Thursday, September 6, 2018

Windy Weather


In my recent Toronto Jazz Course, I taught a group of 6-year-olds and as we were forming a circle, I spontaneously opened with a little song and game:

“Windy weather, windy weather. When the wind blows, we all come back together.”

In the first three phrases, we walked backwards slowly making an ever-expanding circle while still holding hands and then ran back to the middle on the last phrase. Cute!

A couple of weeks after this course playing the profound, deep and exciting music ranging from Ghanaian xylophone to African-American roots music to Duke Ellington and Milt Jackson, people have been writing asking, “How did that Windy Weather song go again?” This seemed to have made the biggest impression! J

These days, I have one, two or ten stories behind everything I teach, but never told them the fascinating (well, to me) story of this song. So I wrote the following to them. Enjoy!

I never told the story of this song, but it has to do with me being hired at The San Francisco School. My girlfriend (now wife) in 1974 was hired as the art teacher at the school and told me one day that some parent had donated six Orff instruments to the school and they hired someone to give six evening classes to the staff so they could learn how to use them. I was teaching volunteer music classes at the time at a different school, using whatever I remembered from my course with Avon Gillespie at my college, so I was ready to learn more. I asked her if the teachers would let me join and they agreed. 

The first class, the man just sat and talked to us about what we could be doing, but we never actually did anything. When he left that first night, I told the other teachers that in an Orff workshop, we should be participating like the children. So the next class, he was telling us about a song and a game and I asked, "Can we do it?" He looked surprised and then said, "Well, I guess so." So we got up and played the game once or twice. When it was over, we sat down and he started lecturing about the next song we could sing. When he left that night, the staff agreed that he wasn't a very good teacher, but now they had 4 more classes left and didn't think they'd learn anything. They decided to fire him. 

Then I volunteered to teach the next class based on what I remembered from Avon. I did some chant about ice cream flavors that included playing them on the instruments. At the end of the class, the teachers said, "What are you doing next year?" I was going to work at this other school and they asked, "Why don't you work at this school? We don't have a budget for a music teacher (and this was in May) and we've never had one, but we'll make it work." And they did and 43 years later, there I still am. All because of an incompetent teacher! 

And still have those same six Orff instruments! The parent, Carol Kusmierski, who donated them moved and left the school soon after all of this, but two years ago, I found her and invited her to the Spring Concert and there were lots of tears as she sat and witnessed the effects of her donation. She also came up and played a short duet with me on one of the original instruments!

So the punch line. What was one song/game that the teachers got to get up and do in that second class, one I've hardly ever done with children, but always remembered?

You guessed it! Windy Weather!!!!!

I’m always looking for useful metaphors in these children’s games and here’s what I’m thinking.
Things are heating up in Washington, folks both inside and outside the White House slowly understanding that we’ve shot ourselves in the foot hiring this most unstable, incompetent, psychopathic narcissist who has no loyalty to any person or idea and is pissing everyone off. The winds of change are blowing and this country that has been blown apart by division may finally come back together. Well, something like that. 

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