I turn 70 this summer and legacy is much on my mind. Knowing that one’s work will continue on like old wine in new bottles is perhaps a rare thing in this world, but one that gives a sense of satisfaction that others will care about what you cared about. And do the work to keep it going. And so when I attended the online workshop taught by a fabulous teacher who I had the good fortune to help train, I came away with some assurance that indeed my legacy will thrive. Of course, it’s not my legacy, but one bequeathed to me by Avon who received it from someone else and so on back to the first cave person showing their kid how to play some cool rhythms with rocks.
So in the spirit of saying out loud to people things you’re thinking about their work (see letter to Michael Meade), here is the post-workshop letter I wrote to this brilliant Brazilian music educator, Estevao Marquez.
Your workshop made me so happy! It made everyone happy! It was the perfect blend of inspiration, imagination and an invitation to consider more deeply how to work with the songs that make you happy. In short, it was happy! And that’s already more than enough in a world with so much sorrow. Hooray for that!
But there’s more. You know that I recognized your possibility the first time we met. This work needs people who are genuine musicians down to their bones and also show the music in their dancing bodies. That’s you! It needs people who are at home in their own bodies and hearts and people with infectiously joyful spirits who will entice others into the music just by their very presence. That’s you! It needs people who love children and have never abandoned the playful child in themselves. Again, you!
You came into this work partly through performance, doing children’s shows that made kids happy. Wonderful and needed work. But also different from the long-term day-by-day teaching. In performance, your shining spirit has the spotlight and the audience is dazzled by it all and happily so. But in teaching, the more important job is to help kids discover their own dazzling musical spirit, which means you have to be careful about all the attention on you and make sure you turn the spotlight to them. Some musicians who become teachers— and particularly those with a big musical presence and personality—make the mistake of staying too long in the spotlight. And this is even more of a temptation teaching adult workshops, as teachers start to adore you and shower you with praise. But as Avon cautioned me, when you’re teaching, it’s not about you. It’s about the work that helps reveal possibilities in the student that the student didn’t even know about. And then of course, joining all those musical possibilities in the group performance which takes it one step further, from “you” to “them” to “us.”
In yesterday’s workshop, I saw a beautiful maturity in your work. Without turning down the light of your bubbly presence (don’t! we need it!), you clearly had worked hard to prepare something that gave teachers the important details of how to craft a lesson. Naturally, I loved the way you “taught one thing one hundred ways,” something I care a lot about. But in addition, the transitions, the pacing, the moving from simple to complex, the invitation for the people to contribute and taking their ideas, the mix of medias from body percussion to drawing to dancing and more— it was the perfect combination of “teaching like its music.” I loved many of the details— the paper taped to your body (brilliant and fun!), the graphic notation scores, the playing of the same patterns with different music (and great choice of music!). I loved the way you took so many of the ideas you’ve learned from James, Sofia, myself and of course, many others, and made them your own in terms of repertoire, process of developing it and your style of teaching it. In short, hooray for it all!!!!
Finally, I deeply appreciated your acknowledgments of your teachers—not only myself, Sofia, James, but also Javier, your wonderful Dad and others. This is something very few American Orff teachers seem to consider important. But for me, it shows understanding of being part of a lineage, the way that I feel Avon passed something to me which I passed to you which you are passing to others. The style and the material changes, as it must and should, but the core spirit of music as freedom, music as love, music as intelligence, music as a joyful path daily walked with the destination in each class well done, I feel that all as an unbroken line that makes it all feel true, authentic, worthy. Such a feeling about one’s work (sadly) is rare in this world. We are blessed to have been chosen to do it.
So my dear friend, keep growing and glowing and please accept my deepest appreciation of who you are and who you are yet becoming, my gratitude that the world joined us together. Onward!