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One of many Incredible Stories of SYNC surrounding Kakehashi: THAT WE MIGHT LIVE



19 SEP 1945 is the 74th Anniversary of President Truman awarding General Jonathan Wainwright, the Medal of Honor.

Citation: Distinguished himself by intrepid and determined leadership against greatly superior enemy forces. At the repeated risk of life above and beyond the call of duty in his position, he frequented the firing line of his troops where his presence provided the example and incentive that helped make the gallant efforts of these men possible. The final stand on beleaguered Corregidor, for which he was in an important measure personally responsible, commanded the admiration of the Nation's allies. It reflected the high morale of American arms in the face of overwhelming odds. His courage and resolution were a vitally needed inspiration to the then sorely pressed freedom-loving peoples of the world.

One of Many Incredible Stories of SYNC surrounding Kakehashi: THAT WE MIGHT LIVE.

Subject: General Wainwright's Piano MEMENTO for you and Story
Date: 28 June 2014 at 3:33:33 AM EDT

My Father snapped this one memento photo on 30 August 2003, a few days before I would finally complete Kakehashi: THAT WE MIGHT LIVE. with Copyright date: 11 SEPTEMBER 2003.

In his home, I actually played the Theme from that piece... on HIS Piano, the Piano of General Jonathan Wainwright.  Odds?

Remarkably, we were attending a wedding-announcement party for my cousin who had rented out a large home in the town where I first lived as a newborn… Rye, NY.  I was wrapping on the 70-minute piece, Kakehashi: THAT WE MIGHT LIVE. and found myself in "The Wainwright House."  

No.  I hadn’t made any connection yet.  I believe General Wainwright’s Father was also a General who served in WWI.

In a large, personal, now-made-public Library, where they had positioned the Sushi Chef... consider the SYNC Ironies... was a large collection of books about the Philippines.  It was there that I found the book "Through the Valley of the Kwai" by Ernest Gordon.

They allowed me to borrow the book, which I later mailed back to them.

Through the Valley of the Kwai was then made into the film:  TO END ALL WARS.

This CARD was in that book.

Ed Stoddard was the Principal at Chester HS, NY where I spent my first year as a Teacher.  A humble Man, he was a great influence.

Note the date on which he took out the same book that I had found 40-years later.  (Also close to the Kennedy Assassination.)
7 December 1963

Note the date that I had signed this book out of the WAINWRIGHT Library. Yes... I played the Theme for Kakehashi: THAT WE MIGHT LIVE ... (at first unknowingly) ... on General Wainwright's Piano... in a house that just happened to be in the CITY where I was born.  And from his house in Rye, NY, you could clearly see the Trade Center in NYC.

I was at his home for a wedding party, and I had no idea, yet, that "Wainwright" was thee Wainwright.

I snapped this photo! (Long before higher quality phones.)

When I returned from that trip, where a Japanese Sushi Chef served delicious food in Wainwright's Library, the Library in which I had found the book that just happened to have been signed out by my first principal, I saw this Realtor Sign on the house right next to mine.

In early September, and preparing for a large family gathering to celebrate the 100th anniversary of my Great Grandfather Ambrose Melillo swearing the Oath to become an American Citizen, I was now completing Kakehashi: THAT WE MIGHT LIVE. for the 11 SEPTEMBER 2003 Copyright.  It would also be Spencer's 2nd Birthday.

We were hit by Hurricane Isabel:  (Our house was destroyed way beyond what is revealed in these photos.)

With a newly diagnosed physical ailment, and with no bed, no bedroom!, and working under heavily ”adverse" conditions, Kakehashi: THAT WE MIGHT LIVE. was completed under "duress" right after playing the Theme in General Wainwright's home.

Later, 143 Musicians selected from 5 Japanese Military Groups around the Island of Japan, joined by 300 American Vocalists from Shenandoah and Old Dominion Universities would play THIS Music.  More than 350 Bataan/Corregidor Vets would receive a copy.  

Many impossible, fascinating things happened during this deeply Spiritual process of Honoring these Men by composing, organizing, and negotiating for 2 years with the Japanese Ministry of Defense.

As predicted with SYMPHONY #2: AT LIFE's EDGE... namely that "people would get up out of their wheelchairs", Kakehashi: THAT WE MIGHT LIVE was eventually played for 200 American Defenders of Bataan & Corregidor and their families at the 2007 convention... where 90+-year-old Men did indeed stand from their wheelchairs.  At the premiere in Roswell, NM on 4/4/04, I was given the pin of the regiment by Jack Aldrich... a Great Man indeed.  He said, "from this day forward, you are my Grandson."

Jack was truly one of the Greatest Men I have ever known... and the very first Survivor I had ever met.

I had missed meeting ERNEST GORDON, the author of Through the Valley of the Kwai by one year.  He had just passed away.  

My Friends... What GREAT TREASURES we somehow JUST manage to miss!

That book, Through the Valley of the Kwai... recanting the stories of a Bridge system our OWN STANLEY WOODY, (Survivor from the USS Houston and local ex-POW) helped to build!, is a great testament to FAITH and the triumph of Good in even the most terrible of circumstances.

People often ask, ”What is your connection to these Men and Women? Why is this so important to you?"  

This letter is a tiny, partial answer.

There are those who would say, "what a coincidence... all of this!"

But if to you, "this" is "coincidence," then all of everything that ever happened and ever will happen is simply one big accident... and you have my sympathy.  ; - )!

My Friends. Enjoy.  We are alive together... for reasons yet to be discovered.


Stephen of the Storm



Never Forgotten… Forgotten?


Dedicated to "SSIM" and a much larger Stoy, that one day, must be told.
This article appeared in the June 2019 Issue of "The Journal of the Association of Concert Bands".

“Never Forgotten”
has been played around the world.  People like it.  In every language, people ask, “What’s it about?”

As a high school director during the 80s and 90s, I’d get to school early and challenge myself to write the warm-up for that day. This eventually led to the Function Chorales™, an important topic for another article, and very much connected to this one.  “Never Forgotten” was never intended for publication.  It was/is just one of many simple warm-ups written for the kids one school-day in 1985.

