Friday, June 04, 2010

From the "Adult Child" Perspective

Homeschooling, specifically "unschooling" has been in the news quite a bit lately, what with this story of Dominic Johansson, seized by Swedish authorities 10 months ago as his family was fleeing to a country where they could legally homeschool, and this segment on Good Morning America (with this rebuttal at The Huffington Post ). It has set me thinking quite a bit. I'm spread out on my dorm room floor, with my books, and my laptop, and my food (haha), writing a paper about the political, musical and philosophical idioms present in Beethoven's only opera, Fidelio and reflecting.

Tonight I sang in 90 voice choir with members of the Naples Philharmonic Orchestra. Last year, my professor told our chamber choir that we were all quite capable of singing in professional choirs, if we work. I can sing opera arias and Schubert lieder and complex polyphony. I can write in the style of Palestrina and Bach (though not well, yet) and can analyze the heck out of a Beethoven sonata.  It amazes me because this is a field that I never thought I'd ever "be good enough" in to study.

My mother took me out of the public school system after I finished 6th grade at age 12. At first, I was not really happy about it. And at first it was rather difficult for all parties to adjust, I think. But eventually we got the hang of it - or we at least pretended to.

My first formal exposure to music was when I began taking piano lessons at age 7ish. I also sang in the choir then, but I don't think I could call that formal. In the 5th grade I started playing clarinet in the school "band" which had a total of eight members in four grades, three of whom played sax. After we began homeschooling, there was a need for high school art credits and a we had a friend who wanted to start a children's chant group. For close to six years, we sang chant ordinaries, hymns, antiphons and early polyphonic pieces. This was probably my most... life-forming encounter with music. I love chant, but it wasn't with that that I fell in love. It was the polyphony. Palestrina? Victoria? I absolutely love them. Des Prez? So gorgeous. And intricate. And ... just amazing. My mother signed me up for a class at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Resource Center to take a theory class where I learned that I am actually capable of studying music. Every year for about 7 years I was able to go to a chant conference in Auburn, AL (or Roswell, GA or Ave Maria, FL)  run by the St. Cecilia Schola. It was there that I met Jeffrey Tucker, Arlene Oost-Zinner, Dr. William Mahrt, and Mr. Scott Turkington. They're kinda big shots in the Catholic Liturgical/ Sacred Music world. And that's kind of an understatement. (Who knew Alabama was such a hubbub of Catholic culture, eh?)

It was at the last conference held in Auburn that I learned that my fellowship application to start a Gregorian Schola at Southern Catholic College had been accepted. My first thought was "Holy crow. WHAT have I gotten myself into???" Mr. Turkington's were "That's absolutely wonderful!"  I was not so sure. He was. And I probably have him to thank that I didn't back out right then and there. He gave me books to help me out. He talked to me about strategies and plans during his free time. He also told me to check into to the three week chant practicum at Catholic U. So I did. And thanks to Fr. Robert Skeris I was able to go. To D.C. By myself. For three weeks. (It was really great. I did a lot of touristy things and met some awesome people and I also got to hear the National Symphony Orchestra twice; once they played the 1812 Overture WITH CANONS. Stevie Wonder, Michael Bolton and Vanessa Williams were also there. It was so great. But that's a different story.)

When I got to SCC, I had some skills (though I doubted them at the time), I had a plan, and, I had a schola. Eventually the schola developed into the first choir at Southern Catholic. When that happened, a group of five of us still continued to get together and sing. And then we were recruited to sing at a few events around Atlanta - fundraisers for the school and such. One  event was at an Atlanta hospital. There was a big gala/ reception thrown by the Serra Club for a group of sisters who played a big role in the comfort and care of patients at the hospital. It was a very interesting experience to sing this:  for a group of Sisters in cargo pants. (I have nothing at all against them. We just tend to have different views when it comes to musical taste.) It was interesting to see the reactions of people hearing a group of five random college students sing music like that.

Personally, I had a lot fun singing like that. It was challenging to learn new pieces, it was frightening to perform them. It was a blast. So I switched schools. I'm now in my (hopefully) final semester at Ave Maria University and in December, I will be certifiably Bad A$$ when I complete my Bachelor of Arts degree in vocal music with a concentration in Sacred Music. For the past two years I have sung with some of the most talented people I've ever met. I got into the chamber choir (20 students as opposed to AMU Choir which has 80). I have studied with some very learned professors and gained insight into every aspect of life that you could ever think imaginable and then some. I've developed a sense of self and of purpose. And why am I saying all this? Because I doubt that had I stayed in public schools, I would have gone on this journey. Maybe I would have. I can't really say. But having been "unschooled" I was able to focus on music in a way that probably would have been discouraged in my school. I say that because there had been other academic endeavors from which I had been discouraged. My school was not a bad school. It was just a systematic school; one which had no bend room for people who didn't really fit the system - like my sister who was reading at 9th grade reading level when she was 9. AR was fun for her. (not).

