Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Uncle John's Bagpipes

It was not an auspicious day back at school. Someone messed up the schedule which cancelled one of my classes and then tried to blame me for not reading the sentence in tiny print buried near the end of a 5-page epistle. We spent the entire staff meeting planning for the alleged “when, not if” closure of the school when the virus comes to San Francisco. Luckily, the kids were lovely and the classes I could teach were fun. But still I came home and felt like the world was becoming harder to bear. I wanted to make like an ostrich and bury my head in the sand of mindless television. Which sometimes is a necessary and needed short-term survival tactic. 

But after three Cheers re-runs, I needed something else. Looking ahead to a few classes that hopefully I’ll actually get to teach, I remembered a Hungarian bagpipe piece that I thought I should try with 4thgrade. So I set to work transcribing it and arranging it on my Sibelius program and that brought such pleasure. It’s the kind of work that uses the mind, the ear, the imagination and ends with something usable and useful— a great piece of music for kids to play. “Play the Bagpipe, Uncle John” will surely be in the Spring Concert (if school’s still open in May), as will the second piece in the medley, “The Monks Are Walking in Clogs.” 

There simply is no substitute for good work to bring one back to Earth. I turn to face tomorrow, fortified by Hungarian bagpipe music. Bring it on!

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