Wednesday, August 31, 2011

A Fountain of Immortal Drink

Yesterday, I tried to play piano for my Mom and she just looked at me and screamed, “Breakfast!!!” 
In no uncertain terms. The Irish say, “After a full belly, it’s all poetry,” which also means that poetry and music can’t be appreciated when you’re stomach’s growling. As my Mom made clear. 

Isn’t it interesting how the beginning and ending of life seem to meet to close the loop of the human incarnation? Not only the reduced movement, the diapers, someone spooning soft oatmeal into the mouth, but the language of scream, cry and laugh. The body talks loud and clear and no need to mince terms if you’re 3 months old or 93 years. “I want it and I want it now!!” cries the infant and the elder alike and woe to anyone who tries to use the language of reason or applied psychology.

But next to the agony and terror of this body’s demands, hungers, aches and pains, comes the pleasure in the simplest things. (Or what appear to be simple things—really, what is more complex than a tree and Bach?) Done with the news of the human world, my Mom speaks and understands three languages only—the body language, music and fresh air. Usually it’s kisses and music that connect us, but today, the sun was out, the fog far away and it was a rare opportunity to sit and bask in the garden. When I picked her up inside, her mouth was downturned, she seemed withdrawn, somewhat depressed and words having mostly fled from her, could only shrug her shoulders when I asked “What’s wrong?” She perked up a bit with our traditional “elevator kisses”— that was the body language she understands. But after ten minutes in the sun holding hands, I saw her face soften, her eyes begin to sparkle, a few coherent words begin to spill out. When the clock said “lunch,” she said “No!” and we sat there soaking up the healing light.

Like babies, my elderly mother knows exactly what she needs and today it was some time immersed in the music of the natural world. 30 minutes was enough. She made some comments on the beauty of the flowers and how good the air smelled and really, might we save a lot of money and time if we took all the patients outside first before going into therapy? For some of them, I imagine they would say, 
“No need now for my appointment. I just needed a little time outside in the sun amongst the trees and flowers.” As do we all.

It has been a while since I memorized a poem, but I recently stumbled into Keats’ “A thing of beauty is a joy forever” and decided to give it a go. And a hard go it was, with its obtuse grammar and syntax, challenging vocabulary and length. But worth every moment. He acknowledges the gloomy days and “all our unhealthy and o’erdarkened ways,” but comforts us with “in spite of all, some shape of beauty moves away the pall, from our dark spirits.” What beauty is he talking about? “…the sun, the moon, the trees, old and young, sprouting a shady boon, for simple sheep and daffodils, in the green world where they live…” In short, the natural world that awaits our attention and rewards us with “an endless fountain of immortal drink, poured into us from heaven’s brink.”

I could have named this posting, “I Hate John Keats!”, because he wrote things like this before he died at the tender age of 26. But instead, I thank him for his short burst of beautifully articulated words that point to the world from whence words begin and end and speak a deeper and truer language. Little children get it. Elders get it. It’s only the mass of us in-between that get so distracted by the busyness of “important” work and the junk of ever-more-instant-ever-more-constantly-accessible-pseudo-entertainment that shoots straight to the brain stem of fight and flight and feed and *#%* (one more F here) and addicts us to a hyper-speed that has us restless and checking text messages when sitting in the sun with our elderly Mom. Well, minus the texting (still no cell phone), I’m in that crowd, but thanks, Mom, for reminding me to sit in the sunlight while I have the precious gift of health and sip from the “fountain of immortal drink.” A most refreshing drink it is.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Create. Document. Organize.

Let’s get serious here. Enough of epiphanies, ecstacies and euphorias. I want to talk about what really matters, about the great taboo subject that few brave souls ever broach in public and yet, secretly we suffer it all alone. Every day,we walk by our colleagues in the halls or people in the street, all bent over from carrying the same weight and yet, reluctant to look a fellow human in the eye and ask for help. I’m talking about the big question, not these trivial matters of cultivating the extraordinary promise of children in schools or expressing the inexpressible through art or maintaining a sustainable eco-system and a genuine democracy that gives voice to the people. Brace yourself as I say out loud the unsayable: What the heck do people do with all their stuff?

I’m sitting at home with a room overflowing with the detritus of a busy summer. Notes, evaluations, CD and DVD gifts from students, books, instruments, pile after pile of stuff that begs to be sorted and stored, read, viewed or listened to, filed or recycled. My house is small, the file drawers and bookshelves and CD shelves already over-filled and I was already behind from before the summer. So now a modern dilemma stares me in the face and has me trembling in fear.

If I begin to sort through it all, try to decide what to keep and what to throw away (always a laborious process with me—the moment I throw something away, I find myself needing it three weeks later), decide how to file it so I remember where it is and where to keep it (remember—small house), it could easily take four hours a day for the entire four months I have off. Open that box and all the demons will come rushing out.

This is serious. Especially if I add sorting the existing files of notes from all the courses and workshops I have taught since 1975, the business from my stints on various boards and committees, my old school planning books and school stuff, the old Orff Echo magazines and Orff Conference booklets. Not to mention the thousands of digital photos sitting unused and unseen and hard to find on my computer and several external hard-drives. Not to mention the actual files on my computers, And certainly not to mention the thousands of e-mails I have trouble just erasing, thinking I might need something in one of them some day. And sometimes I do! And if I got into my basement record collection and horror of all horrors, cassette tapes, I would never be seen in human company again.

Create. Document. Organize. Three steps in the Sisyphusian cycle whose end we never quite reach. But sometimes we kind of do—we’ve taught the class and marked it in our planning book, performed the concert and put the CD recording on the shelves, took the vacation and put the pictures in the scrapbook. This Fall, I’m in the process of writing a new book, creating yet more stuff. But this will be a pleasure, because a book remains the happiest of technologies, at once creating, documenting and organizing—and in a form which can reach others as well, get out into the stream of public discourse.

Indeed, the primary motivation of all the books I’ve written is to gather, organize, clarify, document and get out to the public the work I’ve done so I can free up space to do the next thing. But since I’m still creating while I’m gathering, it’s a moving target. Having published seven books, I’ve been seven books behind myself ever since I published the first! My list of backburner projects is so long there’s barely room on the stove to cook today’s meal.

So while we complain about work and having to fit into a schedule, with free time, you have to decide what will demand your attention today. To write and create? To gather and document? To organize and file? So many choices. It’s exhausting!!

