Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The Salzburg Explosion

It’s remarkable how one word— “Salzburg”—can detonate an explosion of fond recall in people from all corners of the world. My simple Facebook status—“In Salzburg for two weeks” did just that as people rushed to comment – the first one came 3 seconds after posted, quickly followed by another.  Within a couple of hours, there were 60 “likes.”

No surprise. Every two years since 2003, I’ve spent an intense few weeks with some 15 students worldwide (90 total) and some 15 summers since 1990, have hung out with and taught some 100 students. With over 1500 folks I know who have partaken of the glory of Salzburg, all I have do is publicly name some other explosive words and they will smile with glee and affection. Secret words like: “Merkur. Almdudler. Café Tomaselli. Argekultur. Maibaum in Anif. Mr. Fisher’s lawnmower.” Only the initiated know.

Salzburg remains one of my favorite places in the world, despite the fact that they’re slow to wireless the place and still allow smoking in restaurants. Way ahead of its time with bike paths, still respecting the need for open space unfilled with malls and office buildings, mountains surrounding and a river running through, a balanced blend of old town and new, of nature and city, of Mozart heritage and modern artistic pursuits. I’m sure that all of this contributes to people’s fondness for the place.

But for the people I’m talking about, all that is mere backdrop to the spiritual center of their time here—The Orff Institut. This modest building next to the Frohnburg where Julie Andrews cavorted has been the place where radical experiments in art and education developed into a reliable pedagogy that has dispersed its discoveries far and wide around the globe. Those from far away who walked its halls and peopled its classes returned to their countries with seeds clinging to their socks. Some survived the new soils and with some dedication and patient care, grew to their own blossoming in the form of Orff Associations in 40 countries worldwide. Impressive work.

Today I had the double pleasure of being welcomed in a staff meeting as a guest teacher and then allowed to leave. My kind of meeting! But before I left, I told the teachers how moved I was by the Facebook response and said, 

I suspect that in this meeting you will deal with the details of keeping things running here and be as restless, bored or bothered as I sometimes am at my own school meetings. But maybe it’s good to start such a meeting with a reminder of how many people out there in the world carry this Institut in their heart with such great affection and gratitude. How many children daily receive the gifts of the training that goes on here. How many lives have been transformed by the classes you and those who came before teach. I’m deeply grateful for the work you all do to keep it going and want to speak on behalf of all my Facebook friends who feel the same. Carry on!”

And then I left the meeting and went to the Merkur to buy an Almdudler. 

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