Saturday, June 4, 2011

Whatever It Takes

Whatever it takes. That’s the implicit motto of the SF School music department—James, Sofia and myself. No one put it on our contract, no one is clocking our hours and making sure we’re financially compensated and certainly no one is telling us to slow down and not work so hard. It just arose out of our mutual commitment and dedication to do whatever needs to be done to walk the full length of the path we chose. (Or perhaps the path chose us because it saw we were willing to do the work?) It comes from what Daniel Pink (see his new book Drive) calls “intrinsic motivation” and the pleasure of doing what we love.

But as we all know, love is sometimes far too demanding and needy and will set unreasonable expectations without apology. Was that why I was a pole-vaulter in high school? (And broke the school record, I might add!) Some part of me knew the bar was going to be too high for my own two legs to straddle and I was going to need some help. It was exhilarating to speed down the runway, plant that pole, pull and gracefully soar over the bar to land in the soft-pillowed bed of congratulations. But my legs don’t run quite so fast these days, my arms are not quite as strong as they once were and my back is dubious from loading all these instruments into the van.

I look back with longing at these earlier blogs and my travel and teaching. Each and every day, there was a human-size proportion of tasks to be completed and time to savor and enjoy. These past two months have been an Olympian-size list on the shoulders of us mere mortals in the music department—and it ain’t over yet.

Consider: In the past four weeks alone, after returning from teaching at the weekend Orff retreat, we have mounted two Spring concerts with 190 children, which means not only making sure every child has a significant part to play and is clear about the music, the instruments played, the choreography, the transitions on and off stage, but also that we are clear about each detail, remember to pack each of some 100 instruments down to the triangle beater and snare drum brush. With help from some parents and kids (but the burden on us), we load the 17-foot U-haul at school, unload at the theater, load again after the concert, unload at school, just in time for Grandparent’s Day the next day, where select groups will perform again.

The next week is turning the music room into a recording studio and trying to get the perfect take of each of some 70 pieces. Then comes the hours in the studio listening and splicing and working out the order and making the liner notes with cover art for our 26th school double CD. After checking the final master and liner notes, it’s off to the duplication place to complete the process.

Meanwhile, we’re rehearsing with the Salzburg group on Sundays, organizing that concert, performing that concert (thanks to all that came!) along with the mandatory four-van loads, attending to the considerable details of taking 17 Middle School kids to Europe under our watch. Meanwhile, we’re also attending to the details of hosting our summer SF Orff Course, where some 200 people come from around the world to study with us. Meanwhile, we’re checking in on the Finland, Italy, Spain and Salzburg summer courses we’re teaching in. Meanwhile, we’re trying to get Sofia’s new book fully born into the world, with all the business details that involves. And meanwhile, we’re teaching our regular classes at the school, going to meetings, preparing report cards, taking the 4th graders to sing for the seniors at the Jewish Home, coming into the pre-school potluck to sing with parents. Meanwhile, we’re ticking off and adding to the lists of all the “meanwhiles” before summer snatches us away and whispers into our ear, “Breathe.”

I’m not asking for sympathy or adoration here (well, maybe a little of both), but the next time people tell me how lucky I am to do such fun work and get to travel and teach and enjoy the satisfaction of playing and singing and dancing with all kinds of people of all ages in all places, I still will agree wholeheartedly. But like anything worthwhile, it is a luck born from hard, hard work that is demanding, relentless and at times, more weight than the human frame can carry. I wouldn’t necessarily wish it on anyone.

Now that I got that off my chest, it’s back to report cards.

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