In Memory of Henry Schiro
Last Friday afternoon I heard “Moon River” played for San Jose arts patron and supporter Henry Shiro at his funeral mass. As most in the community know, Henry spent the better part of thirty years raising money for, participating in, and cheerleading on behalf of San Jose’s arts and culture community, and more specifically, music organizations such as San Jose Jazz, the Children’s Musical Theatre, the Steinway Society, and more recently, the Mexican Heritage Corporation (MHC) and Plaza. They played a sampling of his favorite tunes at the service. Based on the SRO crowd at Friday’s mass, I’d say he succeeded in his mission of community service. Also, he had great taste in music.
So I sat there in the basilica with hundreds of other fans of Henry listening to “Moon River” and remembered the first time I heard it. I was maybe 10 or 11 and Breakfast at Tiffany’s was the afternoon movie of the week on television. My folks were not musical at all. My dad was a bookworm and mom also liked to read, but she also loved to take a break in the afternoon and watch the afternoon matinee on TV. She and I watched some great movies together: The Glen Miller Story, The Pajama Game, Robin Hood, The Bishop’s Wife …
Henry sort of reminds me of Jimmy Stewart, who played Glen Miller in the movie. Like the actor he evoked a quiet, assured and firm determination, a dignified passion for service, and in the end, an uncommon commitment to giving joy. I know this from personal experience. Just days before his passing he was in San Juan Bautista meeting with the great Luis Valdez to encourage him to participate in a piano concert MHC is co-presenting with the Steinway Society in November.
Like all of us, Henry’s life was marked with challenges to be met and overcome. I thought of this listening to the Mercer and Mancini ballad, which was performed in the movie by Audrey Hepburn. The thing that calls when I listen to Hepburn sing “Moon River” is her perfect imperfection. Her voice is untrained, yet somehow she evokes the South and the river and exactly what the composer hoped, I suspect: a rainbow’s end.
And I think, given Henry’s priorities while he was living—family, music, and education—that is a place he knew, and knows, quite well.
Marcela Davison Aviles is the CEO of the Mexican Heritage Corporation and the Producer of the annual San Jose Mariachi and Latin Music Festival, which runs this year from next Sunday, September 7, through September 27. For information, go to http://www.sanjosemariachifestival.com/