Thursday, June 15, 2023


Picked up my newish computer last night at Apple and it seemed good to go, with 

Word installed and most files migrated over. But besides being able to write e-mails, it felt important to keep posting on this blog to share my trip to Ghana. I can get to my blog on the new computer, but when it comes time to sign in so I can post a new entry, it won’t let me and leads me to all this other nonsense. So off to Blogspot Website and there’s no live phone support and I start the Chat support and then she says, “Oh, you have to join this other thing that costs a dollar" but then when you try to, suddenly it’s $56 and the chatter won’t allow you to say anything else until that’s paid, so excuse me for a moment while I go outside and vent a little:



And so my friends, it looks like we have three weeks off until I come home to my old computer. I’ll keep writing posts that I won’t post until I return, but don’t give up on me and stop reading in the future. Please. 


And pray for my techno-battered Soul. 

PS Just before leaving for the airport, I thought about trying one solution that I won't get to for a few days. So before giving me up for three weeks, check back in in about 5 days. Fingers crossed.

Wednesday, June 14, 2023

On It Goes

 I can’t remember a week like this, where every small thing that can go wrong continues to do so. The latest was a casual e-mail from JustFly saying “your itineray has changed,” but when I opened it up, it seemed to want me to buy travel insurance. But off to the left, I could click on “Itinerary” and noticed that my 1:30 pm flight on Friday now said 1:30 am. Double-checked my reservation and no, I didn’t get that wrong. But that’s a pretty big change! 


So I tried their CHAT help which, of course, didn’t work and then called an 800 number. “Your wait time may be as long as 25 minutes.” So I gritted my teeth, put the terrible music on as low as I could and hour and ten minutes later, it was still playing. Left it on while I showered and when I got out of the shower, noticed I didn’t hear it. Ran in towel to the back of the house just in time to hear the voice of the man in India who said, “Oh yes, that flight was cancelled. You can either leave on the 15th(tomorrow) or the 17th(too late to meet the group in Ghana).” Really? Is that so? (Different tone that the previous post!!) I quickly opted for the 15th, which now left me 24 hours less than I expected to get ready for and pack for the trip.


No sooner had I hung up that I ran to the Apple Store, where the new operating system that I had been downloading so I can actually get Word on the new/used computer a friend gifted me had 7 more hours left. My new Genius Bar friend said that they would finish the process and I could pick it up when they open at 10:30 tomorrow morning. Which means on the way to the airport for my 1:30 flight with all digits crossed that it all worked and the computer is actually ready for me to use. If not, I’m taking the old clunky one with the external keyboard in the car with me as a back up. Well, that should be interesting. 


First World problems all, but hey, it happens to be the world I’m living in and need to navigate it much more smoothly to get through each day. But now so happily on the way to the “Third” World, to a culture that actually lives on the planet earth in their bodies and celebrates life with song, dance and music instead of machines. I am so ready to break this cycle of techno-abuse. 


Wish me luck. 

Rubber and Glue

A young woman living next to Zen Master Hakuin became pregnant, but refused to tell her parents who the father was. They pressed her and she finally told them it was Hakuin. The enraged parents went to Hakuin and accused him of being the father. All he said was, “Is that so?”


When the child was born, they brought the baby to Hakuin and said he must raise it. “Is that so?” he replied and took the baby. His reputation was destroyed and all his neighbors disdained him, but he took good care of the child.


A year later, the mother finally confessed that she had lied and the real father was a young man who worked at the fish market. The mother and father went to Hakuin, apologized, asked for his forgiveness and asked for the child back. “Is that so?” he replied and put the child in their arms, resuming his life as before.


Would that we had such equanimity and could meet all of life’s betrayals and disappointments with a shrug of the shoulders and in the face of boldface lies and decisions that affect our lives, simply comment “Is that so?”


