Maine loses a jazz legend

Good evening from the BDN Portland office on Congress Street, where we hope next week is a little better.

What we’re talking about

Steve Grover, the award-winning composer, jazz drummer and legendary figure to young musicians in Maine, died Thursday after a battle with cancer, the Press Herald reported.

I went to Maine Jazz Camp in high school — I had just missed Grover’s tenure as a teacher there — and briefly studied jazz performance at the University of Southern Maine. Among my friends in that community, Grover was a big deal.

“I’ve been introducing Steve to Portland audiences for a very long time and I always introduce him as the most significant jazz musician in Maine history. I firmly believe that,” Paul Lichter, who used to run the Portland jazz club, Cafe No, told the Press Herald. “Over and above his being a first rate teacher, he was a mentor to a generation of jazz musicians who have gone on to perform all over the country and the world.”

One of those students, Cameron Lopez, told the paper: “I owe a huge part of my passion for music and playing drums to this man. … Thanks a ton Steve. I will miss you a lot.”

If you were a student of his and have a story you’d like to tell, email me.

ICYMI

Vigil to be held in memory of two black men killed by police — A candlelight vigil will be held in Monument Square tonight at 7 p.m. in memory of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling, two black men killed by police this week.

“I’m a young black man and realizing that I’m an endangered species when I step out of my home is alarming,” said 17-year-old organizer David Thete, who recently graduated from Portland’s Cheverus High School. “I don’t want this to happen in my country, in my community.”

The young organizers spoke early Friday morning when relatively little was known about the shooting that killed five police officers and wounded seven others at an until-then peaceful Black Lives Matter protest in Dallas, Texas. But they emphasized the need to decry all violence.

“We don’t promote any killing in any way,” said Thete. “It doesn’t matter if it’s men in blue or men in black.”

What it’s like trying to stay sober as a college studentAndrew Kiezulas follows up on our story from last week about USM’s new effort to help students in recovery from addiction. In this contributor piece, he writes about his experience coming back to USM after a battling substance use disorder — and how he’s trying to make things easier for others:

When I finally got sober, just the thought of my past attempts at college was enough to hold me back from formally applying to the University of Southern Maine for more than a year. I started slowly, taking a class here and there before going back full time.

I remember the first day of class, walking down a few hours early from the sober house where I was still living at the time. I found a campus map and stared at it for a few minutes, trying to figure out where I was and where I needed to go. I felt so lost. That’s why, to this day, when I see people on campus with that same panicked look on their faces, I introduce myself and offer directions. I often see them literally sigh in relief as I make eye contact and say hello.

Similarly, I vividly recall the first time I came across a friend from the Portland recovery community while on campus. I was relieved to know I wasn’t alone. There was help. I had friends here. Things might be OK.

That chance encounter changed my entire experience at USM and eased the fears I had about re-entering college and successfully graduating. My friend told me about an unofficial hangout for people in recovery. After seeing him and hearing about the others on campus I could immediately feel myself able to focus more on the reason I was there in the first place: to learn and go to school.

Non-traditional University of Southern Maine student Andrew Kiezulas details his struggles with education and opiate abuse. Now studying chemistry, Kiezulas is spearheading the Recovery Oriented Campus Center initiative at USM.

After Orlando, handgun demand spiked in Maine and elsewhere — Darren Fishell crunched the numbers on background checks since the Orlando massacre:

“In line with past patterns, background check requests from Maine gun dealers spiked in June, following the country’s deadliest mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando.

“Maine background checks for handguns jumped about 18 percent in June, compared with one year earlier.”

Big ideas

What Maine and Alaska have in common — From FiveThirtyEight: “Regional generalizations aside, two states that stand out in their support for third-party types are Alaska and Maine. Perot almost won Maine in 1992, and Alaska, the same state that gave us Gov. Sarah Palin, was also Nader’s top state. It’s worth pointing out that this isn’t confined to presidential elections, either: Maine has an independent senator (who caucuses with the Democrats) and Alaska has an independent governor. Political culture is challenging to measure, but both states have cultures that prize independence.

What I tell my daughter about tragedy in the world — From Erinne Magee of BDN Maine Blogs: “My daughter changes her mind. A lot. About what she wants to be when she grows up. About where she’d like to live. What to name the dog she doesn’t have yet. She’s 6. It’s expected that the new and different are magical and exciting.

“For that reason, I won’t allow the recent tragedies in Dallas, Minnesota, Baton Rouge, Turkey, Orlando and beyond to take that innocence from her. I’m not about to tell her that down the road from Mickey Mouse 49 people were murdered while dancing and socializing in a club. Dancing. One of her favorite activities. Socializing. You should see the input she has for family barbecues.

“Internally I will mourn the innocence of these beautiful souls but I will not allow the loss of these lives to steal hope from my daughter. Or me. Together, let’s take the vow that our hope will remain intact.”

 

Got any interesting story ideas, suggestions or links to share? Email Dan MacLeod at dmacleod@bangordailynews.com, or tweet @dsmacleod.

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Dan MacLeod

About Dan MacLeod

Dan MacLeod is the editor of BDN Portland. He's an Orland native who first moved to Portland in 2002. He's been a journalist since 2008, and previously worked for the New York Post and the Brooklyn Paper.