Doug Diamond was my teacher. But not in the way we generally perceive of the profession.
In my high school years, I used to attend the Dorian Summer Music Camps at Luther College. During those camps/concerts, I was always bemused by the behavior of the orchestra director. He would awkwardly, yet confidently, deliver the strangest banter from the stage. Sometimes, if the microphone was too low, he'd hunch over in an unbelievably clumsy way rather than simply raise the mike (and you wonder where my stage presence comes from?). The students would howl with laughter as he deadpanned, and they obviously adored him, as the hung on his every word.
When I arrived at Luther as a freshman, I was assigned to his 8am music theory class. He used to come in every day with a beer mug full of pale tea, that looked *exactly* like beer. One day, I just up and asked him, "are you drinking beer at 8am on a Monday?" which generated a donkey-style guffaw from him so jarring that it completely threw me off, then said, "Don't I wish", completely deadpan. Another time, I responded with some smart-ass reply to a question he posed, at which time he turned around, bent over, and pointed at his ass, saying, "Here it is, Eby. Kiss it!"
8am theory, indeed.
Yet Doug, along with another Luther professor named James Griesheimer, made me love classical music. It's impossible to overstate what a remarkable transformation that was. I was stubborn about music (this is where you say "was?"). The only music for me was jazz. Classical music was predictable. Boring. Uptight. And the producers of the music exhibited all of those qualities, too. Doug changed that wrong-headed perception, but only a fraction of that was in the classroom.
Once I had moved on from his class, I would pass him occasionally in the hall, but he would always be walking somewhere with his "intently walking so as to not have to take notice of you" walk. At the point where Carmen and I started dating, she had been playing principal clarinet in his orchestra for a couple of years. He was her first real champion. (Man, did he love her sound. There are tears in my eyes for her right now, because I know how much that support meant to her.) Anyway, she started bringing me to his office to hang out. In those visits, he'd talk music, and phrasing, and composing, and history, and musicians, even campy novelty music...all of it through a cigarette-smoke filled haze (I never did like that...), and frequently with that donkey-laugh I mentioned. Then, Carmen would get out her clarinet, so they could work on the phrasing of something they were doing in orchestra, Doug at the piano, sometimes leading, sometimes following Carmen. It was always so simple, yet so deeply musical. His door was always open...I learned that entirely from him.
Over the years after we, and then he, left Luther, we stayed in touch, and kept up on each other's doings. We last saw him when Spenser was very small, so nearly 14 years ago. Phone and email correspondences grew more spotty as the years went by, but that was actually part of the charm. There were lots of promises of calls...
Here is my last e-mail chain with him. It's not redacted in any way...this was the full content of the messages:
Chad (4/26/14) - Hello
Doug (4/26/14) - Hello back
Doug (4/26/14) - Long time, no talkee. Are we well?
Chad (4/26/14) - Call this number and find out (Carmen's #)
Doug (4/26/14) - I can do that. But not tonight. When tomorrow evening works?
Chad (4/26/14) - After 5.
REALLY PREGNANT PAUSE...NO CALL
Chad (7/24/15) - After 5...years?
Doug (8/31/15) - Give or take. Who's counting?
Chad (9/1/15) - We are
Chad (9/1/15) - I'm not sure how many you have left.
Doug (9/1/15) - And you get that from my hair or my teeth?
Man, he was dry and funny. There was no call.
When you begin teaching, you never know how much you can affect someone's life, or who those people might be. Or at least, I didn't. It could be anyone.
Doug: Carmen and I are going to miss you, and we love you. I bet that sentiment makes you want to throw up, but it's true. Thank you for everything you gave us, out of nothing more than the goodness of your heart, and your desire to share what music meant to you with others.