June 2021 BoardBlog-Genevieve Pastor-Cohen
Over 50 years ago a musical experience forged friendships that exist and continue to this day. I am happy to share this cherished recollection as follows. This article highlights the impact of a dedicated music educator who influenced many of my colleagues lives through today. This music educator saw the potential of his students and molded us to reach high goals, instill confidence, trust and friendships. To this day, even though he has since passed, he remains highly respected and cherished . . . warts and all.
The music educator is Jack Pereira (1934-1997) who taught in the San Francisco Unified School District at Denman Junior High and Lowell High Schools through the ‘60s. As students, we called him “Pots”. He was active in the San Francisco Bay Area in professional orchestras as a percussionist and conductor. There’s more to tell about him; however, I wanted to focus on the influence Pots had on his students.
As a high schooler in the late ‘60s, I attended Lowell High School. Before deciding upon Lowell, “Pots” visited all the junior high school’s bands and orchestras to get to know which kids were going to Lowell. I remember “Pots” visiting my junior high (Horace Mann in the Mission District). I still can see in my mind’s eye the exchange conversation between him and my junior high school music teacher, Mr. Jerome Anker.
Upon arriving at Lowell High School, I gravitated to the music department and found many kids like myself adjusting to the awkwardness of our growing years. I signed up for the zero period Band which meant I had to catch the bus in the Mission District by 7 AM to arrive at Lowell in the Ingleside District to attend 8 am band class. I am hoping my memory is recollecting correctly regarding the times.
“Pots” auditioned all of us. The flute section had about 12 kids (piccolo, 1st and 2nd flutes). Being the new kid, I started in the middle of the pack. During the auditions, “Pots” would get to know who we were, our likes and our challenges. He was eager to help us kids build our confidence about our musical abilities and encouraged us to practice. When we finally convened as a “band”, the music Pots chose really pushed our abilities and challenged us to work harder to achieve the best performance we could.
Eventually, I was encouraged to sign up for orchestra, too, even though only two of us flute players and one piccolo would be able to play at a time. In orchestra, Pots selected Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade and in a subsequent year, Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite. The Scheherazade needed more percussionist, so Pots taught us extra flute players how to play various percussion instruments. I never mastered the snare drum or tympani. I did enjoy playing the cymbal crashes in the Scheherazade.
For the Firebird Suite, I had the opportunity of sitting second flute to a remarkable flutist, Dave Subke (1952-2014), whose father, Walter Subke, was the flutist in the San Francisco Opera Orchestra. Listening and watching Dave’s flute playing taught me a lot about the technique and style.
Pots encouraged me to join the All-City Orchestra as principal flute. Along with that, he was instrumental in obtaining a grant for me to start private flute lessons with Patricia Fawcett, San Francisco Opera Orchestra flutist. With Pots’ encouragement, many of my peers at the time moved on with commitment and vigor to professional careers in music, medicine, science, law, and more.
When many of us who have remained in touch gather, we share our gratitude for having such a dedicated educator fully engaged in shaping our musical and professional lives. A huge thank you to all educators who commit their lives to shaping young lives for the positives and challenges the world presents us.