Chuck Berry’s “And” and ‘n’

“Chuck Berry may very well become the artist society selects when rock music is retroactively reconsidered by the grandchildren of your grandchildren.” – Chuck Klosterman


Harrison, my 22-year old son, is fascinated by the concept of heaven. Whenever the word comes up in conversation, he will invariably start listing off the people, cats, and dogs (You have no idea just how many dogs have walked the Hyde campus!) he has known in his life who now reside there. Now there’s a new name on his list: Chuck Berry.

Harrison is also fascinated with certain musicians. (Not sure where that comes from…) He probably listens to Abbey Road daily and he never tires of NRBQ, Steely Dan, or… Chuck Berry. The thing is, as a young man with autism, he has no understanding of the place that any of these musicians hold in the often pretentious canon of popular music. He just knows what he likes. He’s not alone.

Rock ‘n’ roll began at the intersection of the style of Elvis Presley and the substance of Chuck Berry. As John Pareles wrote in yesterday’s (3/19/17) New York Times, “While Elvis Presley was rock’s first pop star and teenage heartthrob, Mr. Berry was its master theorist and conceptual genius, the songwriter who understood what the kids wanted before they knew themselves.”

I mean, among the early pioneers, who else is in the running? As great as “Rock Around the Clock” is, can you name any other songs by Bill Haley & The Comets? And as for Jerry Lee Lewis, his own mother once said to him, “Now you and Elvis are pretty good, but you ain’t no Chuck Berry.” Far be it from me to take anything away from Little Richard or Bo Diddley, but there’s a reason that “Johnny B. Goode” was selected for inclusion on the Golden Voyager Record launched in 1997 and currently the farthest human made object from earth. Those folks knew what they were doing when they decided, Well, if there is intelligent life out there in space, they really need to hear this song.

Sure, rock ‘n’ roll is a derivative genre with all sorts of influences that came before, but ever since rock ‘n’ roll became what we in today’s world call a “thing,” musicians have been searching for their place on the intersection of Chuck and Elvis.

The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and Bob Dylan all know that they did not create said intersection:

  • John Lennon himself famously said, “If they gave rock ‘n’ roll another name, they might call it Chuck Berry.”
  • Dylan called Berry “The Shakespeare of Rock.”
  • And just what was it that caused the teenaged Keith to spark up a conversation with Mick on that Dartford train platform? Why, it was the item tucked under Mick’s arm: a copy of Berry’s Rockin’ at the Hops (1960). And what was the Stones’ very first release? A cover of Berry’s “Come On.” (Note: You gotta give it up for the Stones’ Berry covers – e.g., “Carol”and “Little Queenie” – they’re consistently compelling.)

And the generation following those three know the same:

  • “Chuck Berry was rock’s greatest practitioner, guitarist, and the greatest pure rock ’n’ roll writer who ever lived.” — Bruce Springsteen
  • “If you want to play rock ‘n’ roll or any upbeat number… you end up playing like Chuck.” – Eric Clapton
  • “When bands go do their homework, they will have to listen to Chuck Berry. If you want to learn about rock ‘n’ roll, if you want to play rock ‘n’ roll, you have to start there.” – Joe Perry, Aerosmith
  • “The idea of intelligent rock ‘n’ roll probably starts with Chuck Berry.” – Donald Fagen, Steely Dan

While it’s hard to pinpoint his magic, I think it is somehow tied to the “and” and ‘n.’ It’s those instantly recognizable infectious guitar licks and those straight to the heart lyrics. And it’s those two ingredients – those licks and those lyrics – coming at you at the same time, coming at you all at once.

Talking about the essence of rock ‘n’ roll, Keith Richards once said, “Everyone talks about rock these days; the problem is they forget about the roll.” Perhaps Chuck Berry’s genius is the simple fact that while others were trying to decide between the rock and the roll, he staked out the ‘n’ all for himself. (With no small amount of swagger.)

Neither Harrison nor I know for sure. We only know that we’re Chuck Berry lifers. And as long as we “got a dime, the music will never stop.”

