Monday, March 20, 2006

Replay Reflections… (Repost from mySapce)

Okay, if for some reason you have no idea what this refers to, there is no real way to explain it sufficiently in a few words or sentences, but I'll try to give you a synopsis...

It was a reunion concert open to anyone who had performed a solo in Dondero High School's annual "Pop Concert" from the past 3 decades or so. It was a 6 hour marathon of about 40 soloists from all over the country, ranging in experience from professional performers to people who hadn't performed since they graduated. Genres ranged from pop and rock tunes, to blues and contemporary folk, to flamenco guitar and a cappella doo-wop.

I could go on for hours explaining the Dondero Pop Concert, but if you haven't experienced it from either side of the mics, it's hard to explain. Here, however, is my reflection on the alumni replay and the great musician and educator that made it, and the last 39 years of Dondero's vocal department, possible...

(From an e-mail to the Alumni Replay e-mail list)

Okay, my life's pretty insane right now, so I haven't had the time to sit and put my thoughts down about the whole Replay thing until now. Besides, I knew I probably couldn't add much to the adulation showered upon Mr. Hartsoe, Jan, and the whole experience that wouldn't be touched on by most everyone else who participated in or saw the Replay concert.

My sentiments pretty much reflect everything I've heard thus far, so I'll simply reiterate the basics: memories, thrills, awe, and above all utmost respect for Rick & Jan. Little more need or can be said about these two miraculously matched musicians and educators. Individually, they are as perfectly suited for their vocations as anyone possibly could be and as inspirational as any personal heroes I have ever had, but together, they make the most dynamic team of passionate, skilled, and motivated educators as has ever been experienced by any music student as I have ever heard of.

As for my personal spin not yet expounded upon, I have to say I was truly humbled by the amount of talent to come out of Dondero's music program. From the professional musicians who perform for a living (or as close to that as performing musicians can get), to the weekend warriors who perform for their own personal fulfillment (pretty much where I sit), to those who hadn't picked up an axe or dusted off their vocal chords in years, it all seemed to click and fit as comfortably as a favorite pair of broken in jeans (or leather pants, as the case may be). Everyone found their niche and strengths, and showed what they have learned and can do thanks to the firm, yet comfortable foundation they were given in music by the district, life, and most importantly, Mr. Hartsoe.

It was fantastic so see so many friends and face I haven't even thought of in years. Given the immense diversity of age and graduating class, it was remarkable to me that everyone connected immediately because we all have the common thread: a sheer adoration of music inspired by this great man. It didn't matter the genre - vocal, instrumental, jazz, pop, rock, classical, even flamenco and doo-wop - we all were exposed to all of these as branches of the same remarkable tree, none any more or less valid or awe inspiring than the other.

Before I get to profound or long-winded. Thank you, Rick. You, too, Jan. Thank you for the music.

Paul D. Keiser
Class of 1992
Bass - A cappella Choir, Musical Minority, The Four Beauregards
Tenor - Gentleman Songsters Barbershop Chorus
Coda Honor Barbershop Quartet

Friday, March 3, 2006

...I just wanna TEACH! (Repost from Myspace)

I hate school, I hate bureaucracy, I hate bullshit...I just wanna teach!

Why is that so hard to do?! I am a good teacher. I have a passion for my subject, I know my subject, I relate well to youngsters, I am NEVER insulting, I don't yell, I ALWAYS encourage... Why must the educational system be so mired nowadays in political crap?

I was going to write a huge commentary on the state of over-sensitivity in this country and how the stifling of good teachers leads to boring and sub-par education by relating my recent experience in my pre-student teaching. However, that could take more pages than anyone reading a blog would ever care to read, so I'll try to stay on point and not rant too much.

I was inspired to teach by the most off-the-wall educators in my scholastic career. The ones who made the funny faces, made the occasional off-color (not lewd or offensive) joke, and made the subject fun. Stu Cook (social studies), Rick Hartsoe (vocal), Mr. Rasper (6th grade), Pete Phalen (math), were all professional heroes of mine. I can only think of one "straight-laced" teacher that inspired me: Richard Perkins, and that was because he knew his subject and largely because it was a subject that I already loved.

I didn't love U.S. Military History, Counting and Clapping tests, research reports on Australia, or algebra quizes, but those teachers kept me attentive and involved in class by their use of humor and genuine love of their subject.

My point is this: if we continue to restrict and stifle our teachers, be it with unreasonable and overly sensitive reaction to their teaching style or with rigid, formulaic, and overly "standardized" testing methods, we will end up with a nation that cannot think critically and is creatively, emotionally and spiritually dead.

Be kind to your children's teachers. Treat them with respect. Yes, there are bad teachers - God knows I've had a few - but they see your kids likely more than you do! What is needed is communication, not accusation; critical and creative thinkers, not numeric results; well-rounded and complete individuals, not testing machines and soulless automatons.

All in all, they're NOT just another brick in the wall...