Thursday, April 2, 2015

Me and James Brown

The Godfather of Soul was often called “the hardest working man in show business.” I’m not allowed to claim that title for myself in the Orff workshop business (such things must be left for others and believe me, no one cares), but let me just note that in the past 33 days, I’ve been teaching workshops for 24 of them and all but two of the remaining nine have been spent on planes and trains getting to the workshop sites. That leaves 2 out of 33 days where I didn’t wake up having to either teach or catch a flight.

Also like Mr. Brown, “Yeeow!! I feel good! I knew that I would!” When you do work that both uses all of you and feels useful, awakens hidden potential in people who then feed the energy released back to you, work in rooms charged with the electric excitement of harmonized tones, dynamic rhythms, swirling movement, work is not “work” but the magnified pleasure of a life’s purpose in the circle of a loving community.

But it is also work, a scheduled life different from a day at the beach or the impulse to hop on your bike. The mind reviewing class plans is not wholly free to attend to other possibilities, the responsibility to create coherent experience for 55 people is different from awakening to the day’s promise free to follow your whimsy. But today I will be a Thai tourist and tomorrow fly to Bali to begin a true 8-day vacation with my daughter and no concrete plans.

As for the Thai Orff-Jazz Course, it joins a long list as one of the most energetic, fun, humorous and moving courses I’ve taught. Every break was quickly filled with little groups practicing body percussion or folks jamming at the xylophones and pianos reviewing the pieces we just did. Always astounding how folks who never heard of Louis Armstrong or Fred Astaire quickly uncovered the universal jazz spirit we all seem to have and believe me, they were swingin’! I often talk about teaching music as more infecting people with your own enthusiasm than making them dutifully practice and believe me, they caught the bug big-time! Many reported going home and playing some of the games with their own children, so the sparks of the day continued outside of the university gates.

Perhaps the highlight of the time was dancing Lindy Hop and then looking over and seeing the 91-year old Matron Saint of Orff in Thailand, Mom Dusdi, standing up and dancing. I ran over and took her hand and joined her while Lester Young wailed on Love Me or Leave Me, both of us with smiles from floor to ceiling and the folks looking on in awe and amazement. And just three days from the one-year passing of my Mom, I couldn’t help but feel her Spirit in the soft hand I held. Extraordinary.

Mr. Brown, according to your movie, I’m nicer to my students than you were to your band members, but I think we share the passion for our respective work. Just wondering, though: Did you ever get to vacation in Bali?

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