Onward, Malcolm Gauld

Al McClain ’80

Funny, but looking back on decades of Hyde athletics, it’s the defensive performances that stand out in my memory.  Sticking with just the teams I coached, my short list includes:

  • Geoff McConnell ’79 relentlessly dogging Proctor Academy’s Chris Smedley for four quarters on the lacrosse field, helping us to a historic program win that put Hyde lax on the NE prep map;
  • Lee Blank ’80 dueling likewise versus Hebron’s Antonio Minondo;
  • The Bertschy sisters (Linda ’82 & Pam ’81) squaring off against the Ellis sisters (one of whom went on to set many scoring records at U. Maine), leading us to a dramatic seasonal basketball split with Mt. View HS;
  • Dani Santanela ’93, as a frosh(!), stubbornly stalking her Cushing opponent – the best player I coached against in my women’s soccer career – down at Exeter in the NE Prep semis. (We won that one in an overtime shoot-out that had to be illuminated by car headlights!)

Turning to offensive performances, there is one that comes immediately to mind. It was a masterpiece executed by this guy. (Just so you don’t get confused, I’m talking about the guy in the hat…) His name is Al McClain ’80 and he stopped by our Hyde-Bath guy’s game on Saturday at Beaver Country Day School (Chestnut Hill, MA) to cheer on his alma mater. (Actually, far more than a casual Hyde fan, Al is responsible for getting two of our players – Khaleil DePass ’17 and Edwin Ezedonmwen ’18 – to Hyde. In fact, over the course of a distinguished career working with Boston youth, he has sent a number of student-athletes to Hyde.)

Al came to Hyde for a post-graduate year after a storied high school career at Hyde Park HS that concluded with his being named Massachusetts Player of the Year. Thankfully for us, he was followed by sister Almanda ’82 and brother Wes ’83, both outstanding hoopsters in their own rights. Little did we know that the arrival of Al, Almanda, and Wes signaled what would have to be considered the golden era of Hyde hoops with 5 championships – 2 Maine Principal’s Association state titles and 3 NE prep titles – all in the span of… 4 years!

Anyway, back to Al’s offensive masterpiece… We were playing Suffield Academy (CT) on a Sunday morning in the NE Prep finals at Westminster School (CT). It was a wild weekend as the majority of the team had played in (and won) the Maine state finals in Augusta only the night before (!).  Thanks to the fact that one of our player’s fathers had access to a plane – you can’t make this stuff up! – we were able to pilot our players down to Hartford in time for the next day’s prep finals.  However, while they may have been present in body, all the players besides Al – who as a post-graduate student had been unable to play in the previous night’s game – were exhausted.

Consequently, and perhaps predictably, we got off to a slow start, falling behind by as many as 14 points in the early going. Coach Ed Legg and his assistant (that would be me) were running out of ideas and had pretty much resorted to calling timeouts in a somewhat desperate effort to stop the bleeding. During one such timeout, Al broke from his characteristic vocal silence – he epitomized the kind of leader who did all his talking on the court – and calmly made a firm suggestion: “Give me the ball.”  You could feel everybody thinking, “Let’s give it a try.” So, from that point on, our strategy was painfully simple: Give. Al. The. Ball.  And…

… 52 points later, we were hoisting the championship trophy. Suffice it to say that I cannot recall any Hyde athlete in any sport so completely taking over a game to the extent that Al did on that morning in Connecticut. What’s more, had this not been pre-3-point-line America, Al would have had at least 60. (Guy was a threat the moment be crossed half court!) All I can say is that as both a hoops and Hyde fan, it was treat to watch the whole thing.

However, as great a player as Al was at Hyde, he and his siblings were so much more than that. As he writes on his Facebook page:

“Hyde Prep School! The best Prep School in the World. If you didn’t go there you wouldn’t understand. I thought I was a good ball player, and young man, but Hyde made me believe I was a Great Ball Player, but an even greater person.”

