“Endings are not always a bad thing, it just means that something new can begin.” ~ Unknown
We have come to the end of the 31 day Slice of Life Challenge. It feels good to have accomplished this feat, yet a relief that it is over. Being a part of this challenge and interacting with so many kind and thoughtful writers is a gift I give myself each March. I hope that this is the beginning of a year filled with writing and building on the ideas I have found or started this month. Thank you for your support, kind words, and fine example. Hope to see you on Tuesdays!
I am still riding the high from last night’s concert. It is true that I am very proud of my son and the work he does with his music students, but it’s more than that. Being a music teacher myself for 23 years, I know the hard work and dedication it takes from students, parents, and teachers alike to put on a concert or show. In an age where kids get a bad rap for constantly playing video games, lacking grit, or having extremely short attention spans, musicians smash that stereotype.
The young men and women on that stage last night have spent countless hours in rehearsals and even more time practicing on their own. They have listened to guest clinicians and seriously taken the critiques given to them and used the tips to improve their technique and sound. They are counter-culture crusaders who revere the history of jazz and work to keep the standards alive.
What I was most struck by last night was the sheer joy on the faces of the musicians, the directors, and the audience. As each ensemble performed the members of the other group looked on with rapt attention and admiration for fellow musicians. The video above is the last chart of the evening which was a combined effort. The ensembles rehearsed this for about 15 minutes, which is incredible when you see and hear the result.
Jazz gives musicians the opportunity to express themselves through improvisation. These brave teenagers stepped out of their comfort zones and stood tall and proud as they took turns improvising. You could see the satisfaction in their body language and hear it through their instruments. I am still smiling today.
These dedicated teens have learned so many skills by being part of a musical ensemble. Some of them will go on to musical careers, some will continue to play for fun, and some may not pick up the instrument again after graduation, but one thing I know for sure is that none of them will forget what they experienced on that stage last night.
“Jazz washes away the dust of every day life.” ~ Art Blakey
This was a very long week of standardized testing, and I couldn’t wait for the end of today to come. I knew that I would be attending a jazz concert where I would see the ensemble my son directs perform ahead of a trip to Pittsburgh next week.
My son, Charlie, is the director of instrumental music at William Tennent HS in Warminster, PA. His ensemble along with the Jazz ensemble from Lower Moreland HS in Huntington Valley, PA were the only two high school jazz ensembles to be chosen to perform at the PMEA – NAFME all East Coast Convention next weekend. Tonight’s concert was a send-off performance for family and friends.
The two ensembles took the stage together and alternated playing standard jazz tunes. They were both amazing! These young men and woman were fearless. They performed together, they played alone, they improvised. More importantly it was obvious they were having a ton of fun. While each ensemble played, the other listened attentively and was tapping along. The ensembles joined on a number to finish out the concert. It was an unbelievable ending to an amazing evening of Jazz.
What was extra special was the fact that my son was the private student of Erin Stroup, the director of Lower Moreland. Charlie took private saxophone lessons with Erin in high school, and then student taught with him while in college. Here they were tonight, standing on the stage as colleagues whose goal is to keep jazz alive and well. They have done a fantastic job lighting that spark within their students because tonight they were on fire. I wish I could figure out how to share the video I shot on my phone!
It was obvious tonight – the future of Jazz is in good hands.
I have been thinking about timing a great deal lately. Some people are always in the right place at the right time. When that happens to me I think it is a miracle because I am usually operating like a gerbil on a wheel most days.
Take my morning drive to work for example. I live about a 10 minute drive from school. I try to leave around the same time each morning, but some days getting up and going is harder than others for a variety of reasons. If I leave by 6:55 I can usually cruise along, but if I leave at 6:59 the ride is longer.
First there is the bus stop at the edge of my development. The bus to the high school stops at 7:00, and the students saunter their way to the steps and slowly board the bus. Then there are the stragglers who are in no hurry at all. They meander down the street to the awaiting bus and slowly enter. Next, I have to manuever my way between the parked SUVs that have been warmly housing the sleepy teens. If I am first to the stop sign the friendly bus driver might wave me to turn after the red lights stop flashing and the safety arm retracts. If not, then I may have to wait until the line of traffic behind the bus makes its way through the intersection.