Well, dream on. When people with their heads up their butts have the power to make ignorant and hurtful decisions with no accountability and no capacity for further thought and conversation, who among us could calmly reply “Is that so?” and get on with our lives?

If you know someone, I’d like to meet them. 


But one of the gifts of the last stage of life is the capacity to reduce the surface area where the barbs can enter. To smooth out the psychic body’s surface so things don’t stick quite so tenaciously and just bounce off. Having just been through some nonsense like this, being unseen, unvalued, dismissed by people whose job it is to see, value and welcome, I won’t pretend it doesn’t hurt. I can’t convince them to see the error of their ways, but I can control how much I allow it to hurt me. So I thought of my childhood response to insults from my friends:


“I’m rubber and you’re glue and whatever you say or do bounces off of me and sticks to you!”


That’s about right. 


(Followed by “Na   Na    Na   Na   Na Na-na Na  Na.”)


Tuesday, June 13, 2023

One Way Ticket

I now know that there is a God and he is a vindictive SOB who has targeted me by making sure that every attempt to navigate through this labor-saving-efficient technological world is thwarted at every turn. Like trying to migrate my information from one computer to another that even had my computer expert scratching his head as he hit some 25 dead-ends (conservative estimate) and met each one with, “Okay. Let’s try this.” 25 times! And at the end, some progress, but far from finished. We meet again today for the next round of knockout punches.


Then trying to do the simple thing of teaching 10 music classes to kids for five days at a dance summer camp. That requires four different forms, a tb test, a livescan fingerprint, a 75 minute Sexual Harassment training and another thing that I had to join with a password that stopped working halfway through and won’t go on. I told them to find someone else to teach and they suggested I come in (on my own time) for them to walk me through it. 


Then the book printer who always sends me books to dealers and sends me the invoice now informing me that their new system requires I have a UPS account. So I went to the local store and they said, “You have to do that online.” NNNNOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!! 


So I began that process this morning, another freaking password and of course, halfway through, the whole thing stopped. So I called the 800 number and got the cheery computer “How can I help you?” voice with two options— 1) Sending a package/ 2) Tracking a package. Neither, of course, which I want. So I start screaming “Agent! Agent!”  and the cheery voice says, “I know you want to speak to a customer service representative but I can’t help you until you choose one of the options that you actually don’t want.” (Last five words mine)


On Friday, I leave for Ghana for two weeks of making music with people who live in their actual physical bodies, where kids roam freely playing games with each other, where people sit down and talk and laugh and joke and then sing and dance and drum, often for three hours at a time. A place I first went to in 1999 without any pre-made arrangements and when I met someone playing an instrument and asked if they could teach me, they said without hesitation, “Meet me under the tree tomorrow.” I did, we played, I paid with physical money and it was a simple as that. 


It feels like this last month or so has been a geometrical increase in those damn driverless cars circling around and the simplest acts of arranging something become an obstacle course through the 12 Gates of the Techno City, with many doors slamming in my face and not a human being in sight to hear my calls for help or open the doors. What the hell is going on here?!!!!!!


After two weeks of life as humans are meant to live it, not sure I can return to this dystopia. Maybe I'll just sell my return ticket and live out the remaining years in Ghana, away from machine culture. Stay tuned. 

Monday, June 12, 2023

Day Off

 My head ordinarily so full of things to say seems to have a “Gone fishing” sign posted and the blank screen awaiting my words is still blank. So at least for today, my post is “Blogstore closed. Will return soon.”


What to do with your freed up time, dear reader? A few suggestions:


• Write your own piece about recent news or what’s on your mind.


• Lie down on the floor and listen (with your best sound system) to the Kyrie of Bach’s Mass in B Minor or John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme.


• Go for a walk without your phone and see what you notice. Smile at everyone you pass by.


• Go to Youtube and watch either Hazel Scott playing two pianos or Sugar Chile Robinson playing and singing Caldonia or both.


• Think of an old friend you haven’t been in touch with and write them a handwritten letter. 