I think the biggest thing that I have learned is go for it. If you sit around thinking "I can't" - well- you won't. If you want something, it's up to you to make it happen. Some people would call it rash and stupid. I say life is an adventure and I am following the advice of Dr. Seuss:

Today is your day.
You're off to Great Places!
You're off and away!

You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself 
any direction you choose.
You're on your own. And you know what you know.
And YOU are the guy who'll decide where to go.

You'll look up and down streets. Look 'em over with care.
About some you will say, "I don't choose to go there."
With your head full of brains and your shoes full of feet, 
you're too smart to go down any not-so-good street.

And you may not find any
you'll want to go down.
In that case, of course,
you'll head straight out of town.

It's opener there
in the wide open air.

Out there things can happen
and frequently do
to people as brainy
and footsy as you.

And then things start to happen,
don't worry. Don't stew.
Just go right along.
You'll start happening too.


You'll be on y our way up!
You'll be seeing great sights!
You'll join the high fliers
who soar to high heights.

You won't lag behind, because you'll have the speed.
You'll pass the whole gang and you'll soon take the lead.
Wherever you fly, you'll be best of the best.
Wherever you go, you will top all the rest.

Except when you don't.
Because, sometimes, you won't.

I'm sorry to say so
but, sadly, it's true
that Bang-ups
and Hang-ups
can happen to you.

You can get all hung up
in a prickle-ly perch.
And your gang will fly on.
You'll be left in a Lurch.

You'll come down from the Lurch
with an unpleasant bump.
And the chances are, then,
that you'll be in a Slump.

And when you're in a Slump,
you're not in for much fun.
Un-slumping yourself
is not easily done.

You will come to a place where the streets are not marked.
Some windows are lighted. But mostly they're darked.
A place you could sprain both your elbow and chin!
Do you dare to stay out? Do you dare to go in?
How much can you lose? How much can you win?

And IF you go in, should you turn left or right...
or right-and-three-quarters? Or, maybe, not quite?
Or go around back and sneak in from behind?
Simple it's not, I'm afraid you will find,
for a mind-maker-upper to make up his mind.

You can get so confused
that you'll start in to race
down long wiggled roads at a break-necking pace
and grind on for miles cross weirdish wild space,
headed, I fear, toward a most useless place.
The Waiting Place...

...for people just waiting.
Waiting for a train to go
or a bus to come, or a plane to go
or the mail to come, or the rain to go
or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow
or the waiting around for a Yes or No
or waiting for their hair to grow.
Everyone is just waiting.

Waiting for the fish to bite
or waiting for the wind to fly a kite
or waiting around for Friday night
or waiting, perhaps, for their Uncle Jake
or a pot to boil, or a Better Break
or a string of pearls, or a pair of pants
or a wig with curls, or Another Chance.
Everyone is just waiting.

That's not for you!

Somehow you'll escape
all that waiting and staying
You'll find the bright places
where Boom Bands are playing.

With banner flip-flapping,
once more you'll ride high!
Ready for anything under the sky.
Ready because you're that kind of a guy!

Oh, the places you'll go! There is fun to be done!
There are points to be scored. There are games to be won.
And the magical things you can do with that ball
will make you the winning-est winner of all.
Fame! You'll be as famous as famous can be,
with the whole wide world watching you win on TV.

Except when they don't
Because, sometimes they won't.

I'm afraid that some times
you'll play lonely games too.
Games you can't win
'cause you'll play against you.

All Alone!
Whether you like it or not,
Alone will be something
you'll be quite a lot.

And when you're alone, there's a very good chance
you'll meet things that scare you right out of your pants.
There are some, down the road between hither and yon,
that can scare you so much you won't want to go on.

But on you will go
though the weather be foul.
On you will go
though your enemies prowl.
On you will go
though the Hakken-Kraks howl.
Onward up many
a frightening creek,
though your arms may get sore
and your sneakers may leak.

On and on you will hike,
And I know you'll hike far
and face up to your problems
whatever they are.

You'll get mixed up, of course,
as you already know.
You'll get mixed up 
with many strange birds as you go.
So be sure when you step.
Step with care and great tact
and remember that Life's 
a Great Balancing Act.
Just never foget to be dexterous and deft.
And never mix up your right foot with your left.

And will you succeed?
Yes! You will, indeed!
(98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed.)


be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray
or Mordecai Ali Van Allen O'Shea,
You're off the Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting.

So...get on your way!

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