It’s that time of year, again: Family Birthday Time! This time for child #3, Andy, whose childhood nickname was “Bear.”
“Bear” was the largest of our three children when he was born, and the only one born in Wisconsin. His birth was rather a hectic ordeal, made so by an overconfident delivery room nurse, who wouldn’t pay much attention to my advice that when my wife goes into labor, she doesn’t mess around. Things happen fast!
I kept telling the nurse, “Better get the doctor on the way, ’cause it is going to go fast.” When she finally paid attention to me, was when she came back into the delivery room and exclaimed, “Jesus, in only 20 minutes, she went from way off to fully ready! Oh my God!”
Yeah, I could have said it, folks, but I didn’t. Fortunately, our doc, when he was finally called by nurse “Bozo,” was only 7 miles away, and came right over. And things went well from there.
As Bear grew from a baby, into childhood, and into young boy-hood, he always had the biggest smile on his face, and was eager to help and please. It was clear from an early age, that he was the most ‘sociable’ of our three children.
And then, when he was a young boy, the personal characteristic, the interest, that would really define his youth, and young adulthood, truthfully, his first 25 years of life, came bubbling up into his life: music!
Once music came into his life, he quickly developed a love for “Oldies” songs, listening to them at every opportunity, and was soon singing them in the shower.
His first favorite Oldies singing group, was, The Beach Boys, and virtually every time “Barbara Ann” came on the radio, he would come running to me. saying excitedly, “Dad, come quick, Barbara Ann is on!”
As he progressed through the Elementary grades, and approached entering High School, his favorite musical group evolved into “The Beatles.”
Over time, his singing in the shower performances showed that his singing voice was taking on a more excellent quality, so that by the time he entered his freshman year of high school, he had a beautiful, rich tenor voice.
As a freshman, Andy joined the mixed choir and the band, but it was in choir where he really excelled.
It was also at about this time, that he auditioned for and became a member of the Madison Childrens Choir (MCC), an elite (not elite-tess), structured youth signing organization in the capitol city area. He sand with them for almost three years, and was their most developed tenor voice.
It was with the MCC that Andy had the opportunity to travel to Brazil and Argentina on a two-week signing tour; quite an experience for him and the group!
He was privileged to be picked to sing two solos during an Easter Sunday performance in a huge cathedral in the capitol of Sao Paulo, their last performance before flying back to the U.S.
Andy said he wasn’t nervous during the solos during the Service, but said that came later when he found out his voice went out over Brazilian Public television and radio to some 30,000,000 listeners and viewers!
To date, that has been the largest audience he has performed for.
Andy, with good friend, Tim Biles, in a dorm at Mississippi Valley State University, where Andy and the UW-P Chamber Choir visited to do several joint concert performances a couple of years ago. Tim is currently working on his Masters Degree at Valley State.
During one of his high school choir’s performances his freshman year, Andy was able to sing a solo performance, of what else, The Beatles, “Something,” and brought down the house. It was then that everyone in our little town knew this kid’s voice was special.
Even at those early times when I watched and listened to him sing at concerts and in musicals, I would swell with fatherly pride and emotion when I would hear his amazing voice.
During his senior year, he sang the lead in “Grease,” doing a fantastic job, hitting the notes like no one else in his school could.
When he matriculated into the University of Wisconsin-Platteville campus, where his mother and I both graduated from, he immediately auditioned for, and was accepted into two university choirs. And his long and illustrious university singing career began.
In his sophomore year at UW-P, Andy was accepted into a third singing group, the University Chamber Choir, which is a mixed Honors Choir there. Even listening to those concerts, it was easy for me to pick out his sweet tenor voice there.
During that same year, he auditioned for and was selected for one of the four leads in the university musical that year, “Forever Plaid.” The musical was a huge success, a sellout for every performance, and the only university singing performance that my late father was able to attend and hear his grandson sing in. It was a most memorable evening.
During his senior year, Andy was selected to sing the male lead, Sky Materson, in the musical “Guys and Dolls.” Many, many people came up to him after each performance to compliment him on his singing, and his beautiful voice.
During the fall of 2001, Andy was an exchange student at one of the universities in Heidelberg, Germany. He had been there , attending classes for a few weeks, and then 9/11 happened.
I had been home from work that morning, ill, when a friend called and asked if I was watching TV. I turned the channel, and there it was. After watching for awhile, channel-hopping like mad, I heard one reporter talk about police officials looking for al Qaeda suspects in several European cities, including Heidelberg!
I immediately placed a call to the Student Housing Unit where Andy was staying in Heidelberg, and within a minute or two, he came to the phone. I explained what I had heard on the TV about suspected al Qaeda suspects there, and the hijacked airlines and all, and he said he and his fellow students were watching it on TV there in their housing unit. He also said that, as Americans there, they were keeping a very low profile, and would be careful to keep an eye out all around them. Back home, there was still one very worried father, very far from his son.
In addition to his involvement in singing during his university years, Andy also was involved in university student activities, twice serving as the Student Director of the campus group that interviews and selects all of the individuals and groups who perform on the campus during the following year.
During his final two years there, he was chosen to be Homecoming Chairperson for that annual fall event. During that same time period, he also served as one of the several MCs of the Annual Charity Telethon sponsored by the university communications department, to benefit the area special needs Summer Camp.
Andy, and longtime Mississippi friend, Inez Biles, at Greenwood High School, Greenwood, MS during joint concert with the choir of Mississippi Valley State University and the University of Wisconsin-Platteville Chamber Choir. Inez is an Elementary School Teacher in the Atlanta area.
In his university years, he accomplished much, enjoyed many aspects of student life, and ultimately graduated with a Bachelors Degree in Communications Technologies. Three days after he received his degree, he started his first post-university job, as the Producer of the 6:00pm and 10:00pm news at the NBC-TV affiliate in Rockford.
I have suggested on occasion, that with his singing voice, he should consider trying out for American Idol, as his voice is good enough to make it in as a finalist, and maybe even win the thing. But, that potential experience is his to decide upon, not mine.
As a young man of the business world now, in his late 20′s, currently dating a wonderful young lady, he has my adament respect, admiration and love.
His mother and I are most proud to have him as our son!
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, ANDY!!!
I LOVE YOU!