Saturday, May 29, 2021

Distant Graduation

Tomorrow my nephew Damion gets married and I have the honor of playing the piano and the Bulgarian bagpipe. (Not at the same time.) It will be outdoors in 90 degree heat, but still I will need pants more suitable than shorts and less hot than jeans. So I got out my pants from my Palace Hotel piano days and noticed some papers in the pocket. One was the list of SF School graduation speakers from 2019 and the other one of the speeches I gave in 2020, masked, outdoors and outside the students’ house. 


It’s often interesting to get out some clothes worn for special occasions and see what’s in the pocket. And yes, yesterday was another graduation day at the SF School, the first in over four decades in which I have not emceed or spoken about children. School is still an edgy place for outsiders to enter, so I’m not personally insulted that I wasn’t invited, but there was a touch of sadness, especially as I had taught many of these kids for ten years and knew them well and cared about them. So my compromise was to write a note to the whole class which I hope my colleague Sofia posted in a visible place and figured I might as well share it here. 


Dear 8th Graders,        


Today is your special day. The moment you’re launched from the place where you are known, valued and loved out into a larger world. Hopefully, one in which you will feel equally welcomed and appreciated. But it’s likely that you’ll have to work hard to make that so. You’ll be thrown into a larger pond, competing for space, attention, places on the team or in the band. And of course, you’re ready for it, prepared to show who you are and who you’ve yet to become. You have a large group of loving teachers behind you— and though I will sadly miss your graduation, I want you to know I’m one of them!


Some of you I have worked with for ten years, some just a year or two, but all of you have brought me so much happiness. How much I’ve valued our time together, loved playing, singing and dancing with you, enjoyed watching you grow and blossom into perpetually new versions of yourselves, the joyful twinkle of your 3-year old self still alive but now grown larger with your disciplined skills, insights and understandings!


I have a video of some of you playing my arrangement of The Cookie Jar in 4thgrade and have shared it many times with fellow music teachers who watch with amazement at your skill and energy. I call on some of you to improvise and you fearlessly jump in without hesitation, with your fellow musicians dancing with their mallets pointing at each soloist, supporting, enjoying, celebrating your musical ideas and energy. Such joy! Such confidence! Then you switch to recorder and show your versatility. It’s a perfect summary of everything I’ve loved about working with you! 


So consider this my farewell hug in the hug-line, my hopes for your continued happiness, kindness and courage, my wish to run into you some day at SF Jazz Center! Happy graduation and keep in touch!





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