He went on to note that he did “unthinkable things” like… performing arts. (He doesn’t mention that he also did beautiful art portraits in the medium of pastels.)

Al continued his basketball career at the University of New Hampshire where he capped his freshman season as ECAC rookie of the year and his career as UNH’s all-time (and still) leading scorer. He also ended up a 5th-round NBA draft pick of the Houston Rockets.

After college, Al began his life’s work of helping kids in Boston. His impact was perhaps best impressed by a recent former Hyde student who also hails from Boston. Seeing a photo that I posted on Facebook of Al with Hyde-Bath’s team last summer (see below), he offered this comment:

Al “Ski” (What we [Bostonians] call him) is a great man. Very well known here in Boston. I see him all the time and did not know he attended Hyde… I remember he would come to our middle school to give us inner city kids motivational speeches in order to keep us away from drugs and gangs. He’s a legend here in Boston.”

That would make at least two places.

Onward, Malcolm Gauld.

PS: Al is also known for (at least) one other thing: Check out these threads!

Hyde & Character #2

2 More Points of Differentiation

Staying with the theme of Hyde’s differentiation, here are two more points:

11. Traditional boarding schools place their primary emphasis on college preparation/placement and presume that positive character development will follow as a residual outcome. We place our primary emphasis on character development and presume that positive college placement will follow as a residual outcome

12. Therapeutic boarding schools place their primary emphasis on identifying, addressing, and remedying specific diagnoses in the belief that holistic well-being will ultimately result. We place our primary emphasis on a challenging holistic program in the belief that therapeutic well-being will ultimately result.

I welcome your additions.

Onward, Malcolm Gauld

Hyde & Character

10 Points of Differentiation

I’m often asked a question along the lines of… “How is Hyde’s focus on character unique in comparison to a host of other schools that claim to develop character?”  In response, I humbly present ten points of differentiation.

  1. We were first (1966).
  2. Fifty years later, we may well be the only one that truly puts it first.
  3. We are guided and fueled by our founding premise: “Every individual is gifted with a unique potential that defines a destiny.”
  4. School is for kids… Hyde is for families.
  5. Many schools have shields adorned with words – often in Latin – that are rarely discussed. Our students and faculty not only know our 5 words, we talk about them… all the time.
  6. Most schools care about what kids can do more than about who they are. We care about who kids are more than about what they can do.
  7. We’re all about attitude over aptitude, effort over ability, and character over talent.
  8. We respect learning differences among our students, but expect a positive attitude from each and every one as we work toward genuine curiosity.
  9. At most schools, athletics and performing arts are for the kids who are already good at them. We honor the inner athlete, artist, and performer in every student.
  10. We look out for each other. Sometimes to an uncomfortable extent… for all parties involved.
    Onward, Malcolm Gauld

BK Off Campus

“We help others achieve their best.” I mean, who could have a problem with that?

That statement is the definition of Brother’s Keeper (BK), easily the Hyde student’s most controversial topic and the one he/she has the most difficulty accepting, to say nothing of embracing.

There are at least two reasons for this. First, no one wants to be called a “narc” or a “snitch.” Typically, one’s first encounter with BK is unpleasant: Either you have been observed engaging in unethical behavior OR you have witnessed same. That’s messy.

The second has to do with the fact that our educational system tends to pit students against each other in ways that discourage them from helping each other. As my dad, Joe Gauld, writes this month in the Huffington Post: “Competition, not curiosity, is emphasized to develop intellect, and students are taught to compete against each other, not to learn how to work together.” See:

My experience shows that kids (and parents) are very tuned into the first reason (i.e., the narc factor) and pretty much oblivious to the second.

My definition of character is “our guardian against temptation; our catapult to greatness.” BK is all about both. In fact, if it isn’t about both it isn’t BK. When people talk about BK, they tend to focus on the guardian (i.e., the snitch/narc dynamic). I call that JV BK. I’d like to offer some observations about the catapult, Varsity BK.  So, let’s move off-campus and consider three powerful examples of BK in action.

