I looked over at the four smiling students. “Well,” I said, “that was our third straight strong run-through. We’re ready for the show. But if anyone wants to do it again, we absolutely will. That’s how it always works.” Juliet immediately raised her hand. “I want to do it again!” she said. “This song is so much fun!”
Doves adorn the staircase to the middle school, twirling gently in the air currents, still exuding the active hope for peace expressed by the students who made them and arranged them. At the top of the staircase sits a totem pole, made by the class of 2019 back when they were seventh graders, expressing who they were at the time and thus, in many ways, who they are now. I walk into the middle school lobby, where soon enough kids will start to flood in, flopping on the chair and couch, half sitting on each other’s laps as they chatter about any- and everything that crosses their minds. I walk into my room, past the Black Lives Matter, Girl Power, and LGBT Safe space signs on the door, and arrange the blue beanbags in a half circle. Soon, kids will half-walk, half-run into the room and either drop their backpacks on their beanbag of choice, whirl, and return to the lobby, or drop down to relax and hang out with their friends as they arrive.
When you combine sound with goals, happiness, possibilities, you’ve got the perfect storm. - June Millington, from her TEDxShelburneFalls talk, “Rocking the Boat:How Playing Like a Girl Can Change the World.”
A guitar strums a four-chord progression. A bass joins in. A rat-a-tat-a-tat on the drums kicking off a solid backbeat. The first lyric, “With your feet in the air and your head on the ground. Try this trick and spin it, yeah.” (Where Is My Mind? by the Pixies) resonates through the gym. Last night’s benefit concert for Girls Rising was off to a great start.
As a Rock Band teacher, I try to keep my eye out for kids, especially girls, who have talent and whom I can help promote on social media. One such artist is Sina from Germany, a 16-year-old girl who first came to YouTube fame at the age of 14; her drum cover of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” now has nearly 3,000,000 views. Earlier today, YouTube recommended I listen to her (amazing!) international collaboration with two 12-year-old girls of the classic “Smoke in the Water”; it’s nearing 100,000 views after just three weeks.
Look at you now you're a game changer / Stronger than the truth and 10 times braver / Like an arrow shooting through a poison heart you know what you are / You're a game changer.
The other day, my friend Nancy Flanagan (a retired band teacher from Michigan) posted an image suggesting, given that one of the targets deliberately chosen by ISIS in Paris was the Bataclan, that we choose to defeat terrorism by attending a live music show over the weekend. As it happens, I already had plans to attend a concert Friday night, the one-week anniversary of the Paris attacks, and I shared that with her and resolved to share pictures from the show that night over social media.
"That Rock Band," a parent said, shaking his head. Clearly searching for words, he added, "Wow." It was not an uncommon reaction, and when I emailed my usual post-concert congratulations to the group, I told them about the moment and noted, "Yes, you performed that well; you literally left people speechless." It's true, from the first notes pounded out on the piano as they slammed through "Yoü and I" by Lady Gaga, through the last, sweet harmonies held over a cymbal roll and an echoing piano chord as they ended "Just the Way You Are" by Bruno Mars et al, they were amazing, all of them: Bonnie, Charlotte, Heather, Jin, Joy, Joyce, McKim, Molly, Natalie, Olivia, and Susan. And when I pointed out that the vocalists wrote all the harmonies themselves, the speechless factor among audience members rose even higher.
This is just our first performance, just a few weeks into the year. While six members of last year's group returned and one moved up from the middle school band, four were brand new, and one of those was a complete beginner to her instrument. Yet, they came together so thoroughly and so rapidly that we chose and began working on our next two songs even before the first performance, something we have only rarely been able to do in the past.
(title taken from the title of Stevie Wonder's masterwork album, released in 1976)
Filed Under: Teaching, School Happenings, gender, Bill Ivey, 141 Reasons, Beautifully different, finding your voice, diversity, Rock Band, All Girls Education, Feminism, Performing Arts, performing, Stoneleigh-Burnham School, Uniquely Stoneleigh-Burnham School, Jose Vilson
I used to think making music was magic. I guess, after doing it, I still do. – Lisa Bastarache. ’99 (from her yearbook page)
I will never forget the first time I saw Dar Williams in concert. She opened for the Indigo Girls at the Mullins Center at UMass way back in the mid-90’s, and they invited her to play one of the encores. Alone on stage with her guitar, she transfixed the approximately 8,000 people in attendance with heartbreaking images of a relationship entering and eventually, tentatively, emerging from a “February” period. The song instantly became one of my all-time favorites, and I bought her CD “Mortal City” the very next day.
Filed Under: Dar Williams, Middle School, Teaching, Alumnae, Grades 7-12 and PG, School Happenings, All-Girls, On Education, Boarding and Day, Rock Band, All Girls Education, Performing Arts, Stoneleigh-Burnham Middle School, performing, The Faculty Perspective, Stoneleigh-Burnham School, Uniquely Stoneleigh-Burnham School, Education