1980-81 was a pivotal year for me. Until then, I was an active kid growing up in Calgary – going to school, playing soccer, flag football and hockey and desperately trying to figure out girls. By the summer of 1980, I had completed grade 9, which in the Calgary public school system, meant high school for grade 10-12.
It was at this time that I decided to follow in my older sister’s footsteps and attend a new kind of school. It was across town and was called Bishop Carroll High School, in the Catholic school system. It was a “learn at your own pace” kind of place and I was keen to try it.
So, in September, I said goodbye to all my childhood friends and started fresh in a brand new school. It was here that I both met of my life-long friends and band-mates Dan and Beej Owen, as well as my future wife, Carolyn.
Shortly after starting classes, I had joined the band program, and was also interested in the choral program, run by a wonderful, if somewhat maniacal musical director – by the name of Brian McCauley. As soon as he heard my wailing pubescent teenage falsetto, he knew he had to have me in the tenor section! I could also play the tuba, a big plus for the band program!
I remember hanging out in the theatre while the choir would rehearse, sitting next to the soft-spoken, brown-haired pianist, Carolyn Hadlow and making faces at my many new friends, including Bernie and Danny Owen. As time went on, I did join both the choir and the concert band. All of us would all spend many wonderful hours in the music room, sharing music, laughs and chatting about life. (Studying could wait!)
As the fall soon became winter in 1980, an event happened that both shocked us to the core and galvanized our budding friendship : the assassination of John Lennon in December.
Being the huge Beatle fans we all were, it was a very sad time, but also a healing time – as we all worked through it together. We continued to play music as a band, culminating in a springtime concert for the school.
It was through this friendship and partnership that I began to feel more confident singing, playing and writing my own music. Our wonderful and compassionate teacher, Mr. McCauley, also played a huge role in our musical development. He was a huge supporter in those early days. The band of course carried on, and we became known as “Tracer”. We began playing gigs and dreaming of big things. A couple of years later, we were touring Western Canada as “Avenue Road”.
We all truly grew up together and those high school years, along with my friendships with Beej, Dan and of course with Carolyn, (my beautiful wife of almost 30 years) – are firmly embedded in my DNA.
– Rich Crooks