1. An Urban Public High School
A student in one of our public charter schools (let’s call him Robert) had been involved in a series of discipline violations and he had a negative attitude about it. The head of school called a concern meeting. With reluctance in the air, a few students timidly expressed some concerns. One of the more powerful moments in the concern meeting occurred when one of Robert’s friends said, “You know, sometimes you can be defensive when anyone tries to make suggestions to you.”Feeling betrayed, Robert glared at the young man and began to sulk.

The meeting concluded with mixed reviews, vague commitments for the future, and a plan to reconvene a week later. A week passed, the group met again, and Robert shocked everyone with this observation: “The only thing I know is that I just completed the best week I’ve ever had in school. So for me, the concern meeting was a very good thing.”  As encouraging as that was, it is not the end of the story.

The meeting continued and Robert’s friend observed, “You know, come to think of it, I also just had the best week I have ever had in school.” When asked why, he reasoned, “Well, after I got done telling Robert what he needed to work on, I felt this strange desire to set an example. I definitely did not want to be a hypocrite.”

BK is as important to the “keeper” as it is to the “kept.” In simplest terms, we cannot expect to “get it” unless we “give it.”

2. College Campus I
During one Hyde community meeting we featured recent alums on stage talking about their efforts to apply what they’ve learned at Hyde to the challenges of the outside world.  During the Q&A phase of the meeting, one student pointedly asked the alums, “OK. No BS… Do you really do Brother’s Keeper in college?”  One of the college students replied, “Definitely.”  Nearly all of the others nodded in agreement.

What was clear was the difference in mindsets between the questioner (a newer student who didn’t appear to be much of a fan of BK) and the “answerer” (an alum who, having once been a Hyde student, could empathize and identify with the questioner’s attitudes about BK).  They were two ships passing in the night.

The student, still in the early stages of understanding, meant, When you see kids breaking rules, do you turn them in? Being a relatively new student, he had trouble seeing beyond BK as anything other than a snitch system.

The alum, thinking on a deeper level (and having been knocked on his tail a time or two since graduating from Hyde), observed that college becomes both easier and productive once you establish a network in the form of a productive peer group that will both support and challenge you. Ah… That’s BK.

3. College Campus II
The first paper I submitted at Bowdoin College was a 2-pager in Freshman English Composition.  Certain that it was one of the finest pieces of academic work I had ever done, I eagerly awaited the professor’s verdict.  A few days later, the professor returned it to me all marked up in red ink with a grade at the top that read “D-/F”… the lowest grade one could receive that was not an F.  Suffice it to say that my world was rocked.

Distraught, but guided by false pride, I initially told no one. Eventually, I broke down and approached my roommate, a guy who seemed to effortlessly receive A’s on anything and everything that he wrote. He good naturedly offered to critique my work.  He also asked me, “How honest and frank do you want me to be?”  I responded with, “Brutal… no holds barred.” (Hey, I had been to Hyde!)

A few days later, I presented my roommate with the draft of a paper that had been assigned in a political theory course we also took together.  He attacked it.  The paper had included an observation prefaced with something like, “It’s only human nature for man to yada, yada, etc.….”  Upon reading this, my roommate turned to me and said, “Oh, Exactly when did you become an expert on human nature?”  He must have read the resentment on my face as he softened the blow by asking, “You sure you still want brutal?”  I responded with the mid-70’s equivalent of “Bring It.”

While I cannot report that I soon began to knock down A’s on my papers, my grades improved. On the one hand, I credit my roommate for helping me take some big steps forward academically. On the other, I credit myself for intentionally seeking out and voluntarily entering into a demanding and challenging tutorial relationship… a BK relationship.  Sometimes you have to seek out the help that you might not want but the help that you know you need.  My own Hyde education helped steer me to do just that.

“We help others achieve their best.”  It sounds simple, but it’s probably the hardest concept a Hyde student has to learn.  That’s true of a lot of things that carry a lifetime of value.

Onward, Malcolm Gauld