At some point prior to 2006, an honor-band Musician asked, “What’s this about?”

I said, “You know, I forgot.”

When one writes a piece called, “Never Forgotten,” and then forgets why it was written, there is a disturbance in the “storm!”  I simply couldn’t remember, so I created a story to illustrate the Music.  Even to this day, I tell the kids, “I’m not saying that this is what the piece is about, but it could be, couldn’t it?  It’s Music, a voice for the silent, the wordless syllables of an eternal Poem.”

So here’s the approach.  If I ever work with your kids, please keep this process and story secret!

We’ll read the piece, after which I’ll say,  “Okay, that was Take 1.  Remember it.”

To set up Take 2, I’ll ask the kids, “What do you think will improve this?”  Many discuss understanding the meaning or “story” behind the Music.  I nod inconclusively and then ask the students to please honor the following concepts.  I’ll specifically list them, mentioning appoggiatura, the use of "purposefuls", my word for accidentals, and the topic for yet another article, modulation, and the nuances of phrasing and rubato.  

Take 2.  It’s improved.  “Good.  What do you think will make it better on Take 3?”

Prior to Take 3, I tell them a story.  I ask them to picture a young Mother, perhaps from another country, sitting in green pastures at the foot of a gravestone. "It is the site of her 17-year-old boy.  He was killed in some nameless war.  This Music?… these are the Mother’s private, unspeakable thoughts.”

The baton drops… or at this point, the pen since I often avoid using the baton until the Music and the Musicians are ready.  We play. Tears form in many eyes.  Silence.  Connection.  The stuff of Music.

But then the moment is quickly interrupted with a question.  But you know, I wrote this in 1985, and to be perfectly honest, I forgot why I wrote it.  And! Based on that last, albeit excellent rendering, I would still not remember!”

They look at me with nodded heads and furrowed brows.

“But one day," I continue to tell the kids, "I found myself crying.  You see, I had remembered.  How?  Why?  Deal.  If we have Time before the concert tomorrow, (and we always do,) I’ll tell you what happened.  Then you can leave here with one of the greatest lessons in Music!”

In 2006, I was at the Bruckner House in Linz, Austria for the premiere of “Last World Standing", a 33-minute work that received an 18-minute standing ovation.  Conductor Karl Geroldinger had warned me in advance not to expect much from the otherwise reserved, austere Austrian audience.  Ha!  Karl played a warm-up with his ensemble.  I was speaking with someone in the hall when I became eerily aware not just of the Music, but of my visceral, sympathetic response to it.  

At first, I thought, “Wow, this is beautiful.  What is this?”  Then, I found myself in tears.  I felt suddenly hollow.  Alone.  I trembled.  

Unbeknownst to me, Karl was using “Never Forgotten” as a warm-up.  He had been, all year.  Without an expectation of any kind, I heard the Music as it was intended.  I bowed my head to hide the tears… because I remembered my Grandfather, for whom I had composed that simple piece on that one otherwise nondescript school day.  Even now, my eyes water as I recall the moment.  

But WHY?  Here now is the crux of this article… one of many possible “Articles of Enchantment".

From 1985 until that fateful day in 2006, I had never “heard” the piece, “Never Forgotten".  I was always busy working the piece, using it as a Teaching Tool, consumed by troubleshooting its problems.  For all those years, distracted by the mechanics of music-making, I no longer heard the Music.  Now, with all guards down and with such fine Musicians playing it, the most important component of music-making was tacit.  Because the Tuning and Intonation were Beautiful and Perfect, I heard the Music… not the notes. 

I remembered.

The next day, I share this story with the kids and then jump right into Function Chorales™.  (  There is a free demo download on the bottom.)  Across 44 years of international Teaching, the difference is always profound.  When Tuning and Intonation are understood by means of providing a specific language and method to address and improve them, the most important path to Music-making is now possible.

We talk about the journey taken to arrive at Take 4 and Take 5, which is usually in front of an audience and finally with a baton.

It is NOW that I can successfully share ‘one of the greatest lessons in Music’ mentioned above.  I ask them, “Why did the “story” not work, and only seduce us into thinking it was working?  The answer?  Because as Musicians we do not use emotion to make Music.  We use Music to make emotion.  We must, in some truly profound and giving paradox, commit ourselves to the interior workings of Music so that others will be brought to tears of joy.”

There’s much more to be shared!

Godspeed!  Stephen Melillo

PS:  Never Forgotten was eventually joined by 2 other Musical Haikus, "The Truth About Pirates" and "The 4th Year".  These Musical Haikus were written as warm-ups for the SSIM kids in the 1980s.  Now, they have been played around the world.  They are known as "Three Musical Haikus for Band" from the STORMJourneys Chapter.  They are inspired by, and forever dedicated to Beautiful people.



The Nature of Learning


29 June 2017
On the Birthday of Bernard Herrmann

This 11:26 film will compress your Music education into questions and perhaps answers.  Click here for STORMSummate.

Every so often, I hear from fellow Music-makers who have played since the 4th grade.  They have experienced much, learned much, and teach much.  But let’s be objective rather than subjective, locked into any one school of thought.  Is there a better way?

It’s common to think that the number of years that you’ve been doing something would have an impact on your skill level… but study after study in areas of everything from basketball to woodworking to shooting to painting proves that it’s just not the case.  
If it were the case, we’d see more 90-year-olds in NASCAR, but we don’t.
Since I started playing baseball almost 50 years ago…before MBL players were born… I SHOULD be better than them, but I’m not.  In fact, it’s more common to see people in any sport grind out rep after rep for year after year, only to plateau or get worse, instead of getting better.
So, if the number of years that a Musician, for instance, has been playing, teaching, learning, writing doesn’t matter, what does?
It’s the quality, type, and frequency of the practice that you do.
Perfect technique, frequent sessions, and deliberate practice focusing on specific aspects of your technique will get you quicker, better results than just slugging it out over time.  

Practice makes Permanent, not perfect.
This is fantastic, exciting, liberating news, because it means that it doesn’t take decades to become great!  With the right tools, you can do it in a few minutes per day and see dramatic changes in just a couple of weeks.
Focusing on perfect technique lets your brain develop an automatic default where you’re thinking of Music and not the “how-to-make-it.”

