about having her as a teacher because I had heard horror stories about how hard the class was and how hard she was. People were actually scared of her. No doubt, she was a very tough lady, but she was actually never hard. On the first day of class we also discovered that she had a sense of humor, “If you’re considering a bribe, I like red wine and dark chocolate”, then she smiled very slyly and we knew we could relax a little…she wasn’t going to kill any of us. Sophomore year was tough, though. I had to quit my job so I wouldn’t flunk out of school. Anyone who tells you being a music major is easy is either sloppy drunk or a compulsive liar…but I digress.
Dr. Brody wanted everyone to learn and to actively participate in their learning. She didn’t like excuses but she also didn’t expect everyone to get everything right all the time. “Just do it”, she liked to say. She sounded like a Nike commercial, but she meant it. She wanted us to just do what needed to be done to the best of our ability, even if we didn’t get it right the first time. As long as we were working hard to learn, she would work hard to teach us. I got a B in Theory and a C in Musicianship that semester…and I worked my ass off for that C, by the way. Dr. Brody seemed fearless to me, but she didn’t teach me to be fearless. She taught me to do things even though I was afraid…and I was afraid of many things. She oozed confidence. I was not so confident…but I wanted to be.
I am still learning to push fear aside and do what needs to be done. I am still learning to be confident. I am still learning to trust myself and my own instincts. Just like music, the art of life takes practice. I have fallen on my face a lot and will probably continue to do so every now and then, but I know that I can’t let the fear of falling down keep me from moving forward. If I keep tripping on my own feet, I have to figure out a better way to walk. I have to do that…me. Why? Because no one else can or will do it for me. I must actively participate in my life. I cannot make excuses. I have to “just do it”, no matter what. THAT is what I learned from Dr. Wee Kee Brody.
Dr. Brody passed away in 2007. I knew she was fighting cancer but I also remember being really shocked when I was told that she had, in fact, died. I thought for sure that if anyone was going to kick cancer’s ass it was going to be Dr. Brody. I didn’t really know her outside of school, but I miss her all the same. I don’t know if she knew how much she taught me. I don’t know if the lesson of life was really her plan all along. I didn’t get to thank her. I did get to make her a cheesecake…praline pecan, my specialty…before she left UNO for the last time, but I don’t count that as a real “thank you”. I’m sad that I can never tell her what a positive impact she had on me. I hope that somehow she knows. Since I can’t pay her back, I hope that sharing what I’ve learned along the way will pay it forward. I also hope that if you have or have had your own “Dr. Brody” in your life you thank that person immediately if not sooner. Don’t wait…you might just run out of time. Trust me, I know.
Thanks Dr. Brody.