By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
The trip was a typically bighearted scheme by Flaherty, originally intended to get one of the other kids out of Los Angeles for the summer after the student witnessed a gang murder. Flaherty remembers Calvario as an awkward ninth-grader who barely knew his right foot from his left. But Calvario was blessed with such amazing hands on tenor drums that he went on to Riverside Community College’s prestigious drum program and won a world championship with the Concord Blue Devils.
Now 25 and working for a Santa Monica Jaguar dealership, Calvario says Flaherty gave him his opening to a successful life when even his parents doubted that playing in a drum line was worth much.
“I probably would have dropped out of high school and be working somewhere for a minimum wage trying to get by,” Calvario tells the Weekly. “He would say, if you felt like quitting, ‘You can’t.’ I actually learned not to quit from him. His big thing was not to quit no matter what other people think. You have to prove them wrong, that’s what I got out of him.”
Calvario put Flaherty to the test, too, by wanting to quit, especially during his first year with the elite Troopers. Flaherty spent $600 so Calvario could spend the summer in Casper, where the then-16-year-old endured homesickness and busy days of marching under a searing sun.
It turned out to be just what Calvario needed. “I wanted to quit, and I sat down with him. We were eating lunch, he talked to me: ‘This is hard — if it’s easy, everyone would be doing this.’ He told me how he had marched, and I still said, ‘I can’t.’ Then he said, ‘These opportunities don’t come around every day, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime chance and you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment that no one can take away from you.’ And you know what? He was right. There were about 115 performers that summer, and only that many people in the world could say they went through that experience, that they marched with the Troopers.”
Calvario, a reluctant student, says Flaherty was no less demanding academically and would even take him by the shirt and march him to classes. “Other teachers would just give up. He’d keep harping on you, he wouldn’t stop until you were successful ... I’ve seen him turn kids’ lives around.”
Flaherty assisted Calvario through college and during his drumming career, asking him to pay back his debt merely by returning to Hawthorne to help younger kids. Calvario did return, acting as head of the Gold Drum & Bugle Corps last summer. Traveling through California as a leader of the corps while it won multiple events was the pinnacle of his drumming career.
But Calvario is struggling to make sense of what has happened to his favorite teacher, saying he wishes he could make it all go away so that the next generation of musicians at Hawthorne High School can experience what he and his peers did.
“It’s a mix of emotions. You think about it and you get sad, because he’s my friend and a real good influence, and I feel bad. Then I get angry at the power of people to do that to such a good guy. Why would you do that to a guy who’s so great?”
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