You should see the emphasis on “perfect” as a gift.  It means that you can get more benefit out of 5-10 minutes of perfect practice per day than you can from an hour or more per week of swinging at a tree with an unsharpened axe.

So check out that film, share it with colleagues.  Ask yourself the questions it will stir with an opened-mind.  See the whole thing from concept to completion and imagine what you can bring.

Click here for STORMSummate.

It’s incumbent on us to be the game-changers!

Godspeed!  S

Uncle Ernie



The Eve of 6 May 2017
Gramps Nicky’s Birthday
and the New Saint Dominic Savio Feast-day

Dear Family and Friends,

You know how every once in a while, a “scene” will pop into your head for no reason at all?  Not sure what triggers it, but you suddenly remember a specific. often obscure moment, that until you saw it again, had you convinced it was wiped from your Memory?  

Well, I call theseTimestorms and for whatever reason it might be, this morning, looking out at a rain-soaked street from my bed, I saw a scene involving Uncle Ernie, Alan’s Father, Aunt Lola’s Husband… you know the relationships better than I.

(ooh… MASSIVE Thunder just hit right now! Actually SHOOK the house!)

When I was real little, we were at Great Grampa Caruso’s.  I guess he was feeling frail at the Time.  I vividly recall Uncle Ernie, a big Man as I recall, placing his hand on Grampa’s shoulder.  It was so loving, so gentle, so tender and Giving, that it became locked into my Soul FOREVER, (actually imagery in the mind aside).  

I realize today that I have ALWAYS associated that “touch” with the very definition of Compassion.

Uncle Ernie, in that one absolutely small moment, at least to him, “programmed” my understanding of Compassion… which now, as I look back, explains why I so often place a hand on the kids who come into my care.

Just thought I would share that with you on the eve of Grampa Nick’s Birthday. LOVE & MISS him, and what has SYNCly become the new Feast Day for Saint Dominic Savio.

Thank you, Uncle Ernie.  From long after you have walked with us, you continue to Inspire.

Love & Godspeed!  S

Unsolicited Thoughts on “Stage Fright.” For the Kids in Our Care…



Only for Now Seating Chart

3 May 2017, the 37th anniversary of Only for Now, premiered at M.I.T.

In any activity, uncontrolled fear can get the better of us.  At best we default to our level of training.  In an honor band setting, where only hours of learning and rehearsal have taken many to new ideas, that means that much of the fresh experience will be under the fire of pressures brought on by the audience, the lights, the seemingly different temperatures, etc.

On 3 May 1980, a 9-movement work was premiered at M.I.T.  It was “Only for Now.”  For the event, my Grandfather came up to Boston with my Mom from Port Chester, New York.  This first concert of Music that I had written was also the last concert he would ever hear.

Years later, I realized that in every audience, there was a good chance someone was hearing Music for the First Time.  A baby perhaps, or someone who had never been to such an event.  And in every concert, there was a sad probability that someone was hearing Music for the Last Time.

If you focus on those 2 people… the first-time concert-goer, and the last-time listener, your stage-fright will go away.  If instead you flood your Music-making with Love and Giving, intent upon offering your best to these 2 people, you will be so filled with the true nature and purpose of Music that there will be no room for fear to enter.  In the end, that is why we make Music… to Give.

Godspeed!  S

Keynote for CCHS 27 June 2016


27 June 2016
a Commencement Speech
for the Graduates and Beautiful, Great kids of Celia Cruz Bronx High School of Music

Though delivered just 3 days after the funeral,
this speech was written prior to the eulogy written for my Father.  
It was slightly edited before delivering it on the 27th.

Prelude:  In the score notes to “CRUZIN’… for there is much to dare,” are these words by Howard Walter in 1906.  

I would be true, for there are those who trust me;
I would be pure, for there are those who care;
I would be strong, for there is much to suffer;
I would be brave,
for there is much to dare.

In just 2 short months since being asked to deliver this 1st commencement speech I’ve ever done... and I do hope to honor you... there have been some Global Goliaths:  Orlando, the British leaving the European Union, Floods and disasters.  These “Global Goliaths” will change names but these many things will be with you all throughout your lives.

Keep that in mind.

Life is short, but very wide.  Here are just a few personal things that happened in the brief Time between being asked to speak to you less than 2 months ago and now. 

Dame Mary Barraco got pneumonia.  She’s 92. She was a POW of the NAZIs when she was your age.  She had her teeth broken, her back was bared to the bone and much worse.  She was sterilized.  She watched her fiancé executed.  She survived all of that to become a Freedom Fighter in Belgium at age 17. Belgium knighted her for her service in WWII.  She survived pneumonia and is still with us... carrying on.

Keep that in mind.

A 7-year-old girl named Anaya Elick from Chesapeake, VA, won a “Best Handwriting Contest.”  She has no hands. 

Keep that in mind.

Over those 2 months, completing a film score, I quoted my favorite mathematician, Kurt Gödel, many times to several people, all of whom seemed to have the same name of… “David.” Gödel authored an axiom that paraphrased says, “if you devise an axiom, the opposite is also probably true.”  Here’s a demo:  “Haste makes waste.”  But… “He who hesitates is lost.”  Or one of my favorites:  “Two heads are better than one.”  But the Chinese say, “Tie two birds together and though they have four wings, they cannot fly.” 

Keep Kurt Gödel in mind.

My Father, already pummeled by his 2nd bout with Cancer got pneumonia and went into NY Presbyterian ICU not once but twice, and came out smiling, ready to start his 15-hour work days again.  He turned 81 on May 31st, which is more than four of your complete Lifetimes.  I had wanted him to be here, but sadly he passed away on Father’s Day.  We buried him just 3 days ago.  I share this with you to bring as much poignancy as possible to this moment.  For your sake, I want these words to ring True.  They come from my Heart.

Keep that in mind.

When I graduated from high school, our commencement speaker was Geraldo Rivera.  We were outside.  It was hot.  I was sitting in the band.  We played “Pomp & Circumstance” 20 times.  Prepping for this moment together, I tried to remember what he said, but I couldn’t remember a single word.

