One of my new favorite authors, Joshua Gibbs, wrote somewhere (I wish I could remember where) about how the purpose of each stage of life is to prepare for the next. I remember that Gibbs was writing about high school and teenagers, so he was also saying it another way: enjoying the present moment is... Continue Reading →

Ndikokele Bawo

Last week, I sprang a performance on my students. More than that ... I taught them a completely new song ... a cappella ... in Xhosa ... the day before they had to sing it ... for the whole middle and high school. I'm not sharing this because I'm proud of this last-minute approach to... Continue Reading →

The Wrong Way to be Right

The two girls could not look at each other anymore.  Their faces were flushed and their eyes full of angry tears.  One stood facing me with her arms crossed and foot thrust forward.  The other stood with slumped shoulders, clutching her elbow and shifting her weight side to side as she looked through the window... Continue Reading →

Three countries in six weeks

The new year blew in with rapid-fire change, and it was March before I was home long enough to absorb it all. Within two weeks of getting back from New Zealand, I headed to Zimbabwe for a music festival with four of my band students.  When we got back from Harare, we had a day... Continue Reading →

Music, Love, and Making a Difference

How do you teach a thing, knowing that you will not truly succeed unless something much deeper comes with it?  How do you illuminate joy?  How do you communicate the meaning of necessary love?  And how do you show that, like it or not, we each make a difference? _______________________________ I kept glancing anxiously at... Continue Reading →

Kids say the darndest things

Even the big ones. [Scene: IB Music class.  Me sitting at a table with seven 17- and 18-year-olds.  Textbooks are open and we are discussing the music of Europe from the Middle Ages until about 1750.] Andy: If you could have lived in a time period other than now, just to see what it was... Continue Reading →

What we bring

"Hello Ms. Lillis."  Grigor was, as usual, first to arrive in my choir room.  Slightly out of breath from the stairs, he paced awkwardly in front of me - body parallel to the desk but eyes fixed on me.  Without a break in my typing, I glanced up from my computer and smiled.  "Hi Grigor." ... Continue Reading →

Oh for a man who will sing!

Peacocks do it.  We know almost all of the bird cousins do, but so do monkeys, whales, wolves, frogs, bats ... and it's the males that do it best.  So what's up with humans?  Or to be more specific: modern, western-culturalized human males?  Why is it so common to hear men say "I can't carry... Continue Reading →

Jedi Powers

First day of my high-school physics class (sometime in the 90s): The perky redhead teacher at the front of the room looked at us with shining eyes and a bright smile. On the counter in front of her, she had a stack of strange objects. “You’ve been divided into groups. In just a minute, you... Continue Reading →

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