Hope to see you tomorrow. Enjoy your day!

Sunday, June 11, 2023

The New Pearly Gates

St. Peter: Welcome to your new home! 


Me: Happy to be here. Thanks for noticing that teaching music to kids was a heaven-worthy profession.


St. Peter: Right. Now let’s get you checked in. Do you have your Real ID?


Me: No, I had a problem because my passport was at the Ghana Embassy when I renewed my driver’s license and they wouldn’t accept a copy of my birth certificate. 


St. Peter: Okay, well, you won’t be driving up here, but we will need a copy of your death certificate and it must be notarized.


Me: What? No one told me that. And I wasn’t able to take my death certificate to the notary, for obvious reasons. 


St. Peter: We’ll also need a live scan copy of your former fingerprints to make sure we didn’t make a mistake admitting you. I’ll be giving you a link to download the Sexual Harassment and Angel Abuse training that’s required and you’ll need to create a password and then enter your Apple ID Code to get access to the training. 


While all of that is booting up, sit down and read this 100-page Heavenly Handbook so you’re clear on all rules, regulations and procedures. If you prefer, you can attend the 6- hour Power-Point Seminar covering the same information. 


Just so you’re aware, housing is a bit tight as i-Cloud has bought up most of the prime real estate, so things might not be quite as comfortable as you imagined. If your eternal accommodations are unsatisfactory, you can choose the reincarnation option, but your preferred race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, class and political party will be at the discretion of our Karma Committee and you must schedule a hearing far in advance.


Any questions?


Me: Is the other place as complicated as this?


St. Peter: No, they’ll take anyone. Just walk straight through the burning gates.


Me: Sign me up! 

Saturday, June 10, 2023

Show Me!

School is out! But in my new role as part-time teacher/ mentor at a school to two music teachers, the exclamation point doesn’t quite ring true. As a kid, it definitely merited 4 or 5 (School is out!!!!!) and as a full-time teacher at least 2 or 3 (School is out!!), but now it’s a little bit more like School is out.”


Nevertheless, I vicariously shared one of my mentee’s pleasure in her wonderful final concert and that sense of catharsis and release. Before summer swept her away, I asked her to reflect on the experience of the mentorship and what it meant to her, to the kids, to the program. She wrote a beautiful, sincere and articulate piece and the sentence that really jumped out for me was this:


The kids just needed to hear "I heard you are amazing. Show me." 


That’s what I said to them when I first met them and I loved that it made a difference. 


Seven words. Two short sentences. That’s all it takes sometimes to change a life.

And each sentence is necessary to the other.


Sometimes adults/ teachers might say, “You’re amazing!” And nothing else. What’s a kid to do with that? A 2-second dopamine rush of self-esteem, but leaving the kid wondering, “Really? You think I’m amazing? Why? What precisely is so amazing about me?” Nothing of much use beyond that little puff of inflation. So it needs the second sentence: “If it’s true that you’re amazing, I can’t just rely on what others say. You have to show me!


Sometimes a teacher might say, “Show me what you can do” with a look on the face that might suggest “I’m going to bring you down a few pegs as I criticize all the things you didn’t do as well as you should.” For the old kind of student, determined to keep practicing after the drummer throws his cymbal at the young sax player at the jam session and everyone laughs, that could be useful to fuel his determination to practice harder. But today’s students don’t seem to have that kind of resilience and fortitude and grit. 


But if you put those two sentences together, the young student might first think, “Wow. I didn’t realize others knew how amazing I am or could be. So I guess this is a good time to show them!”


And even if the group then launched into their piece and it was less than 100% wonderful, I would still answer; “Wow! That is pretty amazing! But if you want to be really amazing, let’s work on playing with the mallets closer to the bars and softer so we can hear your singing voice.”


Kids—and all of us— need that balance between affirmation and critique. When the latter is given on the soft cushion of loving affirmation and sincere belief in their ability to rise higher in their accomplishment than they thought they could, that’s when things get moving.


