Except for the pandemic when it was cancelled, I haven’t missed an Orff National Conference since I began attending in 1984 (with two before that in 1976 and 1982). Without my colleagues James and Sofia here or long-time colleague Rick Layton, with no Monday classes I need material for, with a $1000 dollar price tag with flights, hotel and meals and the tight schedule of returning from Europe and turning around to come to Kansas City, this easily could have been the first one I missed.
But I’m so glad I didn’t. More than ever, this feels like an enormous (1,000 plus) family reunion and I am enjoying it so much! Seeing my old-time colleagues, the students I’ve taught in the summer Levels Course, the Jazz Course, even Orff Afrique, meeting new young people (some of whom knew me from reading my books)— it’s an embarassment of riches and one that I’m treasuring. “Better together” was the late-pandemic mantra and I can testify that it’s as true as can be.
But then more surprises. The quality of the workshops seems to be one-notch higher than usual— great energy, dynamic music and movement, humor, imaginative ideas and people (as always) enjoying the chance to play, sing, dance and create together. It gives me hope for the future of this life’s path.
But there’s more. The first five workshops I went to were led by black men and women! Extraordinary! Never before in AOSA! Then one white man, a Jewish woman, a Filipina woman and a Latina woman. And it’s not about ticking off quotas— it’s about the quality of the presentations and the depth of the musicianship and the breadth of the cultural styles presented. In 1985, when I presented at my second Orff Conference right here in Kansas City, my teacher Avon led a spirituals/ gospel session one evening that raised the roof. But he was virtually the only black person in the entire conference. Last night at another Gospel sing led by three stellar black musicians, I could feel Avon smiling down and thinking, “Well, would you look at that! Yeah!”
One more workshop, a closing session and a banquet/ dance party still ahead and then back to my other family. Just this short report to affirm that I’m so glad I came and so happy we’re all back together again. May it continue!