Thursday, September 1, 2016


It’s September. The 7th month in the old calendar, 9th in the new. Some association with 9 months as the sacred number of giving birth and as the school year begins rolling again, it’s a proper image. I began the month with a morning meditation, visualizing the delights to come— joyful music classes at ye ole school, Opera in the Park, Comedy in the Park, Sea Chanty sing, SF Jazz Concerts and workshops, all the back-to-school nights, beautiful weather (though this morning is foggy and damp) and the first of my workshop series.

Dove back into my file cabinets to see when I first began these Saturday workshops for teachers at The San Francisco School. I thought it was 1976, but the first I have on record is 1977. 8 people came and it was interesting to see that some of the things I did on that day I still do! In fact, I have a record of every workshop I’ve given. In paper form up to about 2007 and then, predictably, electronically. Going through the years, I’m always shocked to see that I did this song or that piece or the other game 20, 25, or 30 years ago. I have an image that I’m constantly investigating and generating new material, but maybe not as much as I think!

Should I be embarrassed about that? Following the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” model, it seems like I’ve created a family of solid and dependable songs, pieces, dances, games, ideas that still work and work well. As long as they feel fresh to me—and they do— no shame in continuing to share them and enjoy them. They are my solid and dependable and still fun-to-be-with community and they carry the echoes of all the people who have brought them to life in workshops over these past 40 years. I say hooray for that.

Of course, many new friends have joined and some of them have yet to hit their stride and be included in the tried-and-true club and some are just beginning. I do arrange new pieces each year for the Orff Ensemble and have since at least 1983 when I made the first school recording. Once the idea of a recording each year became a tradition, I—and later my colleagues—created a reason to keep investigating new things and that was healthy and fun and productive. No need to keep re-inventing wheels, but nice to steer them to new and interesting places.

This morning, I poured the boxed oatmeal into a jar that used to hold the peanut butter I regularly bought in the Berkeley Co-op back in the 70’s. I stirred it with a wooden spoon I bought in 1973 at a San Francisco Zen Center sale, for 25 cents. I’d survive just fine with a new jar and spoon, but it gives me an extra bit of pleasure to keep in touch with these old friends. Not a blind loyalty, but a deep appreciation for the life we’ve shared together.

And so September awaits, relatively new traditions (like Opera in the Park) and old ones (the San Francisco School events and classes) shared with four new Interns from Finland, Spain, Australia and Chicago,a few new teachers, old kids in new grades. Loyal to the old, open to the new. It’s a good combination.

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