Friday, November 19, 2010

Week 10: My First Campfire

On a crisp fall night, I stood in front of a campfire surrounded by almost sixty 5th graders. I felt the cold steel under my fingertips as my left hand formed a chord around the neck of my guitar. I flicked my pick between my fingertips of my right hand trying to summon the courage to play. Turning away form the onlookers I looked into fire, slowly exhaled and drew my right across my guitar and let the my guitar sing out into the night.

I’ve never led a campfire sing along or even participated in one. It’s not that I have anything against campfires, the opportunity just never came up. So I had some apprehension at the idea of leading a campfire.  All of that melted away as soon I started singing “Mbube,” better know as “The Lion Sleeps Tonight.”

The cool night air, the smell of the smoke and the light of the fire mixed with the sound of the guitar making the tone of the instrument glow. Now there may be no scientific way that those factors could change the sound of a guitar but I swear it did.

Leading a campfire is like conducting but more intimate and immediate. There’s a beautiful feeling of letting go when you stand in the center surround by voices that is humbling and truly unforgettable.

We ended the sing along with a song that is traditional for all 5th graders to sing at my school, “Orion.” Before we began I told them this:
One of the many things I love about music is how music can make us feel. Sometimes that feeling comes from the subject, what the lyrics in a song are about, and sometimes it comes from somewhere else.
When I mentioned to my 8th grade students that I was going to this retreat with all of you, they started singing “Orion.” When I asked them what that song was about, instead of talking about the starts they told me about this moment, singing this song together around a campfire.
Music has the ability to transport us to different times and places. When you experience a song in a special moment such as this, the song becomes linked to that experience and every time you hear that song it will take you back to the that memory.
While the subject of a song is important what is personally meaningful is how music ties into our lives, our memories and our hearts.
Let’s shares this moment together. Make this memory special so when I see you in 8th grade and I mention that I’m taking my 5th graders to this retreat you come back to this movement and feel how special it is to share this time together.
I can’t wait until next year when I get to revisit my first campfire experience playing
"Orion" and create new memories for my future students as my current students created for me as we shared the magic of creating music.

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