When I look back… and it’s 41 years now... what words do I wish I had heard?  What words would have provided vision and strength in the great struggles and battles ahead?

Main Theme…

Of all the many many stories I could share with you, I want to tell you about “David and Goliath.”

You think you know this story, right?  The little guy, the underdog who faces the overpowering, menacing Goliath and wins?

But let’s look at that same story the way Kurt Gödel might have looked at it, or Anaya Elick, the girl born without hands… or my Dad, who doctors had written off more than once in the hospital but died his way working at home.  

And THIS is my message to you graduates today!

David was not the underdog.  Goliath was.

Little David had the deck stacked completely in his favor, and he had won that battle long before stepping onto the field.

David was young. Light! Quick-moving.  He wasn’t weighed down by cumbersome armor the way poor old Goliath was.  David was well-trained.  During his years as a shepherd he was practiced in the use of the sling, a weapon that could strike from tens-of-yards away instead of just a few feet like a heavy sword.

David had so much on his side!  To Goliath’s slow, was David’s fast.  To Goliath’s clumsy movement was David’s grace and Bruce Lee-like-stealth. David had already defeated a lion and a bear!  Poor poor Goliath.  He was big, but only a human being... certainly no lion or bear! The guy never had a chance.  Can you see it now?  

And David had one other thing, one transcendent, massively immeasurable thing that made him the winner even before the confrontation would begin!  To Goliath’s arrogance and assumption of Victory, David had Faith

David believed in something higher than himself.  That belief gave him Purpose, and Purpose gives a person great Strength.  It makes him or her a Survivor… a “freedom fighter!”  As I have recently seen lived out in my Dad, and heard from many an ex-POW… “It’s hard to kill a Man if he don’t wanna die.”

So Take Heart!

We live in a matrix-like world where attempts to control the future and present are made by the rewriting of History…  so you need to go and study the Past, for the sake of the Now and the Future.  You are its story-tellers, You are its documentarians!  You do it with Music!

I know people who are literally waiting for those who have lived their incredible Stories to die, so that in their re-telling they can be un-encumbered with little trifles like the Truth. 

We also live in a political-technological world where a handful of Goliaths have their paws on the reigns, and many of those Goliaths will stand as obstacles to you in YOUR personal quest to be True!

As Rocky Balboa would say, “Life ain’t all sunshine and rainbows.”

So get ready for rough roads ahead.  But be inspired! … because there can be no DAVID without a Goliath.

Be grateful for the Goliaths you will meet!  And yes, you will confront many!

When you hear someone spout a normally, quickly accepted ”truism” like, “well, the world is gray, nothing is black and white,” hoist an imaginary red-flag in your mind.  Is there an opposite? Can that opposite also be true? 

Or how about this one, “When you grow up, you’ll see how the world really works, and you too will sell out…” 

(I’ve actually heard that countless times in my Life.)

You think Kurt Gödel might help you?  To visit all the potentials within your own mind?

If you came into this world metaphorically without hands… can you still win a hand writing contest?

And… can you be down for the count not once, not twice, not three times, but on and on and on… and get up to work 15-18 hour days in your 80s and 90s, four Lifetimes from now?
Seems a long way off, but I’ll bet this graduation felt that way to you just 4 short years ago.  Right?  

You see… Time is short. Life is short…. but thankfully, it’s really wide! 

In your Music-making, in whatever form that takes…You need to fight the Good fight so that those who follow you will be inspired.  They need to look at you and see DAVID.  They need to see in you that Goliath really never ever had the ghost of a chance. It just seemed that way.

So, my friends… in the Times ahead, be DAVID… because you already are.  Keep David alive within you. BE well-trained, BE well-practiced… as you are right now.  

… and above all, keep the Faith!


You must be true, for there are those who trust you;
You must be pure, for there are those who care;
You must be strong, for there is much to suffer;
You must be brave…

for there is much to dare.

I love you guys. Thank you for allowing me the great honor and privilege of making Music with you and speaking with you.

Godspeed into your Futures!

Stephen Melillo


DAVID at the STORMSite

PRINCE, a Story of Genius & Good


Twenty-five years ago I was in Los Angeles to score the 1201PM short that was later nominated for an Academy Award.  I was there with the same Director, Jonathan Heap, whose new film, The Unwilling,  I just finished scoring today!  

We were in a famous Los Angeles bar.  “Bar 1,” I believe but don’t quote me.  There were a number of stars there, Dan Ackroyd for one, Michael Douglas, a few big names.  And there was Steve.  Tight haircut, wearing a crew collar sweater, I looked like “Johnny Prep.”  I was never one for bars anyway and only went with Jonathan and Phil because… well, they said I had to!

At one point, a Prince song came up on the house system.  A smile came to my face!  In that same 25-year-ago SYNC-circle, I was just 2 months away from the premiere of a stage work entitled SON of the STORM, which as the SYNC of today would have it has been resurrected … 25 year later … and is currently in its final weeks of mixing.

I said, actually yelled to Jonathan, “You know Prince is a Genius!”

“You like Prince?”


“Wow,” said a surprised Jonathan over the noise.  “I didn’t think you listened to that kind of Music.”

“Hey, man!” I shouted.  “Genius is genius, and you know what?  I want that guy to play the part of The Creature in SON of the STORM.  Of course, how the heck do you get in touch with a guy like THAT!?”

At that very moment… PRINCE walked into the bar!

He was accompanied by two massive, and I do not use the word lightly, bodyguards. These guys were immense, one to Prince’s right, the other to his left.

I remember thinking, “how did he know his song was going to be playing?  Did he time his entrance on purpose, or was it just a weird accident?”

Prince and his bodyguards walked in a non-engaging circle… into the room and then toward the exit.  No one, not even the big name stars made eye contact with him, let alone do the somewhat expected pat on the back and say, “Hey Dude, how’s it going?”  In fact, they looked away and down.

Perplexed by the way everyone was treating… freaking PRINCE… I sort of shook my head in question.  Even my buddies seemed unimpressed with his presence.

Prince was just about to exit when I ran up in back of him and shouted, “I really LOVE your Music, man!”

The three of them stopped cold and turned toward me.  The room seemed to go quiet as I could feel ALL eyes on the four of us!

