Viewpoint - June 9, 2010

Guest opinion: A brassy send-off for Frank Moura

by Laura Hale

"For nine months, I've been lying to my husband," confessed Sydney Moura at a surprise retirement celebration Sunday for Frank Moura, who for the past 39 years has been the music director at Menlo-Atherton High School.

The reception, at Holbrook-Palmer Park followed a surprise concert in the Menlo-Atherton Performing Arts Center directed by Frank's son, Chris Moura, himself a band director at Oak Grove High School in San Jose. For the past year, through the magic of Facebook and many grateful jazz band alumni, Chris amassed four jazz bands, one from each of the decades Frank has taught, and a full house of eager listeners.

The ruse to lure Frank to the arts center on a lazy Sunday afternoon involved much deception by Sydney, Chris, and Teresa Moura, Frank's daughter-in-law, who planned the party and reception. Others in on the plan included Frank's other two sons, Nick and Steve (trombonist and sax for the 1970s alumni band), Cara Arcuni, the stage manager of the PAC (and vocalist for the 2000s band), current M-A jazz band members and their families and musicians from the 1971 band onward.

On Sunday, a much befuddled and delighted Frank was led to a high backed red chair decorated with a golden bow on stage. Jazz educator Dr. Herb Wong, past president of the International Association of Jazz Education and longtime family friend of the Mouras, was master of ceremonies. He first introduced the present Advanced Jazz Band (and winners this past April of first place in the Reno Jazz Festival), who played a three-piece set highlighted by graduating senior vocalist Holly Smolik.

The 2000s alumni band featuring Ms. Arcuni followed. By the time the 1990s-80s band got into full swing, featuring professional vocalist Lori Carsillo, so did Frank, giving the bands their closing signals and moving microphones to amplify the soloists.

The 1970s band, featuring some musicians who had been band members during Frank's first year as music director, including some who had been on his first excursion to the Montreaux Jazz festival, brought down the house with "Cold Tater Stomp" and "Ya Gotta Try," and culminated with a tribute adapted especially for the evening, "Jazz Man."

Following the concert, Frank was whisked to Holbrook-Palmer Park for an evening of good food, wine, nostalgic reminiscences, and jamming by present and past jazz members.

From the alumni, Frank and his wife received an oversized ticket (designed by Kira Wong) representing the gift of a trip to Montreaux for the summer of 2011. Given the strength of the current M-A Jazz Band, they hope to also appear at that festival.

Mr. Moura and the current Advanced Jazz Band will appear at 3 p.m. June 12, at the Nativity School Fair on Oak Grove Avenue.

Laura Hale is chair of the Menlo-Atherton Band Boosters.


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