Before going to the screening of my film, I took a walk around the lovely town of Larkspur. I’ve had a lot of short interviews lately about the film and I don’t worry too much about preparing, simply trust myself to speak from the heart about what I know and what I’ve lived. But knowing there would be another post-film interview, it was a bit on my mind.
I walked past the fire station and there were two smiling firefighters talking with a woman and gesturing toward the firetruck parked inside. I looked inside and there was a mother with her two-year-old child sitting in the driver’s seat, the boy’s face lit up with the fireworks excitement of it all. “Starting them young!” I quipped and we all laughed.
So of course, I had to connect this with music education. Start them young, teach them how to sound the bells and whistles, give them the training and the tools to quench the dangerous, destructive fires raging in the world, show them their power to help others and the need for them to show up where and when most needed. Teach them to tell the difference between the fires within that provide warmth, that fuel passion (Yeats: “I went out to the hazel wood because a fire was in my head…”) and those that indiscriminately destroy everything in their path. The fiery Cuban salsa rhythms or Balinese gamelan or hot jazz trumpet solos, all forged in the crucible of life-giving form and discipline are good. The random burning of emotion on the rampage— bad. Feed one, get out the firehose for the other.
Well, maybe not the most potent image or metaphor and I didn’t end up using it in the interview. But fun to think about. And the generosity of the adult firefighters letting the kid sit in the seat is exactly what’s needed, us elders collectively inviting the children into their duty and pleasure as future citizens. Encouraging them, in the words of the old song, to “light their fire” and also tend it, keep it under some measure of control. That’s what music can do.