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