Now… think about what I might have said:

“Oh Mr. Prince, how severely I enjoy your Music-making, sir…”


“Hi, Mr. Prince.  You know, I’m a Composer too, and you need to be The Creature in my…”

Buzzer sound.

“I want to congratulate you on your many…”


Instead, and just like the little boy I really am, I repeated myself and said to a guy my same age, “ I really LOVE your Music, man!”

Now… think about what Prince might have said, because you see, this is the crux of the story!

“Why thank you.  It’s not easy being great…”

No way.

“Oh… are you someone who might help me further in my career?  You see I don’t normally speak with peons, who dress like they are at prep school.”


Prince turned around, his 2 bodyguards mirroring the move.  An honest smile came to his face.  he was calm an seemed somehow relieved. He made direct contact with my eyes.  Did I see loneliness there?  He was warm and sincere and kind.  He extended his hand and while we shook hands he said, “Thank you.  Thank you.”

He turned around and left the place.  Everyone was now staring at me.  

I have spent many years, 25 to be exact, wondering about what all of that meant.  When Prince left us just days ago, that story of his Genuineness and Kindness and Sincerity and Genius came flooding back.

I have taken into my own the hand of many many people across the many years of my Life.  The moments of genuine connection are always rare indeed. 

I wanted to share this story about Prince for a simple reason.  There are certain things you can’t fake.  You really can’t fake Sincerity, or Warmth, and though you can act Kind, you can’t fake real Kindness.

Prince was real.  I admired him greatly.  Still do.  I believe he is a genius… but more than that, I believe he is a good soul.  I will always remember shaking his hand and looking into his eyes and in that brief moment, connecting with an immensely gifted and good man.

Godspeed!  S

23 April 2016 Closing Remarks Honoring Our Veterans



Closing Remarks Honoring Our Veterans
12 Noon
Saturday, 23 April 2016
Dismal Swamp Trail
1113 George Washington Highway
Chesapeake, VA 23323

Speech written to honor the Souls of Bataan & Corregidor

If you do this again next year, remember these stories.  Remember the names and places.  Learn about them, and then when you take each step next year and the year after that, let the Story of these Great Souls become a part of you and your families forever.

I am honored and burdened to share this with you.

This December is the 75th Anniversary of Pearl Harbor.  Approaching 71 years ago, WWII in the Pacific came to an end, but NOT for the Defenders of Bataan & Corregidor, ex-POWs who put up a valiant 4-month fight, already beginning their starvation and using 1918 WWI ammo that failed 9 out of 10 rounds, with muzzle-bursts injuring their own Men.  It would take them as long as 40 years before they would begin to tell their stories, where for 3 years, 8 months and 25 days, 31,095 were sacrificed to sub-human, brutal conditions and hardship.

They held off the Japanese invasion long enough to profoundly affect the outcome of the war.  78,000 were “Surrendered.”  10,000 died on the Death March.

On 9 April 1942, 14 days and 74 years ago, during the hottest month of the year, they began UPHILL on a zig zag road.  To falter even for a moment meant a bayonet thrust, or a beheading. Some were dragged and run over by tanks.  

After surviving a step by step, desperate mile by mile “Death” march to hell-hole POW camps like Camp O’Donnell, Cabanatuan, Mindanao & Palawan, they faced years of day-by-day torture, despair, abandonment and a thirsty-hunger not just of the body, but of the Soul.

After years of agonizing imprisonment, they were herded into filthy ship holds, there to risk insanity and death, packed standing without rest… sweaty flesh to skin-and-bones flesh.

21,000 Allied POWs died at sea in the “Hell Ships.” About 19,000 of them were killed by US Forces.

They faced continued “Agony” as slaves in the mines of Japan, and were paraded naked in the streets where they could be further debased and humiliated. Some were put into zoo-cages so children could laugh at them. Others were burned alive for sport.  

Still wearing the same tattered clothes they had worn in extreme heat, they were now freezing, emaciated, and plundered from 190 to 67 pounds, carrying as many as 26 parasites in their bodies, while they dreamed of Home.

When contemplating the Defenders of Bataan & Corregidor, a word I cannot imagine without a “capitol S” is “Suffering.”  Their Suffering.

Of the 31,095, only 14,473 were released after the war.  

Who are these Men?  They were reduced to the most base form of “animal.” Some hated themselves and claimed that it was the “good” who died.  After years of imprisonment and punishment, they were freed by Americans wearing uniforms they did not recognize.  

Food was dropped to shriveled, starving survivors.  In more unthinkable irony, some who had endured so much for so long were killed by the canisters.  And what did some of these battered Men do?   They gave their food to starving Japanese children.  

That’s some history, a little background, some facts, but there’s a MISSION here.

Let’s take a small sampling of boys, like different spokes of the same wheel, and see if we can zoom in on a common hub... something they all shared. Maybe, it will help us as we too, “fight the Good fight…”

The greatest “rock stars” I’ve ever known are the people I’m going to tell you about.  Though largely forgotten even in American History books, these special people deserved groupies more than any Hollywood actor/rock star you can think of.

I first read about “The Bataan Death March” when I was a kid.  I went to New Mexico to meet an authority on the Subject.  Instead, her husband came out… bright blue eyes, big smile, a cane.  He sat down and started talking about “The Bataan Death March.”

His name was Jack Aldrich. We talked for over an hour before I finally said, “Wait a minute… you were there!?”  He nodded.

“Jack,” I said in a reverent whisper, “you’re a Hero!”  

He closed his eyes in quiet reflection… tired of having heard it so often and said, “I never had to storm a beach, or hold a hill.  I never jumped from a plane or liberated a town. All I did was survive.  The Heroes are the ones still over there.”  Then he said… “I have seen men die, and, dying say, ‘Tell them how it was.”  

Jack also neglected to say how he fought for 4 months in the jungle with failing ammo, eating shoe leather, insects and leaves, with “no Mama, no Papa, no Uncle Sam,” but hopefully you’ve already heard that.

