Walk My World: A Musical Turning Point

turning point

I’ve been in and out of the Walk My World Project a bit this year, following when I can and adding when I find time and inspiration. The most recent Learning Event for Walk My World has participants exploring “turning points” in their life — a time when that metaphorical fork was there and you made a choice (or had a choice a made for you).

I suppose Life is made up of these Turning Points, and all the “what ifs” that come with reflecting back. I chose a strange period in my life when the music in me went mostly silent. I had been playing my saxophone and guitar since childhood and teen years, but in my mid-20s, I packed them away.

That was for about 10 years.

I could probably point to all sorts of reasons, from the relationship I was in at the time, to the cramped apartment I was living in, to the confusion about the present and the future, to …. maybe I was just tired of music at that point. Maybe all of the above, with a little swirling action to stir the mix.

What changed that — what became my turning point — was a chance lunch. A colleague at the newspaper where I was working as a journalist was leaving the office to become a self-employed editor, and before he left, I suggested we have lunch. On the day of our lunch, he wasn’t feeling great, but he invited me to his house for coffee. I agreed, and we were hanging out when he brought me up to his “office” in the attic.

There, beyond his office area, was an attic full of musical instruments: guitars, bass, keyboard, amplifiers, drums. It was the outline of a band, and it turns out (unknown to either of us) that he was not only a musician, but he was also in the midst of starting a new band. When he found out I once played saxophone, he asked if I wanted to jam.

The rest is history … I did jam and he and I and the drummer have now been playing in various bands for nearly 20 years (we’re in the midst of reforming yet another new band right now as our Duke Rushmore band fell apart last year).

I am grateful for that particularly turning point, because it reminded me of what I loved about making music, and about writing songs, and about playing my saxophone, and about life, too, being more than work and family (though, of course, that is very important) and about having something just of your own.

I’ll never be a professional musician — I not good enough nor am I dedicated enough, and I have long been at peace with that — but I can’t imagine life without it, either. It’s odd now to think of that ten year gap — as if it were another false life being lived at the time, as if I didn’t know who I was or what I was doing.

Peace (in the Muse),
Kevin

Walk My World: Considering Culture and Making Change

I am dipping in a bit to this year’s Walk My World project. As always, Greg and Ian and company are encouraging people to think of identity of Self, and the connections to the Larger World. One of the early prompts has to do with thinking of Culture, and how we reflect the Culture we have inhabited.

I’ve been thinking a lot over time about my own privileged role as a White Man from the Middle Class teaching mostly White Boys and Girls from an insular White Suburban Community. (All those capital letters make what I wrote look strange and sort of gibberish.) Listening to Macklemore, and thinking of the controversy the year he and Ryan Lewis won the Grammy as white rappers, is giving some focus.

But I don’t have answers. Only questions.

Recently, I was in the audience of an event for Martin Luther King Day, at a local church in our small progressive city (Smith College sits at the center), and the guest speakers included college representatives of the Black Lives Matter movement. I glanced around the audience and saw mostly White Faces. The moderator of the panel was a white college representative, who dominated the discussion in an attempt to put the movement into some cultural context. I just wanted to hear the young organizers talk.

The raising of a Black Lives Matter banner sign on City Hall after that same MLK event continues to cause support and dissent and ripples and indignation in our community, as much for defending and criticizing the movement as for using City Hall as a backdrop for political statements. We’ve had our share of newspaper articles about the flying of the Confederate Flag in local communities, too. Not even our liberal Western Massachusetts is immune to the ways of the world.

I know I grew up privileged, even though we were by no means wealthy and even though I suspect my parents struggled at times (and kept it hidden from us kids) to keep us in the town they chose to raise a family (coming from New York City to do so). In fact, when I signed up as an infantry soldier in the National Guard, it was the first time I spent any extended time with people of other races, mostly Black soldiers, and most of them were from a deep urban setting that I had little understanding of. Until then, I was blind to the ways of the world. Now I was the lone white man in a platoon of black men. Mostly, I kept quiet and tried to learn from them about the world I did not know. It was a culture shock, but one I am very grateful for. It taught me lessons about life.

And it is in life that we make change, right?

As part of the Western Massachusetts Writing Project, we make it part of our Mission Statement to focus on Social Justice themes and to find ways to work with school districts in urban and rural centers that often are left out of things due to socio-economic issues. Race and access and equity issues remain on the forefront of many of our decisions of programming.

The mission of the Western Massachusetts Writing Project, a local site of the National Writing Project, is to create a professional community where teachers and other educators feel welcomed to come together to deepen individual and collective experiences as writers and our understanding of teaching and learning in order to challenge and transform our practice. Our aim is to improve learning in our schools — urban, rural and suburban.

Professional development provided by the Western Massachusetts Writing Project values reflection and inquiry and is built on teacher knowledge, expertise, and leadership.

Central to our mission is the development of programs and opportunities that are accessible and relevant to teachers, students, and their families from diverse backgrounds, paying attention to issues of race, gender, language, class and culture and how these are linked to teaching and learning.

wmwp mission statement wordle

I won’t deny that where I come from — the World Where I Have Walked — has opened up doors because of the color of my skin (white), my gender (male), and the place where I grew up (suburban Connecticut), and other factors that I was born into. But I can try to make a difference for the young people whose lives I can impact in my own classroom as teacher or in other classrooms as profession development leader. I can lay the foundation for tolerance in the hearts of my boys.

We can all make a difference. We just need to try.