So if any of you have any tips about how to file papers, store photos, clean up the virtual desktop (is this what I-Cloud does?), I’d be happy to hear them. Better yet, if any of you want to come to my house and help me do it (for a fee, of course), let me know.


Now excuse me while I go clean my desk.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Happy History Homework

We had two Youtube sessions in my recent jazz course. The first was on the blues and I hoped to begin with Elvis singing “Hound Dog” (see Lieber-Libya-King Blues posting). Imagine my shock when something popped up blocking this clip. Until this year, Youtube was banned in the Vancouver schools and that restriction was only recently relaxed. But apparently not relaxed enough to allow young children to see Elvis’ gyrating hips on the Ed Sullivan show. Really? That clip from 1956 banned in 2011? Especially in light of what is on network television before the kids go to bed?

So we went back to Youtube on the last day to illuminate the “From Minstrelsy to Musicals” lecture and this time, several hip gyrations snuck through. How I would love to give this lecture to every American. No, not a lecture, a whole mini-series. As I mentioned back in my posting “June Is Bustin’ Out All Over,” such a required history could go a long way to curing the ignorance of our own past. I guarantee that it would be every bit as entertaining and engaging as The Sopranos or The Wire, and ultimately, more uplifting, inspiring, and revealing about certain truths in our history. Which, of course, is why it would never fly on mainstream TV.

So instead, here’s a virtual little lecture, but you have to do your homework. And trust me, you will be happy you did. Follow this 5-step program:

• Go to Youtube and look up "Bill Robinson Staircase Dance." (This isn't a link, you actually have to type it into the Youtube search. More work for you, but all good things require effort. :) ) One video is just him and five stairs going up and down on a bare stage. Some piano player is playing an anemic “Way Down Upon the Swanee River” and later, “There’s No Place Like Home.” The camera occasionally pans to reveal a bored and disinterested white audience. But up there is Bill Bojangles Robinson revealing the depth of his genius—what one man, a pair of feet, a dedicated practice, a few stairs and a prodigious imagination can accomplish.

• Then watch the other staircase dance with Shirley Temple and keep in mind that a man of this accomplishment was portrayed as her servant. They seem to have a very sweet relationship and to see a black man and a white little girl holding hands and dancing together affectionately perhaps was a step forward in U.S. race relations. But still.

• Now go to "Hellzapoppin’ Lindy Hop" and see a clip from a movie featuring some remarkable dancers (including Frankie Manning) and a bunch of musicians I don’t recognize playing the hell out of every instrument they touch—and with such great communication between them. The finesse, the energy, the skill, the speed, the imagination, the musicality, the sophistication, the nuances, the choreography of both the dance and music is simply a marvel to behold.

• Next go to "Swing Dancing Bill Haley and the Comets" and see what happened when the creations of black culture trickled down to white culture. The music was simplified, the dancing was tamer, the spontaneous communication replaced by formula riffs and the authenticity of the culture a bit laughable as young teens tried out their cool new language. Go back to Hellzapoppin’ and keep contrasting the two.

• And now I’ve saved the best for last. "Nicholas Brothers Stormy Weather.(Some clips start a bit further back with Bill Robinson and then Cab Calloway—worth it.) Now I’ve seen this clip over a hundred times and never get tired of it. (Though sometimes I turn away from the screen to look at the expressions on my viewer’s faces as my as the brothers do the staircase finale. It is almost as entertaining as the dance. Oddly enough, especially the women’s expressions! Now if you were thinking of cheating and not watching anything, I hope this enticed you! But back to the main subject.)

So there I was watching them yet again and this time it struck me that beside the “natural talent,” these guys really worked! And worked hard! Every gesture and step in that routine rehearsed and not a single pattern repeated. All in perfect synchronicity with the music. Like all great artists, they make it look effortless and spontaneous. But as Michelangelo said, “If people knew how hard I had to work to gain my mastery, it would not seem so wonderful at all.”

And the joy the dancers and musicians radiated in the Hellzapoppin’ and Stormy Weather clips! What Martian visiting Earth would ever guess what these folks went through in their daily life and how their imitators would dilute their creations, yet gain so much more fame and fortune because of skin pigment.  It boggles the mind.

There. Lecture over. I hope you will honestly admit that homework has never been so fun. But it should come with a price. Take a moment’s reflection as to how it must have felt for Count Basie and Chick Webb to see Benny Goodman dubbed as The King of Swing, for Muddy Waters or Louis Jordan or Chuck Berry to watch Elvis crowned King, for the Nicholas Brothers to wonder why Fred Astaire was and is a household name and yet, so few, then or now, know about Fayard and Harold Nicholas.

So the second charge for the show?

Show it to the kids.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Lay Your Comfort Down

This time it was the old ring play Johnny Brown that ended the course. “Show us your motion, Johnny Brown,” we sang with all the accumulated soul of five days of jazz immersion and each person in turn did. We watched them dance and then we gave it back to them, mirroring and amplifying their beauty and character. At the end, we sang in full voice, “Little Johnny Brown, lay your comfort down!” and felt the profound silence after the last jingle of the tambourine. Arms around our backs, the circle tightened and I said,

“Do you know Linus from Peanuts? He walks around with his security blanket to comfort him, to protect him against the terror and cruelty of the world. But these five days in this brightly-lit gym in a Vancouver elementary school, we created a sacred space, a magic circle where we gave each other permission and encouragement to lay our comfort down. We stepped timidly and then more and more boldly into the unknown, testing the ground for quicksand, and always found it solid, supported by each other. And so we shed our fears and plunged into a gutsy French horn blues solo, a hot Latin jazz flute solo, a swingin’ clarinet solo, a sweet glockenspiel solo. We put our fingers down on the treacherous paths of piano-key chord changes and made it through without getting too tangled in the undergrowth.

“We can lay our comfort down because we are each other’s comfort. And so shall we be the comfort of the children we are about to teach, the tender souls delivered to our care. Because we have known the deep joy of being encouraged and celebrated and invited to risk, we have the possibility of doing the same for our children. We may forget and fall back to the tired old routines of judgment, of labeling and sorting. We may start to listen to the experts and forget our own intuitions. We may find ourselves caring more about the correct notes than the children struggling to play them. But because of this week, we have the possibility of remembering. We indeed laid our comfort down, showed our motions, saw it reflected back to us and wasn’t it marvelous?”

