I taught at the high school level for many years. Over that time
period I was fortunate to form many close and lasting relationships
with a large number of amazing young ladies and gentlemen. That
is not at all difficult to understand, since we all shared a profound
and powerful common bond; music!
------ As the school and community
grew, it unfortunately became inevitable that the very personal
approach I took was beginning to become increasingly difficult,
even dangerous, to maintain.
It wasn’t long at all until I began to feel trapped in a cold
and impersonal dungeon. It had always been inspiration itself that inspired
me, and the fuel that kept me going was the very idea that I could
in some small way light a fire in other people's souls. The spirit
and enthusiasm I once had for teaching had been all but extinguished
by what I saw as a very shallow, selfish, and paranoid world
------ Once I finally figured out why
my enthusiasm was gone, I began to ponder the very essence of my
inspiration, and the very essence of "their" concern.
The challenge, I feared, was to find a means to reconcile these
conflicting agendas. I see in retrospect that finding that compromise
literally saved my career.
------ "Their" problem was
the perceived "favoritism" received by those individuals
who chose to respond to my attempts to inspire. My problem was
that I only knew one way to inspire; by sharing my heart, my experiences,
my very self. How could I do this without getting too personal?
------The answer I came up with was very simple. Since I was teaching
music, and music - above all else - had been my inspiration,
I’d share the music that had always inspired me. I’d
share the songs that I personally found inspiring,
letting the students know that this was the only criterion in the
selection process. I began each day’s rehearsal with “The
Song of the Day,” by playing the recording for them while
putting the lyrics on the overhead projector. On rare occasions,
I’d preface the playing of the day’s song with a brief
explanation of why the song had meaning for me, but usually I just
allowed the words and music to speak for themselves.
------ It didn’t take long until
I began to get comments in passing from individuals expressing gratitude
or even an occasional testimonial. As I listened to the songs and
the stories, it became apparent to me that the subject matter of
the songs struck a chord with so many of the students. After all,
I had been about their age when most of the songs entered my life.
Many of my “issues” then were theirs now. But I also
came to understand that, until this point, music hadn’t served
as a means for them to deal with many of those issues; at least not to the
extent that it had for me. But with time, I saw that begin to change,
as more and more students brought me their own “Songs of the
Day.” And each day, even the most uninspired students awaited the next song with anticipation. I was amazed at
the way they embraced even the more unusual selections. If I’d
have randomly played many of these recordings without the personal
element, they’d have been met
with - at worst - ridicule, and - at best - apathy. It was in making
this observation that I realized that my desire had been fulfilled
in a most profound way.
----- It was no accident that this
was the most enjoyable and rewarding year I had experienced in a
very long time. To remind me of this fact, I still have a series
of cassette tapes made up of each recording in the order in which
they were presented. From time to time I will bring them out for
a refresher. And to this day, when I encounter students who were
in that class, above the music we performed and the places we went,
indeed above all else, they reminiscent about my sharing with them
the “Songs of the Day.”
(Update - 2015 - While I still have the cassettes, I now chose to listen to the songs on playlists of course. Sounds much better. The events of this story occurred in the mid 1990's. I recently has a similar crisis of purpose in my teaching and was rescued by an exceptional group of young ladies and gentlemen who shared themselves with me through a musical project with special meaning. As a thank you, I did a one-time "Song of the Day" with a live performance of a couple of songs. That spurred a reciprocal "Song of the Day" presented to me and my students by our school choir. I posted their performance on Facebook. Many students who were in that class who received the Songs of the Day commented. Though the Facebook post had NOTHING to do with the Songs of the Day, that is what they commented on. Specific songs they remember from those presentations! Needless to say, I found that very inspirational.)
© 2004 - The Trill House