Saturday, September 27, 2008

Mining Gold

Perhaps you all are tired of hearing the Scrollworks tales. I've never had any experience like this before. Almost daily I have some encounter that touches my heart deeply. To me, this is a sign that we're doing something right. I want to share that feeling with you.

As I was getting in the car at the office, a lady came up to ask me about free music lessons. She has taken in three street kids who have been living with her for the last three years. She would love to give them music lessons--something they long for--but she can't stretch her budget any further. (She was on her way into the thrift store.) I gave her a brochure and the low down on Cave9. She said, "This sounds too good to be true! We'll be there tomorrow!" I cried all the way to Cave9. And I got angry as I unloaded the car. Then I went back to the office for a second load of instruments. (Last night I dreamed that a clerk was giving me a hard time so I grabbed his arm and squeezed. He was surprised at my strength. I told him I was a roadie for Scrollworks.)

When I finally was loaded in at Cave9, Brandon came in. It was well before opening time, but he took the trombone upstairs and played for a minute. Then he came down to talk. He said he'd put a CD for sale ($9.99!) on the internet. He explained that it started out as electronic music of his own composition, but ended up being mostly him playing the trombone. He's going to ask Bill Gates to promote it for free. (!)

Brandon asked me if anyone would come that could play duets out of the method books with him. I said I didn't know. Later, Thurston came and pulled out his sax. He's a middle schooler that plays sax and violin. Wonderful kid. Brandon asked him to come upstairs. They sat side by side for more than an hour, working their way through the method books. At one point they spent some time clapping rhythms. When I asked Thurston if he wanted a lesson, he said he'd gotten one from Brandon. So Thurston, who goes to private school, felt he learned something about music from an almost-indigent, slightly askew trombone player in a stained shirt. And Brandon, who frightened everyone with his strong rejections not too long ago, patiently shared his knowledge with a child.

Thurston's sister, Shaina, came in a little later. She spotted a young girl that she'd worked with on flute a few times. They hugged and broke out their flutes. They worked for a long time. As they finished up, Shaina bought this young lady one of our fund raising lollipops as a reward for good progress.

Two little girls came in with their grandmother for their piano lessons. They sit at the keyboards practicing until someone can get there to teach them. Nick finally got to work with them. Afterwards, he went to talk to their grandmother to tell her that these tiny girls are making excellent progress. He never compliments unless it's deserved. He went back to teaching. The grandmother started to cry. She thanked me for what we are doing. She said the girls' mother has MS and that these music lessons enrich the whole family in a special way. I gave her a hug.

Rick Nance, who we just met last weekend, substituted for Jimmy. He protested that he plays classical guitar and wasn't sure he could teach beyond that. He walked in the door with two students already setting up the electric guitar and bass. I told him to dive in, he'd be fine. And he was. He taught continuously, often grouping two or three students together or alternating between individuals on opposite sides of the stage. One of our regulars, a mom who brings her daughter for piano, said he offered her a new way to memorize the notes: say them out loud as you play. That seemed to be a breakthrough for her. (That's why Nick advocates swapping out teachers every so often.) Rick obviously felt at home. Having only briefly spoken to Nick last week, he ran up and grabbed a pencil out of Nick's hand to mark some music and then threw it back. Nick loved it.

Macey Taylor dropped by after a recording session to check us out. I waved my arms a bit. He offered to teach drums and I accepted. Nick was very grateful as the kids had put together the drum set rather haphazardly and were having a great time making their own explorations of rhythm. I noticed some of the good drummers come in from the housing project. Macey told me as he was leaving that he was really impressed by some of these kids. He'll try to come back today.

Once Claudia arrived, she was busy teaching violin constantly. She finally had our tiniest violinist at her station. His grandmother and I watched as Claudia worked on his posture, moving his feet, hands, shoulders. She gently adjusted everything over and over until his body adapted to the positions. We were so busy that we taught well past 6. I turned around and noticed that Claudia was still teaching this little boy. It'd been more than an hour. He's only 6, but he and Claudia were totally focused on teaching and learning. I reminded Claudia of the time and she was shocked.

I didn't have time to take photos yesterday. I hope I've made some pictures in your head. I hope you can feel the power. Nick and I talked for a long time afterwards. He said that Cave9 is a gold mine. He isn't even remotely thinking about money. He's thinking about music. He's thinking about community. A community music gold mine. Having some experience in gold mines (real gold mines, seriously!), I'd agree.

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