Fresh from a rehearsal preparing for my jazz band’s big concert this Saturday. It could not have been more fun! Belly laughter from the two members acting out a silent movie, the life-affirming energy of the deep grooves we hit, the extraordinary conversation between the five of us with tones and rhythms (not words) and the excitement of soon sharing this with a concert hall filled with children and adults. Driving home, I continued to live the concert in my imagination before stepping on the stage. So in my dreaming, I’m thinking about the words between the notes and how to frame what we do so the audience feels something a bit more profound that then next drop of entertainment in the roaring river that runs through our culture. So my first draft is something like this:
Kids, I hope you see how much fun we’re having up here. The music speaks for itself, but some words might help you understand what we’re trying to do. I think we’re hoping to show you or remind you about three very important things.
1) Music is a gift from the heavens, one of the most marvelous things human beings can do. It needs us to work together in a way that nothing else quite does except maybe sports. But in music, there’s no losing team that walks away sad to the locker room. Everyone wins! Music makes your body come alive, challenges your mind, opens your heart and pleases your ears. It’s the place we go to when the words are too small to tell about our feelings of being alive, all the joy and wonder and all the sorrow and sadness. It’s there to comfort us when we’re sad and make us even happier when we’re happy.
2) You are musical. Every single one of you. Even your parents. They might have missed having music in the schools or had a mean music teacher that lied to them and told them they weren’t musical or made music a boring subject with right notes and wrong notes. But they are musical and so are you and the only question is how you’re musical. Is it through singing or dancing or composing or playing an instrument? Which instrument is just right for you? If you don’t like one, try another! If you don’t like one style of music, try another! Of course, it’s great to listen to music and buy CD’s like ours (Ha! ha!) and good to come to Concerts (thank you!), but don’t forget to play, sing and dance yourself!
3) This music called Jazz is just one of many wonderful styles of music. It’s silly to call it the best. (But it is!) But it is an important music to understand what America is, has been and
could be. The creators were African American people who were not treated well, but still
made this joyful music and shared it so generously with us. We owe to them to listen to their beautiful creations, to keep playing them, to keep creating new things that they would have enjoyed. But we also need to learn their stories, to find out what they went through and do our part to make sure that people never treat others like that again. When people don’t know these artists or know their music or know their stories, the country feels sick. And one of the best cures is to learn the hard stories and then finish with a song that helps us rise up to our best selves.
And we have one of those songs right now, ready for you to sing with us! Let’s go!