In a similar vein, next time I teach a new group of kids and I see some dubious or even outrageous behavior from a kid, here’s what I’d like to say to them.


“ My job as a teacher is to give you the tools and understanding to do better in this subject than even you thought you could do. But to do that, I have to learn to love you. And I can’t learn to love you if I don’t know you. So here’s my question for you:


“What would I love about you if I got to know you?”


I’m looking forward to the first time I get to ask this. Stay tuned.



Friday, June 9, 2023

Close Shave

I have a kind of personal Murphy’s Law:


Whatever item Doug customarily buys, likes or needs will soon be obsolete.”


Time and time again. My beloved Niji pens. Trader Joe’s Brown Rice Medley. GilletteTrac-2 replaceable razors. It’s a long list and now the next one seems to have bit the dust:


Williams Mug Shaving Soap.


Yep, I’m an old-fashioned shaving brush lathering up from a circular shaving soap bar. But now I’m close to out of my current bar and sure enough, no stores in San Francisco, from Mom and Pop to Walgreens, carries it any more. Or anything like it.


So off to the online world and there were some possibilities, ranging in price from $6.49 per bar to one that I swear I saw yesterday (but can’t find today) for $149. Yes, that’s for ONE BAR OF SOAP! Even the ones I did find today have quite a price range for the exact same product— the e-Bay $46.29 over six times more expensive than the Brivol $6.49!

So I bought three bars from Brivol (with free shipping) and hope that will last at least a year or two. If it’s completely gone by then, I’m just going to grow a beard. 

Thursday, June 8, 2023


A black boy born into abject poverty in a violent New Orleans neighborhood ends up changing the face of an emerging style of music called jazz and performs around the world in front of Kings and Queens, Emperors, Presidents and millions of beloved fans. At the far end of his career, he sings a Broadway song that can came from a long twisted history, born from minstrel shows, vaudeville and Broadway and Hollywood musicals. 


 A group of working class high school dropouts in the port city of Liverpool, England— a town whose name means “a pool of muddy water”—listen obsessively to the music of black American blues musicians—including a musician named Muddy Waters! They form a band playing music deeply influenced by the blues tradition of the Deep South.


Three brothers, a cousin and a friend from Southern California start a garage band managed by their father and begin writing songs about surfing, cars and young love influenced by the R &B style and vocal harmonies of old black singing groups. They latter incorporate elements inspired by both jazz and classical music.


Four working class Italian American teenagers from Newark, New Jersey get together to form a Doo-Wop singing group, a style that evolved in black American communities during the 1940’s that was influenced by earlier vocal groups like the Ink Spots and The Mills Brothers. 


A group of black junior high school girls living in a Detroit housing project form a vocal group that catches the attention of a record producer named Berry Gordy. They eventually become part of group of black artists forging a new musical style known as Motown. 


A poor Jewish girl from Brooklyn finds herself obsessed with getting on stage. After singing two songs in a gay nightclub in Greenwich Village to great acclaim, she is encouraged to pursue singing alongside with acting. She does.


 At 24 years old, a Brazilian woman from Rio de Janeiro who likes to sing with her friends at parties comes to New York and records a song with her husband and a white Jewish jazz saxophone player that goes on to sell 5 million copies. 


What's going on here? The artists above are Louis Armstrong, The Beatles, The Beach Boys, The  Four Seasons,  The Supremes, Barbra Streisand, Astrud Gilberto and Stan Getz. The songs they sang— Hello Dolly, I Want to Hold Your Hand, I Get Around, Rag Doll, People, Where Did Your Love Go?, The Girl from Ipanema and more are all in the top 100 Hit Parade of one extraordinary year— 1964.  These songs were broadcast on the radio airwaves, played in homes with record players and enjoyed by people of all backgrounds. They both reflected and shaped the American (and worldwide) cultural landscape and revealed an extraordinary mixture of influences that criss-crossed and intersected like Venn diagrams on steroids.  A public hungry for someone to express so many parts of themselves that they had to check at the door of the school or office was happy to welcome them all. Here was a music that is America at its best.


