Saturday, March 10, 2012

Now Put a Little Soul in it

On August 4, 2006 NPR's All Things Considered featured a story on the Kashmere Stage Band.   These talented Houston musicians were at their peak during the late 60s and early 70s.   Everything was on time and outta sight.   And they were a high school band.   Yep.   Can ya dig it?   I knew that you could.

I'm not going to spend too much time here telling their whole story.   You need to hear it for yourself!   Check them out on iTunes.   Or you could get started with the trailer from Jamie Foxx's 2010 documentary.

Do you see how long I've been waiting for this film?   Can you do the math?   And you know it did not come to a theater or kiosk near me.   Thanks to Amazon and a recent shopping binge, I got my own copy of the DVD in the mail this week.

Truth be told, I can't play a lick.   And, yes, I'm an English teacher with important classwork for students to master, but oh how I treasure their time with the arts.   If I could, I would be a music, art, reading and writing teacher all at the same time.   These are all subjects in which students can find a voice and a vehicle for self-expression.  
The best days in the classroom are when children can engage, participate and share.   Please don't put your head down.   If you're sick, please go to the nurse.   The classroom is a community of learners.   Your contribution is valuable.   It's not the same when you're not with us.  

Sometimes it's a struggle keeping everyone on board, but in many ways it must be similar to looking out over a sea of band students.   When there's a "man down" in band, you notice.   Band doesn't work that way.   I think that's part of why I admire great band teachers so much.   Everyone gets to play; everyone has to play.   Who shows up to band thinking they are going to get away with doing next to nothing?

No matter what you teach, don't let band a chorus be the only classes that students are taught the value of song.   Need a little help with that?   Here are some free lesson plans from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum.

If you get a chance to watch Thunder Soul, please do.   It's a love song to a great man, Mr. Conrad Johnson.   In a time when Rev. Jesse Jackson had to school the nation that black Americans are somebody, the KSB was one of the only all-black competitive high school bands.   And they played soul, many of Mr. Johnson's original compositions.  

This film is a testament to the lasting effects of a great teacher and the confidence and joy that playing music brings.   It's about seeing an instructor pass the responsibility of learning on to his students and letting them feel the power of owning their education.   It's about revisiting some of the sweetest moments of our lives and honoring those who were by our sides.

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