Monday, February 18, 2008

Day 29 "In the trenches" (Back in the Saddle Again edition)

Back where we started...
Here we go 'round again.
Day after day I get up and say
I better Do It Again

[from the great Ray Davies]

'Cause this is what we do. TMEA is 24 hours over and it's time to get everybody (but mostly and 'specially the kiddos) back in the saddle--back in the head of realizing that they have a full-time day job, some of them for the first time ever, and that that job is not socializing, or making contacts, or making sure they get seen at the cool parties, or develop washboard abs so they can hook up on Spring Break (every year, the Student Rec Center is a madhouse from Jan 15 to March 15, as they try to do exactly that), or build elaborate facebook sites.

The job is to maximize the return on the investment of time (their own, minimally) and money (someone else's usually) that is a four-year college education. This is infinitely easier to do with most of our Music students, as opposed to the general population. Because the music kids, most of them, ever since junior high school, have had to work 2-5 hours/day, in addition to whatever studying for other courses, at a trade. And in music, as in few other college subjects, you can't skimp the time, because that skimped time shows up in the teacher's studio. The closest analog to the kind of self-discipline most high-school music students develop is that developed by high-school athletes, but with two crucial differences:

typically, high-school athletes have massive, extensive, and very attentive adult support staffs and infrastructures, specifically designed to guarantee that they make the minimal 2.5 GPA that keeps them on the team and scoring the touchdowns that make the boosters happy and keep the coaches employed and keep buying the plane tickets and bus rentals and uniforms and state-of-the-art football stadia--so there's almost no way for a high-performing high-school athlete to do poorly academically (music students have to do this on their own, without the adult minders),


that, typically, high-school athletes are treated with a level of toxic adulation that is almost guaranteed to turn them into walking pillars of egomania before they're eighteen. High-school athletes, make no mistake, work their asses off, and often get their asses kicked, and play in pain, and forgo a lot--but at the same time, the huge amounts of cash and prestige to be earned through high-school athletics mean that those same players are, typically, exempted from going through most of the experiences that actually turn adolescents into adults: taking responsibility, earning a living, balancing a checkbook, being "unpopular" (a bullshit chimera if ever there was one), trying to define their own future plans. H.C. Bissinger's masterful Friday Night Lights is still the best treatment of the bizarre distortion and (too frequent) disappointment post-high-school to which these athletes are subjected. It's not their fault that they become walking pillars of egomania--who, subjected to this level of adolescent adulation, wouldn't grab it with both hands?

It's different with the music kids. Typically, they were not the most popular ones in high-school--what camaraderie they had, crucially, was with the other "band geeks" or choir kids or orchestra types--and they had to go through those excruciating experiences of outsiderness, self re-definition, or questioning-of-the-future that actually grow us all up and turn us into functional adults. The music kids--more than a large percentage of the general undergraduate population--already understand about effort, and discipline, and hard work, and delayed gratification in service of something bigger, more distant, or more ultimately satisfying.

Our kids showed that this week: they fuckin' ruled TMEA. Band, chorus, orchestra, chamber and studio groups, Children's Chorus, they ruled. Not only the Lubbotians, but many many other people, commented on the high visibility of the Lubbock people. I was proud of them.

Below: the magnificent video for Ray's equally magnificent song, which manages to use the London Tube as a link between yesterday and today; busking, Blackpool, and the Blitz; cowboys and commedia dell'arte. Ray's vision of what England someday could be is like Hunter Thompson's of America: "a testimonial to the greatest impulses of the human spirit, if it could be kept out of the hands of greasy little hustlers" like Tony Blair or pearls-and-twinset Nazis like Margaret Thatcher.

Below the jump: His Highness, curled up on the dirty laundry that just came out of the travel bags (pretty endearing, that), giving his best Darth Vader impersonation:

No comments: