Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Music as a Healing Force

“Music is the healing force of the universe.”
             Jazz musician Sun Ra  

   For the vast majority of my teaching career I was fortunate to work in places that made space for the individual student and valued relationships between students and teachers. That meant that for each student faculty had to write end- of-the-marking period narrative reports about them: how they thought, how they worked, their strengths, challenges, etc. We did not just fill in check boxes; we had to write paragraphs about each student. That meant, of course, that I had to know each student and how s/he thought. I needed to know their strengths, interests, and challenges. Yes, it was time consuming, and yes, and it could be hard to put things into words. But I valued doing it, and it undoubtedly made me a better teacher.

  I am thinking about that now because one of the things that helped me through all that report writing was music. I would need motivation to do all of the writing, and playing records, and later cassettes, and then CD’s and then computer playlists was a key part of my process. I needed energy. I needed to not be overwhelmed when writing the reports. I needed my mind to be in a positive place. The playlists helped with that. And as we move into month 6 of the COVID realities, I need that same positivity to keep me balanced and moving forward with what I want and need to do. So I have been listening to some of my old computer playlists again, and it has been absolutely delightful. I have been lifted up and restored as I have re-discovered some artists I have not listened to in a good long while. As Ra said, “Music is the healing force…”

Some of the musicians I have on those playlists would not surprise those of you who know me. There is some Muddy Waters, some James Brown, some Duke Ellington, some Aretha Franklin, Paul Butterfield, and plenty of Taj Mahal. There is some T-Bone Walker, Otis Redding, Otis Rush, Charlie Musselwhite, Geoff Muldaur, Miles Davis, Billie Holliday, saxophonists Wayne Shorter and John Coltrane, Charles Mingus, The Band, Sam and Dave, The Four Tops, the Temptations, Bonnie Raitt, and of course, some Dukes of Destiny.

There are some choices that might surprise some of you: Edith Piaf, Johnny Cash, Judy Collins, Buffalo Springfield, Asleep at the Wheel, Erik Sate, Richard and Mimi Farina, The Chieftains, The Byrds, Pete Seeger, Jefferson Berry, Tracy   Chapman, Sweet Honey in the Rock, Patsy Cline, and Willie Nelson. One of the best parts of this recent “musical archaeology” has been the re-discovery of a number of wonderful Canadian artists I had become aware of from attending the Limestone City Blues Festival in Kingston, Ontario for some 20 years. Dawn Tyler Watson is one of my all- time favorite singers and performers. The Ax Man and the Harpoonist are great musicians and straight up fun. Diana Krall is one of the most sultry jazz stylists and pianists. And Paul Reddick is flat-out one of the most imaginative songwriters, arrangers, harmonica players, and performers I have ever heard. From his first appearances with his old band, The Sidemen, up to the various incarnations his recorded music has taken since then, he has always amazed me. As we rarely hear Canadian blues in the US, it is good to have these folks and others back in my consciousness.

 I can’t believe that I had somehow let all of this incredible collection of music get away from me.  It was like turning away from something that had been an incredibly helpful and important part of my life for years. But these sounds are back in my life now, and they are again playing a key role in my life. They keep me energized. They help keep me inspired. They help keep me balanced. When I am sending handwritten post cards to registered voters to ask them to vote; when I am calling some legislators’ office to give my opinion about some policy; when I am sighing deeply at the news of coronavirus infections and deaths; when I am witnessing news coverage of some new outrage, and when I am almost overwhelmed  by the multitude of problems on display and facing our culture, these sounds are there and they help keep me going. Keep me smiling. Keep me hopeful. Keep me committed. I think of the late John Lewis and Reverend CT Vivian and all the “good trouble” they got into. The music was there-always there. The Civil Rights Movement; the Anti Viet Nam War Movement; the Labor Movement-all social justice battles had music deep at their core. Keeping spirits up, setting the rhythm as they marched, uniting people, and promoting hope for a brighter future.  We need that now as much as we needed it then. Music as motivator. Music as solace. Music as comfort. Music, indeed, as a healing force of the universe. It is good to reunite with these sounds.
(Each of the musicians mentioned above has their own presence on the web with web pages and YouTube videos. If there is someone mentioned with whom you are not familiar, you can find them there. Enjoy!)
CENSUS 2020 The census helps the Federal government decide on things such as voting districts, grants for Federal aid, transportation and highway funds, and a hell of a lot more. It is one of the ways our tax dollars get to come back to us in our own areas, and as COVID makes abundantly clear, we need our tax dollars to work for us. It is essential that as accurate a count as possible is taken, particularly when the the door to door census is on hold. Our online completions are even more important now than ever before. Please go to the website: https://2020census.gov/en.html
Johnny Never and John Colgan-Davis will be playing acoustic blues on Saturday, August 29  at the Cosmic Café, a wonderful little outdoor café at 1 Boathouse Row behind the Art Museum. Sets are from 3PM-6PM. Masks are required and tables are separated. Great food and beverages. No cover, but tips are appreciated

  The recent upticks in local COVID infections means that the Dukes are going to lay low until December at the earliest. Hopefully treatments and/or a COVID vaccine can be developed, tested and distributed by then, but we are not doing any live gigs for now. It is simply too risky. We want to thank all of our fans and friends-playing for you is an absolute joy and the reason we do what we do. We are looking forward to a time when we can safely do it live again. Stay safe, be careful and be well.
Missing Dukes Sounds?

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