And indeed it was. It took 30 hours to go that deep and reach that high and I had the supreme good fortune of also sharing that 30-hour sacred space with my Level III class and again with my Jazz class in San Francisco this summer. 62 people who showed each other their motion and every one of them a marvel. And then another 300 or so people in Madrid and Salzburg who got a peek into that world in our four or five hours together, another few hundred with my colleagues teaching Level I, II and World Music, another 400 hundred who got to see our kids perform and see what love looks like for 12, 13, 14 year olds and their teachers.

In the big picture, 62 people is a small drop in the desire to improve the world, but really, such transformation doesn’t come in a single song or dance. It takes time, it takes intimacy, it takes trust, it takes the presence of the ones who have come before and the commitment to the ones who will come after. I did get some summer beach time and family time and that too is unequivocally vital, but I treasured every second of the dancing circles where comforts were laid down one by one. Thank you to all—or should I simply repeat my new mantra? Happy. Thank you. More please. 

Thursday, August 25, 2011

First Aid to Humanity

A Level II student from our recent San Francisco Orff Course wrote the following letter, inspired by watching our Salzburg Orff group perform:

“This is what struck me the most at the course, those kids playing so in tune with nature's force. And by playing I do not mean the action, but their attitude, their joyfulness and attraction! An education that unifies spirit, mind and body is what I (we all) need, and I am pleased that your School is a great example for it.”

He then sent a piece he wrote inspired by that experience. How grateful I am to have a student like this, someone with such a keen intelligence and caring heart and expressive power. He is from Barcelona and speaks Catalan and Spanish, so his English here is at least his third language. And yet he captures so beautifully all the things I have cared about since I spent 3rd grade in the hall and principal’s office and thought that something was off in schools.

And so here is my first guest columnist. His name is Roger Sans and if you’d like to comment on this excerpt from his article (reprinted with his permission), feel free to write at:

Meanwhile, I’m off to the 4th day of my Vancouver jazz class to help heal some wounds from a dull and cruel education. Enjoy!

The Pedagogical Revolution: Roger Sans

We are telling our children that love is a fraud when we do not offer it unconditionally to everyone.

We are telling our children that life is a misery when we do not act against any kind of injustice in the world’s community.

We are telling our children that they are weak and stupid when we do not let them observe, express and create their own world and looking at things.

We are telling our children that education is dullness, nothing more than the replication and imitation of a vast amount of knowledge, formulas and techniques.

So it is obvious that this kind of education may not be nurturing healthy humans, as it cancels all creative power, alienates individuals, focuses only on the value of the result and does not focus on the quality of the process, and removes all sense of love and beauty. This kind of education may be very well called as unhealthy education.

Education should not be like this.

Education should strive to be a development of the own personality through a process that starts from the exploration of the individual and the team work. The natural way humans have developed to educate themselves is in the experience of playing. Playing is a very profound process that appears naturally in children, and as we grow we tend to fall in our individual dramas and mind sets that erase this powerful mechanism of evolution from our lives.

Education must be the experience of a healthy human being. It needs to empower creativity, the sense of community, value the quality of the process more than the results obtained, and it needs to be joyful and fun. This kind of education may be called healthy education -the education through playing.

By contrast, a bad education may be comparable to a crime or to a mortal virus for humanity. Untrained pedagogues are a risk for humanity as they may nurture unhealthy humans. A good pedagogue is to humanity what the greatest profit is in the market, the greatest possible insurance for the evolution of humanity.

The experience of children must be the best possible playing, a healthy and mentored playing, to ensure a healthy coming humanity, and we are all able to cooperate to make this possible by rescuing this magical sense of playing.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Libyan Lieber King Blues

I’m back in my home of homes. An elementary school gym with a bunch of teachers slapping their bodies, singing, dancing, making stuff up and sharing it—and giving up their last week of summer vacation to do it. This time it’s in Vancouver, one of the most thrilling places to descend to in a plane at dusk and one of the more unique exits from the gate to the baggage claim, walking through a hall with recorded birds and a simulated northern rainforest. This trip brings the double pleasure of combining work with visits to old friends who I have known for over thirty years. And the bonus of sharing one of my favorite themes— the marriage of Orff and Jazz.

Today’s theme will be the Blues and I’ll share my I-Pod playlist of popular songs from the 50’s, 60’s and early 70’s that follow the blues form. It’s an impressive collection—Hound Dog, Yakkety Yak, Rock Around the Clock, Shake, Rattle and Roll, Charlie Brown, Rockin’Robin, Johnny B. Goode from the 50’s, I Got You (I Feel Good), Surfin’ Safari, Highway 61 Revisited, Route 66, Money, Boy From New York City. (The above artists include James Brown, Beach Boys, Bob Dylan, Rolling Stones and Beatles!) And then into the 70’s with the Cream, Grateful Dead, Led Zeppelin, the Who, Eric Clapton and more. 

After playing this, I step up on the soapbox and rant about E.D. Hirsch’s best selling book Cultural Literacy: 5,000 Things Every American Must Know. Besides having the audacity to try to heal our country’s lack of common knowledge by single-handedly making the list himself instead of forming a representative team (he is a white Southern University professor), he had the gall to include “fugue” and “sonata form” as essential knowledge and omit “the blues.” The blues, people!!! My 8th grade students and I decided that his punishment should be to stay in jail until he has listened to every blues and blues-influenced song ever recorded for 8 hours a day—and then tried to estimate how long his sentence would be! Of course, that’s the kind of natural consequence punishment that not only would cure his ignorance, but be a sheer pleasure as well.

Curing ignorance and telling the stories the schools omit is a major clause in my Mission Statement. When the Beatles landed in New York, a reporter asked them what they wanted to see first—Disneyland? Statue of Liberty? Washington Monument? John Lennon replied “Muddy Waters and Howling’ Wolf.” The reporter asked, “Where’s that?” Astonished by his ignorance, Lennon replied, “It seems you Americans don’t know your own national heroes!” He was right and still is right.

So here’s a good time to test you, the reader. Who first recorded “Hound Dog?” Most might reply, “Elvis.” Who wrote “Hound Dog?” Again, “Elvis.” Who got famous singing “Hound Dog” on the Ed Sullivan show in 1956? You guessed it. Elvis. However, it turns out the first recording was actually by a blues singer named Big Mama Thornton in 1952. The song was written for her by two white songwriters, Mike Stoller and Jerry Lieber. And yes, Elvis did get famous on the Ed Sullivan show and Big Mama was never invited to that show. “Why?” I ask my 8th grade students and off we go into the long, twisted, tragic, triumphant story of race relations in the United States. The struggle for freedom, the chance to have one’s own dream instead of being a player in someone else’s nightmare.

