The Power of Influence: John Matre

As you read each post in this series,
I hope you’ll think with gratitude about those who have influenced you, and
I hope you’ll ponder your investment in the lives of others.

My “musical career” began in fifth grade with school band. When they demonstrated each of the instruments, only the clarinet seemed like something I might be able to do, so that was reason enough. I took up the clarinet.

My band director from fifth grade all the way through high school was Mr. Matre—John Matre. I liked him.

And I guess he liked my clarinet playing, for he encouraged me all along the way.

In fact, in seventh grade, he came to me and offered me free private lessons on the clarinet, on his own time. I was flattered and honored, so I took him up on it.

I don’t remember anything specific that he ever taught me. Perhaps it’s my spotty memory, or perhaps it was because he was a trombonist, not a woodwind guy. But that didn’t matter. With my temperament, I was never destined to become a world-famous performing artist on anything, clarinet or otherwise. By the time I was 18, I was good enough to be accepted into the College-Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati as a clarinetist. But at the beginning of my sophomore year, when school rules allowed me to become a music composition major, the clarinet was abandoned forever. Not even my wife of 42 years has ever heard me play.

But what was important is this: because Mr. Matre thought highly of my clarinet playing, so did I. Because my music was important to him, it became important to me.

My music ministry began there and then—in the seventh grade with free clarinet lessons from Mr. Matre. Thank you, John Matre, for giving of yourself to me. Everyone I have ever touched with my music thanks you as well.

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