Lorenzo Bañegas said, “We didn’t Surrender. We were Surrendered.”  Then he said.  “We were in the hold of that ship (the hell ship) and I looked at the cross in the beam and I said, ‘Lord if it is your will for me to live then I’ll live, and if it’s your will for me to die then I’ll die.’  I gave myself… (in other words, the first time he Surrendered himself …) to God.”

Evans Garcia was 92 when I met him back in 2002.  By the way, I also met a guy who was 14 when he was captured.

Evans stole medicine from the sick bay.  A guard caught him.  They stood him up to face 9 Japanese soldiers with rifles.  The officer raised his stick to give the order.  

“Nine Japanese,” yelled Garcia!

“What?” screamed the officer.

“Nine Japanese!” yelled Garcia.

“What?” screamed the officer again.

“It takes 9 Japanese to kill ONE American!” said a defiant Garcia.

An enraged officer said, “I’ll show you how many Japanese it takes!”  

Garcia was then beaten, supposedly to his death by the guard. After all of that, he and a small group stitched together an American Flag. Ever see “The Patriot?” Keep in mind, these guys were being beheaded for humming “God Bless America.”  That was a very important “code” to them and a way of communicating their longing for home.

Ward “Big Red” Redshaw was born in New Mexico.  With the 200th Coastal Artillery, he defended the attack on the Philippines, was captured, went on the march, survived the camps, the hell ships, slave labor, and get this now, watched the New Mexico-built A-bomb hit Nagasaki from his prison cell.  He passed away from throat cancer which is believed to have been a result of the radiation from that bomb.  Embodied in that one human life is all of the Beginning and the End of WWII in the Pacific... and ALL of that, in Suffering.

Ben “Bull” Benini, our most recent and local ex-POW from the Bunnys group was put into the Hospice and went 7 weeks longer than the doctors predicted.  He said, “They wrote me off… well, I’ll show them.”  

Consider the physical state of the POWs described earlier.  After 6 thirsty, Life-taking days in one of the hottest days on record in the Philippines, and up to 90 miles on the Death March depending on where you started, and after being carted into a train, denied water, with buddies being executed along the way, some tied to barbed wire to be eaten by ants, and dying from dysentery, dehydration, malaria and many other tropical diseases, with Men in his camp dying at a rate of 30-50 a day… under THOSE conditions, here is what Mr. Benini did.  

“Our Mission” he said, “Our MISSION was to take out Jap planes.  The airstrip was our detail.  Me and this other guy took the rocks they used for night landings and slowly changed them using seashells to reflect the light differently. We eventually crashed a plane.”

He laughed.  Even as a wasted-down, abused POW he was on a Mission.

Genro Lambiosa, learned to speak some Japanese before the war.  As a NAVY Diver, he wound up unloading supplies for the Japanese who were searching for the submerged Philippine Gold Treasury.  Genro and Charlie Dowdy used to joke about keeping some of that gold for themselves while hiding significant portions from the Japanese!  While putting a wrench in the works, Genro raised pigeons for food on the dock.  He shipped with the American Rover in Norfolk until he passed away in his late 80s working on a ladder.  These guys never gave up.

Charlie Dowdy was a tough one.  It took 3 years before he felt comfortable with me.  (that is 3 years plus 40, remember.) One day he said, “You can’t understand what happened over there.”

I said… “You’re right.  No one could except you guys, but if it’s okay, I’d like to hang around with you.”

One of the great personal triumphs was finally making Charlie laugh.  Charlie was a NAVY Diver too.  His story begins at Pearl Harbor.  His ship was hit in the attack!… and ends in Fukua Prison Camp as a Slave laborer.  He had many stories about “lugao” and he would talk about how he made deals for things like a piece of rope, or half of an old tent from which he could stitch new pants.  Charlie named his Guard/Torturers “Mickey Mouse” and “Donald Duck.”  Like so many others he was defiant, even in humor.

David “Top” Topping was a walking encyclopedia. He knew everyone from Jesse Owens to Louis Zamperini.  After the war, he took it upon himself to keep records of all the American POWs and the Hell Ships they endured.  Dave was almost 190 pounds when they captured him.  He was 84 pounds when he was liberated.  

One morning he said, “We couldn’t even sit.”


In a studious, articulate Dave-manner, he said, “At that weight, the coccyx bone is so exposed, it’s difficult to sit.”  

I thought I had heard enough, but there was always one more story, one more unimaginable nightmare for these guys to overcome.

Jim Downey was Filipino.  His ordeal began with not one, not two, but THREE ships being shot out from underneath him.  Three times he went into the water, three times he went treading with sharks.  Ironically, he was training for the Olympics as a swimmer when the War snatched him.  Jim survived the 3 sinkings and sharks only to be captured and then… You know the rest.

He would hold up his hand and say, “See that? Steady as a rock.  I can still shoot.  I’d go again if they let me.  I love America.”  He would get teary-eyed. “Yeah, I really love America.”

Another guy who went into the water was Stanley Woody.  Woody was on the USS HOUSTON and was one of only 249 Americans to work on the River Kwai rail system.  Watch the movie, “Bridge on the River Kwai.”  Woody used to joke, “Yeah, they got William Holden to play me.”  

He also said and always with a laugh, “I was only 19 when they got me.  That’s why I look so young!”  He once said, “I fought for Freedom, and I would do it again. After I read the book they did on us, that’s when I got scared.”  

Interestingly enough, the Japanese used to BOW to Woody before giving him a small can of rice for the day.  Why?  Because the USS HOUSTON kept firing and went down while firing.

Sam Ring was a 6th Army Ranger who after living next to our Bataan Vets for 60 years finally learned about Mr. Blair’s Breakfast at Bunnys.  Sam turned 18 on January 18th 1945.  For his birthday, he was shot through the thumb with a Japanese .25 mm machine gun bullet and was ripped up the right side by a hand grenade.  For the remainder of his life he had 21 pieces of shrapnel in his body.  Eleven days after his birthday, Sam took part in The Great Raid, the rescue of the POW’s at Cabanatuan. Sam simply referred to that as “another mission.”  

Unknown to him at the time, Sammy saved Sergeant Sam Ring, Sam’s Father who was captured at age 41, put on the March, and survived until his own Son rescued him at Cabanatuan.  

