Thursday, March 7, 2013

After the Revolution

I went to college in the glory years— 1969-1973. The ‘60’s were reaching their apex and the times were ripe with turmoil and good vibes, chaos and community, hope and despair, radical politics and Eastern-style enlightenment— and great music as the soundtrack to it all. Vietnam and Woodstock side-by-side, Karl Marx and Buddha sitting in on the college classes, black and white (literally and metaphorically) stretched to the edges and no tolerance for grey. And all of this made yet more intense at my particular chosen spot for higher education—Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio.

Antioch was founded as a radical departure from business as usual and on the front campus, there still stands the statue of one of its founders, Horace Mann, with the inscription, “Be ashamed to die until you have won a victory for mankind.” Antioch took that seriously and was not only an advocate for social justice, but also a leader in experimental and experiential education. It had an ongoing “co-op job” program which alternated study in the ivory tower with work out in the “real world,” an opportunity for young adults to mix theory and practice and get their feet wet in the work world without the full measure of responsibility. 

Why am I talking about this now? Simply because I was invited to be listed in the Antioch Alum Directory and write a little something about life post-college. Here’s what I submitted:

“Back at Antioch, we used to imagine life 'after the Revolution.' It was a central topic of discussions in formal classes, on weekend walks through Glen Helen Nature Preserve and in evening gathering in the dorm rooms passing lit substances around. We naive and idealistic youngsters talked about 'After the Revolution' as a given. It never came, but instead was the slow evolution of growing up and finding out how to better the world one inch at a time. For me, that meant teaching music via the Orff approach to chldren and teachers alike, cultivating a Zen practice, performing jazz and writing about it all, all passions that started in those good ole college days. John Ronsheim that remarkable music teacher, Nippo the guest Zen Master, Avon Gillespie, the guest Orff teacher, Cecil Taylor, the guess avant-garde jazz musicians, all helped shaped my vision and eventual practice in each field.

All my co-ops were at alternative schools and I've spent the last 38 years at one such school in San Francisco, with no plans yet for retiring. My first trip to Europe was with the Antioch Chorus and I've since returned some 35 times since teaching Orff workshops—and to South America, Africa, Asia and Australia as well. Still married and with two wonderful daughters doing good work and one delightful granddaughter. Still in touch with many of the folks who lived together at Drake House on Xenia Avenue, none of whom have “sold out to the Establishment” and continued to do their own good work in diverse fields. The Revolution never came— thank goodness!—but those fledgling ideas from back then have indeed blossomed and moved us closer a foot closer to the freedom of the human spirit. Still many miles to go and so we sow the seeds for the next generation to water. But every day I’m grateful that I had the good fortune and good sense to spend four memorable years in a small, vibrant college community in a little town in Southwest Ohio. Thank you, Antioch! May your legacy live on!”

PS And for the record, it almost didn’t. But when the Board of Trustees announced that the College would close a few years back, the alums, true to the spirit of their alma mater, answered “over our dead bodies!” and began the drive to re-open the College with a new alum-driven board. The New Antioch is in its second year and growing. Hooray for that!


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