Bruce Graham

IMG_2122.JPGBy Scott MacClelland

“I HAVE LOVED THIS JOB and will to the last day of school,” says Bruce Graham, the Music Man of King City—pictured above with his jazz band at King City High—who will retire this spring after more than four decades teaching and making music in the public schools of the town that in the 1880s established a railway terminal built to take produce from southern Salinas Valley to Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area.

“It’ll be 43 years that I’ve been a teacher,” Graham says. (I remember first meeting him when he looked like the photo, left.) He started in 1972 at King City Elementary, “teaching sc001f8a33singing, band and choir.” When the district opened Del Rey Elementary, in the ‘80s, with Carolyn McCombs as principal, Graham participated in an annual series of all- school musicals, in addition to “doing band and all that stuff.” Describing McCombs as “pro music and pro arts, we’d have certain classes write their own songs. We’d use the chord progression of Louis, Louis and they’d provide the words. The subject matter could be anything. One year we did a musical about science. It was really fun.” Graham recalls doing six or seven original musicals at Del Rey. “With a full complement we’d have 400 kids in them.”

Graham’s predecessor as King City’s popular Music Man was Leon Olson, who taught at King City High. “He’d been there forever.” But when Graham arrived he was dismayed at how unprepared the younger kids were. “I called up Leon. I said these kids don’t know anything,” Graham complained. “He was really helpful. He and I were as different as night and day, but he was great.” Then Olson fell ill and was forced to retire early, leaving “a series of subs.” Subsequently, Olson recovered, but having taken disability leave he was no longer eligible to return to his previous duties there. “So he went to work at Greenfield Elementary.” (At c. 16,000 population, fast-growing Greenfield, about ten miles north, has now overtaken King City’s c. 13,000.)

After 1978, when California’s Proposition 13 tax law was passed, school districts all over the state felt forced to cut arts programs in order to the balance their newly-straitened budgets. “I was in the elementary district—[King City Union School District]—and they discussed letting me go,” Graham explains. But there was an uproar in the community. “The superintendent called me and offered me a job teaching English. “I said I wouldn’t do it. I think he thought I was leveraging community support, because I played a lot of dances, weddings and funerals in town. But I hadn’t done anything actually.”

“I remember going with the high school in 1996.” King City High, now, along with Greenfield High, is in its own South Monterey County Joint Union High School District under state governance. “The high school kept me on part time. I was the least expensive teacher on the faculty because of a salary cap in going from the elementary to the high school district. I had 180 students in three class periods.” Graham also took up a middle school band supported by the resources of Sol Treasures, an independent nonprofit dedicated to ‘awaken and encourage appreciation and passion for the arts in people of all ages in South Monterey County and provide a home for creative and inspiring opportunities to unify the community through art and culture.’

After the No Child Left Behind act, the KC Union district did shut down the music program, “two years after I left, seven or eight years ago, when testing became more important. I found myself trying to decide what I was going to do.”

Graham was born in Pasadena and grew up in Anaheim. “My mom was a nursing student at Huntington Hospital. She was pregnant but pretended she wasn’t,” he explains. “My dad’s dad owned property next to what would become Disneyland.” While he had grown up in the Mormon Church, much less been to Utah, it had not figured prominently in his life.

By a mysterious “accident” he was invited by the director of the orchestra at Brigham Young University to apply for a scholarship. “Singing in a church choir and playing trumpet hardly convinced me.” Nevertheless, he submitted the requested paperwork, agreed to an entrance audition, and was a no-show. “So the guy told me to record myself playing.” Suddenly, he was awarded a scholarship. But he didn’t get accepted because “my grades weren’t good enough.” He had to make up the deficiencies at summer school and got in by the skin of his teeth. “My first year I thought I was cooler than I actually was.” It was at BYU that Graham met his future wife, Suzette Machoian, who had converted to the faith at age 16. They were married in 1970.

Once out of school, “I found there were no jobs in music,” Graham says. “I wanted to move back to Anaheim.” He put his name in “one of those” placement programs. “I got a call from King City, Lompoc and a school district in Colorado that wanted a band teacher who could also teach auto shop and wrestling.” Only one offer made sense.

