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Brush With Greatness - Pete Mills

On this week's Brush With Greatness, Toronto native and music teacher Pete Mills sent this story of how his father, Ernie Mills, inspired him:

One of the great aspects of my teaching gig, at Denison University, just outside of Columbus, Ohio,  is that I teach a jazz history class to non-musicians. I find that many students have not been exposed to the incredible variety of what jazz is, and I, personally, find great joy in presenting the music to them, and I find that many of them really dig it.

My father was not a musician. He was a great fan who left me with a treasure trove of items that I bring to my class, including photos that he took of Diz (Dizzy Gillespie), Peter Appleyard, and Benny Goodman, taken in and around Toronto.  He also left me two autograph books that contain signatures of the greats: Fletcher Henderson, Louis Armstrong and even one from Bird – Charlie Parker himself - from the famous show at Massey Hall in 1953. So, about this time every semester, I dig into the archives and bring some of these items into my class and show the students. I enjoy this part of the semester!

A small bit of other info on my pop, Ernie Mills: he was, as mentioned, a fan of Bird and Diz and also Louis and - especially - Duke.  Dad was a member of the Toronto chapter of The Ellington Society and I recall going to many of their Christmas meetings, where they had special guest concerts that included fantastic pianists. I recall one at which a young Jeff Healey played dixieland.  What a big thrill it was for me to hang with dad, and hear the music up close and personal. 

Pete Mills

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