Yesterday, Jerry Lieber died at age 78. Yesterday, the news showed people in Libya kissing the ground in their long-awaited moment to be free from the dictator who trampled on their dreams. Yesterday, the Martin Luther King Memorial was unveiled in Washington DC. All monuments to the human struggle to be granted the freedom to define ourselves, follow our own dreams and be released from the yoke of tyrants who use us for their own selfish purposes. This is the trajectory of human culture, celebrated anew in each stunning moment in Berlin or Johannesburg or Washington DC or Cairo or Tripoli.

In light of such big events, it seems trivial to go to a school gym and teach the blues, but really, it’s part of the same energy and momentum. A revolution without guns. And so off I go.

PS You can compare and contrast Elvis and Big Mama in their respective Hound Dog Youtube clips.
PSS If you don’t know who Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf were, go look them up.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

School Dreams

It has been a familiar pattern. In the last days of the annual Michigan August visit, when the apples are almost wholly ripe and the corn begins its decline, I start to dream of school. Some inner clock knows that it’s almost time to put my shoulder to that big wheel to get it rolling again and prepares the psyche accordingly. Night after night, the dreams appear—from the anticipatory delight of fresh beginnings with new notebooks and sharpened pencils to the anxiety dreams of showing up to class naked or without the lesson prepared. Some 36 years of this cycle and the soul knows—it’s time.

Except this year. Not a single dream. Since this Fall will be my trimester off and I won’t really be at school until January, it makes sense that the dreams haven’t appeared. (But how do they know?) I’ve often wondered whether retired teachers still have these dreams. And since more and more of my colleagues at school indeed have retired, I should ask them!

And speaking of retirement, another one of the 30-year-plus club unexpectedly announced her retirement a few weeks back. Lynne started the same year I did at The San Francisco School, way back in 1975, but also had been a school parent for seven years before that—a 43-year association with the school! I haven’t spoken with her yet, but I imagine her enjoying her summer, hanging out with her grandchildren, following her whimsy each day and thinking, “Hey! I could keep doing this all year!” And so she will.

I’m beginning to feel like that jazz album title featuring some of the elder statesmen of jazz— Ain’t But A Few of Us Left! Five, to be exact—Patty the cook, Shannon and Linda in preschool, my wife Karen and myself who began in those far-away years of the 1970’s. In the past five years or so, they’ve slipped out one by one—John Jehu, Fran, Terry, Pamela, Susie and now Lynne. Last year when another long-timer retired, Karen and I hosted a SF School Veteran Teacher’s Party and played a hilarious round of Trivial Pursuits, where each of us wrote the questions down from our long, illustrious and apparently, hilarious, tenure at the school. Great fun and my, haven’t we been through a lot together.

Of course, when your colleagues drop one-by-one as they have, everyone starts wondering, Agatha Christie-style, “Who’s next?” Should I apologize for feeling like “I’m just getting warmed-up” and there’s so much more I haven’t accomplished at the school that I still hope to do? Of course, the fact that I’ve been gone for 1/3 of the year the past 11 years has helped avoid any sense of burn-out as I’ve balanced teaching kids with teaching teachers, travel and writing. And more of the latter awaits me (I hope) when I finally formally retire from school. But though certain school people may get excited hearing that last phrase, don’t pull out the candles yet. I’m not ready to announce the date. I trust it will appear when the time is right and not a single day before.

Maybe it will happen some August in Michigan when I’m riding a bike past the apple orchards, then plunging into the lake, sitting on the deck watching the sunset after a dinner of sweet corn and fresh tomatoes, telling a bedtime story to my grandchild and suddenly realizing, “Hey! I could be doing this all year!” Maybe I’ll finally get that offer to head the Harvard Education Program or be appointed the Secretary of Education. Maybe it will come from a secret vote from the school community—“Enough is enough!” Or maybe it will be announced by the absence of school dreams just as summer turns to Fall.

I’ll keep you posted.

Thursday, August 18, 2011


You feel it the moment you step out the door. There is a scent in the air, a freshness notably different from the stale, recycled indoor air. The invitation to mingle, meld, merge and melt into the elements. To plunge into the watery warm womb of the back lake or yelp and shriek from the biting cold of the front lake, bringing every nerve cell alive and tingling. To feel the squeak of the fine sand and the grit of the coarse on bare feet, the tickle of dune grass on bare legs, the breath of cool air in the morning breeze on bare arms. Behind you the sun’s heat on the back of your black shirt, above the faint moon in blue sky giving way to its sibling. The winged gulls soar overhead and plunge for their breakfast, the morning birds sing in the day, the woodlands path is shadowed with light and dark dapple of leaves. You understand what old Walt Whitman meant when he wrote: “Now I see the secret of making the best person; it is to grow in the open air and to eat and sleep with the earth.”

Indoors, the L.L. Bean bird clock chimes a different bird call on the hour and it is initially charming and clever. And yet the opposite of what any bird would want—to be predictable, to mark the hours in measured minutes, to remind us that time marches on instead of taking us in its arms. (What was the line from the old Incredible String Band song? “Sometimes I want to murder time, sometimes when my heart’s aching. But mostly I just sit and watch, the path that he is taking.”) Outdoors, we read the news of the tracks in the sand, deer crossing raccoon tracks zig-zagging alongside gull-prints, indoors, the criss-crossed print of newspaper tells us yet again how humans lowered down to their baser selves. Indoors, we wonder what’s in the frig or on TV or if we’re unlucky enough to have wireless in our little cottage in the woods, what’s in our mailbox. Outdoors, the sun trumps the computer screen’s light, we search frantically for our little arrow, give up and run down to the beach. Or lean against a tree with a book, a pen and paper. If we forget the paper, we can scribble on some peeled birch-bark or write in the sand.

And so it goes on. Indoors, we’re three-feet high on a straight-backed chair or slumped in a couch, outdoors, sitting cross-legged on a pile of sand or stretched out on the earth looking up at clouds or floating in the water. Indoors, we’re self-enclosed in our own skin and thoughts and fretting and worries, outdoors we can carry it all with us, but the world offers to take some of the weight and invites us to notice the ladybugs or hummingbirds or first turn of Fall color.

I’m writing this to remind myself to get out!, noting how I can come up to this haven by two lakes and sit at the table writing, reading, playing Solitaire, a mere ten feet from the deck. When I finally step outside, I always wonder why I didn’t do it sooner. Of course, there is much to praise about the indoors, especially in rainy or cold weather and of course, we can bring our outdoor self indoors in much the same way we can carry our indoor self outdoors. But it is Summer, after all, and there’s no excuse for not being outside for most of the day and partake of Nature’s bounty. 

