Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Blessings from Above: Day 1

And so we began this grand adventure on Sunday night, 35 lovely music teachers from eleven countries, five continents, nine U.S. states gathered together from a love of music, children and cultural exchange. Began with a typical Orff workshop beginning, jumping straight into the refreshing waters with immediate music, dance and song with a “getting to know you theme.” Kofi gave us some overview of local and beyond Ghanaian culture and made the curious remark that here when you meet someone, they say “You’re welcome” and you say “thank you.” Just one of many reversals that are charming, fascinating and offer the expanded point of views that crossing borders allows. And indeed, I believe everyone felt welcome and ready to partake of the feast ahead.

The next day began with more songs and dances and games and then lunch at Kofi’s family home. Such a pleasure to meet his mother and brothers and aunts and cousins and share a meal in a home. From there, to the ceremony where women were singing, dancing and playing rattles, men playing the drums (still a division of sexes here) and inviting us to dance with them. Then to a special area where the chief and his consorts sat prepared for a ceremony of greeting that involved more drumming and gunshots to show the importance of the occasion.

And important it was. Kofi had arranged to crown Sofia as the Queen of Cultural Development of Dzodze with the blessings of the Chief. Why? Because by meeting her, he set off on his path of combining Orff Schulwerk with African music, made the connection with The San Francisco School and James and I and various Orff associations, was inspired to start a music school for children in his home town and being who he is, wanted to formally express his gratitude. Then he was surprised to discover that he was also being crowned as the King of Cultural Development for the stellar work and dedication to serving the children. And so libations were poured, special words spoken and other ritual activities. The atmosphere was serious, but also light and I couldn’t help but smile inwardly as the Chief answered his cell phone in the midst of the ceremony. What an extraordinary welcome for us all! The blessing of the Chief is a significant moment in the life of an individual and a community and is essential to the health of both.

What would it mean to me if in my own community I was named as the King of Cultural Development and blessed from above? Given the work I’ve done over four decades in helping create and sustain the unique culture of the school, it might be worthy of a title and a ceremony. But the virus of our flatland culture is growing, the disrespect for elders and over-fascination with young folks who can navigate machines better. Despite all my talks with myself that my work is its own reward and the appreciation from my students of all ages is enough, the fact is that it’s not. Not because my ego needs more stroking, but the opposite. The lack of such blessing, be it for me or anyone who has done the work, is a symptom of a culture’s sickness and everyone suffers. They may not know what feels off and put words to it, but I believe they feel its absence.

Administrators, take note. Are there workshops in your conferences titled Conferring Blessings? Valuing Your Staff and Letting Them Know It?

Okay, it’s summer and time to leave that aside and be wholly here in this marvelous place that still understands the vertical dimension of human culture, the energy of the sun coming into the chief’s golden rings and crowns which he accepts on behalf of the community and in service of the community. And now I get to put on my resume, “colleague of the Queen of Cultural Development.”

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