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ONE REGRET by Jeff Carnie

ONE REGRET by Jeff Carnie

My senior year was by far, my most gratifying year of my entire school experience. As mentioned earlier, I joined the school’s choir my senior year. After several months of singing with the choir, the director requested that I consider becoming a member of the “Honor Choir”. This group was comprised with the more advanced vocalists. Because there was a required audition process to become part of this group, it was quite an accomplishment to be invited to join, forgoing an audition.  

Due to the vocal abilities of the group, our choir was invited to perform under the direction of Louis Magor, the conductor of the San Francisco Symphony and Choir. What an awesome experience! Over the course of my senior year, I began to realize that not only was I fairly good at singing, but it had become a passion. Before then, I was content with and loved playing the bass guitar. I’m fortunate not to have many regrets in life, but there is one decision which causes me remorse to this day. I passed on the opportunity to attend the Berklee Music School in Boston,Mass. Music greats such as, “Quincy Jones”, and “Pat Metheny”, was the schools alumni. I remember speaking to my parents about being accepted to Berklee, I’m not sure if finances were the issue, or the fact that my parents didn’t place a high regard on becoming a musician, or both, but I attended Laney College after graduating from high school. Two years later I transferred to Cal State Hayward. Without having the encouragement and support of my parents to pursue a music career, I didn’t appreciate the significance of attending Berklee. 

What I’ve found to be my truth, back then many people didn’t consider the “arts” as a serious and viable career choice. Music was regarded as a hobby, something you did for fun, but certainly not an occupation you seriously expected to make a living with. So, I did the responsible thing and pursued a science major. I was miserable; it was not enjoyable for me. I absolutely, unequivocally hated dissecting cats and frogs! I’d rather be making music, so I non-officially changed my major; at least that’s what I told anyone who asked (my parents). At my first chance, I enrolled in the music program at Cal State Hayward. I strongly believe that God blesses His people with gifts which can and should be utilized as their vocations. While in college I worked for ATT and Pac Bell in the car pool area. My day started at 6:00 a.m. and ended at 5:00 p.m., those were long days. Most days while at work, I listened to the classical music stations. Loving classical music is a bit of Jeff Carnie trivia which most people may not know about me. While listening to the music I would use a pencil as a baton and pretend I was directing the Philharmonic Orchestra. I loved doing this so much that I actually entertained the idea of becoming a conductor. Not known to allow grass to grow under my feet, I came up with the brilliant idea to write a letter to Calvin Simmons, the first African American conductor who directed the Oakland Symphony. What better way to know if this was a career path I wanted to take but by contacting an actual conductor. As fate would have it, Mr. Simmons died in a canoeing accident in New York at the age of 32. I never received a response to my inquiry, so I don’t know if he received the letter; it was mailed a week before his death. Shortly thereafter, I left the employment of ATT to go and work for Brooks Camera as a film processor.

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For years Richard, Willie, and I performed for churches, schools, weddings, and dances. Because we were popular among the school circuit, we were treated like local celebrities. I considered it really cool when the school I attended asked if my band would play for the school banquet, I agreed. During that evening, my home economics instructor shared with me that her husband was a musician in a touring band. She indicated they had a home studio, and said she was sure her husband, Monte wouldn’t mind if I came by some time to check it out. I could hardly contain my excitement while in her presence, I felt like my heart would explode it was racing so fast. It wasn’t long after her invitation that I stopped by their house after school to take her up on her offer. When I first entered the studio, I was awestruck. I had never laid eyes on such cool equipment before. There was a four track recorder, many types of percussion instruments, and this weird looking piece of equipment that resembled an old phone answering machine. I later learned it was a first generation “Prophet Synthesizer”. You had to plug the wires into different inputs to obtain the various sounds. It was large, heavy, and cumbersome to carry around. It was the “must have” equipment in the day. However, I am so very thankful for advance technology.

It was nothing for me to spend hours on end learning to operate those toys (equipment). Because of my passion and dedication, before long I was collaborating with Monte making music. It was decided that we should create a band together. So now I was a member of two bands. The second band members included Monte on percussions, my school’s principal, Mr. Wright was lead vocalist, the choir director, Mr. Kisling was the pianist, Willie from my other band was the drummer, and I played bass guitar. This band was known for performing cover songs such as, “Bird of Beauty” by Stevie Wonder, and “God Bless the Child” by Blood Sweat and Tears, just to name a few. To be part of an adult band with your school’s principal and teacher was too cool!!!

We were now not only popular in our local area, but we were receiving requests for outside areas as well. We had built ourselves quite the reputation. We were invited to provide the music for a school located in Fresno, CA. Believe me when I say, for me this was a “big” deal. Wow! The banquet was scheduled for a Sunday evening. Because I was still in high school, I was expected attend school on Monday morning. So, as part of the booking arrangement, it was agreed that I be flown home in time for me to attend school the following day. Word quickly spread around school that I was flown to play for gigs. Big man on campus, jet setter!

I distinctly recall our drummer couldn’t make it to that event because he was being baptized that weekend. Because he was my best friend, and I had been instrumental in him accepting Christ as His personal Savior, I couldn’t miss his baptism. I stayed long enough to witness my childhood friend go into the watery grave and come up a changed individual. As I reflect back, even then I was part of a life changing ministry. Although I didn’t sing with my school choir, my band was asked on many occasions to accompany the group. The choir was known for doing music from popular movie soundtracks. One that comes to mind which my band performed with the choir is, “Ease on Down the Road” from the Wiz. The school’s choir director, Mr. Kisling invited me to audition for the school choir my senior year. I auditioned and it was determined that I had a 5 ½ octave vocal range. During my time with the choir, Mr. Kisling was inspired to rearrange, “Its Me O Lord Standing in the Need of Prayer” to accommodate my vocal abilities. The song later became my signature song and is one of the recordings on the Carnie’s CD, “Standing in the Need of Prayer”, recorded for Chapel Records.

 Bump de Bump!