And so I close—see you at the lake!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Kiss Me, Pretty Protoplasm

Yesterday was the 4th anniversary of my Dad’s passing. I wrote a letter to him in my journal, catching him up on the news—one grandchild pregnant, one engaged, one off to college, one with a new girlfriend, one celebrating her two-year anniversary in Buenos Aires and so on. Me in Michigan, where exactly half my lifetime ago, he helped me shave my beard on my 30th birthday. It was the only time he and my mom came to my in-laws cottage on Lake Michigan and the two families merged, but it was a memorable week. New York-born-and-bred, my Dad attended the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor just before the war, a chapter of his life I knew little about beyond a photo of him in front of one of the main buildings. We passed it again on that trip, but frankly, I don’t remember any more stories forthcoming.

In the book Corelli’s Mandolin, one of the characters talks about dealing with loss by “living on the departed one’s behalf.” That image has always stuck with me. Since those who are gone don’t have bodies and voices, we use our own to enjoy what they enjoyed, both to keep them alive in our memory and to keep us alive in theirs. An old Irish saying says something to the effect of “What’s wrong in this world can only be healed by those in the other world and what’s wrong in the other world can only be healed by those in this world.” This idea of partnership with the Ancestors is found in cultures worldwide and rings true for me far beyond mere anthropological curiosity. How often we feel the invisible helping hands guiding our destiny and whether we call them Angels, the Muse, the Spirits or Ancestors, their presence is palpable. Likewise, I often feel, as Bessie Jones notes in her autobiography For the Ancestors, that “when I’m singing the songs my grandfather used to sing, I feel him come around to listen. And I believe he be happy.”

And so yesterday I did a Crostic puzzle, listened to Beethoven and recited my Dad’s favorite poem. Had I been home, I would have played one of the piano pieces he composed. I always think of my father as an artistic soul waylaid by the 1950’s businessman culture. He had composed music, played some piano, organ and violin, painted many paintings, memorized some poems and wrote a few and tucked all of it away to be a responsible businessman who brought home the bacon to his two-child suburban New Jersey family.

When he retired, it would have been a perfect time to bring those old artistic leanings out of the closet, dust them off and enjoy them again. But he claimed that they had atrophied too far and despite my encouragement, never did paint or play or compose again. And yet, when I recorded a tape of me performing his compositions for one of his birthdays, he listened to it every single day for years and yet more often in his last six months. I believe it brought him a great deal of comfort.

At his memorial service, I read a poem by Rilke:

"Sometimes a man stands up during supper
and walks outdoors, and keeps on walking,
because of a church that stands somewhere in the East.

And his children say blessings on him as if he were dead.

And another man, who remains inside his own house,
stays there, inside the dishes and in the glasses,
so that his children have to go far out into the world
toward that same church, which he forgot."  

I’m grateful that my father didn’t abandon his family in pursuit of art. And perhaps he set in motion the invitation for my sister and I to go out as “far out into the world” as we have. But still I would like to think that one can raise a family and keep one’s artistic soul alive and well-fed. At least keep playing music, painting, memorizing new poems, writing a poem or two, simply for the pleasure of it.

Back to that favorite poem he used to recite at a moment’s notice. It comes from an obscure novel titled Finnley Wren by Philip Wylie, who also authored a collection of essays titled Generation of Vipers. It is the perfect blend of poetry and science, which as a chemist, appealed to my Dad. You may have to look up some words, but mostly, read it out loud to enjoy both the music of the language and the humor and imagery.

And should you be so fortunate to have your parents still living, don’t forget to kiss them next time you see them. A lot.

Life is just a passing spasm,
            In an aggregate of cells;
Kiss me, pretty protoplasm,
While your osculation dwells.

Glucose-sweet, no enzyme action
            Or love-lytic can reduce,
            Our relations to a fraction
Of hereditary use.

Nuclear rejuvenation
Melts the auricle of stoic:
Love requires a balanced ration—
Let our food be holozoic;

Let us live with all our senses
While anabolism lets us—
Till—with metaplastic fences
Some katabolism gets us.

Till, potential strength, retreating,
Leaves us at extinction’s chasm:
And, since time is rather fleeting,
            Kiss me, pretty protoplasm.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Who Needs TED?

A few years back, I wrote a letter to my friends asking that they consider nominating me to be a TED Speaker. TED is a series of videoed lectures on all kinds of topics that circulate through the Internet. The talks tend to be high quality, engaging and stimulating, the kind of intelligent public discourse that is so often lacking in mainstream media. Apparently, you must be nominated to be invited and so my letter-writing campaign. Indeed, many folks did write the proposed nominating letter (there’s a simple online form), but TED didn’t follow their lead. And so once again, that theme of my six-word biography: “Called world to quarrel—no answer.”

But after closing out the two-week SF Orff Certification Course yesterday, I thought about this strange notion I seem to have that TED would represent some important milestone in my professional career. If it ever came to pass, I would be ushered into some studio somewhere to talk for 20 minutes to people I had never met. I wouldn’t get to hold hands with them and dance, nor invite them to perform a blues solo on the xylophone and most likely, not sing a song with them that strummed the strings of our spirit. I wouldn’t get to give them a weekend tour of San Francisco and perform body percussion while walking the labyrinth, wouldn’t watch them create stunning stick dances or recorder trios, wouldn’t get to charge the air with bagpipe and 20 xylophones in 15/16 meter. I wouldn’t see one of their three-year old daughters dance so joyfully in the middle of our Brazilian Ciranda circle, spinning and twirling unselfconsciously while a hundred people danced around her and bowing with arms outspread at the end. I wouldn’t hear the constant laughter of 100 people spending two weeks together playing, singing and dancing, wouldn’t get to jump in on the vibraphone and join in the jazz trio jam, wouldn’t get the daily kissed and hugs from beautiful young women and men, wouldn’t witness the breathtaking array of talent I surfaced in our Thursday night show, nor remember how difficult it to sing in concentric circles when everyone around you is crying from the sheer beauty of the world we created.

“When the miraculous becomes the norm” was again the theme of these two weeks, made even more powerful from the particular blend of cultures that converged at The San Francisco School, from Brazil to Spain to Japan to Uzbekisthan—and some fourteen other countries. Every day was notable, but I gave up trying to capture it here. All of it was along the lines of “you just had to be there.” And I’m so grateful that I was.

