Friday, March 18, 2016

Honorary Doctorate


Okay, I’ll admit it. I’m a little sour grapes that no one has given me an honorary doctorate yet. Of course, I respect the study, dedication and work required to receive a doctorate degree and don’t take lightly the notion that one can skip it and just be granted one for free. But in my mind, I’ve done more than enough independent study to warrant one. A lifetime of teaching, reading, writing that equals or surpasses the required classes and thesis writing.

In case any college folks out there are reading this and have the power to dub me Dr. Goodkin (or Honorary Dr. Goodkin), consider: I’ve written 8 books that are all in the seond, third or fourth printing. I’ve written some 1300 blogs with almost 150,000 page views and given a TEDx talk that some 24,000 people have bothered to watch. I’m soon to give my sixth Keynote Speech at a prestigious Conference and as this blog testifies, am enough in demand as a leader in music education that I’m regularly invited to Asia, South America, Europe, Australia and around the U.S. and Canada. And even occasionally to Africa. It’s not that a doctorate will change my life or upgrade the respect people will pay me. It’s just that even though I chose not to play the game and often purposefully pick the path less traveled, I sometimes feel that the World might at least grant me an official title or document to validate the lifetime of single-focused dedicated work.

But that ain’t gonna happen. That ship will not be sailing into my harbor. 

But in my odd world, I believed I received my honorary doctorate yesterday. A 5th grade boy at the Nishimachi School in Tokyo asked me what I thought the most mysterious song was. Without missing a beat, I told him, “The story of how a little girl named Clementine traveled to the Central African Rainforest.” I went on to relate how Colin Turnbull begged time and time again to meet a certain elder woman reputed to know the most sacred song of the Baka Pygmy repertoire. He finally convinced her to sing it and he recorded it. “Would you like to hear her song?” I asked the boy. Wide-eyed, he nodded his head. I asked April, my friend and host music teacher, if she happened to have a certain compilation CD I once made. She looked in her cabinet and took it out and I said, “Track 29.”

And there it was. This elder Baka Pygmy woman and her friends singing a melody that sounded mysteriously familiar. Could it be? Yes, it was— the tune of Oh My Darling Clementine with new words and hip rhythms. How could this be?

I shared my theory that perhaps a missionary had come by these parts and the woman heard him whistling this song off in the distance and thought it was the Spirit of the Forest granting her a special Spirit song. Who knows? “The fact is,” I told the boy, “we’ll never know. And that’s what makes this perhaps the most mysterious song in the world.”

He lingered for a bit after class and then came up to me and gave me a Fruit Roll-up. I thanked him and then April and the other teachers gathered around and told me, “Do you realize how amazing it is that he gave that to you? Fruit Roll-ups are like the gold standard of the kid’s culture and for that particular boy to give you one is simply incredible. You must have really impressed him with your story!”

And so, no honorary doctorate, but hey, the fruit roll-up is a bit like parchment and is about as coveted a prize as I’m going to get in this lifetime. But the most appropriate one and at the end of the matter, the kind I care about the most. Anyone know how to frame it?

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