We Won't Give Up On You!


Today ends the week in which I was reminded that lack of sleep and anxiety are related, but despite many hardships in my daily life, something incredible may have happened and maybe, just maybe, a young life was saved. But first, since this is a blog, let me just get some journaly stuff out of the way. 

It would not be unusual, I'm thinking, to have sleep problems the week after you get the news that a 19-year-old young man you know took his own life. That was one week ago today. There was grief, there was contemplation, there were COVID-bedamned hugs, and there was a funeral with music that we made—lots of it, from behind a plexiglass wall. It was probably the safest place in the room for us, and the place where we could process our own grief in our own way: by making music to help others process theirs.

Oh, the week included work, too, and lots of it. Two major editing projects that have been active for months finally came to a close. I finished up the editing on a book of essays from 25+ top professional musicians (including Sonny Rollins!) on musical practice: tips and tricks, memories, spiritual guidance, humor, and one person who said "crap." Bonus: An angry call from the author while I was standing in the dark outside my car at a drive-in movie because he felt it was taking me too long to get him his final draft. (First ever in 25 years, you're welcome.) Then, the fall issue of my magazine, nearly put to bed, also very late. First time ever so late!!! I completed my first freelance video creation project—a 45-minute production— and who ever thought THAT would happen. On time, no less.

Also... a protest at Plymouth Rock, a long talk about hospice with someone else's doctor, and three videos that I'll share below. If focus has been an issue, I've got reason. I'm sure you do too. We are all struggling. 

You know who seems like they're not struggling? The kids. Overall, from my limited observation in the schools, they seem mostly ok. My own kids are fine; Lord Fauntleroy happily wears his mask all day and has an incredible teacher who "gets" him, and Soul Fry remains frustrated that high school is not what high school is supposed to be, but she's getting it done. Bonus for her: An old friend who inexplicably stopped talking to her this summer gave her a lovely note and a bracelet yesterday in apology. I still don't know why. I'm not sure if SoulFry does either, but who cares. 

Above all of this: The last seven days also included actual teaching of children and it was the very best. Here's the very best thing of all: With the awareness of depression this week has brought me, I am reminded that music can save lives, and we must protect it in our schools. Our children need it. Here: 

One of my students is a darkly solitary boy. Last year he came to lessons and spent most of his time looking out the window, with very little progress on his instrument. In music class, when all the kids pair up, he ends up on his own. He appeared to listen to nothing. Sometimes he would make his hands into puppets and they would talk to each other. 

One day last year I had a moment to teach him alone; I requested that he come down for extra help. In that half hour, I saw that he is extremely bright and realized that the real problem was that he struggled with trying to learn an instrument in a loud group of seven other brass instruments. I found out from his teacher that is is severely ADHD. I never expected to teach him again after last year, because he had so few wins in his first year. Suprise, though, when we sent out emails to families this fall to ask whether their child would be continuing, this mom wrote back and said yes, and could he change to a different instrument?

Historically, the department has not liked to do that. Eff history, however. I thought, well of course he can. I would not deny music to anyone. So he did. This week, he had his first half-hour lesson and he went from god-awful sounds to being able to play his first song, within that half hour. (Apologies to the teacher whose room we were standing outside of.) That night, the boy's mom sent me a note. She said that he came home from school happy—the first time EVER. [Caps were hers.] 

Thank you to the Plymouth Public Schools for keeping music in the mix. It just may save a few lives, and maybe music will be the catalyst that will keep this boy motivated to come to school for the next seven years. Or even the next seven days. 

This year's school motto is "We won't give up on you." No. We won't. Teachers are working harder than ever before. Let's keep supporting them because they are supporting our next generation. That's just about the only thing we can derive hope from these days. We won't give up on them.

Video links to come.


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