Friday, March 20, 2009

The 167th good thing about Lagos: Music making opportunities

I've had a busy, and also a tiring, week subbing for the secondary music teacher at the American School. I also subbed for her last month as she traveled with her honor band and choir students. Last month she went with them to Zurich and, this past week, to Doha, Qatar. I would have been happy to trade places with her, but I really had a good time working with her band and choir students, despite the wear and tear on my vocal chords. Trying to be heard over a bunch of tooting horns and beating drums is a bit of a challenge, and I went home every day quite worn out. But I've always gotten a lot of joy in my life out of collaborative music making and, even on this level, it's a pleasure to see so many young people really enjoying the challenge of learning to play an instrument. I also had an especially fun time teaching a small class of 11th grade IB music history students. They were great young people and really interested in learning more about music. A couple of them were talking about what an amazing and exciting thing it is to take these dots on a paper (music notes) and turn them into a beautiful noise. And I agree -- music making is an amazing thing that has brought me a lot of joy in my life, and I hope these kids will keep up with it long enough to really reap the rewards. But I'm wondering how long it will take me to get their music off of constant play in my head.

Last night, I had a different experience of music making. I've started singing with a little choral group and the director and organizer of the group recently left for a short vacation and I volunteered to cover the rehearsals while he is gone, as we shortly will be performing and we needed the rehearsal time. There was no problem, and plenty of enjoyment, with the rehearsal last week, but last night when we were beginning the rehearsal I absently-mindedly plugged in my digital piano to the wrong plug in our step-down transformer -- the one delivering 220V of current, instead of the 110V plug needed for my US-market piano. There were no sparks or smoke, but, even though I quickly realized my mistake and pulled the plug, it wasn't fast enough and the piano wouldn't turn on. I managed to control my rising dismay and panic and we continued with the rehearsal completely acapella (Thankfully, I did have a pitch pipe to give us our needed pitches.) Immediately after the rehearsal, Brent and I took apart the back of the piano to access the electronic board. We quickly saw the fuse inside, took it out and determined that it had burned out, recognized that we actually had the same size fuse in the house, replaced it -- and, within 10 minutes, we had the keyboard working again! What a relief! More music making to come in the future. I did put duct tape over the 220V outlet of the transformer so I don't repeat that mistake!

This afternoon at the school the student body had the treat of a performance by a brass quintet from the crew of the USS Nashville, a US Navy ship that is in port here. I already had good vibes about the presence of this ship, because two of our AWC charities were recipients of medical supplies and other humanitarian goods that were brought on this ship to share with the community here. And then everybody present this afternoon enjoyed a fun performance by these very talented musicians. I was thrilled to observe the band students soaking it all in. I didn't have a class during the performance, but right after the group finished playing, I was scheduled to teach the 6th grade band kids. I went up to the performers and mentioned that if they didn't have to leave right away, the 6th graders would love to have a minute to meet and talk to them. 3 of the 5 musicians took the time to come in and visit with the students, telling them about when they learned to play their instruments and some of the opportunities that music has brought to them. They played "Anchors Aweigh" for the class and then one of them led the kids in playing a favorite piece, and then they listened (and played along) as I led the students in another piece. The 6th graders were thrilled with the personal attention by these military musicians. Here's a couple of clips from the concert:

In the first one, notice the little kids just bursting out in movement with the music. It was fun to see them really get into the music. I neglected to film it, but later in the concert they were really up and dancing around to the music.

In this next clip, I filmed one of the pieces where the quintet played as they walked around their audience. They had a very excited and appreciative crowd of listeners! Thank you USS Nashville for sharing your talents and bounty with our Lagos community!


MOM THE BOMB said...

How fun, Carolee! You are doing such great things in Lagos. I'm so impressed!

Lindsay, Steve, Spencer, and Austin said...

I LOVE the kids dancing in the background...that's so cute. I love how spirited Nigerians are with their music. :o)