I have written in the past about the J@LC Essentially Ellington Program both praising the program and Wynton's vision, and what it means to me personally with my association with Byron Center and it's earned participation, and later with MSU 1 year. Today's announcement was extra special because my dear brother Marcus Printup announced it! With that said, I would like to give my heartfelt congratulations to my kids at Bryon for once again, being selected to participate in the festival. Without being redundant, one of the dreams and goals that Marc and I first set out for the program at Byron Center was to one day be selected for this amazing program at J@LC and be amongst not only incredible high school bands from around the country but to be with all of our heroes celebrating the amazing contribution of the great Duke Ellington. This will be the 6th time we will have been selected for the festival. This is an incredible testament to the program at Byron. All I can say is Byron does things the right way. As I always say about what I do is I teach life through jazz music. In order to be successful in jazz you have to be humble, you have to be selfless, you have to put others above yourself, you have to sacrifice and on and on. These are all principles Byron adopts. It's all about leadership and it starts at the top with Marc, Megan, and Caleb, but each year students rise to the occasion and hold accountable themselves, their sections, and the group as a whole. Working at Byron is a constant inspiration and motivation to me and makes me a better teacher and musician for being blessed to work with these kids. ( I have to give a shout out to Mike Hamann also for allowing me to work with his kids at West Ottawa each week) Marc and Mike allow my dreams to come true to work with students and this great American Art Form called Jazz! Thank you!
On a very personal note, last year was a tough year for me to go. I debated on wether or not I should go because I was Talia's primary care taker and she could not be left alone. We had an in house nurse who was amazing but only came twice a week but she was from hospice and said they had a rule that patients could stay at the hospice facility so many days every 3 months to give primary care takers a rest. Talia was up for going there which I was really surprised about so I could go and she wanted me to go (crying as I write this). I went back and forth on if I should go or not and with her urging decided to go. I had an amazing time as always. Throughout the week I of course loved in (she hated the term check in) and things were going fine and she was actually having a good time with the people there. It put me at ease to enjoy my time in NYC. On the day I was coming home things had changed for Talia. I came home to a different person. She was very confused and actually quite mad at me. I really could not figure out what was going on. I will spare the details but the next 24 hours were absolutely awful. (The tumor on her brain had spread and what was only affecting motor skills at the time now was affecting personality which they explained to me when I got to Hospice. Then it all made sense. As our incredible doctor told us, this was not Talia talking to you it was the tumor) I called our home nurse and she said the time has come to move her to hospice. For awhile, I so regretted going to Ellington. I had a month and 2 days from the day I got back from Ellington to the day Talia transitioned to Heaven. As I was talking to Marc about it and really regretting going, he flipped it on me. He told me maybe God knew you needed to be rejuvenated and build up your strength for what was to come. That was such a helpful way to look at it and let me forgive myself for going. Thank you Brother Marc for your healing insight and to God for the gift to give me this time at Ellington to be with so many that I loved and were so supportive of me through this. It will be an emotional time for me this year as so many things are for me right now reflecting on the events of the past year, but in how everything is being remembered, I have such grief that my wife is not present in person with me but I also have so much love and support to counterbalance these hard times for me. Thank you! Happy to be going back and congratulations to my Byron Family. You have far exceeded any goal and dream I could have ever had for this program! Love you all and can't wait and of course Marcus for your soulful way of announcing!
Max Colley III
Spirit Filled Jazz Musician