While doing research for the Musical Tribute, THAT WE MIGHT LIVE, we found footage made by the Army Signal Corps.  I showed the Footage to Sam.  

“Steve!  That’ my Dad!.”

“I know!”

“Where did you get this?” he said getting choked up?

“Don’t you remember ever doing this interview? It had to be a big set-up with tripods and everything else?”

“No... I don’t remember.”

Maybe Sam didn’t remember, because AFTER the Great Raid he was on the front lines against the Japanese until the End of WWII.  Then he fought in Korea.  Then he did 3 tours in Vietnam.  I always asked him, “Hey Sammy… How much is enough?”

He would say, “I’d do it again if they’d let me. I fought for Freedom and I’d do it again.”

Norman “Jack” Matthews BEGAN the Death March wounded. Both he and his Brother, Ed were captured.  Ed died in Jack’s arms.  

The Japanese commanding officer said on their arrival, “It would have been better for you if had you died on the march.”

After 3.5 years of Suffering and anguish, Jack went into the sardine-like confines of a Hell Ship.  In the hold of that ship there was no fresh air.  There was a bucket for defecation. There was unending heat, thirst, sweat, stench, vampirism and every other horrible torment you might imagine.  The ship was damaged by US Forces and it took 69 days to repair.  69 Days in THOSE conditions… 69 days on a CRUISE SHIP would be a nightmare... but can you imagine?  That ALONE would be Hell.

But Jack survived “HELL” only to wind up as a Slave-laborer in Japan, and when finally liberated, he chose not to come home, but to remain as part of the occupying force.

One day, Jack was talking about his Brother.  

“Jack?  Why do you think he died?”  In his whispery quiet, soft-spoken, years-of-carrying-a heavy-burden-way, Jack said, “He was good.”

In so many words, Jack was saying, “ I am not good,” and that is why he believed he survived and that is what he carried inside for so many years.

Jack Suffered his own private HELL like all the guys did… and yet, he would say things like, “It’s so great to be able to get up in the morning and have some breakfast.  Life just doesn’t get any better than this.”

Louis Sachwald, who had his legs run over by a Tractor during the March, and Marion “Turk” Turner passed away on the same day.  Separated only by distance, the guys were, and probably still are “connected.”  

Louie was forced to dig his own grave and lie in it until he died.  When he didn’t, he was allowed to get out and face 3 months on the Hell Ships.

Turk was buried at Sea courtesy of the USS BATAAN.  (one of many reasons we love the Bataan Crew…)

At Turk’s Funeral, I played Taps… and for the echo Taps, I played Reveille.  That’s who this guy was… and remains.  And if it was good enough for Winston Churchill then it was good enough for Turk.  

He came out of the Depression, like most of the guys, and when the War started he said, “Well, if we gotta fight, I ain’t walkin’. I’m gonna ride this one out.”  So he joined the NAVY and served on the USS PERCH.  

Now, in a scene that rivals anything you’ll ever see in a good movie, Turk was the 2nd to last man to get off the scuttled submarine.  He was half-way up the cargo net on the Japanese ship when he looked back and saw his Captain staying with the Perch.  With one of his arms wounded, Turk dove back in and rescued his Captain, pulling him up that cargo net.  

One day I asked him,“What can you tell me about Corregidor?”

Always with a smile, “Oh that place had the most beautiful sunrises!”

One day he said, “I could only get to the number 12 when they beat me.  Then I would pass out on my feet. Didn’t know what was happening after that.”  Then he would say, “One of the hardest things to do is kill a man if he don’t want to die.”

Every day, Turk would say to fellow POWs ready to let go and die, “They’re comin’ tomorrow.  They’re comin’ tomorrow!”  He said that for 1,294 days.  On the 1,295th day, he was right!  

I think Webster’s should replace their definition of Optimism with a photo of TURK TURNER.  He was holding Spencer (my 11 September 2001 born Son) on his lap, both of them with blue eyes blazing… when he said, “My Life just keeps getting’ better and better.”

JESSE BALTAZAR let us go just 11 days ago.

Due to lost records it took over 70 years for 71st Battalion’s Jesse Baltazar to finally receive his Purple Heart at age 94. John was the first native-born Filipino to join the Air Force in 1948.  He joined the U.S. Armed Forces Far East (USAFFE) in 1941 after Pearl Harbor. His camp was bombed on 15 March 1942, at which time he suffered shrapnel wounds to his leg. Under those conditions, he did the march!  But what does Jesse want most?  That the medal representing his story and the story of his friends gets passed on to the next generation.  SIR!  We’ll see to that!

As small worlds would have it, Daniel Crowley was born in Greenwich, CT., where I went to High School.  Did we get to meet him?  No… wasn’t on any History Class agenda, I guess.  

Daniel fought on Corregidor with the 4th Marines until they were officially surrendered by General Wainwright on 6 May 1942.  Daniel went from Camp O’Donnell to Cabanatuan and then to Palawan (and like I said, if these names are new to you, please research them for the Love of these Men.) Daniel helped build an airfield in the blazing sun with little clothes, no hat, no shoes. Half the prisoners died there, and if it were not for an American doctor’s convincing act, Daniel would have been returned to Palawan and burned alive with the remaining prisoners at the airfield. Daniel was then hell-shipped to Japan were he slaved in an ancient copper mine until 14 August 1945.  He was liberated on 4 September 1945 and has spent his life fighting for the legacy of those who fought with him against all odds.

JOHN MIMS went in at 190 lbs and came out at 67 lbs!  On the march, his teeth were broken out with a bottle and his legs were broken for trying to escape. He watched his friends killed in random firing squads. When asked how it was that he survived, he said, “God intended it.  I think God was looking out for me.”

By all means, please rub your elbows with these Great Souls.

I can’t help but REALLY love these guys.  I hope you do too.

So here’s the MISSION WRAP:  Ready?

It is said that we stand on the shoulders of giants.  True… but we also stand… maybe even kneel…  on the shoulders of average, common, often unknown, never-really praised or singled-out, forgotten by history, completely ordinary, day-to-day people who have been called, or have indeed volunteered to do the EXTRA-Ordinary and the UN-Common… some of whom... Sacrificed EVERYTHING … that we might live.

