Saturday, October 17, 2015

The Power of Music


Today was another blessing, the chance to give yet another Orff workshop to over 100 teachers in the Portland Orff Chapter. Wonderful people all, many who I’ve know for years, many meeting for the first time—and the added gift of my wife, daughter, husband, step-grandson and two grandchildren coming for an hour to see what the heck I’m really doing at these things. And joining in some of the fun! At the end, someone told me they overheard people leaving exclaiming, “I’m so much happier than when I arrived this morning,” and how happy did that make me? Indeed, I tell the kids one of my prime goals is that people leave each class happier than when they walked in. And today it worked for some people!
The theme of the workshop was music’s power to help children feel known, connected, part of something larger than themselves and larger than the small parts they often play in the world. The games, songs and dances were intended to not only reveal people’s interests and passions, but to reveal one layer deeper how they express those interests in movement, sound and drama. We did my fantasia on the simple song “Shoo Fly” ending with people showing what makes them “feel like a morning star (the sun).” We created dances in which each person's ideas were incorporated, we learned music in which people helped each other master their parts without any offer of reward or threat of punishment, we danced the hilarious (but effective) conflict resolution dance and ended with the lovely Estonian lullaby, breathing together in a tightly knit spiral. I gave my closing statement, “From vibration to vibration, that’s music’s power, the way it can bypass the mind that is entangled in philosophy, dogma, religious beliefs, notions about that’s true and false and work directly on the nervous system, change our breathing, pluck the strings of the heart. No matter how frustrated we feel as teachers that the school system doesn’t value us, fellow teachers might not understand us, kids might take us for granted or disrespect us, when the group is gathered and the door closes, we are left alone in that sea of vibration to do our best to work magic. And our power to reach deep to the spirit and souls of children is something no one can take away from us.”
And so I left the workshop with a happy heart and happy again to know that my wife and I were going to get to babysit our grandchildren while their parents went to a Madonna Concert. (Really! A long time dream of my son-in-law.) Little 3-month old Malik is a dream, so good natured and a good eater and sleeper and smiler and laugher, but tonight when my wife put him down to sleep, he started crying and showed no signs of stopping. So I went down to see what I could do and picked him up and held him and started chanting Buddhist sutras, a style that goes deep into the bass vibrations from my chest to his. And lo and behold, he stopped crying after two minutes. I moved from there to the Estonian lullaby and it calmed him completely and he went to sleep. This vibration to vibration stuff really works! I also had a good time with Zadie (almost 4 now!) building the Marble Maze, singing songs and telling her the story of Rumplestiltskin accompanied by a drum.
Music teaching. It makes for a good life. Who would have guessed?

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