Friday, April 5, 2013

Fifteen Minutes of Fame

Rudy Benton, a local P.E. teacher I have long admired, was once nominated for a national award for his work. He created a non-competitive community approach to physical education that was inclusive, broad in its scope and great, great fun. I remember his reaction when notified of his nomination: “I really hope I get this, not so much for me, but for the recognition and dignity it gives to this vision of teaching P.E. This would be an important affirmation that I would receive on behalf of all my fellow teachers who believe in this approach.” That’s a great reason for wanting to be famous.

I think I have wanted to be famous ever since I read the autobiography of Andrew Jackson in 4th grade. Never mind that he turned out to be a brutal human being. It was his sense that destiny had chosen him that intrigued me even as a kid. As an adult, I was not particularly driven by a hunger for fame, but always kept one eye on it in my peripheral vision. What mostly got me up in the morning—and still does—was the pleasure of my chosen work and the satisfaction of trying to do it as well as I could. But side by side was the desire to spread the good news further than my class and to keep enlarging the waters in which I was swimming. I had chosen (or was chosen by) a craft that is a very small pond in the world—music education—and it felt just fine to be a big fish in that tiny body of water. But I kept looking for the tributaries that connected it with the larger world and sailed down them whenever I could.

The recognition of my work that began to trickle in allowed me to present at conferences and workshops and summer courses and eventually, lifted me up to an international circuit that continues to be a source of great pleasure and satisfaction. The articles and books that followed helped some of that work travel further than my body could go. I grew to appreciate the true gift of any measure of fame— the opportunities to keep working and reaching people with something of value. It was the perfect proportion— enough to keep the offers coming in without having to wear sunglasses in public. I think I can honestly say I never was tempted to value the potential adoration and use it to my advantage or convert it to food for the ego— I just genuinely appreciated, and still do, the chance to play, sing and dance with wonderful people worldwide.

But still there was always a small seed of bitterness. In Spain, I’ve been interviewed multiple times on television and radio, had several full-page interviews in El Pais, the national newspaper. But in 38 years of teaching in San Francisco, there has never been the tiniest morsel of recognition in any of the local media except some years back when a friend alerted the Chronicle that I had been given the Pro Merito Award from the Orff Foundation in Munich. That got me a five-sentence paragraph next to the story of the guy who murdered his family. Yippee.

Like Rudy Benton, I want a larger fame on behalf of music, of music education, of the Orff approach, of the teachers who teach imaginatively and with love, of the children themselves. With this blog, I reach about 100 people daily, with my books, some more, in my workshops 40 or 50 at a time, but still I’ve thirsted to reach a larger audience. I’ve nominated myself to be interviewed by Terry Gross or be invited to a radio show or two, keep throwing the line in the big fish of World waiting for a bite. And waiting. And waiting.

And finally the first nibble has come. The TEDx talk I did two months ago is finally up on Youtube. Don’t expect it will go viral next to the Harlem Shake and Gangnam style, that are much more socially redeeming and important milestones in our evolution as a species. (Not!) But my 15 minutes—literally— of potential fame has arrived in the form of my talk “Why Music in Schools.” You can contribute to its trip around the virtual world by both viewing and passing it on. Of course, there are a thousand ways it could be better, but feels like a good start to get people thinking that perhaps music and music education is a tad more important and far-reaching than just shaking your booty to the dubious music and even more dubious text of the Harlem Shake. Just maybe.

Go to:

And just to let you know, if this does get me on Oprah (is she still on the air?), I’ll still talk to you out in public and continue to offer workshops for dirt-cheap prices. Like the one tomorrow. Hurry up and sign-up before I get too famous!!!!

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