copyright Bettina Network, inc. for Jonathan Betts Fields 2012
Kid musicians battle the id
further justice through thick and then
permeate airwaves with soul and posture
colorful words, diaphragm of opera
from Shakespeare to Jay Z, defying nostalgia
sleep new dreams and pray for contagion
well blended harmony’s the weapon we’re waving.
Speaking voices are perfectly proper
they laugh as would English speaking sea otters
returning to homes that float or submerge
to wash away souls, you’ll need more than dirge
we don’t sink or swim, we’re one with the water
if we were to leave we’d abandon our power
we hold hands through inverted rain showers.
Zatarain’s ain’t got nothin’ on me –
neck cocked back like an expected sneeze
horns high in the sky, catchin’ the breeze
high hat attacks the air – killer bees
strings intertwined – tangled webs they weave
toe tappin’s impossible without bendin’ knees
sea perseverance, revitalize New Orleans.
I could hear applause in the distance. The woman from the registration table saw me wandering a bit and ushered me in the correct direction. I visited Shady Hill School to support the new friends I met over a three-course breakfast at a Bettina Network home. I could hardly wait to partake in the celebration straight from New Orleans.
I thought I missed them. Then, in walked a league of extraordinary men and women. A palpable increase in energy met the trumpet, trombone, tuba, two drums and the voice. The esteemed Executive Director and the mother of the younger drummer completed the entourage. The performers reemerged as teachers, and continued to represent the Ellis Marsalis Center for Music and Musicians’ Village professionally, passionately and extremely well.
Their workshop, entitled “Vision, Perseverance and Revitalization” was one of many during Shady Hill School’s Diversity Conference. For middle school students to entertain large notions like “Social Justice” and “Equity Through the Arts” could have been a daunting task; the school’s staff made it age relevant and all wore smiles while they worked. The kids were comfortable and eager take their music lesson serious, possibly borrowing a page from the acutely gifted drummer boy.
Calvin, the band leader and head teacher instructed the students to listen to the global sound and to identify the role of each instrument in the piece they were to play. The band played Duke Ellington’s “C Jam Blues.” The Shady Hill students listened. Then they were divided into sections, and the auditorium became a conglomeration of progress. For brief moments, some instruments synched: first were the strings & percussion sections. Then the brass and woodwinds danced. All the while, you could hear the Ellis Marsalis Center musicians chiseling away unnecessary sounds.
The Jazz Workshop Ensemble began playing with the speed of ducklings following their mother across a busy street. Once across, the piano and drums were occupied by a new set of feet and hands, and the trip began again. The trips back and forth steadied the ensemble’s sway and allowed for inspired improvisation. Before the last group began their end-of-workshop recital, Calvin shared some knowledge that reached beyond playing in a jazz band: “If you can’t hear the person next to you, you’re playing too loud.”
Jonathan Betts Fields
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