Thursday, May 26, 2011

One-sided Lover's Quarrel

Don’t get too excited here—no gossip or relationship revelations are forthcoming. The lover’s quarrel refers to the Robert Frost statement “I’ve had a lover’s quarrel with the world.” I’ve always related to that phrase, but had to amend it for my six-word autobiography: “Called world to quarrel—no answer.”

I seem to be feeling that more and more, hungry to engage on a bigger stage of discourse than the 30-person Orff workshop or 10-person school staff meeting. Around a year ago, I found out that anybody could be nominated for a Ted Talk, those 20-minute videos circulating on cyberspace that feature known and lesser-known folks speaking from their little corner of expertise. So I invited my friends to nominate me, hoping to give a talk like one I’ve actually given at a few international schools, Powerpoint and all:  “Why Music Matters.” Many in fact did write in to nominate me, but Ted didn’t answer.

A few years back, I went to hear Terry Gross speak and found out that her husband wrote a book on the Blues (which I had read), that she loved teachers and that an alum parent from my school had some contact with her. So I dropped his name, sent her my jazz book combining teaching, blues and jazz and…no answer.

Today, I got an e-mail that seemed to be inviting me to be a featured speaker at an International Schools Conference in Portugal. I’ve presented music workshops at the last three such conferences and often felt as I listened to the Keynote Speaker that I would like to do that some day and have something at least as interesting to contribute as the next breakthrough in technology and how it will change schools. I wrote back to ask for clarification, but alas, instead of the talk to 2,000 teachers, it was simply confirming my music workshops with the 15 teachers I’ve come to know.

Now don’t get me wrong. Gary Snyder’s Zen teacher once said: “In Zen, there are only two things. You sit and sweep the garden. It doesn't matter how big the garden is" and in my day-to-day teaching, that is the true north of my compass. Whether teaching eight second-graders, seven preschool teachers from the Urban Sprouts Day School, singing with Fran, Edie, Laya and my Mom at the senior home or doing an Orff workshop for 750 teachers in Texas (the first three I did this week, the last some years ago at a TMEA Conference), it’s all the same.

But if you think you have something worthy to offer, who wouldn’t be thrilled with a wider audience? 
I haven’t heard of an author complaining about being on the best-seller list or a jazz musician refuse to play a concert hall and choose a smoky dive instead (or these days, non-smoking dive). But the key word here is “worthy.” Maybe the world is right not to care whether Joey or Samantha had a fun music class or got to dance the polka today. Maybe I don’t have anything very important to say after all and I’m not articulate enough to be worthy of presenting it. It’s possible.

But still I hope. So when I got a call from Who’s Who the other day interviewing me for acceptance, the timing seemed right. I was vulnerable from all the recent events that made me feel exiled and was ripe for recognition. To my credit, I did hesitate as I gave my Visa Card numbers for the hefty price of inclusion, but not long enough. I should have been wary of the modifier “Biltmore’s” Who’s Who and remember quickly looking online while giving my numbers. The Website was attractive, though of course, the whole thing deserved more scrutiny. Yet my hunger for affirmation overshadowed my caution and it wasn’t until the next day that I wondered whether I had taken our new school motto “Assume Good Intentions” a little too literally. So with a bad case of buyer’s remorse, I looked more thoroughly online and saw many warnings of “Scam! Scam! Scam!” I then called Visa to find out my options, called and wrote Biltmore’s to ask for immediate withdrawal from their exalted club—and of course, no answer from the latter yet. Or probably ever. Oh well.

Meanwhile, in every book, article or blog I write, every class I teach, every song I play for my Mom and with the kids, I’m calling up the world like a secret lover, to praise, quarrel or simply converse— and mostly leaving messages on an answering machine that no one ever checks. Perhaps someday they’ll answer, perhaps they never will, perhaps they already are and I’m not noticing. In any case, it’s none of my business—my job is just to keep doing what I do, saying what I say and be grateful for the opportunity.

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