Yet of course, it’s not that simple. Our painful and ongoing political history of unevenly shared power and a twisted narrative creeps into every corner of our cultural landscape like an invisible poisonous gas and while most everyone’s happy to hear such great music, very few are paying the price of looking backstage to see what’s going on behind the scenes. As proven time and time again, you can buy your ticket to hear Louis Armstrong and love every minute of how he makes you feel when he plays, but still make sure he comes through the back door, doesn’t stay at the hotel or eat at the hotel restaurant. 


But if we are to take that long overdue and needed journey backstage, why not start with the truth of what we already know? That that amazing variety of songs and styles and musical groups featured in the 1964 Hit Parade gave— and gives us— so much pleasure is both a motivation to find out how it happened joined with the joy of the music itself. And for some of us— me, for example, who was a ripe 13 years old that year and ready for it to both affirm feelings, open me to new ones, connect me with fellow listeners, it was the soundtrack of my emerging adulthood. 


And there’s so much more than just the above! Dean Martin, Roy Orbison, Mary Wells, Al Hirt, Manfred Mann, the Dixie Cups, Ray Charles, The Dave Clark Five, Nancy Wilson (a jazz singer), the Four Tops. I’m determined to either teach a class about this, write a book, do a Podcast or all of the above. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, June 7, 2023

The Heavens Are Singing

·     R & B/Soul singer Tina Turner.

·     Opera singer Grace Bumbry, 

·     Folk singer Gordon Lightfoot. 

·     Calypso singer Harry Belafonte.

·     Jazz pianist Ahmad Jamal. 

·     Jazz saxophonist  Wayne Shorter. 

·     Songwriter Burt Bacharach. 

·     Rock musician David Crosby. 

And as of yesterday, Brazilian bossa nova singer Astrud Gilberto joined the heavenly choir. 


Not even halfway through the year, that’s a long list of musical icons who brought so much memorable music to the American landscape that now have passed on. The fact that virtually everyone above lived into their 80’s and 90’s helps soften the blows of their passing, but still we will miss them. Thanks to recording technology, the cliché of “they will live on through the music they left us” is  gospel truth—but only if we take the time to keep listening.


So that’s what I did to honor Astrud, whose gentle voice is indelibly imprinted in her Girl From Ipanema recording, a song that sold over five-million-records, joined the 1964 Hit Parade alongside The Beatles I Want to Hold Your Hand, Louis Armstrong’s Hello Dolly, The Beach Boys I Get Around, Barbara Streisand’s People, Mary Wells My Guy and more (1964 was an amazing eclectic musical year!) and is believed to be the second most-recorded song after the Beatles Yesterday.  She was only 24 years old when she made that recording, was paid $120 and never got another penny in spite of its popularity. Apparently, it was almost an afterthought, as her husband Joao Gilberto was about to record the song with Stan Getz and then casually suggested that his wife sing a verse in English. 


Thank you, Astrud, for your sonic legacy forever imprinted on our minds and I wish we folks down here on earth could hear what music you and Tina and Wayne and David and Ahmad etc. are putting together. I hope you get to sing again with Joao (who died in 2019) and consider letting Stan (Getz) in the band even though he falsely claimed credit for “discovering” you. May the heavens ring!


PS A partial list of other heavenly bands formed in the two years before this.


2022:Loretta Lynn, Jerry Lee Lewis, Ramsey Lewis. Pharoah Sanders. Joey De Francesco.


