Tuesday, October 25, 2022

The Hurdy Gurdy Blues

Galicia has come and gone and outside, it was all rain, grey skies, chilled air and mornings that stayed dark until 9 am. But inside the sacred space of the music classroom, it was bright sunshine all the way, complete with morning birds and refreshing cool breezes. Such a pleasure to dig into the glory of the Orff approach, revealing one delight after another in satisfying sequence with a small group of dedicated teachers happy to let themselves play and challenge themselves to think. The highlight was finally letting them take out their own instruments and playing our Slovenian song we learned on xylophone on clarinet, flute, saxophone, accordion, cello, guitar and joy of all joys, hurdy gurdy! I kept giving solos to the latter, so enthralled by the sound!


We also had a profound moment in which one teacher asked about the child (or adult teacher) shy about expressing themselves in front of the group and how to deal with it. A nice challenge for me to express in Spanish the importance of creating a safe atmosphere that can begin to heal the trauma of schools and teachers and peers that shame kids for giving the wrong answer or doing something the wrong way. I told some six stories from my grab bag of a lifetime of stories of kids who felt shy being praised by me (or my colleagues) for something noteworthy or beautiful they did and witnessing how their heavy doubts drop away in an instant and their face radiates the joy of finally feeling worthy. And how our job as teachers is to actively look for and create the situations where they can feel that blessing.


“For example,” I said to this teacher who seemed to be struggling with this issue herself, “I’m going to give you an allowance of two notes and you can play around with them to hear how they sound.” I then went to the piano and begin to play some blues changes while shy improvised, then raised her allowance to three notes and then five and kept playing as she soloed so well. “How did you sound?” I asked at the end. “Okay,” she said. There you have it.


This turned out to be the very same woman that played the hurdy gurdy! And after she played that Slovenian song so beautifully, I switched to blues for all the instruments and she played a fabulous blues solo on the hurdy-gurdy!!! The first one I’ve ever heard!


After our closing circle and group photo and hugs goodbye, people finally started going out the door, still waving goodbye. She looked at me and ran her finger down her cheek, a little symbol for how sad she was to leave the class. 


My friends, it’s so simple. Why do we spend so much energy judging each other, competing with each other, putting each other down? Why not simply look for the gifts we all carry and let each other know we see them and value them and appreciate them?


Can someone explain this to me? 

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