If a TED talk ever came to pass, it would be nice to let people know what’s possible with both adults and kids and help move public opinion in the direction of a humane and joyful education. But it all would just be a finger pointing to the moon. These two weeks were the real deal, a “trip to the moon on gossamer wings.” We were flying high with our spirits rejoicing and digging deep into the moist soil of soul. And yes, the constant shifting weather of our human frailities was there too, the crossed-signals, misunderstandings, frustrations and sheer exhaustion of being surrounded by so much brilliance and talent. But the music was always around us to sweep our doubts into the corner where they belong and invite us back into the dancing circle.

And not to say I didn’t warn them (see July’s entry: “Beware all ye who enter here.”). This community has no room for self-satisfaction and security. When we sign-up, we’re agreeing to blow ourselves wide open, in faith and confidence that we’ll put ourselves back together at a higher, wider and deeper level, supported by our fellow travelers. We are dazzled and amazed and sometimes blinded by the accomplishments of our fellow humans, but the end result should be to increase our own light. One of the most remarkable moments of the Thursday talent show was a duet between Bay Area Jackie Rago on maracas and Estevao from Brazil on pandeiro (tambourine). The virtuosity, humor and communication of this improvised piece with two simple instruments was beyond human belief. When the thunderous applause died down, the next person was called up to perform. Talk about a hard act to follow! But non-plussed, up stepped a young woman with guitar and led us in a hilarious song about the 18 wheels on a big truck, counting them forwards, backwards, by twos and most delightful of all, by Roman numerals. Perfect! The spirit of this Orff approach is not to breed competitive virtuosi, but help each person find the core of their own character and share it with the group. As simple as that.

So I had to remind myself that none of this could ever happen in a 20-minute talk in a studio and that I was a fool to think that the TED invitation would be the best affirmation of my work that the world could offer. In fact, I’d be hard pressed to think of any experience that could top the few weeks I just passed with the most interesting, funny, intelligent, good-looking, warm-hearted, talented and committed human beings any one could ever hope to meet. And to think that each is dedicating at least a part of their life to teaching young children means more than the most inspired TED talk could ever deliver.

Thank you to each and every one of the nearly 200 teachers who generated enough energy in the last three weeks to keep us all re-charged—until next year!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

A Bitter Antique

I was 8 years old when I won the pie-eating contest in my school’s summer program. I forget what prize was offered, but the fact is, I never got it. Years later, I broke the high school pole-vaulting record and eagerly awaited the customary lunchtime announcement by the headmaster. It never came. That same year, I entered the school public speaking contest and waited at graduation to hear who won. I never heard it. (They decided that none of the speeches were worthy enough.)

And so began my initiation into the world of personal injustice and bitter disappointment.
I had done what the world required and yet it failed to deliver its promise. In the past five or ten years, the undeserved slaps from world have come one after another. I taught for six years at the SF Conservatory in each of their programs—adult, kid and collegiate, bought two sets of Orff instruments for them, hired the subsequent teachers for the kids’ classes and got consistently glowing evaluations from the collegiate students. And then was let go on the whim of the Dean with no explanation. I put Mills College on the map of music education, doubling the course size in our 12-year Orff Certification trainings there and was kicked out so they could clean the dorms a week earlier. I published three books with one company and one with another, but neither would consider publishing my jazz book that lay in the closet for ten years.

And so the stories began to pile up, even inside the institutions closest to me. And in every single one of those cases, the closed doors led to another opening, a new direction that in retrospect made me grateful. Like forming Pentatonic Press to publish my own jazz book and the subsequent successes of the three books I’ve done myself and the one I just published of my colleague Sofia. Moving the Mills Course to the SF School has been a blessing many times over and while I still am sorry not to give Conservatory students a kind of experience they so desperately need, it has freed up energy in other directions.

So when students in my Level III class were asked to describe me in a student’s recent teaching lesson, “wise” and “fun” were joined by “bitter.” Of course, that threw me into defensive mode—“I’m not bitter. I’m just outraged and indignant. The more I see how fantastic things could be, how intelligent and heartfelt and envigorating, the more difficult I find it to accept the mediocrity, stupidity and frozen emotion that gets the larger press in the culture.” And that’s true. Still, though, I suppose a touch of bitter is on my tongue and I have to be careful not to let that be the dominant flavor. Because, as I reminded my students, I am lucky beyond anyone’s normal of measure of good fortune to get to teach the students I teach in the places I teach them. And that’s sweet.

The Brazilian’s have a beautiful word for the special combination of bitter and sweet—saudade— and I do find bittersweet chocolate most to my liking. So bitter need not be all bad, especially if it’s balanced by appropriate gratitude for the sweet. And as I said above, each closed door opened another one that in retrospect had to be. And then we find ourselves in the weird situation of thanking those who disappointed or betrayed us. Even if their intentions were not honorable, they moved us further down the path than we might have traveled otherwise.

As for the title, a student in the recent jazz course described my status in my school by calling me an “antique.” So there you have it. I think that I’m giving these teachers something worthy that they value and stand as a model of sorts for them to aspire to in their field—and at the end of it all, they perceive me as a “bitter antique.”

But luckily, I’m not bitter about it. Now if you’ll excuse me, I better get back on the shelf.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

You've Got Mail

I received two letters today. Not e-mails, not bills, not junk mail, not text messages. Two letters. Hand-written address, envelope and stamps. The real thing. Both from my daughters, on the occasion of my birthday. In these days of the fleeting ephemeral rush of letters on screens and impersonal fonts, they arrived like messages from the gods.

All my life, I’ve loved letters. How many days I spent waiting for the clink of the mailbox and rushing to see what the world would deliver today. There was a sense of anticipation and often, disappointment. But when those letters did appear, it was a moment to relish. Look at the handwriting, feel the heft of the envelope, sometimes smell a familiar scent. And then wait for the right moment and the right place to sit down and slowly savor the news from a friend, feel his or presence, step into the moment and place it was written and enjoy the embrace of a soul-to-soul connection grow yet stronger.

And how I loved writing letters. I often would sit under a favorite tree in the park, begin by describing what was around me—hummingbirds hovering by the salvia flowers, little kids feeding bread crumbs to ducks, wisps of fog curling around the Monterey pines. Then the moment of taking stock and thinking about what was new in my little life or fresh on my mind and what might be of interest to my friend. A few lines asking what was new at the other end and then closing the loop with some kind of appreciation for the gift of our friendship. Even without such words spoken, the effort alone made every letter a love letter, a re-commitment to something important enough to step to the side of our busy lives and re-make a heart-to-heart connection.

