Saturday, December 20, 2014

Feed Your Head

We won the Superbowl!!! Of music education, that is. 60 kids got on the stage and made our three fabulous stories—Bartholomew and the 500 Hats, Alice in Wonderland and The Emperor’s New Clothes— come wholly to life, with gesture, movement, choreography, music, dance, ensemble work and stage voices! (How ironic that we spend so much of our school day shushing kids and pleading with them to use their quiet voices— and then when we need those big voices, suddenly ,they’re whispering inaudibly. Do they do that on purpose, I wonder?) Classics from Children’s Literature was the theme and in our Superbowl victories, every kid and every class (3rd, 4th and 5th grade) was the winner. No one hanging their head in the locker room.

I always enjoy writing the program notes and I include them below.

“What makes a story a classic? Why do some stories endure and others get washed away in the great sea of entertainment, never to be enjoyed again? Memorable characters, fantastic situations, twisting and turning plots, morals that reveal needed truths— all and more might mark a story for a long run.

In tonight’s stories, there’s a bit of “all of the above.” Who could help but be intrigued by hats that keep proliferating on a boy’s head and the dilemma of unintentionally disrespecting the king? Who doesn’t have the perpetually late White Rabbit, the Caterpillar and the Cheshire Cat permanently etched in their imagination? How many times have you longed to shout out “The Emperor has no clothes!!” and were grateful to have the image speak your outrage?

And so in keeping with the school’s hope to pass on to our children the best of the past to prepare them for the promise of the future, we give them so much pleasure in the present by letting them enter these stories with the full force of their bodies, voices and minds. Because of the marvelous capacity of human imagination, reading great stories, like listening to great music or viewing great art, is enough to feed the soul. But to act out the stories, to play the music, to make the art, makes the whole venture yet more tasty and ensures that the meal will stick to the ribs.

As we hope most parents know by now, our plays are not store-bought scripts to be merely duplicated by memorizing lines and adding expression. We write the scripts ourselves drawing from improvised scenes the children create.We constantly change and re-write as we begin the messy work of trying things out, call forth the music played in the Fall’s music classes and create new pieces as needed. We tailor the script precisely to the number of children, their developmental level and their special skills. “Do you play the harp? Do you like to skateboard? Sure, we’ll work that into the story!” The story may be a classic, but the process is pure jazz!

The whole show is truly a collaborative enterprise between the children and their classmates, the children and their teacher, the music teachers with the classroom teachers, art teachers, Facilities team, Orff Interns and more. We are blessed not to have justify such ventures in our school, but if we had to, we could talk long and eloquently about integration with language arts, math, history, art, dance, fashion and beyond. It’s a cornucopia of intelligences up there on the stage! “Feed your head” sang Grace Slick in White Rabbit and play practice indeed does that. But it also feeds our heart and our body and our imagination, a feast from that cornucopia.

But mostly, we love the way these stories bind us all in a mutual project that inspires, tickles, moves and pleases. The way they develop and grow and come together and come alive is a miraculous process that is a wonder to behold. And the most marvelous moment is when kids cross that line from repeating memorized lines to truly stepping into a character and feeling the wonder of momentarily being someone else. And then sharing it with an audience prepared to partake of the feast.


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