Sunday, October 15, 2023

Grateful Astonishment

It has been a whirlwind three days. On Thursday, I got up early to catch an 8:30 am flight to Portland and that afternoon, sang Halloween songs to grandson’s Malik 2ndgrade class. After school, we played basketball, walked to the ice cream store, came back home to play some card games. His sister Zadie was off at a school camping trip and his Dad Ronnie off to visit a friend in Salt Lake City, so it was a special time with just Malik, my daughter Kerala and I. 


The next morning I got up early again and drove an hour south to Salem for a one day Music Educator’s Conference. Two days earlier, they asked if I could give the Keynote Speech because their speaker had laryngitis. So while walking in Golden Gate Park, I composed one in my head and then wrote it when I got home and then spoke it driving down to Salem and then delivered it at the Conference for 45 minutes without once looking at my notes.


Then I went on to give a four hour Orff workshop to some 80 enthusiastic and spirited teachers. Great music, inspired small group creative work, much laughter and some serious moments reflecting on our responsibility to fold justice into our daily classes, not only in the way we actually treat kids in the class, but the way we tell them the stories they need to know to be a responsible citizen. Zipped off like the Lone Ranger and prayed to the traffic gods to be spared the red brake lights that might make me miss my evening plane back to San Francisco. They responded and I arrive safely home that night.


Only to awaken early again and bus downtown to the SF Jazz Center with my little suitcase filled with my new book and the CD’s my jazz quintet recorded back in 2018. Sound check on the stage with the six other musicians I gathered together for a Family Jazz Concert and by 11:00 am, we were off and running, making both kids and their parents so happy with our kid-friendly, musically-adult-worthy, artistically varied and engaging hour-long show. Back home to catch up on some 40 e-mails awaiting responses. Like I said, a whirlwind three days!


But why bother to tell about it? Is this inflated hubris or excessive pride? Or worse yet, some arrogant boasting or some childish need for affirmation like the kids finally learning how to swing (jazz pun intended) and shouting to the parents, “LOOK AT ME!!!!”


Of course, I’d like to think “none of the above,” though it’s entirely possible that there’s a little bit of “all of the above.” But I think what it really is is grateful astonishment, my perpetual surprise that my strange combination of interests and passions and the work done to realize them has actually found a home in the world. Indeed, many homes. The school classroom, the Conference Center, the Keynote Speech podium and most remarkable of all, the stage of a prestigious Jazz Center. Part of me is in a state of perpetual disbelief that the world has an appetite for what I have to offer and is willing to open its kitchen to me. At the same time that another part knows deep in its bones, “This is where I belong and this is how I belong there.” Add to that the miracle of the documentary film made about my work, the ten books I’ve managed to publish that enough people buy to keep them in print and the continued opportunity to travel around the world with all expenses paid and then some spreading the good news of Orff Schulwerk.


None of it has been granted lightly, much set in motion and kept in motion from my own dogged determination to do the work to get the whirlwind blowing and to feel the calm at the center of the sometimes insane busyness, the deep confidence that this is what I’m meant to do overriding the constant doubt of “Really? Am I worthy? Do I deserve it?” What some perceive as arrogance and too much self-horn-tooting is often a courageous act to wholly own one’s full possibility and do whatever it takes to get it out there. To say a heartfelt “Yes!” amidst all the voices within and without out hailing their “No’s” down on your head. 


So to take this out of “Dear diary” and into the light of the Universal, consider this a testimony to the work we all need to do to not only cultivate out gifts, but do what it takes to get the world to pay attention, to stride boldly past the naysayers, both in our head and in the world, and proclaim “Here I am! And here’s what I have to give! Let’s go!”


Today a rehearsal with the 40-plus kids at the San Francisco School getting ready to perform at the upcoming Orff Conference. Thankfully, not in charge of the show, but simply assisting my longtime colleagues James and Sofia. A week ahead with calmer weather and happy to exhale a bit before the next whirlwind blows into town. 



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