Monday, August 1, 2016


Funga Alafia has been good to me. A simple welcome song quickly learned, with gestures, powerful accompanying rhythms, movement and an uplifting text. But even our best friends can start to wear on us a bit. I needed a break.

Along comes the Ghanaian Ewe song Miawoezo. The text and melody a bit more challenging, no traditional accompanying gestures, not easy to make the instant connection with the group that Funga allows. But I love the translation:

“Thank you for the trouble you took to come here. Welcome.”

Now a hundred students are gathering from 20 countries from around the planet to converge here in Carmel Valley, where the ash from the nearby fires covered my car this morning. But it would take more than a raging fire miles away to dissuade them. They’ve been plotting and planning and saving and taking a great deal of trouble to come for two weeks of Orff training. The Level II and III people need no convincing. They felt last year the comfort, excitement, beauty and power of gathering with like-minded musicians, dancers and teachers to play, sing, dance and create their way to understanding. The Level I folks have an inkling they’re about to experience something that may transform their lives, both personally and professionally, but they don’t know wholly just how much it will yet. They’ve been to a one-day workshop or a conference or an Intro. course and got a taste of the feast to come and they’re ready to sit down at the table. Or rather, to get up and dance on the table!

Likewise, the course teachers. They have come from Germany, Spain, Brazil, Japan, Annapolis, Denver and San Francisco to get the chance to hang out with each other yet again—some of us have been together doing this for over 20 years! The stories from all those past years animate the dinner conversations, even as we collect more for the dinners to come. We will work harder than we like to remember, not only teaching hours a day, but correcting papers and being on call for all the little and big mishaps that can happen when 100 people share a small space. But for all of us, living busy and fulfilling lives, this two-week bubble each year is both the carrot that lures us into August and the satiated dessert that lingers on our taste buds as we head into the school year.

At the end of the Jazz Course, several students were thanking me for committing to going to sing at The Jewish Home at the end of a long week, impressed by my altruism and stamina and long-term commitment to help other people. But though I could have responded with, “It’s the right thing to do. It’s my duty. It’s the way I pay back the people who helped me,” none of that is precisely true. I do it for the great pleasure it brings to me, the way it actually re-charges me at the end of a long week and sends me into the weekend refreshed. It’s not philanthropy, it’s love—of the people, of the music, of the beautiful energy released in that room that refreshes all of us like a gentle rain in a drought or the sun emerging after a storm. And the same with this course and indeed, every course I teach.

Still, it is proper to thank the people for the trouble they took, for valuing the right thing, for sacrificing a bit not only for their own later pleasure, but to bring happiness to the children they teach.

Miawoezo! And off we go!

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