For the Love of the Game by Mark O'Reilly
“When they study our civilization two thousand years from now, there will be only three things Americans will be known for: the Constitution, baseball and jazz music.” – Gerald Early
When your father coaches your Little League team and shares his childhood dream of playing second baseman for the Brooklyn Dodgers, it’s never far from your mind that he wants you to love the sport as much as he does. Well, I played second baseman for one game - the last game of his Little League coaching career.
However, I do hope that working for an organization within walking distance of the Washington Nationals’ second baseline is at least of some consolation.
I still love baseball and would have been happy playing baseball, but a love of playing the piano intersected, and soon, I found myself with a saxophone in my lap – happily convinced that I would eventually be the successor to the late Clarence Clemons in Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band. My courtship with jazz and music began - from Slam Stewart to Sondheim, Sousa to Stravinsky.
Although I never mastered all of the nuances of jazz, I recognized it as a uniquely American genre that owes itself largely to the ebbs and flows of this country’s complicated (if not controversial) history with race and a multi-faceted pursuit of “freedom.” I developed a concurrent passion for studying history through music and majored in Music and History with emphases on film scores at Penn State University.
The simplest way of voicing my love of jazz – and all music – is that I am fascinated by artistic mediums that give voice to people in need of the freedom of expression. Jazz and the musical traditions that inspired it have always been outlets for defiance and civil disobedience – if not survival – from field songs used to inspire and rally hope and quiet resistance to the music of Hazel Scott ironically labeled “un-American.”
I see myself in stories like these and pride myself on doing work that allows me to tell them. The DC Jazz Festival’s mission is of great meaning to me because of the work we do in service of underserved and disadvantaged individuals – particularly children, who also have stories to tell but lack the means to tell them. That’s why I’m proud and honored to serve as the DC Jazz Festival’s Development and Program Assistant.
I still attend baseball games with nostalgia for the sport, and as far as pitches go, my father – a non-musician – is more readily knowledgeable about knuckle balls and curve balls. But he would be the first to recognize my passion for this work - and all of the curve balls nonprofit work entails - because for me, the DC Jazz Festival is pitch perfect.
PS - Yes, the Brooklyn Dodgers.