Remember that scene in Tom Sawyer where he witnesses his own funeral? That intrigued me so much as a child, the thought that you could hear how you affected people while you were still alive. That’s what the past week has been for me, especially with my loving colleagues James and Sofia creating a Facebook page for folks near and far to express their congratulations on my recent Distinguished Service Award. It has moved me beyond words to not only hear how my work has entered the work of so many, but to take a moment imagining each person. Out of the 300 or so that responded, I knew almost all of them.
The day-to-day of work is simply doing it because you have to. Not have-to in the sense of paying the rent (though sometimes, yes), but have to because it’s the nature of what you love and what gets you up in the morning and uses everything you were gifted with to offer up to the world. But inside of all that are all the questions and doubts:
• Is this what I’m meant to do?
• Am I doing it well?
• Is this meaningful to anyone? Helping anyone out?
And so on. The first felt sense is from inside—this feels right, I think I’m pretty good at it, this somehow makes me happy. But we all need mirrors to reflect back some kind of reality check as to how we really look and in the field of teaching, that would be the children’s reaction. And the adult’s. With both, I know things are going well when I see active, engaged people of all sizes, busy at work and play, having fun, connecting with each other, connecting with themselves. When kids say, “Can we do it again?!” or “Aww! Do we have to go to recess?” you know you’re on the right track.
Adults can take it to another level of appreciation and confirm that indeed, your work has touched them. (One of the funnier affirmations came from a woman in Turkey who wrote: “You touch me so much, thank you.”) Need I say how wonderful it feels to realize that what you aim for and intend—to bring joy, beauty and good fellow feeling into the world—has often hit its mark? A few quotes from these lovely people I’ve had the privilege to teach:
• Your work sharing Orff from babies to adults with artistry connects us to the emotion of who we are and where we as a people want to be. Thank you for your steadfast focus on the goodness of our humanity.
• You illuminate the heart of humanity and model that accountability in our collective work.
• I have learned so much more from you in the short time than I learned in my entire lifetime, because what you teach is much deeper than we see on the surface...
• You once shared with us "it is never too late to have a happy childhood" You might have not know back then, that that was the beginning of my musical happiness, the awakening of my true musicality, the development of my vocation and passion. From the singing voices of my new and old students, from the fantasy of my lessons, from the rhymes I make up, from the freedom I experience when teaching I think of you, of your voice, your touch, your talent... "It definitely is never too late to have a happy childhood"
• I cannot imagine doing what I do without your mentorship. I especially appreciate your willingness to always be available to your student teachers in all of our many inquiries and cries for help. Your brilliance shines through many of us as we navigate this important work.
• Well deserved for a man who lives what he loves and is a constant student of life. You have changed the lives of countless people. Thanks for being committed to your craft and for continuing to see greatness in those whom you teach. Bravo.
• Doug, thank you for always responding to teaching questions, for being comforting about my teaching mistakes and curious and full of humor about your own, for truly honoring how kids think with things like "wrong words day", for establishing rituals and creating community, for your commitment to justice, and for giving your life to what you do. Your work has touched, inspired and changed so many, and I am one of them.
And so my cup runneth over. I like the way the comments are not aimed at me in a kind of “You’re awesome!” way, but focused on the effects of the work and the ways I bring the work to life. Not me, but the work, that’s where the true mirror reflects. It is a great pleasure to pause, look back, feel the encouragement and the gratitude from so many who I’ve worked and played with—and then go on to plan tomorrow’s class! It indeed is a legacy of abundance, a phrase from this beautiful closing affirmation below:
Dearest Doug! congratulations on receiving the Distinguished Service Award from AOSA, which acknowledges in a formal way your immense and wonderful impact in the world of music education or simply said, in the world. Reading some of the messages that others have written before me here gives such a great testimony to your influence in thought, inspiration, passion, and creative spark on people all around the world. now multiply each of these again by however many students in however many classes over however many years... incredible!!! like the legend of the rice corn... yours is a legacy of abundance.