I went to a San Francisco Scottish Fiddlers concert last weekend, featuring the great Alasdair Fraser who performed among 80 fiddlers and string players of mixed ages who filled up the stage of Lincoln Theatre. Their collective sound was lively and impressive, though when (and only when) Alasdair played solo, I was transcended. There was something about his playing-- and other great performing artists like him-- that set his music far above the usual "professional" performer's sound. It got me thinking about why and how this happens, and I came to believe it could be a combination of things. Of course there are endless hours of blood, sweat and tears of practicing on the instrument, out of sheer passion of just having to play... and there are elements of musical "talent" involved of having a super keen sense of pitch and embodying the rhythm, and as well the mature development of ear training and listening skills, but there is more. I think this last essential element is what sets the great ones apart, and is captured in the saying that I've heard somewhere along my Dalcroze music and movement studies: "Whatever you play, the first instrument is you." It is the "you" part-- the inner self part-- that is developed so much in the truly great performers in addition to all of the other skills mentioned, that sets them apart from the rest. Many possess a humble generosity of their spirit, and a loveliness and depth of their being that they express through their instruments...and the experience of being on the receiving end is, for me, what makes life so fulfilling.
I normally write about music-related matters, but I simply have to share about something that has shocked me lately. I myself am a minimalist as far as packaged products go, and am very glad that our Sonoma County stores and markets are slowly evolving away from giving out free bags with every purchase to order to save on paper and plastic consumption. Lately, though, I've been blown away by store-workers' attitudes and practices. Many times that I've requested "no bag" for my scone, or have brought my own container to get ground beef, the store workers still automatically take out paper bags/plastic wrappings, only to then crumple up those clean pieces when I say I don't want them. Thus defeating the whole purpose! It's very frustrating, and makes me glad to teach music to large groups of children, who are perhaps the only hope of changing this automatic consumption mentality in the future years. Thankfully the act of making music can be entirely earth-friendly, and I'll be trying my best to model ways that an organization can be thriving and successful while consuming less.
I love the springtime in Sebastopol for many reasons-- the lush green grasses and apple blossoms, biking and walking about town on beautiful sunny days, cleaning up the yard and getting garden beds ready-- as well as preparing my music students to perform for their families and the community. My SunRidge 5-8th grade choir students perform in their multi-use room on Thursday April 3rd, my Bija Children's Junior & Prep Choirs host "Parents Day" during class time on April 3rd and the Bija Concert Choir presents an Irish Story Concert to the community on Saturday April 5th at the Sebastopol Center for the Arts. I myself will be singing some great Brazilian music along with Christian Foley-Beining for a Showcase Concert at the Glaser Center in Santa Rosa on June 7th, as well. So much to celebrate, so much to be thankful for.
Our Sebastopol winter may be a dry one so far, but fortunately the climate in Bija Music classes is lush and thriving! The Bija Children's Choir has transitioned well into three groups of wonderful young musicians, Voices of the SoL teenagers are working towards a music video project, Musical Mothering classes are bustling with eager little people, and the SunRidge middle school choir students are gearing up for a special performance at the prestigious Green Music Center on Feb 5th. Whew, busy times! But all good, community-oriented, creative busy-ness. It's awesome to work with young people who are so full of life and energy, and potential for doing good things. To tap into this wellspring, I'm going to lead some rain dances in my classes to quench our North Bay Nature's thirst-- be sure to join us in spirit!