As a music educator, Graham has maintained skill in all the wind instruments and can guide players of string instruments. He also plays guitar and piano. His career in King City has had its ups and downs, thanks to budgetary and policy issues. At times he even volunteered his time to keep music going while working to accommodate all the school demands he had taken on, not least going on tour with a jazz band to Reno over a five year period. “I stopped doing the tours in 1999 when the Basic Vegetables onion plant went on strike. That hurt.”

He remembers working one year at all those places, high school, middle school and the last of the elementary all-school musicals. “It about killed me.” He also juggled the administrators of each district who both wanted him full time but didn’t have the wherewithal to provide full time compensation. When he visited the proposed site for the Chalone Peaks Middle School, which opened in 2007, he noticed there was no band room in the plans.

In retirement, Bruce and Suzette are thinking seriously about missionary work. “She is half Armenian,” he says, and that country holds personal appeal for them. Then, they plan to settle in Utah where they have relatives, including one son who is a filmmaker, to say nothing of health care at hand as anyone of retirement age will appreciate.

The timing for such moves is good. In 2012 the new King City Arts Magnet Elementary opened and, Graham is thrilled to say, “Music has come back. There are three fine music teachers, two vocal teachers and Ava Ettinger who teaches strings. It’s a great feeling to know that all your work has survived and is looking at a promising future.”

Paulette Lynch

By Scott MacClellandPaulette

IT’S A GOOD BET that graduates from the Monterey Institute of International Studies have national or international careers in mind. Some of its most promising applicants actually win scholarships to attend. One such was Paulette Lynch, who, after all decided to make Monterey home. But like most MIIS grads, she shifted her gears up and has driven her own career locally with a full head of steam. You can ask her colleagues on any number of projects. Even some who don’t like her because she lets her impatience show have to admit that Paulette is a force that cannot be ignored. “There are so many obstacles to overcome,” she says. Any further doubt is put to rest by her successes as a grant-writer.

In 1993 Lynch founded the annual First Night Monterey that fills the downtown area with performance events on New Years Eve. She held that position until 2002. From 2004 to the present she has served as executive director of the Arts Council for Monterey County. “When I got the job the board couldn’t commit to the long term,” she says. “It felt like a short term project. The mission was still solid even though there were challenges to deal with.” Between First Night and the Arts Council, Lynch worked as an independent consultant, gaining additional experience in family resources, development and “how things work politically.” She’s also been a grantee and a musician—the founding Heartstringshammered dulcimer player in the five-member Heartstrings Monterey acoustic world-music band. “I knew a lot about everybody, but not as much as I know now.” About her day job, “The deeper I got into it the better it became. I keep finding more ways to serve through the Arts Council.”

Lynch was born in the Boston area then lived up the coast in Lynn. She attended college in Maine. “I had been planning to work as a teacher,” she says. Then Massachusetts passed its own version of California’s Proposition 13, and she went to work in the insurance industry. “Then I got the scholarship at MIIS,” where she completed her master’s degree in 1985. “I was more interested in the work than in the sense of a career.” It was during that time that she decided to make Monterey her permanent home. She had met Ken Peterson, communications director for the Monterey Bay Aquarium, and a former newspaper reporter locally. They married in 1986. Their 16-year-old son Gabriel is a student at Monterey High who is active in theater and plays guitar.

Lynch’s “work” has won her widespread recognition. She is the go-to person for nonprofit management, event-planning and volunteer management, community outreach, fundraising, grant-writing, arts education, public speaking and networking. “You have to work hard, stay alert, gathering information, sleuthing. It takes all our energy.” Networking is Lynch’s primary modus operandi. The more she has brought stakeholders together the more convinced she is in its importance. Through the Arts Council she launched an initiative to restore music education in the public schools which helped to accomplish that very thing in the Monterey Peninsula Unified School District. “Now again with changes in national and state policies I can’t afford not to know.”

Unlike some who have lost faith during the current crisis of leadership at the Millennium Charter High School in Salinas, Lynch is optimistic. “Millennium has so much good energy,” she says. “I think no matter what happens that mission will be renewed. But it may take a while to right that ship.” On that and other worthy endeavors, “The end is when people don’t care anymore.”

