email me your comments
“If stories come to you, care for them. And learn to give them away where they are needed. Sometimes a person needs a story more than food to stay alive.”
—Barry Lopez
(as Badger, in Crow and Weasel)


To be nobody but yourself -- in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you like everybody else -- means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight, and never stop fighting.
- e. e. cummings


The Songs of the Day

------ 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 view.
------ 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