[MVHS] Some Thoughts...
December 16th, 2012
To All the Instrumental Music Families and Friends,
In the wake of the tragedy that took place at Sandy Hook Elementary on Friday, I feel compelled to share an experience with you that the Wind Ensemble had, mere hours after the shooting finally ceased. Many of our students hadn't yet been made aware of the events that transpired in Newtown as they set up that day. Had they been, I believe the morning would have taken on a much different meaning for them...
On Friday, Robin and the Wind Ensemble hosted the second and final 'Children's Concert' of the season (an event that my younger sister and I both participated in when we were kids) and invited students and teachers from the Los Altos Parent Nursery School to join us for a show-and-tell of all the various instruments. One at a time, the high school musicians would introduce themselves, their instruments, and then play a short, often holiday-themed excerpt. The reactions from the preschoolers were infectious, turning a room full of young adults back into kids again. After the introductions, and getting to see who was taller than a tuba, the kids were paraded to 'Drum Land' where they got to experience (and play) many of the different percussion instruments. The morning concluded with each preschooler getting a turn to conduct the Wind Ensemble as they performed a piece of very exciting, energetic music. Hi-fives and hugs were given, and the preschoolers were on their way to another adventure.
Having read the preliminary details about the shooting in Connecticut from various media sites earlier that morning, this Children's Concert had a profoundly numbing effect on me. It was also an extremely strong dose of Perspective. Here we were, 62 musicians having the privilege to spend time, share, and laugh with a group of impressionable three- and four-year-olds while, on the other side of the country, there were 20 young students and 6 teachers who had their own adventures abruptly ended.
Throughout the rest of the day, we had some visibly shaken students in our offices relating their own perspectives from the morning. Some were very thankful that we had the opportunity to be role models for the kids, others were nervous of potential "What If" scenarios in our own school community. Echoing what Dr. Groves said on Friday, the MVHS staff is trained to keep our students as safe as possible...
Here's where it gets tricky. While it's the staff's job to create and maintain a safe learning environment, it takes THREE TIMES the dedication to keep the Mental Health of our students as safe as possible. It requires devoted teachers, veracious students, and supportive parents. In the Music Department, we see this synergy happening every day and the results are simply awesome, in the truest sense of the word. Here's some ways we can maintain this:
STUDENTS: Talk to your parents. Open dialogues about school, music, and most importantly YOURSELF. Your parents don't follow you on Facebook (for good reasons) and there's a lot of YOU that they miss out on. And if you haven't thanked them in a while for letting you go to a great school and participate in such an amazing music program, do it. Then give them a hug and make it genuine.
PARENTS: Listen. Be open. Model what is right. Understand that High GPA's and College Acceptance Letters should just be a byproduct of healthy and happy students. If you can't tackle specific problems yourselves, know that there are many people who can help. And if you haven't acknowledged your students in a while for succeeding in a great school and participating in such an amazing music program, do it. Then give them a hug and make it genuine.
TEACHERS: Provide opportunities for students to thrive. Create a safe, accepting environment that breeds creativity, integrity, and teamwork. Be a resource for students AND parents. If there's something we can do to help support efforts at home, just ask. Chats over coffee tend to foster the best results. We like hugs, too.
As our hearts are still heavy from last week's events and the holiday break is right around the corner, I hope we can all take a moment to reflect what's REALLY important to all of us. For some, it's recognizing and being thankful for the opportunities that we are afforded. For others, it will be the ability to see the 'Big Picture' perspective and prioritize where we focus our energy.
I wish you ALL a safe, relaxing few weeks with family and friends. Don't forget to practice, and remember that hugs are free. See you on Monday!