Monday, July 11, 2016

The Hills Are Alive

In my life as a Traveling Music Teacher, there are some places I keep returning to that are worthy of the name “home.” And Salzburg is at the top of my list.

I first came here in 1990, invited to teach both in the Orff Institut’s Symposium and Summer Course. I came with my family and met 10 to 15 people who turned out to be central people in my life, both professionally and personally. Since then, I’ve returned almost once a year. The list of memorable people continued to grow, the satisfaction of international teaching continued, the happiness of riding a bike or walking around this extraordinary city kept me sane amidst an increasingly crazy world.

It was here that my daughter Talia learned to ride a bike at 5 years old, here I met Sofia who would both open the door of Spain to me (another such home) and set in motion a 20-year collaboration at The San Francisco School and beyond, here I got to know Barbara Haselbach and hear all her stories of working directly with Carl Orff and Gunild Keetman, here I met Frau Orff (Carl’s last wife), here I performed with our old adult Orff group Xephyr three times, here I received the Orff Foundation’s prestigious Pro Merito Award, here I first met Kofi Gbolonyo who opened yet another door to West Africa, here 17 kids from our school performed so gloriously five years ago. Without Salzburg, my life would have been very different indeed.

It remains a remarkable place, remarkable in its commitment to keeping open fields the way they were 26 years ago while finally agreeing to get some Wifi in place. I’ve rarely met a more perfect balance between nature and city, between innovation and tradition, between mountains and meadows, rivers and lakes, woods and fields, McFerrin and Mozart. The hills are alive with the sound of music—Julie Andrews got that right. From Orff’s compositions to Bavarian brass bands during the Maibaum festival to Mozart, Mozart and— did I mention—Mozart?, with some Austrian schuplatter body percussion and a version of samba thrown into the mix.

Yesterday I lunched with some lovely friends from Iran and then shared my favorite bike ride with four of my fun Thai friends and earlier, re-connected with people from each of the seven “Special Course” groups I’ve taught since 2003. One group of 16 people, from Australia, Spain, Iran, U.S., Italy, Hong Kong and more, had 11 of them here together for a reunion. Those ties stay deep. And despite all its struggles staying afloat in a changing world, the Orff Institut remains an International Center for this work, a hub where folks from some 40 and more countries have come to ignore their government’s attempt to divide with a determination to unite.

Thanks beyond words for this marvelous place in this marvelous city with such marvelous people that keep me constantly feeling that I am “16 going on 17,” with the world of possibility both behind me in some realized form and still ahead of me. May it continue!

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