Once I am out of the development, I go a short distance and turn onto a beautiful winding road that is a small piece of heaven. It is idyllic and tranquil, that is until I spy in my peripheral vision a deer or an occassional steer that gets loose (I stopped and called the local police that day).
When I get to the end of that road, it is a right and then a quick left. Only on the mornings I leave the house a little later, the right turn happens only after 20-30 cars go by. I know the car behind me must want me to jump in at any opportunity I get, but they don’t know that I have that quick left to make, and I don’t want to be rear-ended!
There is only on traffic light between home and school, and most days I get the red. I am not sure if this is an actual fact, or just a fact in my head, but when I am sitting at that red light not one car passes through the intersection in either direction until their light is yellow. I guess their timing is not much better than mine!
Two more turns, and I will be safely at school where I know my timing is always right because when I get to the parking lot my handicap space is there waiting to greet me.
“One of the secrets of a happy life is continuous small treats.” ~ Iris Murdoch
I have been reading Women Rowing North by Mary Pipher. (Thank you Jennifer Laffin- https://www.teachwrite.org/ for the recommendation!)
The book’s subtitle ‘Navigating Life’s Currents and Flourishing as We Age.’ really caught my eye. When I turned 60 in the fall, I found myself vascillating between feeling afraid and feeling fearless, between not giving a damn and giving it my all, between being at the end of my story or on the cusp of some new adventure. I knew I wasn’t ready to wither, but I wasn’t sure if I would still be able to flourish.
That brings me back to Chapter 10. I have only read a few pages so far, but the following lines really stuck out to me. “Building a good day is about making good choices involving our emotions, thinking, and behavior. ” “it’s possible to do a mental reset by asking ourselves what we are looking forward to and what we are grateful for.” It is not that I have never heard of these things before, but these words did make me stop and re-evaluate how well I utilize these techniques.
What am I looking forward to? Here are just a few of my “small treats”:
Spending time with my grandchildren – Easter egg hunts, sleepovers, cookie baking, block building, coloring, giggling, hugs, & kisses.
Concerts – The William Tennent Jazz Ensemble under the direction of my son, The Golden Boys, and just turning up my car radio with the sunroof open.
Summer – more time to read & write, teaching a grad class, morning tea on the deck, evening sunsets and card games.
I will certainly be adding to my list as I spend more time actively thinking about what I am looking forward to rather than just letting things sneak up on me.
I am building a good day today because I chose to focus on the fact that I don’t need my cane even though there are bouts of stiffness and little aches and pains, on the fact that it is a sunny day even though it started out with clouds, and that because I am in the midst of standardized testing which is never pleasant I don’t have any work to take home tonight.
What about you? Are you building a good day today?
“At the end of the day, give up your worries and give thanks for the journey.” ~ Ben Vereen
Several weeks ago I attended a program at my church entitled, “Give Up Worry for Lent” given by Gary Zimak who authored a book by the same title. Every morning I read a few short pages that have a Bible verse, a reflection, a response, and prayer.
I am definitely a worrier, and the book serves as a reminder to relinquish my worries to the Lord. I have been reminded that feelings are not facts. It is not about how you feel because we cannot control how we feel about a situation, but we can control how we respond to the feelings.
I have been thinking about this a great deal. Although the book is based on the Bible and rooted in Christianity, I don’t think it is an exclusive club. I believe that anyone who believes in a higher power, no matter what form or name that power takes, can benefit from letting themselves lean on that power, ask that power for help, and know that we cannot make it through this world alone.
Worrying prevents you from being present, from enjoying the moment, from being your best self. It is okay to feel afraid, frustrated, overwhelmed, but how do you react to those situations and feelings? I would have sleepless nights and anxiety ridden days.
I have to say that I am feeling much more peaceful, although I still have to work on the nail-biting! I haven’t completely freed myself from worry, and I am not sure I can accomplish that in 40 days (or ever), but I am taking small steps and enjoying the journey.