America: Imagine the World without Her

It started with a bus and a curb. Independence Day is one of my very favorite holidays and on that day, every year my quaint little town pulls out all the stops to celebrate our freedom. We start with a parade (well, for the early risers they get to start their celebration with a pancake breakfast) and move on from there. My grandkids and I go down the afternoon before and stake our spot. We change every few years but this year was the same as last. Our chairs get placed at the curb and the games come out of the bag. There are usually snacks to go along with the games. Now, there we sit and play for the next few hours, waiting for six o’clock. At six we put our names on the chairs, tie them together with red, white and blue ribbon and go home to get a good night’s rest.

About midway through the streams of kids’ sports teams, dogs, horses and floats there was a BIG BLACK BUS. I had never seen a bus in the parade and this one had a picture of the Statue of Liberty emblazoned on the side. America: Imagine the World without Her, has finally been released in theaters.america-imagine-a-world-pstr01-684x1024

I thought, “What better day to ponder that question than Independence Day?”

Someone once observed, “America is great because she is good; if she ever ceases to be good she will cease to be great.” Today that notion of the essential goodness of America is under attack, replaced by another story in which theft and plunder are seen as the defining features of American history – from the theft of Native American and Mexican lands and the exploitation of African labor to a contemporary foreign policy said to be based on stealing oil and a capitalist system that robs people of their ‘fair share’. Our founding fathers warned us that, although the freedoms they gave us were hard fought, they could very easily be lost. America stands at a crossroads and the way we understand our past will determine our future.

Now, there’s the rub. We have people in America who would love to CHANGE Her. I am old enough to remember when there was rarely a meeting of more than a handful of people where we didn’t say the Pledge of Allegiance. When we said the pledge or an American flag went by we put our hands on our hearts and the men actually took off their hats. That’s respect; respect for a flag that stands for a country that STANDS. America has fought in almost every land, not to conquer them but to free them. Not to plunder and steal but to add value.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the men who created this incredible movie. Dinesh D’Souza is an immigrant from India. He and John Sullivan wrote the screenplay and directed this amazing documentary. Dinesh also wrote the book and produced this film.

America takes 21st century Americans into the future by first visiting our past. This movie exemplifies and echoes the reasons and passionate feelings most Americans still have today. I have to admire the many early grade educators who still hold to the truths about America. My four grandchildren had teachers who taught them well. As Americans we need to insist that our colleges and universities hold fast to American exceptionalism. If you are faltering in your belief of that, I challenge you to see the movie, America: Imagine the World without Her.

As always, I invite your thoughts at

Making More Than Music: The Gift That Keeps On Giving

One of the primary missions of the Danville Community Band, (DCB) is commitment to the youth of our local schools in surrounding communities. A major impact of participation in school music reveals that students that study music do better in other academic courses than students who do not study music in school.

Musical involvement improves a student’s self-discipline, dexterity, coordination, self-esteem, leadership skills, listening skills, creative abilities and personal expression. The DCB does not want the lack of a quality band instrument to prevent a deserving student from gaining these benefits.

Danville Community Band Pays it Forward

In 2005, Carol O’Keefe, alto clarinet player in the DCB, conceived the program “Making More Than Music,” a scholarship program that provides new band instruments to deserving students in the Tri-Valley area.
Over the past nine years, the Danville Community Band has donated new band instruments to deserving middle and high school music students. This unique program was shaped by two motivations, O’Keefe explains. “First, the band wants to make a direct contribution to our local communities as a ‘thank you’ for their great support of the DCB. And second, the bands goal is to encourage talented young musicians to continue their involvement in school band music programs.”

Local school band directors are encouraged to nominate a student who loves music, shows promise, commitment and dedication and who may be challenged financially to afford a quality instrument of their own. O’Keefe, who serves as program coordinator, says, “Our hope is that by providing a new instrument we will encourage students to continue their musical efforts and enhance their appreciation and commitment to ongoing musical studies and performance.” A DCB selection committee determines the lucky winners. The students are presented with their new instruments at the Band’s Annual Spring Concert held in June.

Two candidates received new instruments this year: A tenor saxophone was awarded to Michael Antoun, age 12, who will be going into the 8th grade at Los Cerros Middle School in the fall and a flute was awarded to Ryan Walsh, age 15, who will be in the 10th grade at San Ramon Valley High School this fall.

Former Award Recipient

“I can say quite honestly that I don’t think I’d be where I am today had the Danville Community Band not given me a trombone nine years ago, said San Ramon Valley graduate, Julia Gettle.” She joined the DCB shortly after receiving the award and continued to play with them throughout high school. When Gettle was applying to colleges, Bob Calonico, who had taken over the DCB director’s baton during her senior year, encouraged her to join the Cal Band, if she chose to go to UC Berkeley. She was accepted at Cal and while playing in the Cal Band met a number of friends who eventually got her involved in university politics. Gettle later worked with UC’s lobby in Sacramento for a summer, served on several faculty committees on educational policy, ran the finances of a student political party, and served on the Cal Alumni Association’s Board of Directors.
“Through these activities I also met people who got me interested in Lebanon and its history, and now I’m winding up a gap year in Beirut before starting my PhD at Brown this fall,” Gettle explained. “None of this would have happened had I not joined the Danville Community Band. Not only did it start the chain of introductions that propelled me into university politics, but playing music with people of diverse ages also got me used to engaging with my elders as peers, which definitely came in handy when having to discuss policy with professors and fellow CAA board members.” Gwen Gettle, Julia’s younger sister, now plays trombone in the DCB.

Making it Happen

This program would not be possible without the consistent, generous contributions of Glenn Roberts, president of Best Instrument Music Company. He has been a long-time supporter of local musicians and music activities including music education in the schools and various local community groups. Roberts provides the instruments below cost, allowing the DCB to afford to maintain this program for young musicians in our surrounding communities

The Danville Community Band, with a membership of over 85-volunteer musicians, is the only band in the Bay Area that is providing no charge instruments to local students. Many who received these new band instruments have gone on to excel in high school and college music programs and in several cases, have also become members of the DCB.

The Band often receives communication back from students commenting on how the timely gift of a new instrument provided the confidence and enablement for expanded school and professional development opportunities that would otherwise have not been possible. To that end, the “Pay it Forward” concept of the DCB program is achieving its desired goals. Thanks to everyone in the San Ramon Valley communities for your continued support of the musical and philanthropic goals of the Danville Community Band.

Many thanks to Carol O’Keefe for her significant contributions to this article and her ideas, development and commitment to this program for the youth of the Tri-Valley Area.

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