Friday, March 10, 2017

Awash in Overtones


I have been an advocate for Orff Schulwerk my whole life. But more and more lately, I’m feeling that the most important quality of an Orff Schulwerk teacher is already prepared before he or she has ever taken a workshop. When someone so prepared has the good fortune and karmic luck to cross paths with the right kind of Orff workshop at a ripe time, there is an instant marriage at work, a sense that a beloved whose face one has never seen, but always hoped existed suddenly appears in all her or his most radiant form. It’s love at first sight, but it’s not exactly a first sight because the vision had already been incubating. It’s just finally seeing in tangible three-dimensional form what one only vaguely dreamt of before.

And I will say this forever: since such a marriage is a matter of grace, it can never be pre-planned or forced or mandated. And as such, the Orff approach will never be and should never be expected to be a mass phenomena achieved through clever marketing or insistence that this is THE way to teach.

All this is on my mind after having the supreme good fortune to work with 9 beautiful souls at The New Jersey Performing Arts Center, some of whom I worked with back in November and some who were new to the venture. One kept making the most eloquent comments and I asked her at lunch half-joking to write them down. She did and gave it to me. This is what it’s like when someone already prepared by her life’s journey, her cultural background, her hard-earned soul-work, encounters the Orff work as I conceive and practice it:

This workshop amazes me, stimulating both sides of the brain at once. It raises the vibrations of the Spirit and fills the room with the primal connection of rhythm. Something bright and hopeful opens at the base of the Soul that calms the Ego and invites the Earth to preside.

Let me pause here. Do you feel the beauty of these words? Do you feel how I feel hearing and reading them, like someone actually understands what I’m trying to get at? Can you feel the contrast with some of the other comments I often get?

• What age do you do this with?
• Is this in the notes?
• How do you make sure this fits the National Standards?

She goes on:

My favorite part of the workshop was finding the Secret Song waiting inside each instrument. The Overtones surrounded the players, opening chakras and raising a new awareness. It made me eager to find the Secret Story hidden inside the elements of my own life—the possibilities are infinite.

After the energy released in that room coming back to me many times over, from ALL of the participants, I checked Facebook and read stories from friends talking about the purging of brown-skinned people that has begun, families ripped apart in full view. Then another post about artists being denied entrance from the list of “bad countries”( ie, where the President has no property or investments). It is not a coincidence that the people I worked with today were either people of color or people working with the artistic legacy created by people of color. It is not a coincidence that artists who could help build bridges between us all are being denied entrance. The contrast between 10 folks spending the day held in the loving embrace of color-blind Overtones and what’s happening when you step out of the workshop door is staggering.

The people prepared for the messages I perceive as central to the Orff approach to playing, singing, dancing, laughing, loving, living are the ones who have done the work to be honest, whole, authentic, open, hard-working, expressive, artistic and more, often struggling against a mainstream trying to wash them away. These are the folks I want to be with every day of my life, even if we have to go form our own republic somewhere. I’m willing to keep trying to entice those unprepared for these gifts, but it is the culture as a whole that has failed them and it is the culture that needs such massive healing. All I can do is one little class, one little workshop at a time. But when the divine marriages take place, I am happy to attend, witness and occasionally officiate. Thank you, Tanya, for you beautiful words and thank you to each and every one of today’s folks for the privilege of working with you. Let’s keep those powerful overtones echoing and resonating.

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