In the 1920’s a shy little girl named Ruth Hann
from a small northern town
with harsh winters and hard times,
challenged convention and her stoic upbringing
by picking up a “licorice stick” -
not the penny candy kind of licorice stick,
though it was sweet and good,
like Benny Goodman, whose music
that shy girl fell in love with at first note,
but a clarinet that she bought with pennies
she saved from odd jobs and not buying candy.
On that wooden licorice stick she played
more notes than stars for the next 80 years,
I’m talking about Ruth Hann Dodge, my ma.
She saw Goodman and met Peggy Lee
when she was still Norma Deloris Egstrom.
She loved Count Basie and Duke Ellington
and taught her kids and students their names and music.
She married a man who loved music
and they took their three musical kids to hear
the Thundering Herd, Ellington, Buddy Rich,
and to symphony concerts, operas, and small smoky clubs.
She loved Ella, Sarah, and Mel,
and she saw Nat Cole walk by the house
every day on his way to a gig downtown,
but was too shy to talk to him.
Even though she was shy, she still sang
and she played that licorice stick,
and alto, tenor, bari, and soprano sax,
flute, and piano, and taught all of that and more,
until she was 88 years young.
There was nothing she couldn’t do,
and because of her example and her spirit
there are countless people whose lives were changed,
and who can say today and every day,
“There’s nothing we can’t do through music.”

(c) 2008 Marissa Dodge

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Jaijai, what a wonderful mission you've undertaken to create such a place for artistic minds to meet and share their hearts. A place to renew faded determinations, and revive lessened momentums. A place to display our wares and reconfirm to one another that we actually are on the right track.

I commend you, Jaijai, for caring so much that you created this castle of the heart for all of us. I want to share my praise for all of the new friends as well as old friends that I've met and will meet here in our castle. Here we can garnish the where-with-all, the strength, the conviction, and the selflessness through our symbiosis, to share our gift to the world with an unbiased agenda.

My mentor, Daisaku Ikeda says of art: "A beautiful flower delights and refreshes the hearts of all people equally, no matter what soil it grows in. That is the power of beauty. The same is true of great art. It is this spirit that the German poet Heinrich Heine sang of when he wrote that once the peapod bursts open, the sugar peas inside are for everyone to enjoy."

Let's be audacious, my friends!

Buster Williams

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