2021:Mike Nesmith, Stephen Sondheim, Paddy Moloney, Charlie Watts, Don Everly, Chick Corea, Jimmie Rodgers

Tuesday, June 6, 2023

The Buzz of the Crowd

It’s a Tuesday morning and some 100 kids and another 100 plus parents are gathering in the school Community Hall. Soon kindergarten, 2ndgrade and 4thgrade will be up on stage performing in their Spring Music Concert. The crowd is a’ buzz with excitement and anticipation. Me, I’m on the piano bench taking a moment to savor it all.


Remember the pandemic? I often lost sight of what it feels like to be in a crowd like this not worrying about six-foot distances or masks or number quotas. Sitting in a crowded restaurant or a movie theater or a concert hall, gathering in the Orff workshop circle, gathering at a political rally, all those experiences we took for granted as normal, receded further and further into the distance during the pandemic and were difficult to call back in the imagination. After fifteen months of sheltering, I finally taught my first Orff workshop and when we gathered in a circle, the moment when we held hands was like an electric shock of a needed recognition that this was what we are meant to do. I remember just standing in silence for a minute or so before beginning a song, just wholly amazed to be reunited, a deep thirst finally quenched with that first cool drink of life-giving water.


I recalled that all for one moment today, now so thankfully back in a norm of gathering that we take for granted. As we do when our fervent hopes and dreams and longings and wishes are finally met and in that first moment, there is a deeper layer of appreciation and gratitude and amazement. Which quickly becomes just the way things are and loses its luster. That’s normal. But nice to take that moment and drink in the “roar of the greasepaint and the smell of the crowd” as young children were preparing to offer the gifts of their hard work in concert preparation back to the audience. For some, it may be their first taste of the power of the performing arts, as memorable as their first ice cream cone and as refreshing and sweet. 


I also thought about fellow retired music teachers who chose retirement as the time to close the door to all of that, to enjoy solitude or travel or pickleball and not look back. They may have loved every moment of their previous teaching life, but when it was done, it was done. No regrets, no nostalgia, just ready to move on to the next chapter. If they had been in that room, they might have thought, “Why am I here?? And will the pickleball court be free when this is over?” 


But not me. That low murmur of children’s voices still is music to my ears and I’m still happy to assist them in their musical journey any way I can. It doesn’t make me better or worse than my colleagues in the closed-door category— it just happens to be my truth. Someday I may choose the old Indian idea of retiring to the woods and spending my days with morning birds, flowering gardens, star-filled night skies. But for now, children singing are my birds, garden and shining firmament. Go figure.


And for the record, the kids performed enthusiastically, joyfully and flawlessly and all in that room were refreshed. A good way to start a Tuesday morning.


Leaky Pens

There is a mistaken notion in some progressive education circles that young kids are wise and worthy of writing teacher evaluations that could cost a teacher his or her job. Having been questioned by an administrator about an incident in my class because a kid complained about it, I never did get the chance to talk to either the administrator or kid. Nor did I get “fired” from my volunteer job. The whole thing just kind of went away.


But had I talked to the administrator, I would have said, “Why are you giving so much power to what this 12-year-old says? Did you ever ask him what his part in that incident was? Did you talk to me before sending me an e-mail insinuating that I had violated some code of proper teacher conduct? Do you remember what you were like at 12?”


Thanks to rummaging through an old file, I do have some clear evidence of how my 12-year-old mind functioned— a letter written to my parents explaining why my report card wasn’t as good as it should be. What a treasure!!!

First off, the fact that I wrote it showed that I was trying to take a step, however awkward, towards a mature responsibility that owns my shortcomings instead of immediately blaming it on someone or something else. I begin by trying to give an honest overview—“My English papers have been quite well (which is not a well-constructed English sentence!),but mechanical English tests are lacking excellence.”


Then comes the 12-year old excuses. "Spelling was the fault of leaky pens!" Then back to owning up. "Arithmetic lacks accuracy." And then the most honest sentence of the whole letter. “Social studies and reading, I’m just not doing that well.” Love it!


