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James enrolled with his sisters in the all-black public high school, where he found a new crowd, focused on music, and won the opportunity to go to Europe. The trip wasn't free, but a rich couple, the Dawsons, had donated money so that inner-city kids would be able to take advantage of such opportunities. In exchange, James worked on their estate. When Mrs. Dawson discovered him sleeping in a strawberry patch she fired him, but still paid for his trip to Europe. The Dawsons kept in touch with James even after he left for Oberlin, which he attended for its strong liberal arts program and music conservatory: James vividly recalls receiving a letter from Mrs. Dawson telling him that her husband had died. In September of 1975, he got on a Greyhound bus and watched his mother wave good-bye to him, remembering how she had always rushed her children out the door, telling them to learn to live on their own.