Friday, April 21, 2017

As It Always Should Be

A few weeks ago, a team of parents installed what we're calling "the stage" in a corner of our playground. Essentially, it's a small deck from which emerge four upright metal poles left over from a little-used climbing structure that had previously occupied the spot.

One day I brought in a waterproof wireless speaker that I use in my shower and began playing music from my phone to which the children danced. As I explained in my post about it, we've never used much recorded music in our school and I had assumed that this would be a one-off activity or, at best, only an occasional one, but that's not how it turned out.

It wasn't long before the children started making musical requests such as "the Frozen song," "Paw Patrol," and "Star Wars." I don't have any of those in my music collection, so I wound up, under pressure and on the spot, signing up for a music service that allows us to pretty much play any song ever recorded on demand. This means that I've spent the last couple weeks playing DJ as an ever-changing collection of kids have taken the stage to physically and communally interpret whatever song is coming from the speaker.

If I started with mixed feelings, I don't have them any longer. There are a pair of "best friends" in our 3's class who perform "Let It Go" with a heart-felt, full-body passion that surpasses anything I've ever witnessed. One of their mothers described their faces as looking as if they were "in pain, in love, and constipated all at the same time."

There's a group that performs "Step in Time" (from the movie Mary Poppin) with an enthusiasm that rivals Dick van Dyke and crew. There are few things more entertaining and inspiring than seeing those kids link their elbows and flap like a birdie. 

I've never seen anyone rock out quite as hard as our "Paw Patrol Theme Song" band. And I've seen the Rolling Stones live a half dozen times.

Then there's the "Imperial March" and other music from the magnificent Star Wars sound track accompanied by increasingly synchronized marching and light saber battles.

And just as our Elsa and Anna showed their emotions in their features, there is something about "Everything is Awesome!!!" that makes it impossible to not smile as you dance.

Maybe I should have expected it, but this is very good stuff, because, except in a few cases, it isn't performing as much as letting music fill their collective bodies and souls. There is almost always an audience, although those on stage rarely turn toward us, but rather toward their stage-mates, forming loose circles to dance at one another or sing into one another's faces. Children who have not often played together the rest of the school day are finding one another through their shared passion for this or that song. And each time I move from one song to the next, the cast changes with it, insuring that no one group dominates the stage.

I was concerned that we would fall into a rut, that we would quickly find ourselves repeating the same damn songs over and over, and there has been a bit of that, but yesterday one boy introduced us to Elvis Presley's "Ready Teddy," another to Rachel Platton's "Fight Song," and our Mary Poppins fan is walking us through the entire soundtrack. The one person who apparently cannot chose a song is me. Every now and then I try, hoping to get them bopping along to one of my favorites, but whenever I do, the stage remains empty until I let them pick their own music.

And that's has it's always been and always should be.

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