 So there you have a 12-year-old mind edging toward a more mature sense of my role in my successes and failures. Thank goodness I didn’t grow up in a culture that encouraged me to blame it all on my bad teachers and get away scot-free from having to consider my role in the process. Here’s the whole letter. And note— my handwriting is pretty good!


PS I was wondering why I wrote this letter and just noticed the A- in the bottom left. Clearly, it was my teacher that made my write it! Again, a nod to the days when teachers held their students’ feet to the fire. But now I’m wondering, “Why did I only get an A-? Was it because of the leaky pens?”

Monday, June 5, 2023

Life Lived Backwards

One of the most impactful books I have read is a book called The Soul’s Code by James Hillman. In it, he revives the old Greek idea that we don’t come into this world empty, but our Soul is called down to earth for a purpose. Our Spirit Guide tells us that purpose before we are born, but once here, we forget it and have to make the effort to re-discover it. (Very much like the idea of the Secret Song within us waiting to be revealed!). The Greeks called that twin whispering in our ear our Daimon, the Romans our Genius. (Michael Meade’s book The Genius Myth further elaborates on this life-changing idea.)


As a psychologist, Hillman dismissed the idea that our adulthood is formed by a series of accidental experiences and traumas that emerge from the therapist’s couch to explain why we’re so messed up. Instead, he talks about reading life backwards, how the seeds of our life’s purpose were already in place as children. 


He gives an example of the famous bullfighter Manolete, who was very shy as a child and often hid behind his mother’s skirts. Life read forwards would have us believe that he stepped into the bullring to compensate for his mother complex. Life read backwards suggests that as a young boy, some part of him already knew about the thousand-pound charging bulls he would face, so without knowing why, he already was terrified.


With this idea as a backdrop, I was fascinated to stumble upon my old report cards and read the teacher’s comments. There seemed to be an ongoing thread.


1stGrade: Mrs. Williams: 

   Douglas contributes to class discussions. He expresses his ideas well.


2ndGrade: Mrs. Tomsu

Douglas has a very bad habit of talking right out in class and interrupting others. 

(I do remember that one afternoon, she taped my mouth shut for an hour!)


3rdgrade: Miss Rice

Douglas continues to talk out and disturb the class.

(I spent much of third grade out in the hall. But also fascinating in her comments is alternating sentences of praise and condemnation— see photo below. I have to laugh at “Douglas it very very annoying…” )


4thgrade: Mrs. Hendrickson

Douglas is a leader in class discussion.


6thgrade: Miss Conover(5thgrade report card by Mr. Anderson is missing)

Douglas’s book report have been of superior quality. In writing, he creates little masterpieces in stories and poems!


So as a kid, I clearly had a lot to say! And was not shy about saying it! Those who have been in staff meetings with me would recognize that tendency, but what can be seen as a negative social skill is my Daimon encouraging me to speak up, to say what others are afraid to say out loud or don't have the words for. I thought this Blog and writing ten books might get it all out of my system, but still, I find I often have something to say in any discussion. Hopefully more to the side of “leading discussion” than “disturbing the class.”


When I first read Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences, it struck me that my primary intelligence is much more linguistic than musical. The hint is that I’m much more likely to have sentences running through my thoughts than musical notes. Very few in the world recognize me first and foremost as a writer as I’ve forged my identity at a music teacher. So what do the early report cards say about that?


My grades in music between 4th and 6th grade were, in order.

A / B/ B/ C/ C/ C-


Reading life backwards, one might say that some part of me recognized that sitting in desks singing forgettable songs with bad tuning and diction that never got better was not a worthy music education. Apparently, I fooled around a lot in music class. And when Orff Schulwerk crossed my path and offered the kind of music education I wished I had had, I was ready to follow it as far as I could. Which I’ve done— writing about it every step of the way.


Do you have your old report cards? If so, take a look and read your life backwards and see what comes up. 