One of the saddest things to me about modern life is not only the loss of the art of letter-writing, but the end of the saved letters in boxes in the basement or attic. When my Dad was at the end of his days, I found all the letters he had saved. They included the ones I had written to him and my Mom from college, the thin-blue aerograms I had sent from Europe or India or Bali, the birthday cards, the small tri-folded pages from San Francisco with news of his grandchildren. I also read some revealing letters he had written to my mother in the early days of their romance. How much I learned in the privacy of ink on paper that he never once revealed to me in conversation. And recently, my mother-in-law uncovered letters that my father-in-law Ted had written to his family during World War II. Such treasures! And again, out came the stories never once hinted at in the 35 years I knew him and my regrets that I hadn’t read them and discussed them with him before he passed away.

Letters reveal something of the inner life that we hide away in everyday conversation. They are an act of the imagination that reaches down and across and up to the thoughts that need a special kind of invitation to reveal themselves and form themselves into articulate and evocative language. And yes, we can write them on a computer and send them on e-mail and even print and store them in a box. But we often don’t, at least with the same kind of depth of reflection that the handwritten letter composed sitting at a table with low light and soft music achieves. E-mail simply doesn’t invite that kind of time and space. It is a technology of the quick hit, the casual hi, the “hey, what’s up?” kind of connection. And Facebook even more so. Skype is it’s own kind of pleasure when we’re far away, but it also robs us of the feeling of being far away, off on an adventure away from our normal routine. Then when we start to miss our comfortable, familiar life, we sit under a palm tree and write to the folks back home. I think of that book title: How Can I Miss You If You Don’t Go Away? Our modern world of constant communication and instant access means that indeed, we are never wholly away.

Of course, it’s fun to Skype my daughters in Buenos Aires and Washington DC, but though pleasant, the conversations are inevitably casual. But to read in her own handwriting the thoughts one daughter had traveling alone in northwestern Argentina, to feel her pausing in a long hike “amidst cacti, red rock, low bushes and looming mountains” and begin to write 60 memories of our 27 years together, each one igniting the fireworks of my own imagination re-living those moments—well, that is a treasure more precious than all the Skype conversations we’ve ever had or ever will have. And then to feel my other daughter sitting around the kitchen table with her family creating a birthday-card passport with simulated stamps of the 57 countries I’ve visited (with three empty spaces to fulfill my 60-country goal), putting a saying or proverb inside of each country’s stamp, is to receive an act of love ten million times more powerful than the Hallmark e-card. Both are on paper that will invite me to re-read them many times over and store them in a special box that I will grab first in case of fire.

What’s the punchline here? Not the usual “electronic technology sucks” but a more measured reflection on what we’ve gained and what we’ve lost. For someone who has waited for the postman his whole life, e-mail is a gift from the gods! No need to wait for the once-a-day mailbox clink—it’s now replaced by the instantly accessible and constantly friendly greeting “Welcome. You’ve got mail!” And I do hear from so many more people so much more often than the paper letter ever delivered. And yes, sometimes it is deep and profound and makes me happy.

But having passed through my Luddite phase, I stand by the goal of conscious use of new technologies. Consider the right tool for the right job at the right time for the right cost, be aware of the limitations and curses alongside the benefits and gifts and choose wisely.I am making a plea for the return of the handwritten letter. In typical American-style, we probably need a holiday like “National Letter Writing Day” where once a year, everyone writes letters in their own script (while we still have it) to everyone they know and love. They could send them all at once or mail one a day or spread it out over a few months. Am I just imagining that the average person would be as thrilled as I was to receive such a treasure? Just wondering.

Meanwhile, I’ve got to check my e-mail.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Live Close to Tears

We had a joyful reunion of the Salzburg kids yesterday. 10 of the 17 who were able to make it came to perform for the 100-plus teachers in our Orff Certification Course. Before the first number was over, I noticed that several of the teachers were crying. By the end of the sharing, that number had increased exponentially, mixed with tumultuous applause, whistling and foot-stomping. This was the right audience for the kids, the ones who deeply understood the value and beauty of what they were witnessing. And the kids were the right performers for the teachers, allowing them to see what might lie at the end of the Orff adventure begun with the young ones. Though these middle school kids are hopefully in the middle stages of a lifetime of glorious music-making, the sad reality is that officially in the music education world, 8th grade is about at the end of the line of formal Orff study. High schools have yet to figure out how fantastic this could be for the kids to continue.

Why the tears from the teachers? I had a talk recently with a friend who teaches 2nd grade and the things she described to me about what the State mandated for these delicate little 7-year olds made my skin crawl. I’ll save this for another entry, but I think I could make a convincing case that the people involved in our National Educational Policy of excessive testing could be put away behind bars for institutional child abuse. It is so much worse than I thought and the stakes are the lives, hearts and minds of innocent children.

But yesterday at The San Francisco School, teachers witnessed 10 children who could not only play the hell out of Ghanaian xylophone music, Bulgarian dance music, Vivaldi and Dizzy Gillespie, but do so with such ease in performing, such infectious joy, such pleasure in each other’s company, such a relaxed relationship with their teachers, such confidence and competence and deep understanding. In short, they were the living embodiment of what all of education could be like and as teachers saw before their eyes what they could only previously dream of, is it any wonder that those eyes were wet with wonder?

And yet, other people might have walked in the room and gone out the door not noticing a thing and with nothing changed in their insides. In order to be amazed by beauty, we need to live a life in pursuit of it. Albert Camus once said “Live close to tears,” asking us to open our heart to receive the height and depth of what life can offer. The trigger for the waterworks could be as dramatic as 10 kids filling the room with music’s highest promise or as simple as a leaf drifting down in the wind.

And yet, we mostly don’t live that close, in fact, go to great lengths to build armor around our hearts so we needn’t feel things so deeply. Why wouldn’t we want to live life at this intensity? Because the place of joy has the same address as grief and loss. To live close to tears is to be vulnerable and the heart that is ready to receive love and beauty is also open to the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. Things hurt. Better to keep things simmering at a low intensity—or turn off the flame altogether—than risk vulnerability. But without that flame, nothing inside of us gets cooked and life continues at its bland mild pace.

So thanks yet again to the kids for penetrating the armor and to the teachers for their willingness to be astounded, affirmed and re-committed to a life “close to tears.” 

