Saturday, March 26, 2011

Just Getting Warmed Up


My razor is dull, my shampoo almost gone and I have one clean shirt left—it’s time to go. But reluctantly. My future epitaph for my gravestone applies here—“I’m just getting warmed up.” As I’ve said so many times in these entries, it is a pleasure beyond words to have the opportunity to teach adults as I do, passing on what feels essential about music education, culture and our own limitless possibilities. To do a one-hour workshop is to quickly pull back a curtain so the people can peek into a splendid room and then, if they choose, find their way back to it with future workshops. A one-day workshop lets people stay a little longer, try out the furniture and enjoy the snacks. The five-day course is when things get more serious—and more fun. Time for understanding to settle, for technical practice to get some exercise, for the way the teacher thinks and develops things to become familiar and predictable in a satisfying way, for relationships to form and grow. The two-week Level training and my two weeks here allow for a full arch to be revealed—from step A to step Z, from the baby to the elder—and for the intimate culture of the group to grow and thrive. I can only be grateful for it all—and yet hungry for more. The first time I taught a Special Course in Salzburg in 2003 remains my world record—some 90 hours over six weeks. But still not enough.

We finished the last day playing some music from the Basque Country, Greece, Zimbabwe and American jazz, singing a couple of songs from Bulgaria and Sweden, sitting for a closing circle to find out what each person had to say. Keeping to the musical arch I try to apply to my classes—enticing beginning, connected middle, satisfying end— I hoped for the usual tear-filled ending as we sang the Swedish song with the punchline, “I can row without oars, I can sail without wind, but I cannot say goodbye to my friend without crying.” There was a lot working against the perfect ending—we were overtime, the lighting was wrong (noon with bright sun), the reflection brought up some of the frustrations people had with the sometimes frantic pace. But still, as I gave each person two Spanish kisses one-by-one around the circle while we sang, some cheeks were wet—including, of course, my own. As Owl says in Arnold Lobel’s delightful children’s story, “I take a sip of Tearwater Tea and find it a most refreshing drink.”

I finished the day taking care of the practical tasks before leaving—returning keys, collecting final papers, arranging tomorrow’s taxi, packing and such— and then met about half the folks once more for dinner at an Afro restaurant (fun to eat millet with vegetables), followed by the mandatory beer hall experience. Then I returned my rented electric bike and walked home once more along the river in the balmy Spring evening, moon rising over Untersberg Mountain, the night birds singing. How much gratitude is enough? To not only share work that touches every nerve in the human body and soul, but to do so with such lovely people in such a breathtaking city—well, really, how dare I ever complain about anything ever again?

And when it comes down to it, my biggest complaint is simply ignorance that such possibilities exist, my dismay at a culture’s refusal to see how rich life could be for us all if we only paid attention to the right things. At dinner, my American friend tells of how her sister is considering home-schooling her eight-year old because at four, he brought back dynamic artwork and the songs he learned in class, and now it’s only dull homework and no enthusiasm because the arts in LA schools have been cut yet again (go to “music2011” for a Youtube version of the story). Same-old same-old.

Meanwhile, a thousand thanks to Shirley Salmon and Andrea Ostertag for inviting me yet again and keeping the Special Course running, to Manuela Widmer, Barbara Haselbach, Monica Siegel and more for working so hard on the upcoming Symposium this summer (where I will come yet again with my two colleagues, Sofia Lopez-Ibor and James Harding and 17 kids from The San Francisco School to perform and partake), to each and every one of these beautiful sixteen people who turned their lives upside-down for one year to go deeper into this spiritual practice. “So long, farewell, auf weidersehn, goodbye…” to this magical Sound-of-Music city—and see you all again in July.

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