Tuesday, June 08, 2010

The Wreck of the Patrick J. Fitzgerald

What do you do after you graduate with a degree in Music Education and yet you loathe the very idea of teaching in public schools?

You flounder like a damn fish.

But first, some necessary background. It wasn't all gigs for the tortured souls who, like idiots, dreamed of a career in music. Oh no we had to endure. So, before the Year of Floundering, I recount some choice moments before I left West Lib. Oh yeah.


Mr. Fitzgerald taught Elementary Music-a class which all music majors feared and rightfully so.


"Fitzy" was a flamboyant homosexual who often made you feel very uncomfortable by his looks and comments. This is the late 70's kids and all that political correct-sexual harassment was far in the future. He could be in flame mode and you never quite knew what Mr. Sparkles was going to say, but you knew it was going to be laden, like a lead sandwich, with innuendo.

He could also be exceptionally funny and charismatic. He was an extraordinary teacher who lit up any room he walked into. He could make even uncomfortable sports majors laugh during Music Appreciation.

He was also acutely aware that every music major, regardless of their inclinations towards or against, had to take and pass his class. I watched a girl, a good student, weep after her presentation which she delivered in a desperate trying-too-hard-to-please frenzy. It was obvious she put everything into it, working countless hours. Fitzy used his power and crushed with his criticism.

My project came together as the result of several things: creativity, a hot girlfriend named Jean (gorgeous, but not so faithful) and a bottle of whisky I received from her as a birthday present. I had no idea what the hell I wanted to present as my final project. I certainly didn't want to do what everyone else had done: these over-the-top-but-by-the-book projects that smelled of ass kissing.

I wrote a short tune about April, my month of birth, and it being "rainy, rainy, rainy." Jean came over to help me finish it. And after it was done we drank some of the Canadian booze and ended up in the sack.

Seeing all the previous train wrecks and those students who had passed with flying colors, I cannot say I walked into Fitzy's class with iron-clad confidence, but since I had such a marvelous evening prior, that probably calmed the old nerves quite a bit.

What pulled me through was the catchiness of my melody. In fact, I can still sing you that little ditty some thirty years later.

Later, when I was just treading water getting ready to graduate, I was in Fitzy's Functional Piano class-a class which really helped me years later when I was in the music ministry biz at St. Anthony's. It was at 8 AM, Friday. Needless to say, Thursday night was party night, so more than a few times I rolled into there a la Keith Richards: disheveled and still a little drunk. It wasn't wise to cut Fitzy's classes because you were going to see him in the damn music department hallway and he would give you that look. Besides, he was a lot of fun in that class.

One valuable lesson that old Sparkles taught me was that it was possible to have a good time, but still be responsible. Regarding an MENC gathering, he told me, "I go wild" and his face said everything. It was a full flame on to be sure. "But I get my work done too." Ain't that the truth.

The mighty Fitzgerald passed on a few years ago.


awallen said...

Fitzy was about the only straight shooter I ever knew, you know, this is what mu ed is like, none of this, if your carnegie hall debut goes south, you can fall back on teaching shit, this is teaching, and if your'e not one, well, you may want to look into accounting. Talented musicians make shitty teachers and vice versa.

Wolifie M said...


You have the greatest sense of humor ever. You even make a heart attack with subsequent surgery seem hilarious.

I had a heart attack on 08-29-1999 at 2:30 p.m. and ended up with
2 stents in my left circumflex artery. Fortunately I have had no problems since, but gotta watch what I eat, etc.

Thank you for your kind words in the "Wolfie" (i.e. David Molnar) section. I am glad that you think of me so highly.

I also remember that hot girlfriend. You were the envy of every man around. But as such things go it is probably best that it didn't work out. Glad you got some, though.

I have to call you some time and catch up.

My best always,


PS: Dr. Wolf was, by far, the best teacher I have ever had in any subject at any institution...period.