Friday, April 5, 2019

Reach in. Reach up. Reach out.

After 27 classes in 10 days, over 40 hours of joyful music and dance together, my time with the Special Course came to an end. We sang some beautiful farewell songs and came to the cadence that announces, “The Song is Over.” But as Irving Berlin continued, “but the melody lingers on.” And indeed it will, in the days, weeks, months and even years to come. 

And then we said a different kind of goodbye this morning at breakfast, as each one of these 17 lovely souls got to speak of their “takeaway” from our time together, choose one thing out of the many to share. This is a strong moment for me as a teacher, the Mirror of Truth reflected back to me to discover what struck them, what helped them, what touched them or moved them. 

Predictably—and thankfully—none of them said “You’re an awesome teacher!” I would have been disappointed to hear that they merely praised my teaching. Of course, a little is okay, but real teaching is about the student, not the teacher. It’s about what the teacher was able to awaken in the student, what new ideas considered or old ideas confirmed came forth in the classes. I love hearing people testify that they understood something more clearly or grew more comfortable in a skill they had previously had doubts about or understood why their teaching hadn’t been as flowing as musical as they’d like it to be. Without exception, each sharing helped us all to know that the time was well-spent and served as reminders to remember what is so easy to forget in the heat of busy teaching schedules in schools that don’t often talk about such things. 

As someone constantly in search of the words or phrases that eloquently sing what most of us know but haven’t found how to say it, I was moved by one student’s (Michele Ellis, to give her due credit!) summary, paraphrased as follows:

1)   Reach in. Look inside for the music that sings in you, for your own way of thinking and organizing your teaching, for the stamp of your character that gives you a unique voice as an artist, teacher and human being.

2)   Reach up.  Work hard to constantly aspire yet one inch higher, to get yet a larger view, to push your “daydream up the mountain slope.”

3)   Reach out. Share it all with the world, formally in your classes, informally in your writing, in your performances or recordings or writing. Engage with everyone who comes across your path and discover what they have to offer you as well.

Reach in, reach up, reach out. A nice pithy way to remember what’s important. Thanks to Michele for this and hope my definitions did yours justice. 

Another student’s summary was even pithier, summarizing everything important that had happened in two weeks in one word


For that one, well, you just had to be there.


  1. Dearest Doug - your words speak with the artistry you hold and the authority bestowed on you. A lovely collaboration between teacher, student and friend. Thank you Michele

    1. Michele, you speak exactly what I feel but have not managed to find the words for. Thank you for having that insight, and thank you for sharing it with us via Doug. Doug, you have taught me the true meaning of reflection, something I still strive to do 'properly' but know I fail at miserably. It is at this moment that Michele's words really resonate, and apply to all facets of not only my teaching, but life in general.
      Thank you to you both for your insights. They are truly special to me. xxx


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