They were called the “Greatest Generation,” though these guys in particular, the greatest of the great, saw themselves as anything but Great.  

So to you, the Greatest Generation in progress, upon whose shoulders will stand more of the unnamed, and their children and their children’s children, let’s recap:

Surrendered but never surrendering
Fighting on even while you’re going down
Unswerving Audacity & Optimism while looking out for your friends…
Carrying the Torch into Future Generations...
The Love of Freedom…

That’s just some of it.  

I offer these small, edited stories in words and in Music.  They lived them in Blood.

If you serve in the Military or if you support them in any way, I come to you with unmeasurable Love and Respect.  You’re the next Greatest Generation… and it’s not possible to thank you.

Thank you for your Time and listening, for getting inspired to learn more.. and for becoming part of their story, a story that will go on and on and on, for as long as there is a need to defend Freedom.

Godspeed!  S

*** *** ***

Family includes: Charles Melillo, an ex-POW of the North Koreans, and since passed on. Dennis Chiarella, an ex-POW of the North Vietnamese.  Pat Viscusi who served in World War II, Korea and Viet Nam.  Dominic Melillo, Rudy Antonucci, Bruce DeFilippo and Dominic Vallette who served in World War II.  Ray Primm, who served in Korea.  Don Marturano who served aboard the Intrepid during the Viet Nam War.

SANTA's Letter


December 2015

from a letter edited by Santa Claus



On 1 December 2009, after a return from Todd-AO in Los Angeles and the film-mix session for “Dwegons & Leprechauns,” I had a dream.  I was visited by Santa Claus!  He asked me to write a letter about him and his life.  I was asked to share the letter with my kids on Christmas Day, and really any kids who wanted to hear Santa’s message.  

Determined to finally “capture” Santa on film, I set up a camera with a motion-detector attached to the shutter on 24 December 2007.  

The images captured became a part of the set-up film above and more importantly, a part of Santa’s “corrected” letter!  You see, Santa himself, obviously a stickler for accuracy, came into the house that Christmas of 2009, got into my computer and made “corrections” to the Dream letter of 1 December!  Talk about “stealth?”

Santa’s edited letter is below.  Feel free to share it with your kids!  Godspeed!  S




More from Thanksgiving 2015.

Nico, Naoko, the kids and I went to see CREED on Thanksgiving.  I confess it as loudly as possible.  I LOVE Sylvester Stallone. I love what he shares of himself and what he tries to package as a lasting message.  I grew up watching ROCKY and admiring Sylvester Stallone.  I often share his messages with my kids.  In fact… Here’s the SYNC with ROCKY and a small film clip to share.

Thanksgiving 1976.  (Time of the 333 Prayer on the Bridge.)  ROCKY!  I loved it.  Saw it many many Times.  Loved Bill Conti’s Music. Loved Sly.

Approaching Christmas 2006.  ROCKY BALBOA.  We were in Connecticut for my Mom’s funeral. All the kids from mine and my Brothers' families went to see it.  When that light bulb needed replacing, I leaned over and told Nick, “Watch, in some later scene he’s gonna come back with a light bulb.  No show… just a bulb.”  How did I know?  Because that’s just what my Grandfather would have done, just what my Mom would have done.  Missed “Midwest” that year and then lost my taste for it.  It was a Time for my Mom and Christmas.

Thanksgiving 2015:  CREED.  There are so many SYNCS in this film I can’t list them.  I mean that there are SYNCS that seem planted there just for my family.  LOVED CREED.  Love Sylvester Stallone.  Here’s what I want to share:

Together in Connecticut for my Mom’s funeral in 2006, we took the kids to see Rocky Balboa (6). This is one of my favorite dialogues. I was reminded of it tonight watching CREED, which has its own timely messages. 

Right after the Rocky scene… you’ll also find one of my all time favorite dialogues from Superman. Enjoy.

Rocky Balboa: You ain't gonna believe this, but you used to fit right here.
[taps on the inside of his hand]

Rocky Balboa: I'd hold you up to say to your mother, "this kid's gonna be the best kid in the world. This kid's gonna be somebody better than anybody I ever knew." And you grew up good and wonderful. It was great just watching you, every day was like a privilege. Then the time come for you to be your own man and take on the world, and you did. But somewhere along the line, you changed. You stopped being you. You let people stick a finger in your face and tell you you're no good. And when things got hard, you started looking for something to blame, like a big shadow. Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain't all sunshine and rainbows. It's a very mean and nasty place and I don't care how tough you are it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain't about how hard ya hit. It's about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That's how winning is done! Now if you know what you're worth then go out and get what you're worth. But ya gotta be willing to take the hits, and not pointing fingers saying you ain't where you wanna be because of him, or her, or anybody! Cowards do that and that ain't you! You're better than that! I'm always gonna love you no matter what. No matter what happens. You're my son and you're my blood. You're the best thing in my life. But until you start believing in yourself, ya ain't gonna have a life. Don't forget to visit your mother.


Dialogue starts at around 2:00


JONATHAN KENT, much older now, stands with stooped shoulders, a scythe in one hand. He looks care-worn, but deeply concerned as CLARK joins him in the yard.

I don't show off, Dad.
It's just that...

(total understanding)

You got all these amazin' things you can do
and sometimes you think you'll go bust if
you don't let other people know ..

(misty-eyed frustration)

I could score a touchdown every time I had
the ball. Every time, Dad. Is it showing off
for a person to do what he's capable of? Is
a bird Showing off when it flies?
(no reply)

I'm sorry, Dad. I know I made a promise,
but I just don't think I can handle it anymore.

CLARK turns away. JONATHAN watches with compassion.

Look, son. You've been nothin' but a blessing to your mother and me. In the beginning - when you first
came -we thought they'd take you away from us if
people found out about. . . the things you could do.
But a man thinks different as he gets older, 'thinks...
better. Wiser. Starts to see things clear. And I
know now that as sure as we're gonna see the moon
tonight there's a reason why you're here. Don't ask me
what reason, don't ask me whose reason.
But whoever, and whatever, there's one thing I do know...
(soft smile)

It ain't to score touchdowns.

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