In a conversation
yesterday, the way four Universities had done me wrong came up. I was doing my
best to play the game and fit the Orff training into these institutions and in
each case, ended up unappreciated, misunderstood and dismissed—figuratively and
literally. The deep lesson is that what the Orff approach was offering and my
own view about what education should mean simply didn’t blend with University
thinking— and much to their shame, I might add. In each case, our course was
successful, meeting the needs of the students beyond anyone’s expectations and
making money for the school, but the fact was that the ruling powers didn’t
care. If they randomly decided they needed to clean the dorms a week earlier,
it was up to us to change our schedules. And so on.
Ah, me and
school. We both need each other, in different ways, but the relationship is
often so contentious. But not always. I went to a college where I got college
credit for canoeing, bird-watching, hitchhiking and wine-tasting in France.
I’ve worked most of my life in a school where I teach barefoot, the kids call
me by my first name and no one makes me turn in my lesson plans.
And the music
I’ve studied has often not been in university classrooms, but under trees in
Ghana, on verandahs in Bali, in hotel rooms in Bulgaria, in my teacher’s home
in India, in church basements and rec centers, in summer camps with gurgling
streams and redwood trees, in elementary school gyms on Saturday.
Michael Meade’s book The Genius Myth
in yesterday’s post and found this intriguing passage:
The ancient Irish storytellers used to
wander from village to village using old stories to bring life lessons to light
for both the young and the old. After the colonization of Ireland, there were
severe punishments for even using the native language. The old tellers had to
pull the young people out of sight, often behind the hedges in order to share
the wisdom of stories. Thus, “hedge school” named a moveable place of sudden
education being offered amidst the dangers of life.
“A moveable place
of sudden education offered amidst life’s dangers.” Yeah! That well describes
our summer Orff training. And though disappointed, bitter and angry at the time
these institutions closed their doors to us, in the end, I had to thank them.
For my search for the right place landed me at Hidden Valley Music Seminars in
beautiful Carmel Valley, a retreat center run by a marvelous, warm, wise man
who gets what we do and loves it. It is indeed a retreat from life’s dangers
and idiocies and bureaucracies and you can walk through the grounds and find
people working out dances on redwood decks, playing recorder under eucalyptus
trees, singing out in the field.
And another great
center of Orff training, though connected politically with the staid and
conservative Mozarteum Conservatory in Salzburg, is off in a field away from
the city’s center with a view of the mountains and alongside the Allee where
Julie Andrews skipped her way to the Von Trapp home. Another Hedge School where
folks from all over the world come to study this dangerous pedagogy that dares
to promote thinking and feeling and community bonding.
So in your face,
Universities! I’d still like to believe that you could be large and wise enough
to include a hedge school alongside your ivory towers, but I’m not holding my
breath. And note: I’ve managed to achieve world-wide notoriety as an
accomplished teacher in my field, get to travel the world over to teach, will
soon publish my 10th
book, have been the Keynote Speaker at various
conferences—all without a Masters Degree or a PhD. If you wanted to give me an
Honorary Doctorate, I wouldn’t refuse it. But meanwhile, I’m content and
grateful to keep teaching behind the hedges wherever people are hungry to
discover who else they could be alone and who else we all could be together.
University credit, of course.