Music education always & always looking forward.

We Make America Great

Today was one of those days that I felt genuinely lucky to teach.  It was a day, specifically an afternoon, that you feel no one and nothing can tear you from your profession.  

I facilitate/teach a Rock Band club that meets after school.  After some wandering around and uncertainty (the group is focused on informal, minimally structured music making, mostly by students who are not enormously proficient on rock instruments), I ended up sitting down with four students.  I picked up the bass guitar that I'd put out for them, and started playing a riff.  (Note: I don't actually play bass.)  I started plucking out something in e minor, and two of my students continued playing drumset (one was "accompanying" on the extra toms and cymbals), improvising basic patterns and fills.  Another kid had wandered over, a set of bongos in his hand, and finally a kid who really had not settled on what he wanted to play for the day made his way into our corner.  I quickly taught him the keyboard version of the bass riff I'd made up, and then we all took turns "starting the song", based on this riff.  I then handed off the bass guitar to another student, showing him how to play it (all on the first string), and picked up my ukulele, trying to keep up with a chordal accompaniment.  

The kids were focused.  They listened to each other.  They made mistakes and they started over again.  They smiled.  They would not stop for anything.  And I enjoyed playing among them.   We played non-stop for the last 20 minutes of designated club time.   

The Rock Band club is starting to take off even better than I'd imagined it.  At a later date, I'll talk to my kids about harmonizing and chordal accompaniment when you're in the key of e minor, but for this afternoon, we were jamming and improvising together.  It was a magical series of moments.  

And I'll admit: this presidential election has been weighing heavily on my mind.  I am not looking to use this blog as a political platform, but it occurred to me to write about said election in reference to these kids.

The male students I was specifically jamming with today included two black students, a young Hispanic student (who dyed his hair green a week or so ago), and a Muslim student, whose sister is one of the only students in the school who wears a hijab (and will also become a fabulous clarinet player).  I have all of these kids in band during the day, but only two of these kids students were legitimately friends with each other before today's meeting.  Some of them didn't know anything about each other before today, but are now bonded forever because they've made music together.  

There are political forces that want to keep these kids apart from each other.  And political forces that want to reduce specific funding allocations that go to their schools.  Not to mention candidates who've previously bragged in their best-sellers about punching their music teacher in the face.  

You can probably guess who I'm going to vote for, so I don't really need to come out and say it.  My larger point is that I don't really think that America needs to be made great "again."  My experience sitting in with these kids today made me feel like there is a treasure trove of greatness, happening in classrooms all over the country, that should be nourished & encouraged, rather than coming up with artificial ways to reclaim past "greatness."  Recognize the greatness, the brilliance, the capacity for collaboration, that is already inherent in our kids.  

Rebelling in Tough Times

Tritone Interval & Changing Meter in Rush's "YYZ"