By JULIET GIGLIO Special to the Palisadian-Post Dane Calcote has been a crossing guard for only one year, but he’s been a jazz musician for almost a lifetime. Better known as Mr. Dane to Marquez Elementary students, Calcote arrived on campus to work as the first, much-needed, much-appreciated crossing guard at the school. He orchestrated the traffic like a leader of a band. And now he is one again. When Dane noticed students carrying instruments to school, he asked them if they were interested in playing with him. In no time at all, the word got out, and Calcote had formed a jazz ensemble. The group practices during recess three days a week. “The amazing thing is that Dane is doing all this out of the goodness of his heart. He’s not getting paid any money for it,” said PTA president Gayle Kirkpatrick. Calcote is a professional percussionist who plays everything from the bongos, maracas, kalim’ba, timbales and triangles to chimes, guiro, tambourines, claves, vibraslap and bird whistles. “I was self-taught,” said Dane, who began playing the drums at 8 years old. “It was a slow process of learning for me. Now I want to help these kids.” “Kids have been practicing like crazy since they joined up with me,” Calcote added. “I tell their parents to get their kids to listen to CDs of the music they will play. It encourages them to practice.” In terms of music in the school, Calcote feels that “more jazz music should be introduced to fourth and fifth graders. They need to play more than just classical music because they get bored. If they play jazz, they’ll be more interested in their music.” The Marquez Jazz Ensemble made its debut at the school’s holiday concert, performing “Little Drummer Boy” and “Jingle Bells” to a rousing applause. “It was phenomenal. They were great and really wonderful. The fact that someone who is a volunteer would come in and do this was great,” said Lisa Rogers-Halliday, mother to ensemble members Myles and Stedman. With a leader whose resume includes a long list of live gigs, studio session recordings and private parties, students realize they are lucky to have Calcote as their leader. “Playing with Mr. Dane has made me enjoy music more,” said fifth grader Dylan Jeffers. Calcote’s enthusiasm for his music is infectious. “Jazz is international. It brings together all types of music from rock-and-roll to hip hop. And it brings together all types of people. It’s something everybody can relate to.” Thanks to Calcote’s boom box which spills out jazz along Marquez Avenue each morning and afternoon, parents and carpoolers have felt the positive vibe of jazz. “I’m sure the music helps to calm down the drivers in the carpool lane,” Calcote said. “Now I hope people will all come to our spring concert. We’re working on five new tracks for that!” Drivers please remember, no horn honking allowed when Mr. Dane is around. You would just mess up the rhythm.
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