Passing Music On

On a lighter note, let's take a break from the medieval poisons I've been researching for two days  (hey, we all know someone in the world of the Blue Bells Chronicles just has to go!) and talk about music.

Last week, about twenty-four of my students played a recital on piano, saxophone, and flute. This past Sunday, five more played in another recital on flutes, trombones, and trumpet. I've been teaching music for nearly twenty-eight years now--several of those in a school and as a band director, and for all of them teaching private lessons.  I've presided over many recitals, performances, and concerts.  Through twenty-eight years, I have many happy memories of these events, of the students themselves, of parents who come for their kids, and friends of mine who have attended for me.

I was told at one point in my life that I would not major in music--such a degree was not viewed as 'real,' or valid, or anything to be taken seriously.  Practical jobs--like medicine and law--were regarded as important. 

And it is true that over the years, there have been those who seem to think what I do isn't a 'real' job.  It's not 40 hours a week, it doesn't have benefits.  I don't even have an impressive uniform or lots of technical impressive-sounding jargon!  (One la le two la le just sounds silly, in fact, and 1 e and a 2 e and a, Pass the gull-darn butter, and tu-ku-tu-ku aren't much better.)

Over the years, too, fortunately, I have known many people in music who showed me otherwise, who have amazed me with their talent, and shown me the good and the joy that they bring to the world with their gifts.  And bringing joy to others--making someone's life better--is as real and valid as it gets.

In Russia, by contrast, music is taken very seriously, and music teachers--I was told by a fellow teacher here, who grew up in and taught in Russia, are afforded great respect.  They are viewed more as view surgeons--or professional athletes.

In The Water is Wide, Amy says to Angus, "I don't save lives."  He responds with, "You save souls."

Music is so important, Shawn says at his concert toward the end of Westering Home, that Glenn Miller died bringing it to our troops in World War II.

The longer I live, the more I have come to understand how very real and important music is.  It energizes us, comforts us, lifts our voices in praise, helps us celebrate, gets us up dancing and moving, leads men to battle, lifts morale for those in difficulty or in war zones.  It is with us at weddings, funerals, graduations, military ceremonies, at play, at work, at church, as soundtracks in movies, in our cars, on our laptops and phones, and in venues ranging from street musicians to operas.  Music tells us the stories of histories, cultures, of what a people suffered, or believed, or hoped for, of who they were.

Every culture in the world and every culture throughout history has had music.  This suggests there is something in the human mind, body, and soul, that needs music, just as we need poetry and stories.  We never get tired of music.

Plato philosophized about how various modes and rhythms impact us.

For me, music has been the most vital part of my life.  As I'm sure it does for many kids, it gave me confidence I might not have otherwise had, knowing I had something I could do, a skill and a talent, that I was contributing something, and part of something bigger than myself--something else we as people need.

While I have many, many happy memories from over 40 years in music, one that stands out is my high school band director, Mr. Kuno.  I believe he was well-loved by all his students over the years he taught.  He had a great sense of humor--although very dry and quiet.  He directed the jazz band, which at the time met every day as a regular class.  During our concerts, he often counted off (eins, zwei, wet, drei!), gave a down beat, and then simply stood back at the edge of the stage, listening to us play--and smiling.

It was a small act--but one that gave us great confidence in ourselves, in our ability to put something good in the world, to live lives that mattered.  It was an act that I believe everyone who was in the jazz band those years remembers and carries with them.

Over the years, I hope that I have been able to pass some of that on to my own students.  I have watched over the years as many of them go from six year olds who have never touched a piano--and sometimes have no interest in doing so--to teenagers who love making music.  I've had students who really struggle with piano, but come back with a band instrument and really take off.  I've had a student study with me for his six years in band and earn a music scholarship.  Recently, I had a student's mother tell me he wants to major in music and become a musician.  She wants him to become a doctor.  I am thrilled that music has meant so much to him.

And so, music continues on to the next generation and at every recital, I am grateful for the road I chose and to be a part of that.

...And now, back to boning (that was a trombone joke) up on poison.  Really, somebody in fourteenth century has really gotten on somebody else's last nerve and has to go!

  • Last Sunday in May, 10 am: Books and Brews with Lorrie Holmgren, mystery author
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  • October 2017: Author Talk and Book Festival in Appleton, Wisconsin
  • January 9, 2018: Talk with the Edinburgh Book Club
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