Some nonprofit recipients of the Arts Council’s support are also in transition. Youth Music Monterey County’s board president Dorothy Micheletti is also serving as interim executive director. Likewise Lee Rosen of the Monterey Symphony. “It’s not an optimal situation, from the funder’s perspective,” Lynch says. “For example, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation looks very deeply into those kinds of things, including governance and capacity building. Foundations are not necessarily going to react punitively, but it’s much better to have those roles separated.” Dorothy Wise, board president of the Santa Cruz Symphony relinquished that role when she assumed the executive directorship position—at least temporarily—following the retirement of longtime ED Jan Derecho. “They’re actually very different jobs,” Lynch says. “There’s nothing technically or legally wrong, but when you look at ‘best practices,’ the message is clear. Ideally, the executive director should have a good working relationship with the board but as ex-officio. That way everybody is in the loop.”

Lynch has become a real stickler for accurate record keeping. “It can be pretty funny when people who came here ten years ago think they know everything. Old memories can work for you or against you when you’re working in the moment,” she says. “Our board meetings are chockablock with finance. Our board minutes track everything, how we decided certain things, it’s all in there. When organizations are doing a good job they might want to go back and take another look. It is a solid aspect of our operation.”

At the start of each year the Arts Council holds its Champions of the Arts gala fundraiser, awarding individuals in a variety of categories, including Luminary, Lifetime, and for singular successes. While Lee Rosen has provided a long history of invaluable leadership for the Monterey Symphony, he won an award last month in the Philanthropist category. Candidates are recommended from within the community. “Many have connections with the Council but that’s not how we select them,” she explains. Citing artist Sandra Gray, organizer of the Seaside Artists Tour, she observes that many recipients wear many hats that cross categories.

“When we consider grant applications we look very closely at the applicants. I noticed one nonprofit that didn’t have enough members on its board of directors,” Lynch says. “If there’s something we see that may be a legal issue, it could result in a rejection.”
“I am now seeing more collaborative marketing,” Lynch says with obvious pleasure. “Collective is our work. That’s where so many opportunities are waiting to be discovered.”

She says many arts nonprofits are still insular. “All many of them have to do is partner with other groups. There is so much potential. We’re a lot closer but we’re not there yet.”
Lynch’s sleuthing often involves finding resources that are not in plain view. “When the California Arts Council said they had money for youth at risk, we contacted the county probation department. We’re constantly on the prowl for how we can do what we do with greater impact. We know the arts offer a competitive advantage to students. It’s not just about talking, but embodying possibilities. Our job is literally catalyst, to find all the pieces of the puzzle and what makes them work together.” She cites an inspiring TED Talk by Derek Sivers called How to Start a Movement.

“The Hewlett Foundation made us an intermediary in the last couple of months, a ‘designated partner’ of the arts through a few direct grants. They are providing us with $100,000 for the next three years for our brand new Local Emerging Artists program, grants and consulting for small organizations throughout Monterey County with priority consideration for those who are serving in neighborhoods with limited resources. The LEAP program is for professionals and will be competitive. We’ll select five artists each year and go from there.” The Arts Council website explains LEAP: “Our goals are to recognize artistic excellence, provide direct support to artists who demonstrate they are ready to take their work to a new level, and cultivate public appreciation of the role of artists in our community. Grants up to $2,500 will be awarded annually in visual arts, and performing arts and on a rotating schedule for literary arts, choreography, media arts and composing.”

Lynch’s one regret is that there is so much paperwork that she cannot get to every place in the county “physically” where there are needs. “I’d love to do more consulting. I know that the arts really make everything work better, including our brains.” She sees juvenile justice, veterans in transition, even hospitals as areas in need of what she has to offer. She considers herself lucky to have Berniz House on her staff. “She goes everywhere, works with community groups, including the Spanish language media. She’s a great conduit for us.”

“The real miracle is that anything happens at all,” she muses. “The time, the money, the sheer physical effort, and the obstacles! It’s hard work, always challenging, but I totally know it’s worth it.”

Portrait photo by Kira Godbe

Postscript: The Arts Council is sponsoring an Arts Education Summit, March 12, 8:30am-12:30pm, Embassy Suites, Seaside. Featured speakers are Jeff Poulin, the Arts Education Program Coodinator with Americans for the Arts and Sarah Brothers, the Arts Education Manager with the California Alliance for Education. RSVP HERE