Patrice Rushen, Drummer Raymond Pounds and More Salute Mentors at Locke High School Music Building Dedication Ceremony in Los Angeles
Ceremonial Reflections and Photos by A. Scott Galloway
On Saturday afternoon November 7, 2015, Locke High School in South Central Los Angeles dedicated its music building to three gentlemen instrumental in making that location the ground zero training workshop for some of L.A.’s finest musical achievers. Those music educators are Don Dustin, Frank Harris and Reggie Andrews. As Master of Ceremonies William Allen Young stated that afternoon, these men instilled within their students, “If you want to be the best, you’ve got to BEAT the best!”
In a ceremony held outdoors in the chilly campus quad, an intimate gathering of family, peers and alumni paid tribute to these selfless local heroes with heartfelt, often humorous remembrances and accolades. Each instructor was presented his award by a prominent alumnus of Locke.
Prolific drummer Raymond Pounds (Class of `69) – famous for starting his career as a member of Stevie Wonder’s Wonderlove band – including playing on his classic double LP Songs in the Key of Life – spoke fondly of Don Dustin:
“He put all our instruments in a car, drove us around and presented us to other schools which got me over my stage fright. He would bring in new pieces of music we had never heard before, put them in front of us and challenge us to play better on things we had no idea how they would sound until we did. Finally, being Italian, Mr. Dustin taught us gems of the Italian language: words on our sheet music like forte and pianissimo…as well as Italian sign language: how to say ‘Have a nice day – I love you.’ And this is how you say it!” (Pounds then showed the crowd the universally understood “up yours” gesture to howls of laughter).
Still a man of few words, Dustin sincerely thanked all then sat back down.
Simeon Stewart (Class of `80) – founder of the construction management company Stewart Manhattan, Inc which, among many projects, performed work on the Ray Charles Library, spoke on Frank Harris as well as Dustin:
“They say it takes a whole village to raise a child. Imagine a man taking me to CBA recording on 54th and Crenshaw to teach me how to do sound. Now, I just did a show last night. Don would take us to his house to wash windows and cars. What he really taught me then is I didn’t want to do that so I was going to school! And Frank, in addition to teaching me music, taught me so much about life. Frank called his childhood friend who owned AVW Electronic Systems and sent me there to fix his television. That man made me a management trainee – taught me how to do business. I’ve been a business man for the last 20 years.”
Upon accepting his honor, Shreveport, Louisiana native Frank Harris shared, “I left from the east to come west to play in studios. I ended up working at a post office. 6:45 one morning. I got a phone call. One of my teachers at Southern University said a new school principal was looking for a music teacher. I left the post office, changed my clothes and drove over to Locke. Principal Taylor said, ‘Let’s walk and talk.’ So we walked all around the campus alongside one building into the band room. He opened the door and said, ‘This is your office.’ I didn’t realize during our walk he was interviewing me. At first I had 5 students then 8. The next week we had 12. Before it was over we had about 25 or 30.”
Patrice Rushen (Class of `72) who is world renowned as a singer, keyboardist, songwriter, producer, arranger and musical director – as a solo artist and a coveted side-woman – and now teaches music at USC, composed a powerful speech in honor of Reggie Andrews (who started the school’s renowned Jazz Workshop program). Here is an excerpt from Rushen’s speech:
“By all accounts most people would equate great teaching as an art form. It combines the skills of thoughtful organization of a subject, enthusiastic sharing of concepts, problem solving skills, diplomacy and discipline. A great teacher educates, motivates and allows students to feel empowered and safe in the pursuit of excellence. A great teacher who cares about the students would sooner be disliked by students and misunderstood by faculty for telling the truth than to be adored for telling them lies. Reggie Andrews offered us the benefit of his youthful energy, creative ideas and help so many of us could actually see the possibilities for our own success. For so many of his students, the very idea of Reggie being relatively close to us in age gave us a sense of him being one of us while maintaining the idea that he – like Mr. Dustin and Mr. Harris – were sages, guru-like in their delivery of musical concepts which shaped our perception of what it really means to play music. He wanted us to be excellent, told us we could be and exposed us to a path. And he was honest about it…because achieving excellence doesn’t mask the struggle it takes to get there.”
Visibly moved by longtime friend Rushen’s speech, Reggie Andrews spoke to his motivations. “I never had a public black music teacher. That’s what drove me to become one because I knew there some things that I missed. What I got from my instructors such as Don Dustin at Gompers (Junior High), I tried to bring back to my neighborhood. I approached music as a vocational thing. It wasn’t so much the art thing. The bottom line is I’ve had a really charmed life as a professional musician involved in the educational process. But it was more about trying to make sure that, as we say in Watts, we are taught to survive.”
Dustin, Harris and Andrews were then presented by Gordon Gibbons with mockups of the plaques that will be placed in their honor within the Locke High School music building. Everyone then adjourned to a buffet dinner hosted by KJMJ.com jazz radio personality James Janisse that included classical and jazz selections, plus speeches by former principal Dr. Sidney Brickman, Dr. L. Gail Garrett and retired L.A.U.S.D. administrator Saundra Wheeler.
The jazz ensemble was led by alumnus Del Atkins who has gone on to play with scores of artists from vocal empress Nancy Wilson to English progressive rock guitarist Allan Holdsworth. As this writer departed the scene early to cover a Black Film Festival downtown, I was pleased to hear strains not only of Freddie Hubbard’s classic “Red Clay” at my back but also “Silk” penned by Ndugu Chancler…also a legendary Locke High graduate.
A. Scott Galloway
The Urban Music Scene