I am an actress, a writer, a songwriter, a singer. That is how I have defined what I do for thirty years.
About three years ago I began my life as Music Together teacher. You know, a complimentary occupation, since I was already great with kids, to my vocation in the arts. My director would call me an “Early Childhood Music Specialist”. I teach Basic Music Competence through the forms of playful rhythm and movement and song.
Or you could say, “To earn her keep she sings ditties all day long, playing with little red rhythm sticks. She hops a lot.”
Until recently, I might have jokingly agreed with you. It is true. If hopping were a crime I would have been sentenced to life in prison by now. I am … a hopper.
But then one day I hear the horrific news that a mother has lost her two little children in a senseless act of bloodshed right around the corner from where I sing with these cherubs and their families.
I go to class. I welcome the moms and dads and nannies and aunts and uncles and best friends who are all there for this little piece of joy they love so well. They are all ready to sing. But today is different. I don’t say anything about it. There’s no need. Everyone knows. Today I sing for the Mom and Dad and Grandparents who no longer have their children to lullaby to sleep. I can feel my families singing a little more sweetly on this day, too. I feel reassured. I feel un-alone. So do they.
Then a hurricane rips through New York and renders thousands homeless overnight.
I am unable to teach my classes because there’s no transportation. There’s no gas much less the heart to sing. No class Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday…. Then Thursday arrives. There’s a chance to get as many classes as we can jammed into one day with the teachers who can find a way into the city. I am one of them.
By this time I have watched endless hours of disaster coverage on every possible news channel sickened by what I see, feeling helpless. A forty minute commute takes two hours. Thank you, Sandy.
The classes were packed. Moms, dads, friends, nannies, big sisters and big brothers, you name it. They were there burning with cabin fever. They wanted to sing. They needed to sing, to connect. They needed their community.
They kept coming all day. What else can one do in the face of such pain or the feeling of helplessness, the sense of hopelessness? I watch the kids’ grown-ups courageously opening their hearts for the sake of their children. For some of them singing does not come naturally. Others find it difficult to march to the beat of any song. The children effortlessly lead the way to all that is sound. (Pun whole-heartedly intended.)
After the shock settles the heart desires to open again and music holds the key. The children teach us how do this. They demand we remain present. They remind us how to play and remember what it is to come alive – with your community by your side. The sound of our voices fills the air with hope, with joy, with ease and for forty-five minutes that hopelessness is transformed by grace.
I have just finished my final classes for the fall session an after I had been given hugs, kisses, cranberry jam and cards that read “Thank you for making my Friday mornings magical…,” I can’t help but tear up from feeling loved and valued. I feel better after having been tackled by a running hug. My life has meaning.
Then a madman goes into an elementary school in a small rural town in Connecticut….
I used to be just an actress, writer, singer, songwriter.
I am a Music Together Teacher. I teach music…together. I teach how to put down the gun and pick up the guitar (tambourine, bongo drum, egg-shaker). I am taught love, passion, play, creativity, confidence, joy and, according to one grandmother, “magic” by the real experts, our children.
Take my hand, kick up your heels, find the beat, sing boldly, sweetly, or as badly you like.
But please, above all, sing.
Our lives depend on it.