The Community Concert
The theme of this year’s concert was Songs of Conscience. It grew out of the fact that for the first time ever a songwriter was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. In looking at what was teachable about Bob Dylan’s work, it was easy to see that his discipline of non-materialism, the valor of his struggle to experience the whole of humanity, and his declamation of what is the good, the bad, and the complex called an entire generation to Conscience. It also framed that effort for all other songwriters following.
Click on the picture to see the setlist:
(please note that we had to swap the 1st and 3rd songs when the show began….)
Video for the whole Concert can found on youtube here :
For those preferring an audio-only experience, the whole thing can streamed or downloaded off of soundcloud here:
(please note that on the Saturday concert, we left the stage open, and there was an after-concert concert of somewhat random songs which kids have been working on in Studio Music on their own. [check out track 14 to hear the stunningness that four of our eighth graders can put together in an hour or two or rehearsing…])
I highly recommend taking the audio journey in the link just above, which is solely the music of the event. Moreover I would encourage you to add it to your kid’s listening experience if you can take playlists with you in the car using itunes or soundcloud or by creating a cd of it. In fact if you wish to have a cd of the show email me and I will make you one.
I was asked by a parent to share some of the stories of teaching this material. One story was how Lower El spent one class looking at the structure of the Song, Forever Young.
This was done after the vast majority of the kids had memorized nearly all the words. The Song opens with the lines:
May God bless and keep you always.
May your wishes all come true.
Here we looked at how Blessings and wishes are the magic things of life, but interestingly the next two lines are:
May you always do for others
And let others do for you
This is the other side of life. That we must do. Life demands that we make things happen, that we do the doing that makes life all it can be.
And then, the next lines, this remarkable image:
May you build a ladder to the stars
And climb on every rung
This image connects these two worlds. From where we are on Earth reaching to the magic world of the stars. With the injunction that we must take each rung carefully to bridge the two.
Wonderfully, yes, the kids did all follow how well thought out this was and it did make sense.
We did look at the middle verse but I will skip to the last.
May your hands always be busy
May your feet always be swift
May you have a strong foundation
When the winds of changes shift
May your heart always be joyful
May song always be sung
May you stay
Here again everything is intentional. We move from our hands (our work) to the feet (our freedom), to the our sense of foundation. I asked the children, “how many of you have had a major change in your life?” Indeed nearly all had. They all understood how a foundation can make one feel stable even when change’s winds blow. Moreover how this can lead to being able to have a joyful heart, when those winds might even be bringing loss, such as a grandparent dying (child’s example). From this joyful heart, what emerges? Our song.
The point here is that the song is not a list of nice thoughts, it has an intentional architecture and is a sequence of a spiritual and psychological practice. Conscience.
And what is amazing to report is that the children of Lower El got this. Completely. The Order, the Sequence, and the Content. It was so startling: they are at a stage of life which looks for order of this nature. Perhaps we can see this is an example of Dr Montessori’s notion of the sensitive period for this plane of development.
We learned another thing in Lower El (in the other classes as well…): that we are not done with a song until the Silence that comes after the song is over. On the Saturday performance for a brief second, at the end of Forever Young, all who were in the room held this Silence (and it was quite a lot of us!). Especially the children, they held the Silence. For a large group of kids this age to stand still and silent, holding the presence instilled by the song after that kind of effort is an astonishing achievement.
There were many wonderful observations and kind things said. Personally, this one below meant a great deal.
Thacher grandparent, former staff member, and current consultant for Thacher, Barbara Prince wrote me:
“As always, as I witnessed the incredible work you accomplish with the children, I am moved beyond words. This concert was the embodiment of Montessori’s philosophy of empowering children. Your choice of Bob Dylan’s work was so fitting, not only because he received the Nobel Prize, but also because you took the opportunity to introduce the children to the concept of using music as an effective way to initiate social justice and change. Montessori education is frequently referred to as “peace education,” and Dr. Montessori said, “Preventing war is the work of politicians, establishing peace is the work of educators.” Peace will come through the children, and you are guiding them, through the power of music, to develop that potential within themselves….”
This was my response:
Regarding the event, I had the exact same sense, that for this moment, we fulfilled our destiny and vision of what Dr. Montessori, and our community aspires to be. I even have a sense that something important was made possible, because Hope entered the world as it did.
Regarding your kind words about me, I am grateful and humbled. Truly this is another in a series of moments where it is clear to me that we have all undertaken this work together out of some great Necessity. I am still digesting it all, but your words affirm everything, and give me more to chew on as well!
Prayers and Peace.”