You’d think I would have sprinted out the door each day the moment the bell rang, but I didn’t. Instead, I lingered for an hour or so in Mr. Hairston’s music room. What kept me from running to freedom? Besides Bruce Lee and Optimus Prime, Wendell Hairston was the coolest person I’d ever seen or heard of. He could call you “a real cool cat” without being the least bit pretentious, and just about everything he said came out relaxed and happy, as if the conversation were being held in hammocks on the beach. For him, jazz wasn’t just an art form. It was a way of life, and he was happy to share it with you. He started with major scales, the DNA of Western music. After you learned to run up and down every key with your eyes closed, you found out when and how to break the rules with the blues. With that much under your belt and a willingness to eat and sleep with your instrument, anything was possible: symphonies, Bach études, the theme songs to your favorite cartoons. As a kid, because of Mr. Hairston, I thought of Charlie Parker solos the way many regard the Book of Revelation, as something ominous and beautiful and worth spending several lifetimes studying. I suppose that’s what great teachers do: help you get from point A to just about anywhere, one lesson at a time.