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'Jazz' series has shown the worth of talent when chips were dow

by Bob Stealey

Editor

No doubt, some who are reading Bob'n'Along today have been following the 10-part Ken Burns series, "Jazz!" on Public Television. It has been running a couple nights a week on WNPB-TV, Channel 24 in Morgantown, or maybe another WVPBC station you receive.

I have now watched three of them, including two of them this week.

Watching the extensive film clips on various artists like Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Fats Waller and Art Tatum, and hearing the music that had Americans dancing wherever they stood back in the '20s, '30s and '40s was interesting, to say the least. All this was further embellished by the background information provided by narrator Keith David.

Just as the music itself possessed a rousing main theme and a "subliminal" undercurrent -- it had that effect on me -- I detected somewhat of a secondary "message" from the programs.

Fortunate was I not to have had to endure the years of the Great Depression, as did those who were around about 10 years earlier than was I. It was this country's own worst crisis since the War Between the States, and it spanned a time "right smack in the middle" of the jazz era.

Numerous times, the films showed people lined up, either at soup kitchens or looking for jobs, if indeed there were any to be found. Even some of the most popular entertainers, including Louis Armstrong, found themselves out of engagements during those desolate Depression days.

One thing was both heartening and inspiring, and that was to hear how some young people were recruited for their musical talent, providing them with a way to use their creative abilities to lift themselves out of the doldrums of the times.

Therein lies the gist of Bob'n'Along today. Not just to rave about an excellent documentary series, but to bring out into the open for those discouraged and out of work, even today, that perhaps all they need to do is put to good use a God-given talent they have, whether known or unknown to them.

Many have talents they don't even know they ever had, and by exercising a bit of insight -- maybe even by taking an aptitude test -- and adding a dose of imagination to it, they could well be on the road to a career that is rewarding, both monetarily and in the realm of self-confidence.

Though there are some who would have you believe differently, nobody ever said you have to be a teacher or a clerk or an engineer or a laborer. Find your niche, use the talents you already have and then the sky's the limit! Forget the traditional! Go down the road less traveled by -- and it can indeed make all the difference.

Have a terrific weekend!

Exponent-Telegram Editor Bob Stealey can be reached by telephone at (304) 626-1438, or by e-mail at rstealey@exponent-telegram.com.

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