Despite my difficult entry, once in Edmonton, relationships with my neighbors to the north were, as always, not just cordial, but hug-worthy. Arrived in snow, settled into a hotel with character and set off the next day to work with 60 kids with some 60 teachers watching.
The theme was Jazz and of course, that’s my home territory. Got both groups swingin’ and singin’, tappin’ and clappin’, swayin’ and playin’. By the end, we put together a full-blown performance with body percussion, partner clap, dance, drama, Orff instruments with solos. Sometimes we let the adults join in and wasn’t that fun, to just be embraced in a vibrant musical community with mostly strangers. (The kids came from some 10 different schools and didn’t know each other at the beginning. But they certainly did by the end!)
The day was capped off by a fun Italian dinner where I dared to try a Caesar Bloody Mary—Clamato juice with vodka, a spoon full of horseradish, a pickle and olives and a shrimp perched on the glass’s rim and salt/pepper around the rim as well. I suck at drinking, so naturally couldn’t finish it. But it was pretty good! Not needed for the laughs with these vibrant Orff Board members, but probably didn’t hurt.
The next morning, off to an impressive Arts School from elementary through high school—over a thousand kids and this a public school. In general, Edmonton has an impressive arts commitment, 90 minutes a week for all school music programs and a Senator who is a local jazz musician! (Tommy Banks). Taught a long class to 60 4th graders, followed by another with 60 3rd graders. Fun! At the end, I shared my new favorite song, “Gonna Build Me a Mountain” with them and started with,
“So here’s a song about having a dream and what it takes to make it come true. For example, I always dreamed of traveling around the world with a rubber chicken and getting paid for it and …well, here I am!”
That got their attention. But what’s more interesting is how sixty 3rd graders listened in rapt attention as if I was a poet or a preacher saying exactly the words they needed. I think that kids, like adults, are starved to hear something authentic, heartfelt, real, true. I don’t want to claim too much for myself here, but I did feel that quality of listening that is rare and precious, the kind a poet once described as a “hushed silence of an audience listening as if their lives depended on it.” And then from the words to the song, the thoughts given both feet and wings by the notes and the collective singing. A perfect way to end a lovely day.
And my rubber chicken liked it too.