A Face In The Crowd 

Chances are, Frank P. LaVarre is the only Nashville Symphony volunteer who’s been sentenced to 25 years in the slammer. LaVarre, the self-described CFC—chief filing clerk—of Bloodworth Motor Sports, was busted on a pot possession charge while attending the University of Virginia in the late ’60s. Though he was released from prison after just a year—thanks to a conditional pardon from the govnuh—he says his time behind bars was illuminating. “A few weeks before [the arrest], I had read Camus’ The Stranger,” he says. “I wondered what it would be like to be completely cut off from the rest of the world.... That was a very valuable experience.” He spent his sentence teaching inmates everything from math to physics to astronomy, and even wrote letters for them. (He says the rapists, murderers and bank robbers all felt sorry for the naive new kid on the cellblock.) LaVarre was born in Panama and grew up in Colombia and Peru, where his dad had a job with the Singer sewing and manufacturing company. He returned to the states for boarding school, did abbreviated time at both UVA and prison, then came (where else?) to Nashville. LaVarre has enjoyed several jobs here, but his real passion is volunteering. He lends his time to the Boy Scouts—at the district level, his title is assistant scoutmaster in charge of frivolities—and to the Nashville Symphony, where he evangelizes for the Classroom Classics program, which gives students free tickets to symphony concerts. It’s a good fit for LaVarre, who believes learning can happen as much outside the classroom as in. “I guess if I were to describe myself, I’d say that I’m insatiably curious,” the encyclopedia collector says. “I love to read about ants and trees and stars and supernovae.” But will he ever find himself in a classroom again? “I think about becoming a teacher,” he says. “I want learning to be as exciting and fun as it can be.... But first I’ll have to go back and finish my bachelor’s.” It’d be time well served.

—By John Spragens

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