Tribute to an Early Mentor

In Once and Future Myths: The Power of Ancient Stories in Our Lives, author Phil Cousineau includes a chapter on “The Mythic Power of Mentorship.” Here he recounts the role of wise counsel played by the figure of Mentor in Homer’s Odyssey:

“In this role, the ancient Greek wisdom for guiding young people through the ordeal of adolescence is suggested by [Mentor’s] very name. For the word mentor comes from the Greek root men—to think, remember, counsel—and the Indo-European word mens, for ‘mind.’ Mentor is the ‘mind-maker.’ By his very nature he will help the son of his friend to ‘make up his own mind,’ even ‘re-mind’ the youth of his destiny, which is so easy to forget but so crucial to the Greek concept of character” (119).

Just as Mentor re-minds Odysseus’s son Telemachus of his destiny so, too, do mentors twenty-five hundred years later still impact the lives of many young men and women. This blog post represents a tribute to one such mentor in my life. Dean Dougherty was my first private saxophone teacher for the several years bridging my middle and high school experience. He also taught me how to play clarinet.

Attending My Sax Recital June 29, 1991

Attending My Sax Recital
June 29, 1991

Mr. Dougherty passed along several nuggets of wisdom that stay with me to this day including “Practice doesn’t make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect” and “The first time you play a wrong note, it’s a mistake. The second time it’s a bad habit.” Most resonant of all for me, though, remains what he told me upon hearing that I got nervous when auditioning at band competitions. With a twinkle in his eye he looked at me and said, “There’s nothing wrong with having butterflies in your stomach. The trick is to get them to fly in formation!”

Whatever musical success I experienced in those and later years in large part was made possible by such pearls of wisdom. Equally important was Mr. Dougherty’s patience, his confidence in my abilities, and his many kindnesses. He truly was a Mentor to my young Telemachus–for which I am eternally grateful.

Dean Dougherty passed away October 14, 2014, at age 88.

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