It was one of those only-in-Spokane moments — the joy of living in a big town/small city that hits when everything feels connected. I brought my youngest son, Jay, to his music lesson down at the charming Amend Music Center. My wife told me his teacher would be Pat Cavanaugh, and I had to see for myself. Yes, there in his little studio, it was the very same Pat Cavanaugh who taught me English back in 1980.
"I run into kids I taught all the time," he tells me later. "Of course, they're not kids anymore."
It makes sense: Cavanaugh taught at Gonzaga Prep from 1958-93; he's been teaching at Amend — clarinet, sax and flute — since 1985. That's a ton of former students.
"Mr." Cavanaugh (as we knew him) was tough — and fondly remembered for it, as his name still comes up when we alums get together. In his sophomore honors English class, I even learned how to diagram a sentence. I tell him they don't teach that stuff anymore.
"I always believed in the basics," he says. "I started with all the old Jesuits, and that's the way they taught. I picked it up from them."
Born and raised in Butte, Montana, young Pat Cavanaugh came to Gonzaga University, where he eventually earned his master's degree. But first he shipped out with the Army, serving during the Korean War. Ultimately, he was put in charge of an Army band, and he's been a musician ever since, even playing in big bands like the legendary Jim Baker Orchestra.
Watching the two of them is existential for me — Jay, 12, and Mr. Cavanaugh, 79, connecting through music across all those decades. But there's more. The Amend Center is two blocks from where I grew up; my first forays into the world took me to the candy machine in the laundry that occupied the same space. I still love the taste of Lemonheads. The vintage saxophone that Jay plays belongs to my dad, Ted Sr.; there are pictures of him playing it in the '50s with his high school band — at G-Prep. Not long ago, he told me it actually belonged to his mom, my grandma Hilda; she loved to play it, too.
Then there's the guy who drilled into me how to write a coherent sentence — a crucial lesson, considering my career choice. And, of course, there's Jay, blowing away on that sax, carefully following Mr. Cavanaugh's instruction, then practicing Coldplay songs at home afterward.
"Mr. Cavanaugh is awesome," Jay tells me. "He explains things super well." Yeah, that's how I remember him, too.♦