Maybe it was seeing it in a real movie theater that made the difference. Maybe it was watching it with the many people in the film who lived that life together at The San Francisco School. Maybe it was the popcorn. Whatever is was, the secret is out—¨The Secret Song is a wonderful film that sings a song we all need to hear.
It has everything you could want in a film. You’ll laugh! You’ll cry! You’ll sit in moments of profound silence and sheer delight. The film has a shape and design that bubbles along like a refreshing babbling brook, a beautifully edited rhythmic energy that never lingers too long in one place nor moves too quickly from a scene. The adult reflections are always thoughtful and occasionally profound and the kids’ comments right on the mark. The constant smiles on the children's faces as they play, sing and dance their way through each class taught by my colleagues James, Sofia and/or myself will make you wish you had been in that class as a kid— or adult! The happy, relaxed atmosphere that lifts them up to their own musicality beyond what they or their parents could have imagined brings Gandhi’s quote wholly alive— “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” And then the few moments you get to witness when the kids bring that all onto a stage in front of 1,000 plus music teachers at the Orff Music Conference drives the points home yet deeper.
And just as everything is so merrily rolling along, there’s the heart-stopping moment when the music stops and the camera pans out to the empty streets of San Francisco and suddenly, we’re all back to that March 13th moment when the world shut down and the pandemic wholly announced itself. After all the joy of the live teaching, the next moment we music teachers appear is on a Zoom screen.
So more than a mere testimony to joy and exultation, the conflict that shapes life’s opera arises and it’s one we all went through and remember down to our core. We tiptoe through it with deep grief, but continued humor as we still try to bring some light into the darkness, getting kids to make music at home with kitchen instruments and dance with their siblings while we sing to them through the screen. Resilience and imagination take center stage and our urgent need to stay connected despite the two-dimensional screened unreality where we can’t touch each other, smell each other, sing in unison and certainly not in canon.
In the first part of the film, the viewer who is neither a teacher nor a musician nor an advocate of progressive education might still enjoy it with a detached interest. But now, we’re all back in the place that none of us would ever to choose to be in again, yet in some weird way, united us in our isolation. In this part of the film, everybody can relate.
And then, like the Beethoven Symphony edging toward the final triumphant chords or the jazz tune returning to the melody changed by having journeyed through its variations, the film ends with some sense of redemption, walking toward an unknown future with our faith and confidence in the beautiful possibilities of this life shaken, but not shattered.
I could not be prouder to be in this film, to have the multiple blessings of a life lived as some invisible angels brought things together so it must be lived in the way that it was and continues to be, to have so much of it (but not all!) witnessed by a camera in the hands of both amateurs and professionals insisting that this was—and is— a story worth telling. My cup runneth over.
And the best moment of the film? I’m alone in the school music room, the place where I lived miracle after miracle, bidding farewell to the SF School community after 45 glorious years of teaching by singing the song we often sing in our many ceremonial moments, Side by Side. The community is on the other end of the screen with all microphones muted, but suddenly you hear everyone singing. It was the parents, kids, teachers, alum students and teachers in the movie theater spontaneously singing along! Can you feel the goosebumps? Two and a half years later, there was the moment I had hoped for.
Immeasurable thanks to my guardian angel, Samantha Campbell and the wonderful production team— Todd Dayton, Rachel Benson, Jeff Boyette. Loretta Molitur, Wynn Padula and others. Once the film has run through the season of the film festivals (and I hope more accept it!), it will move to the next tier of viewability. Meanwhile, you can see the trailer and get other information at www.thesecretsongfilm.com.