Page 6 • July 2014 • Deer Valley Times
By Dave Ficere
Imagine being a teenager with a well-known musician for a father and household name rock stars as part of your circle of friends.
Then, tragedy strikes and you lose both your father and mother to illness and your guardian uncle in a tragic house fire. How would you respond? Would you enter a downward spiral of anger and depression seeking solace in drugs and gangs or turn to your family and music for comfort and security?
No, it’s not the script for a Hollywood movie, but the real-life story of Jarod Clemons, son of Bruce Springsteen E Street Band founding member and saxophonist Clarence Clemons, who died on June 18, 2011.
Jarod is a 10th grader at Brightmont Academy in Deer Valley and hopes to one day follow in his dad’s footsteps as a musician. He inherited his family’s musical genes and plays the guitar, keyboards, drums and writes music while playing for churches and fairs throughout the Valley. And, he appeared on stage with Springsteen twice in 2012 during The Boss’s “Wrecking Ball” World Tour.
“Little Big Man,” as his dad called him, was also on hand for his father’s posthumous induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this past April.
All that could be pretty heady stuff for a 16-year-old, but Jarod is taking it all in stride while coping with grief. “Jarod experienced an extraordinary amount of loss in a short period of time, but his peers, teachers and mentors at Brightmont Academy have been able to nurse him through,” says Dr. Judith Zenna-Valgento, Campus Director at Brightmont’s Deer Valley Campus. Jarod agrees, saying that he still struggles with his emotions, particularly on special days such as Mother’s Day or Father’s Day. His music – along with his faith – has helped center him, he says. “I ask God what He wants me to do now, and He helps me through my day, along with my music, which helps me channel my emotions,” Jarod says.
Jarod was living with his mother until she passed away from cancer in 2012 and then went to live with his aunt Patricia and uncle William, a retired Marine Corp band leader. Tragically, William died in a house fire in January 2014. “Jarod feels secure, validated and safe here at Brightmont,” Zenna-Valgento says. “In addition, one of his cousins has been able to mentor Jarod and help him through all the transitions in his life. “The family has an incredible bond,” Zenna-Valgento says, and they are very strong in their faith. Jarod is able to use his music as his refuge during these times of tragedy and uses it as therapy and a way to cope.”
And what was it like to appear onstage with Bruce Springsteen in front of 30,000 people? “Very scary, but very cool,” Jarod says. “An adrenaline rush that helps you forget what’s happening,” he added, laughing as he remembered “acting like a confused puppy” on stage. One piece of advice he got from Springsteen: “If you write a song and think it sounds bad, let it out anyway, because it may help others.”
How is Jarod doing today? “Every day is a struggle, but you have to keep your head up and keep going, he says, “and if you’re struggling, get a counselor, talk to your family and try to be as positive as possible, taking it one day at a time.”
Wise advice from Jarod Clemons, who despite his young age, speaks from a wealth of experience. So, check out his Facebook page at the Jarod Clemons Project and remember the name. You may one day see him onstage again with Bruce Springsteen or headlining at a club or stadium with his own band.
Originally published in the July 2014 of the Deer Valley Times. Reprinted with permission.