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Father and son a fine-tuned team


Like father, like son, Neil and Mark Hjelmervik are pretty much in perfect harmony.

A love of music snared both men early in life and evolved into careers for both, allowing history to make a musical reprise for Calaveras County students.

Neil taught music at Calaveras High School for 32 years before leaving in 2000 to teach at two elementary schools in the district. Son Mark was hired in 2001 as the choral teacher at Calaveras High.

Neil was 21 and a graduate of Cal-State Hayward when he started teaching at Calaveras High. Mark was 23 and a graduate of Pacific Lutheran University, in Tacoma, Wash., when he joined the same school's teaching staff.

Both men's musical experiences were launched on drums.

"My parents took me to a parade when I was about 6," said Neil. "They said when I got home, I pulled the pots and pans out of the cupboards and beat on them. So they signed me up with the Weldonian Band, a youth band in Oakland."

Mark's early drumming took place at Calaveras High's band room.

"He was 3 or 4 and I took him to band practice on a Saturday. I sat him on the drum seat and gave him sticks," Neil said. "The next thing I know, he's shouting ‘I love rock and roll' boom, boom, boomboomboom. ‘I love rock and roll.' Boom, boom, boomboomboom."

Neil laughs out loud at the memory.

Not surprisingly, Mark remembers growing up in a home filled with music.

"Our life was consumed with music," he said. "The summers I would go to band camps with my parents. (Dad) was very popular with the kids. The kids would come over to the house all the time."

Mark remembers his father playing the organ to wake him up in the mornings. "Or he'd blow the trumpet at the top of the stairs."

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