Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Wheels on the Bus

Someday I hope to write a book The Wit and Wisdom of Children’s Songs. While philosophers turn to high-falootin’ language (which doesn’t include words like “high-falootin’”) to describe deep metaphysical constructs, children’s songs often say it clearer. For example, here we are on the last day of the year, about to turn into 2015 and what better way to capture that than sing,

“Oh, the wheels of the bus go round and round, round and round, round and round…”

Grateful to be here to keep riding that bus as the years turn from one to another. It’s quite a wild ride and this past year is no exception, driving high into the hills of euphoria and down to the vales of grief and sorrow. In 2014, this confessing traveling music teacher, the main character of this blog’s plot, had glorious teaching trips to Asia (Taipei, Hong Kong, Manila), South America (Santiago, Chile and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil), Europe (Verona, Italy and Salzburg, Austria), Africa (Ghana) and North America (Atlanta, Las Vegas, Louisville, Hartford, Newark, Toronto and Halifax, Nova Scotia). Four continents, ten countries, some 20 workshops and each a delight. Most important of all, I now am TSA Pre-checked approved at the airport in addition to getting my luggage out first! People, it doesn’t get any better than that!

And then the perpetual turn of the years at The San Francisco School. This Fall marking my 40th and my wife’s 41st and my astonishment that I had one of the best teaching Falls of four decades— great kids, great classes, great music. How did that happen? Shouldn’t I be weary and burnt out and longing for weekday golf? I think it helped to have five wonderful Interns witnessing the miracles and then adding their own stamp to the music program with their teaching.

“Oh, the doors of the bus go open and shut, open and shut, open and shut…”

One of the most thrilling opening door has been working with the musicians in my Pentatonics Jazz band. This year, we went on a road trip! Okay, it was only to Fresno, but still fantastic! We also taught various family workshops at SF JAZZ and performed a concert in SF in May. In the same vein, I was thrilled to teach workshops at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center by the invitation of jazz vibraphonist Stefon Harris. That’s an open door I hope will keep opening and eventually include the full Pentatonics group. I love these guys! My only complaint is not enough rehearsals and not enough gigs. Anyone out there want to help change that?

Amidst the pleasure of continuing to ascend the ladder of my dreams came the closed doors of loved ones who left this year. First and foremost, the passing of my Mom three weeks shy of her 93rd birthday. Then my Zen teacher Sasaki Roshi, at 107 years old. And my mother-in-law on the cusp of 90 starting to edge toward the exit gate. Their long lives (107!) help soften the blow, but absence is absence and there’s no way not to miss them. Then Karen’s old college roommate, my cousin, our neighbor, all in the 60’s and 70’s— too close to our age for comfort. On the public stage, more hard farewells to Robin Williams, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Joan Rivers, Lauren Bacall, James Garner, Shirley Temple, Sid Caesar, Mickey Rooney, Pete Seeger, Paco De Lucia, Horace Silver, Maya Angelou, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Amiri Baraka (formerly Leroi Jones) and more who kept us entertained, inspired and moved through their writing, music and acting. And so our losses sting and our remembrances warm and isn’t that just the way of life honestly lived? Those seats on the bus so sadly empty, but their presence still palpable if we keep remembrance alive.

“Oh, the babies on the bus go wah!wah!wah!…

Yes, I’m talking about my granddaughter Zadie, who fulfilled her toddler quota of crying fits in each of my five visits this year. But none of it canceled her deep joy, infectious laugh, warm hugs and all the joys of being around her. And as if that’s not enough of a blessing, a second grandchild is on the way!

“Oh the wipers on the bus go swish, swish, swish…”

Finally, much needed rain in California! Too early to call an end to the drought, but it sure is helping. Maybe I’ll take advantage of an indoor life and finally clean my front room.

“Oh, the driver on the bus says move on back, move on back, move on back…”

Yeah, but I’m not listening. I know I need to make room for the young folks coming up and with all the workshops and Intern training and such, I’m doing my part to train them to take the wheel. But I’m not done yet! Keep those invitations coming!

“Oh, the wheels of the bus go round and round, round and round, round and round…”

And so farewell to the 2014 bus ride and hopes for more adventurous travels through the landscapes of 2015.

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