A few years back, I went to the home of a remarkable musician in Edinburgh who was extremely knowledgeable and accomplished in the Amadinda xylophone tradition of Uganda. I asked him if he was teaching or performing it in Edinburgh and he said, mostly not— not a lot of interest locally. And so he was doing work in some other field. He seemed happy enough, but I couldn’t help but think of the disconnect between what he had to offer to the world and what the world wanted from him. It felt a shame.
Those who know me have heard me complain about the same, my sense that I have something to offer that the world is not as interested in as I think it should be. And yet, I am out of my mind to complain. This summer, I got to help teach a remarkable course in Ghana, another satisfying one in Verona, Italy and offer my thoughts and perspective at a meeting in Salzburg of Orff teachers worldwide. I got to teach my annual Jazz Class, helped direct and teach Level III in the summer Orff Level Trainings and then cap off the summer with a World Music Course. (And even managed a lovely two weeks as a 100% tourist with my wife on the West Coast of Italy and another great week with the family —and Zadie!!— in Michigan.)
In short, the things that I’ve spent my lifetime loving and pursuing— Jazz, World Music, Orff Schulwerk, interest in West African music— all found a form for expression and lots of eager people ready and ripe to receive it. It got me traveling (for free) to Ghana, Italy, Austria, Carmel Valley, Toronto and paid me more than enough money to get through the summer. It introduced me to vibrant musicians, fun people, thoughtful teachers and let me reunite with the same growing tribe of friends and colleagues. It gave me a platform to articulate my vision of healthy community, music’s healing power, the glory and promise of children, the potential of schools. Copious tears of joy and appreciation were shed at each and every event, testimonies of lives uplifted and transformed and bettered, promises to share the treasures with the kids in this Fall’s classes— and I mean thousands and thousand of kids.
Why would I ever complain that Oprah and Terry Gross aren’t calling? Why would I be disappointed that no one has asked me to teach Orff classes for the Middle East peace talks? Why should I worry that only 12,000 people have seen my TEDx talk and 1 billion watched whatever Justin Bieber did yesterday? Well, partly because I think it all is worthy of a larger audience. But mostly, because I’m an idiot.
So thank you to all who took the trouble to come to this summer’s courses, to all who helped organize them, to all the unseen hands that keep moving me forward aligned with a vision that has served me my whole life and continues to bring joy and satisfaction beyond the norm. My cup indeed runneth over and I am one grateful teacher.
Now to school tomorrow to prepare my own re-invigorated plans for a Fall with the children. Farewell, summer!