Sunday, November 11, 2012

Why Lester Young Refused to Be an Orff Teacher


There’s a story in jazz circles that Lester Young used to be a drummer, but got discouraged after the gigs when all the girls went off with the horn and piano players while he was still packing up his drums. So for the noblest of reasons—ie, women—he decided to switch to tenor sax. His sex life improved  and, as you Lester Young fans can testify, the world is richer for his musical choice.

If Lester had gotten a job as an Orff teacher, he would have switched to Kodaly in a heartbeat. After the Kodaly concert, the teacher puts some music in a briefcase and perhaps a music stand and is free to go out for beers with his/her adoring fans. Whereas the Orff teacher is already thinking about who will gather the mallets during the applause. While others are basking in the afterglow of work well-done, the Orff teacher—well, at least James, Sofia and I still in a school with no theater (about to change in six months!)—is pleading with a few parents to stick around to help load the U-haul van.

And so after three months of hard work, numerous eight-hour rehearsals with 10 to 12 year old kids and the great pleasure of sharing the stage with one of the more varied and interesting group of musicians you can imagine in the recent World Music Festival, the U-haul pattern persisted. Today I slipped out during rehearsal to drive across town to rent it, drive it back, park it, rush back to rehearsal in time for…snack. Found some kids eating pizza and hoped they’d catch me up on what I missed.

We performed—magnificently, I might add— and while the farewell hugs after the show began, I rushed out to get the U-haul and bring it around to the loading dock. Some parents indeed had helped and while they loaded the truck, I went down to the parking lot to get my bike and stick it in the back. By the time the truck was loaded, everyone was gone—no thank yous or satisfying farewells.

To add insult to injury, the U-haul place didn’t have the key to the lock they provided and so Sofia and I drove around looking for 24-hour Walgreens. After first going to two that were closed, we found one at 18th and Castro, and bought a tiny lock that barely fit. I dropped her at home and then came the task of finding a parking place large enough for the truck. Fifteen minutes of circling in the Inner Sunset and I found it.

Tomorrow off I go to school (mind you, this is my time off from school) to unload the van, return the U-haul and wonder if I’ll get reimbursed the $60 for the rental, $10 for the gas, $8 for the lock— and of course, never even consider getting paid for the time. We are ORFF TEACHERS, committed to our lifelong motto— WHATEVER IT TAKES. And of course, we’ll do it for free.

Oh, the stories I could tell. The midnight moment with instruments on the sidewalk that wouldn’t fit in the van, me trying to strap them on my back and ride them home on my bike—in the rain. Or the time after the Holiday Plays when everyone was gone and the house manager wanted to get paid and James and I were the only ones left, counting quarters found in remote pockets. The time parents put everything out on the sidewalk to load and someone (not a school parent) walked off with James’ computer. A lovely way to end the show. Someday we’ll write our memoir—Our Life With U-Haul. But meanwhile, I probably need to move that truck early tomorrow morning for street cleaning.

Maybe I’ll take up tenor sax.

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