Monday, July 30, 2018

Down in the Valley

The Carnival of relentless community bliss continues full tilt. Taught my first classes with the new Level III group and the thought that language doesn’t contain enough superlatives to capture the joy rises again. Such an odd assortment of skills that I’ve crafted, but somehow they are just right to get a group of 30 people playing, singing and dancing with great confidence, musicality, energy and happiness. When it works—and these days, it almost always does—the energy circles back to us all. Beauty in, beauty out, energy expended, energy given back, circles within circles of euphoric celebration of this miracle of life.

After two Basic Orff classes and one recorder class, I strolled up the hill and down to the village. Where am I? Hidden Valley Music Seminars a hop, skip and jump down the road from the small town of Carmel Valley. A quaint place with wine-tasting, a motorcycle museum, an annual antique car show, the Running Iron restaurant and a still-open video rental place that had the movie I was seeking—Clark Gable and Marilyn Monroe and Montgomery Clift and more in The Misfits, a classic film we will show Sunday night to the 100 plus folks gathered here from some 25 countries. A taste of an Americana without the modern day shame.

This whole Monterey Peninsula carries much cultural history, most notably John Steinbeck and friends living in Cannery Row and his various books set close by—Cannery Row (of course) and East of Eden, for starters. The great mythologist Joseph Campbell hung out with Steinbeck and biologist Ed Ricketts. As often happens, it is the outliers, the “misfits” that end up being the most interesting people in the town, not so much the bankers, accountants and lawyers.

And so here we are, on the fringe music teachers doing the radical radical work of trying to humanize education, bring zest, humor, fun, beauty and a touch of the profound into the lives of children everywhere. In my recorder class today, I had the teachers make up rhymes about the proper way to play recorder and then proceed to demonstrate how to play improperly. Things like:

“Push the air out with your tongue, so no one overblows,
 Don’t play recorder through your nose!”

And then they get to do both! Can you imagine how the bored kid in recorder class might suddenly perk up in a class like this? And then at the end, when he or she played the song properly, the contrast in sound would teach the lesson of good tone and articulation better than any regimented lesson or Powerpoint Smart-boarded glitzy plan.

This Monterey Peninsula is where my teacher Avon Gillespie first taught Level 1 at The Santa Catalina School and lo and behold, I was in that first class in 1983. Here I am carrying it forward and I’d like to think, proudly, that I’m continued the legacy of Steinbeck and Ricketts and Campbell and Avon, attracted misfits from all corners of the globe that fit into this pedagogy of possibility. “We’re goin’ down to Hidden Valley one by one” we sang at the opening and five minutes later, a hundred plus exuberant souls were showing their motion and behold, it was good.

On to Day Two.

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