or, why I love facebook
As a student in high school, I was deeply involved in the Arts - music, choir, theater, dance. Our high school had such an excellent program that it became the district magnet for all these, plus multiple bands. Our leader, Mr. Paul Yonemura, poured himself into the program, into the kids, and into the music. This led to award-winning results, but even more importantly, it led to kids who felt connected to each other and to their high school. The band room was a safe place. Music classes were challenging and there were high expectations. You had to be on your game, in the flow. You were just as proud of being in the band as you were to be on the football team, or on the honor roll. There were no cruel cliques in music - just you and your schoolmates of all ages making music. Together.
We are the Gauchos - YEAH - and we are proud - YEAH - that's why we yell - YEAH - so very LOUD!!
How many of you feel discouraged about the world, about the future? Raise your hand, I know you're out there. I know I sure do. Maintaining hope and optimism sometimes takes effort on my part, especially with bad news everywhere, including at my old high school. The once proud and mighty high school music program has become, 20 years later, a struggling one. The instruments are ancient, the sheet music desperately needs to be replaced, and the program underfunded. Like most schools, there is money for academics, but not for Arts. Administrators back the programs that mean something to them, and recent principals have focused the limited resources elsewhere.
People forget that there's more to music programs than music. It's about discipline, and practice, and working together, and making goals, and falling short, and more practice, and finally reaching your goals. It's about feeling a part of something bigger than yourself, about belonging (especially if you are a little odd and don't feel like you belong anywhere else). It's about what you bring, not what you look like, what gender you are, whether you have a perfect body, whether you dress in certain clothes, where you go to church, who you're attracted to. It's about being responsible to yourself and to others and to your leader. It's about commitment and sacrifice. How many of these experiences get taught in a classroom?
And then there's this interesting little social phenomenon called facebook. This remarkable networking system has brought Gauchos from all over back in touch with each other. And one day, a band member posted a picture from an award-winning year. Instantly the memories rushed in, the postings about who was who, and where they were now, and "do you remember..." And someone had a brilliant idea to form a reunion band to raise money for the current program. (You can see more details here.) And this is why I love facebook. For me it's not about how many friends I can collect, or how many ways I can share my opinion, or brag about my life, or discuss the minutiae of an often mudane existence. It's because it is connecting me in a real way with people from my past with whom I lost touch. People who I would never have been able to find again in traditional reunions, because they were not in my graduating class. And facebook is what helped me learn about this event, since I no longer live in my high school hometown.
The concert was yesterday. It was fabulous! There were alumni from the '60's, '70's, '80's. I saw so many old friends and past teachers. The event raised close to $30,000. Inspiration and everyday heroes and hope for the future. 40 alumni, coming from all over the world (even a past exchange student from Norway returned for this event!), spending their own money and time to get here, to raise money and awareness. What does that tell you about the importance of music, and Mr. Y, and their experiences in the music program? These are all regular people, putting their talents and time towards a common goal. These everyday heroes are not rich, not philanthropists, and not in it for the glory. They saw a need and they worked to help. Inspiration. Everyday heroes.
The band and its supporters met for drinks at a local pub after the concert. Standing outside the pub on the corner, you could hear the sounds of people re-connecting, sharing memories, having a good time. The door opens, and as Mr. Y walks in, a cheer goes up that carries for two blocks.
It's an ovation that will last a lifetime.