Here’s a startling fact. There are administrators in this world who lead by the handshake, solve issues with honest conversation and keep the big picture over their desk. Mr. Peter Meckel is one of them. He is an oasis in the desert of Adminomania and keeps himself pure by never going to Administration Conferences, by greeting the Carmel Hills each morning and surrounding himself with music. He created and has sustained for 50 years the marvelous retreat center known as Hidden Valley Music Seminars
I’ve seen Peter off and on every two years at the Orff Mini-conference that we’ve held there since 1987. Two years ago, I spoke with Peter about hosting our Orff Summer Course. He called me into his office, looked at his calendar, erased one thing and moved it elsewhere, then turned to me and said, “Okay. You’re in.” “What about a contract? “ I asked. “Oh, just save the e-mails between us, that will suffice.” My kind of guy!!!
And so we held our annual Orff training course there last summer and what a glorious affair that was. At every gathering and performance in the barn/theater, there was Peter sitting off in the corner with his ear-to-ear grin beholding the marvels and beaming with the pleasure of helping bring such beauty to this world, enjoying the profundity that these teachers would be bringing it to the children they teach. Every time I invited Peter to speak to the group, his words further enriched the occasion and inspired the people.
I arrived yesterday for our 13th Miniconference a broken man, worn down to the nub by the intolerable injustice, malevolence, short-sightedness, cold-heartedness that has slipped into one of my beloved communities with me as the scapegoat and felt it all start to slip away the moment I stepped out the car door. A friend greeting me asked if I had been here all day, because in one short second, she noted that I felt at home. And that feeling deepened exponentially when we finally gathered in the theater, 75 beautiful souls ready to rock the house with thunderous musical passion and bring it to a lullaby silence with the ring of a glockenspiel. Some of us have shared this sacred workshop space for over thirty years and some are brand new friends that we’ve known forever.
After a week of pleading to be seen, valued and understood by people with neither the intention nor capacity to welcome the ground I stand on with my life’s work and vision, here was my tribe at last, folks who need no convincing because we share the same garden. Such heart and soul in this room as the shamans began the healing with the full force of their own life’s journey on behalf of their ancestor’s past struggles and triumphs, their descendant’s future challenges and glories, their colleague’s present dilemmas and breakthroughs. Linda Tillery, Derique McGee, my Ghanaian xylophone teacher SK Kakraba Lobi, my fellow Pentatonics band-member Marty Wehner and I led the group into a bone-deep communion that helped me feel like an exiled-Odysseus returning home to the land of his belonging.
As always, I introduced Peter and invited him to speak and as always, he reached deep beyond the cliché and gifted us with his benediction. “Thoreau said that we each begin to plan how to build our temple when we are a child and by the time we are an adult, it has become a shed,” he began. “If you have been so fortunate to build that temple, I invite you to inhabit it yet more richly in your few days here. If you, like so many of us, have settled for the shed, it’s not to late to build an addition! ”
The song, “He’s a soul man!" came to mind and what a rare thing that has become to encounter in our cold-screened, litigation-driven, proscribed-processed professional world. What a pleasure to know that there are still people who sit in offices with their humanity in full view and share it so generously in their official capacities. Thank you, Peter Meckel, for the privilege of our crossed paths and may it continue far into the future!
Now I have to go prepare today’s classes.