Saturday, May 13, 2017

What's the Problem?


Amongst the list of pithy summaries of what sets humans apart from our other fellow species, one could add, “We are problem-solvers.” We feel most alive in the midst of a good, challenging problem that is not too small to easily fix and not too large to feel overwhelmed by.

Like the upcoming Spring Concert. Suzy needs help on the bass bars, Johnny on the recorder, the octet of drummers were too loud for the xylophones and need some re-choreography and the dancers need a graceful way to move from their dance to their instrument. How to compensate for the child who just told me she can’t make it to the concert? Will the violinist get a new bow in time after breaking his in yesterday’s rehearsal? Will the adaptor for the keyboard that was lost come in time after ordering the $17 express delivery? Did I make the right choice with selecting the solo singers and is it too late to consider Plan B without sending kids into therapy? And so on.

We music teachers love to complain about these challenges, but let’s face it, we also love to figure out what’s needed and polish and refine and adjust and walk to the edge of our knowledge and craft to create 90 minutes of listening pleasure from 8 months of hard work. It’s a special challenge in the Orff style concert, which is so much more then setting up the music stands and hoping the kids can make it through the maze of black dots on the paper without too many squeaks and squawks. It’s a logistic nightmare to have kids change instruments on each piece, to have to consider the special requirements of the dance, the length of the improvisations, the placement off and on stage of the props. But that’s precisely what makes it so darn engaging and worthy of our best efforts and always interesting.

So I have about 10 days to solve these manageable problems, a nice antidote to the greater problems that resist obvious solutions, things like the next shameless move in Washington hammering away at the supporting posts of Democracy. My own sense is that that house of cards will topple from the sheer volume of lies, fearful decisions, backstabbing, greed, hiding, mean-spiritedness needed to sustain it all. My hope is that our problem-solving hardwiring combined with our capacity to work for things worthy of our better nature will start to build the needed world from the rubble, a world more kind, more just, more truthful.

In the meantime, I have to remind Jawanza to bring his saxophone on Monday. I can do that.

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