There’s a powerful song I often open or close Orff courses with, a solo call that begins, “Way down yonder in the brickyard,” with the group response, “Remember me.” How will we be remembered? We never get to choose and often as I hear people speak of a departed loved one, it’s all the little details that they noticed—the time a friend brought tea and cookies when sick or Grandma organized an art project one summer visit or Grandpa hired us as sous chefs when making his famous soup.
But then there’s the people in the news and history books, those famous folks who contribute something that moves a field of study a bit further. In a lifetime of work, each often has a concrete and memorable contribution— Leonardo’s Mona Lisa, Newton’s gravity, Beethoven’s 5th, Edison’s lightbulb. Babe Ruth’s home runs, Humphrey Bogart’s Casablanca, Steven Job’s computer legacy and so on and so on. In my lifetime of work in my field, what will I be remembered for? Well, after teaching Boom Chick-a-Boom to the 40 participants in my Finnish Jazz Course, I’m convinced it deserves a place next to Einstein’s Theory of Relativity as a world-shaking achievement.
Boom Chick-a-Boom is one of my integrated lessons that combines a welcome portal for all to play jazz with a clever way to deal with 10 instruments and 20 people, a built-in structure that inspires people to help each other, a chance for people to hear/play music from all different angles, a rockin’ soul-sustaining groove and at least five other things that are good for the human body, heart and mind. Why can’t this get at least the same kind of recognition as Michael Jackson’s Beat It?
And while we’re at, let’s add a few more to my notable achievements. Things like Whoops Johnny!, Criss-cross-Applesauce, Step Back Baby, Funga Alafia, Intery Mintery, Sally Go ‘Round the Sun, Modes in Rows, Rain Rain Go Away. We might include the more recent One Potato, Lemonade Crunchy Ice, Humpty Dump and such. Really, there are too many to fit on one gravestone. Doesn’t that count for something?
If the world had its head on straight, these startling achievements would have me wearing sunglasses in public and dodging papperrazi. Each one is a mini-masterpiece lesson that begins with an enticing mystery, develops with each part intimately connected to the next and arrives at a startling conclusion that leaves participants breathless with beauty, stunned by the aesthetic result and lifted up by their own joyful participation. Not bragging here, simply reporting what I see time and time again in my adult workshops and often in my children’s classes as well.
Sometimes I feel mildly bitter that my particular combination of talents simply has no way to be recognized by the world at large. I’m happily famous enough in my small circles so that I can do the work I’m doing with people eager to receive it and for that I am eternally grateful. But where are the Oscars, Nobels or Pulitzers for the best lesson plan? Where is the newspaper coverage or viral Youtube video or honorary doctorate or keys to the city honoring the intricate variations of Whoops Johnny, the roof-raising spirit of Funga Alafia, the mysteries revealed in Rain Rain Go Away, the communion with the other world in Intery Mintery, the cosmic reach of Sally go Round the Sun ? No one has yet asked me to be a Commencement Speaker based on my Boom Chick a Boom fame.
If only they had seen today’s class, perhaps they would.