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Happy Thank You More Please

The birthday wishes and party echoes on and before it fades to silence, one more coda here. At the party, I gave a little talk at the beginning, read my poems and intended to give my main talk at the end. But it felt like enough words had been spoken and it was time for cake. I thought I might read it after the music, but the party took its own natural course. And so I include it below. A bit long for a Blog, but considering it took me 60 years to write it, it feels right to post it. Here we go:

60th Birthday Talk
None of us make it this far without the unfailing support of faithful friends. In addition to the tangible help and encouragement I've felt from every one here, I’ve had three more friends that have served as the ongoing threads in the fabric of my adult life. I met all three of them in college and they remain my closest companions. Their names are Orff, Jazz and Zen.

So Zen. Though I’m not sure my 104 year-old teacher would still claim me as his student, in my mind, I’m still a Zen practitioner, having sat zazen most every day since I was 22 years old. Zen reached into the corners of my spiritual interest that my Jewish ancestry and pseudo-Christian upbringing couldn’t touch, a hands-on approach to religion that eschewed dogma and sidestepped faith and asked me to get straight to the heart of the matter and experience for myself what it means to feel that transcendent force of the universe run through my meager flesh and blood. And thus, the physical practice of meditation and the discipline of group practice that indeed sometimes melted away the borders of the skin and my small mind and swept me into the arms of a larger presence that goes by the name of God or Buddha Nature or the Spirit.

Every time I devoted myself to a week of self-regeneration, I indeed came back renewed and I am ashamed to say that it is the combination of dreading the early-morning wake-ups and rigorous discipline and the justification that I couldn’t afford the time that has made my a very poor Zen student. But a decade in the 70’s of once or twice a year sesshin retreats instilled a habit that has served me well my whole life. My robes are torn and don’t fit as they used to, but they still hang in my closet.

Then, jazz. I often tell the story of how I saw a nationally famous Orff teacher do a workshop in 1978 and even just three-years into teaching, I thought  “I can do that. And I think that I can do it better.” I think some part of us knows what we were put here to do and moments like that are one of the voices urging us to claim it. Conversely, I once went to hear my piano teacher Art Lande at the Great American Music Hall and remember standing outside looking at his name on the marquee. I tried to imagine my name up there some day and no matter how much I squinted and squirmed, I couldn’t make the letters form. Some part of me knew that I didn’t have the training, the talent, the early-childhood musical brain connections to make it in the world of jazz musicians and that even if I had had, I had started much too late, playing my first ragtime piano at 21 years old and my first lesson with Art at 24 years old.

But just because I knew my name would never be next to Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea and Keith Jarrett didn’t mean I should stop trying to play jazz piano. And so with a random practice approach, but tenacity to keep trying in my living room all these years, I got good enough to have the nerve to organize a concert every couple of years. As far as I knew, no one in the audience got hurt or irrevocably damaged. And that has proved another practice that has paid its dividends far beyond whatever I imagined. First and foremost, in the past couple of years accompanying my 80 and 90 year old singers at the Jewish Home with my mother sitting at my side, sometimes immersed in the music with a face of pure bliss, sometimes furiously conducting or dancing with her hands. And then performing at various Orff events and occasional house concerts and people afterwards letting me know I made them cry—and not because I played so poorly!

Some part of me still harbors the fantasy, “When I grow up, I want to be a jazz piano player.” Playing alone when everything lines up and you get to the place that words can’t reach is happiness enough, but on the rare occasions when I publicly perform in a trio, the pleasure is tripled. Jazz for me is the perfect meeting point of the body, grounded in the earthy rhythms of the drum and tapping toes, the mind, feeling its way through the tangle of complex harmonies on the piano, and the heart, singing its passion through the horn or the voice, the raw beauty of the full spectrum of emotion, joy in every sorrowful note and suffering in each triumphant tone.

And finally, Orff. Clearly the center of my little corner of creation, the craft which has taken the bulk of my effort and energy and used every one of the strange combination of small talents given to me. 36 years in the same school, some 30,000 classes with kids, a few thousand workshops with adults in some 39 countries spread throughout every inhabited continent—and still going with all of it with no end immediately in sight. In terms of recognition within this small but powerful world, I’ve probably climbed about as high on the ladder as one can go. In terms of actual accomplishment, the next class with kids is ready to beat me down to a proper humility, knowing there is still so much I could and should do better. That ladder has no top or bottom.

I just saw a pretty good airplane movie with a dubious title “Happy Thank You More Please.” This work indeed has been the happiest of happiness for me and I am so very grateful for all it has given back. Not only the energy and discoveries and breakthroughs and growth of the kids, but equally, the remarkable moments with adult strangers who become instant friends. Indeed, some have become actual friends, the kind you write to and keep in touch with and have long talks with about everything, but what I mean by friends here is neither the “Let’s go to the movies” kind nor the Facebook kind. It really is a category unto itself, what happens when with the first 15 minutes of a class, you’ve held hands, massaged shoulders, laughed, dance, sung and played together. This creates a kind of musical communion and epiphany faster in a quarter of an hour than most people experience with others in a year of casual conversation. And of course, it has been a deep happiness for me to have had the chance to travel as I have and come to each country now with three hats—teachers, student and occasional tourist. And now I can add a fourth hat, as I reunite with these new-found friends in just about every place I go. The only appropriate response to it all is "Thank you." And while part of me is nervous about counting the years left and sad to think that too little remain, I also humbly entreat the Universe with the final two words of the title: “More Please.”

There’s more than just Zen, Jazz and Orff. A lifetime of reading, for example, equally excited by the ideas of non-fiction, stories of novels and the images, emotion and musicality of poetry. And alongside a lot of reading has come a lot of writing. 38 years of unbroken journal keeping, scores of articles, seven books and more coming, my online Travel Blog. I said that music reaches the place that words can't, but words can also touch some places that music can't and I love them both.

And then there’s the life of family and all my stumbling efforts, phenomenal failures and occasional good moments as a father, son, husband, brother —and soon to come, grandfather! And then all the other hats we humans wear—friend, colleague, acquaintance, neighbor, citizen. On my behalf, the best I can say is I’m faithful to trying to keep them alive and honest and perpetually falling short. But Orff, Zen and Jazz, the three disciplines and practices that have been such constant companions and such demanding teachers, help get me up each morning to work out my inch of progress. 60 years of inching progress seems to have reaped some rewards. Not quite mastery, but enough competence to dare to publicly share. A deep bow to all three and may we stay together in the years to come. 

Happy. Thank You. More Please.