Peace (be it so),
Kevin

 

A #Walkmyworld Denoument/Digital Portfolio

Walk My World Curated Links

For the past several weeks, I have been intermittently involved with the Walk My World project, which is a series of learning events designed around reflective practice on the themes of identity, composing with digital media and connected learning. It’s been a blast, and I appreciate the work and support that Ian and Greg (in particular) do to invite people in and keep them active in the Walk My World spaces. I’ve mostly tinkered around in the #walkmyworld hashtag.

And now, as we near the end, we are asked to consider pulling together our various “makes” and reflections into a single digital portfolio. Some folks are using Storify, which I used last year, but I wanted to keep trying out the Diigo Outliner tool and dig into something new. It’s merely an online collection of links and notes, organized in an outline format, which can be shared out.

Check out my Walk My World digital portfolio, organized by Learning Events and assorted categories.

On one hand, I like the organization of this Diigo tool. On the other hand, it seems rather bland as an experience. I’m feeling mixed about it, particularly when you consider how best to share a range of digital media projects. In many ways, if I were doing this right, I would create a website, linking and embedding media right into the experience of the reader (that would be you). With this tool, you need to follow my links out, moving into different spaces to experience what I made.

That’s not good design.

But it’s what I have for now.

Peace (in the walk),
Kevin

Walking Portfolio for #Walkmyworld

I know there are a few more learning events for Walk My World (including the last one around heroic myths and the current one around the Story of Us) but I had pulled together a sort of digital portfolio via ThingLink as a way to capture the projects I had been doing since the start. I like using the visual, with links, although it does not leave room for post-project reflections without cluttering up the page.

Oh well. I am also keeping a Diigo Outline that I can share out another time. That might give me more reflective room to write. For now, I hope you enjoy a walk through my work and tinkering.

Wondering what Walk My World is?

The #WalkMyWorld Project is a social media project in which we share and connect online at Twitter using one hashtag. Groups of learners across the globe are connecting and sharing for 10 weeks using the #WalkMyWorld hashtag. — from https://sites.google.com/site/walkmyworldproject/home 

Peace (in the composition),
Kevin

A Video Mirror Poem for Two Voices

I don’t know if this worked as I wanted it to work … but I was playing with the theme of mirrors for Walk My World and wanted to write a short Poem for Two Voices, performed as a video mirror.

Here’s how I did it:

  • I wrote the poem (well, yeah). I was working on the continued theme of identity.
  • I set up my iPad video and recorded me reading the first side of the poem, with my head turned. I had some trouble reading, and finding the red “record” button. It took quite a few tries.
  • Then, I reversed myself, and read the second part of the poem. Again, red button trouble. But even more difficult was the pacing of saying the words of the poem. This second part took quite some time, as I kept stumbling into the words of the first part. I never got it perfect. Just close enough.
  • I used an app called PicPlayPost to create the video collage. I like this app for projects like this, as it allows you to mesh video and images. Here, I wanted  a simple view: the mirrored self, reading a poem together. The line down the middle of the collage worked nicely for this.
  • I posted right from the app to YouTube.

Peace (in the poem),
Kevin

Playing with Mirrors/Palindrome Poems

The Learning Event for Walk My World this week has been “mirrors” and it had me remembering the concept of the mirror/palindrome poems, where the poem reads the same backwards and forwards. I’ve been trying my hand at them a bit.

First, I tried poems about writing and music. A key element for these poems is the use of punctuation to create pauses one way that don’t exist the other way, and the center line as a bridge between the sections.

Two Mirror Poems

Then, yesterday, I had this idea of taking the mirror image even further. I used an online site that will remix text, allowing you to create text written forward and render it backwards. I also wondered how it would sound, so I used another site that allows you to record your voice and then turns the audio in reverse.

Here is my Winter Mirror, Forward poem:
Winter Mirror, Forwards


Voice Recorder >>

Here is my Winter Mirror, Backward poem:
Winter Mirror, Backwards


Record audio or upload mp3 >>

And yes, I am sick of winter …

Peace (in the mirror),
Kevin

Of Dreams and Songs and Childhood

Dreamcatcher

The theme of the recent Walk My World Learning Event is “dreams.” I don’t often remember my sleep dreams at night. But thinking about the theme of dreams had me remembering this: my very first song that I ever recorded. I was in my teens, and my friend and I had a cheap two-track recorder and a little Casio keyboard, plus a guitar (we used it for bass, too, if I remember correctly). We had to keep combining tracks and layering them over one another. It was very complicated. (Today, Audacity or Garageband offers easier options but you don’t have to think about it as much, either.)

The song’s title and theme? Follow that Dream.

It’s a little embarrassing to hear it now on the Interwebz, and to share it out, but it is a bit of a memory road trip, too. I was just beginning to write songs — this may have been the first or second song that I ever wrote in a complete form and shared with my childhood friend, a drummer. You can tell by the words that I was moving from teenage poetry into songwriting. I had just taught myself how to play guitar, too, as I am a saxophone player. We recorded Follow That Dream as a lark, to see if we could do it, and then realized that we both liked the recording process, tinkering with sounds, and spent the rest of the summer making songs. (Although everything is so tinny in those sessions, because we had these little cheap Radio Shack microphones and the two-track recorder.)

Dreams #walkmyworld

Peace (in the dream),
Kevin

A #Walkmyworld Blog Tribute Remix

I don’t know if can keep it up but I am trying to do a Zeega-a-day before the site closes up to the world on making new Zeegas. Yesterday, Ian O’Byrne posted a wonderful blog post, reflecting on the latest Learning Event for Walk My World that had to do with totems and identity. I remixed Ian (who facilitates Walk my World with Greg) by taking some of his insights and moving them into a remix Zeega.

Peace (inside the media),
Kevin