Everyone has a special aptitude. It can range from knowing which watermelon is ripe by thumping it to knowing which trail takes you back to camp to memorizing 25 phone numbers. It’s not something that gets better with a discipline study or practice, it’s just a gifted faculty that you really can’t take any credit for.
Mine is remembering people and their faces. I was the go-to guy at my school for identifying kids in old photos and you would think that as the number of kids to remember increased over 45 years, that it would be increasingly difficult. It wasn’t. Same with the thousands of people I’ve met in Orff conferences, workshops, courses. Sometimes on my birthday, I scroll through the few hundred Facebook friends who “like” or “comment” and picture each of their faces. Of course, with great affection.
So when an alum posted a photo of her 3rd/4thgrade San Francisco School class from 1978, I could instantly name 18 of the 21 kids and all four of the teachers pictured. Do the math. That was 43 years ago and most of them I haven’t seen since that time. Again, I cannot take credit, but do feel it worth noting. In the grand picture of my particular Soul’s journey, why is this important? One can’t definitively answer any more than one can proclaim the true meaning of a dream. But the attempt is still worthwhile.
As an introvert who treasures solitude, my life has been wholly involved with community. Helping to create it music class by music class, workshop by workshop, nourish it, sustain it, celebrate it, articulate it, value it and treasure it far beyond its usual shelf life. (This year, I re-gathered alums from a school I taught at in 1972 to sing on Zoom, as well as an ongoing monthly Zoom sing with SF School alums and an online get together with old college friends.) My big contribution at the SF School was creating and co-creating a ceremonial calendar that gave a unique character to the school . My lifelong intuition that if we had to share this life “Side by Side,” we might as well have fun doing it. And my goal as music teacher wasn’t so much to create virtuosic performers, but to infuse community with shape, color, joyful sound and motion, to experience music as the height of connection with one’s fellow beings and to share it out beyond the music class walls, the school gates, the American Orff community to the 50 plus countries where I’ve traveled and taught.
All these are big forest moments, but the ability to name and remember those 18 kids in the photo helps me realize that I’ve also cared about the trees. And on one level, that’s all such remembrance is: care. I saw you. I valued you. I enjoyed being with you. I cared about you. And that’s why I remembered you. We are made to be memorable. We thirst to be seen and known. To remember others and have them remember us, to remember the greater “we” that shared this moment in time together and carry each other within each other our whole lives— well, these are good things.
And so my thanks for whomever or whatever handed out the aptitudes. Mine has proven much more valuable and pleasurable than thumping watermelons.