Caminante, son tus huellas
el camino y nada más;
Caminante, no hay camino,
se hace camino al andar…
Traveler, your footprints are the only path and nothing more.
Traveler, there is no road;
You make your own path as you walk…
- Antonio Machado
On my recent trip to Europe, I had the great honor and pleasure of re-connecting to my old friend Fernando Palacios in Madrid. Of teaching with Keith Terry and visiting Ezo Sunal in Istanbul. I noticed that all three had something in common. Their talents, interests, skills had no obvious one job/career/ path that could hold the full measure of their genius. And so they set forth into the dark forest of possibility and created their own where none had ever been before. A path uniquely theirs that no one had walked before and no one would follow and walk the same steps.
There are plenty of extraordinary human beings who follow existing pathways and bring something new to them or walk them expertly and raise the bar for all who follow. Think Steph Curry in basketball, Wynton Marsalis in jazz, Yo Yo Ma in classical music, Meryl Streep in acting, Mary Oliver in poetry, Barack and Michelle Obama in politics, etc. etc. There are many folks in every field— teaching, carpentry, science, weaving, what have you— who claim their identity within the known parameters of a particular craft and uplift the world with their efforts.
But when there is no one craft that can wholly contain your innate genius, if you live at the crossroads of many intersecting crafts, you indeed have to make your own path by walking it, as Antonio Machado suggests above. It struck me forcefully on this recent visit how attracted I am to people like this. And perhaps I am one of them.
Fernando studied Western classical music at the Conservatory in Madrid while playing some jazz (as Rudy Armstrong) with a plastic trumpet around town. Though he never became an Orff teacher teaching in a school, he studied the Orff approach with Elisa Roche and ended up teaching in many Orff courses throughout Spain, South America and at the Orff Institut in Salzburg. He wrote books about music, composed in various styles, recorded many discs, narrated concerts for young people, directed orchestras, created little operas, worked at Spain’s National Radio, collaborated with numerous theater projects, etc., etc. and again, etc. Every time I meet him, he has some new interesting project going and you can never predict its exact nature. “To live is to invent” is his motto and whatever he touches shines with the full measure of his curiosity, imagination and talent. On top of it all, he is virtuosic whistler!
Keith Terry’s daughter was once asked what her Dad did and she answered, “He jumps around on bubble wrap and gets paid for it.” Keith began as a trap set drummer, traveling the circuit of gigs in rock, pop, jazz and beyond styles. When he began practicing on his own body away from the drum set, he realized that “body music” was the call he was meant to answer. Though an untrained dancer, his innate talent for movement combined with an insatiable desire to learn more about rhythm in Balinese, West African, Brazilian, Indian and other musical traditions opened up the possibility of a trans-cultural expression on the most universal and ancient of musical instruments— the human body. So began his lifetime of trying to find and create venues for this unique gathering of musical energies— from his roots in the Pickle Family Circus to whole concerts of body music collaborating with musicians, modern dancers and circus people to meeting other like-minded people worldwide and eventually creating the International Body Music Festival, collaborating and performing with folks from Bali, Brazil, South Africa, Turkey, Finland, Greece, the U.S. and beyond. He created various performing groups, ranging from the Crosspulse to The Electric Circus Band to Slammin to duets with his wife Edie Ladin, produced Body Music teaching DVD’s and a book about Body music and math and balances performance with a rigorous teaching schedule worldwide, working with Orff music teachers, tap dancers, modern dancers, percussionists, theater people and beyond.
Ezo Sunal studied Orff Schulwerk and also performed in a Turkish body music group (in one of Keith’s festivals!). She has a preschool named for her where she continues to work. But meanwhile, she was the host a popular TV Show for children featuring music, dance and storytelling. She began to write and publish children’s books which are highly acclaimed in Turkey. Not having seen her for three years, she revealed to me her new interest— painting! Her paintings are displayed in prestigious galleries, are featured on the covers of notebooks and have been made into jigsaw puzzles. All within a short three years in which she also had a baby!! Extraordinary! Teacher, musician, mother, TV personality, author, painter, successful in each, and all in one person.
You see why I’m attracted to these people. And in my own modest way, I feel resonance with this path-making group as I expanded my sense of my job as a teacher at my school far beyond the job description and created much of the ritual and ceremonies that stamped the school with a unique character. My wide-ranging interests in education, mythology, psychology, history, social justice, my practice of Orff Schulwerk, Zen Buddhism, jazz piano, classical piano, poetry, my travels and short studies in South Indian drumming, Balinese gamelan, Ghana xylophone, Bulgarian bagpipe, American banjo, Keith’s body music and more made it clear that there was no one path made for them all and I would have to charge ahead into the underbrush. And so I balanced my teaching life with writing this blog, publishing 10 of my own books and 4 from other people, creating the family jazz band Doug Goodkin & the Pentatonics and recording one CD, integrating jazz, world music, ritual, body music into the Orff approach, teaching kids and adults of all ages in some 50 countries, etc. etc. and etc. Both my talent and success are not on the same level as the above three, but it’s not a competition. We are all connected through this same experience:
Traveler, there is no road;
You make your own path as you walk…