Saturday, June 3, 2023

The Secret Song Revealed

Yesterday was my seventh viewing of The Secret Song, the film made about my last year at my school. In each of the previous six viewings, I discovered something new. It's a testimony to the artistry of the filmmakers and ordinary things portrayed that take on a glimmer of the extraordinary that the film has so many layers. Like playing a Bach fugue countless times, there is always something else waiting to be revealed. It really is a film that needs to be seen at least three times for its true meaning to be understood. 


Of course, like all art, it’s “true meeting” is viewer specific and not a one-size-fits-all Aesop’s Moral. Through what is portrayed and how it’s portrayed, the images and sounds and story speak for themselves. That said and done, there are certainly many takeaways, conscious or sub-conscious, that I hope might strike the viewers. 


Some might think it’s a film about me and they should leave with feelings about who I am and what I’ve done. In my younger days, let’s face it, I would have been pleased to hear people come up to me afterwards and said, “Wow! You’re awesome! You’re amazing! You are so talented! You’re a rock star!” I would have been quite happy with some flirtatious come-thither glances and certainly with offers to be my agent or publicist or invitations to be interviewed at Fresh Air. But truthfully, such comments now would disappoint me. (Though those flirtatious glances, so long gone in my life, would be at least a little bit welcome! As would a Fresh Air interview!)


With a little reflection, it’s clear that the film is as much about my relationship with my two colleagues James and Sofia and a celebration of their own particular genius that they offer to kids. Or one might telescope out further to the school culture that allowed such things to flourish, making them possible in all sorts of ways beyond any normal job definition. It could also be seen as a testament to progressive education, to Orff Schulwerk, to San Francisco. And in the second half of the film, it becomes about that pandemic we all shared and the grief, challenges, small pleasures and resilience it called forth in us all. The more you reflect, the wider the view gets.


But in the seventh viewing, a new and truer vision emerged. Shown at an actual still-running movie theater on a big screen with popcorn, open to a varied public from SF School present and past students and parents to fellow Orff teachers to neighborhood folks, friends, family and a public just curious about seeing a film in this particular film festival, the stage was set for an experience far beyond simple streaming it while sitting alone at home. There was a palpable buzz in the theater before it started, a hushed silence when it began, the predictable moments of laughter and quiet reflection and joy and sorrow while it was running and then a thunderous applause with whoops and shouts at the end lasting a couple of minutes. 


“What was that about?” I thought. And that’s when the next  layer revealed itself, the true lyrics and tune of the Secret Song we all carry. What really struck me last night was a shift from the "film about me" or "me, James and Sofia" to a film about everyone who loves music, loves kids, loves education, loves community and just generally loves to have fun! I felt in that prolonged applause as sense of shared community cheering for the things we all mutually care about.  The film is a reminder of just how needed these things are, shown time and time again in the smiles, laughter, serious efforts, small (and big) triumphs of kids given the invitation and tools to express themselves by caring adults and the beautiful, relaxed, trusting atmosphere between the student and the teacher.


So let me repeat: This is not a film about me, nor about James, Sofia and I, nor about Orff Schulwerk, nor about music teachers. It’s a film about us—all of us, young or old, teacher, student or other profession, American or Brazilian or Icelandic or Korean. The whole carnaval of human possibility gathered in a couple of acres on Gaven Street, but singing out and holding hands with everyone and everywhere.


There’s a hope that this might show on PBS and at first glance, how to convince them knowing so few would choose to see a film about music teachers? But if we open our eyes to the idea that this film offers exactly what we all need— love, life and laughter, hope in a time of despair, purpose in the face of meaningless distractions, adults who have never stopped playing like kids and kids ripening into a genuine adult promise— well, that’s a Secret Song worth making public, worth singing, worth playing and dancing to. It lies within us all, only waiting to be revealed.


PS There are three more days left to see it streamed through the SF Doc Film Festival. 

Spread the glad tidings!

PSS It also made it into the SF Chronicle newspaper, with my name in the caption as Doug Goodwin!