I watch my students grapple with these issues plus ones of identity politics, racial discrimination, economic disparity, studying for jobs that are disappearing and not being trained for the new ones that are being created - these students are, mostly, freshmen, and they realize early in their first semester, college or, honestly (in most cases), being away from home for the first time is both frightening and liberating as well as the first real opportunity to stretch and become themselves. They hate to make mistakes even though that's how most of us learn what's important. They respect their teachers but much of the respect is tinged with fear - "what if I get less than an A in this class?" When they read the goals and essential learning outcomes of the First Year Seminar program that I teach/facilitate, they don't quite realize every assumption they have, every "fact" they have held dear for 18, 19, or 20 years, can and should be held under the microscope. It's uncomfortable for them. Only by showing my discomfort that their teacher, a full five decades older than they are, struggled with these issues when I was their age, and continue to struggles with certain issues to this day, that they begin to understand what a class on Critical Thinking and Inquiry is truly concerned with.
My students may not be able to put into words that some of them are scared of the lack of compassion towards their fellow man that see on their electronic devices every day and, sadly, on campuses and in governmental capitals in this country and elsewhere. They want success, happiness, a lifetime of good health, of sunny days and starry nights. They need to believe that there is someone who will clean up the air and the oceans, stop wars, cure diseases, and make the streets safe in every town and city. I tell them those people already exist in this world and there are people in this very classroom who will join them. Because, if we are not here on Earth to make life better, then why are we here? Yep, that old 60's radical-on-the-sidelines part of me slips right out. While I do not admit to them who I voted for or my political affiliation, I do say that "we are in this together". Easy to say but I mean it. One of the paths to a better world is to understand where we all came from and how we got here. That's a life-long class in critical thinking and inquiry. To many of them, that class does not sound like fun and few believe me when I tell them it's part of what keeps me going when I could easily be swamped by "the news of the world." And I always say what my parents said to me - "You'll understand when you get older." Or maybe you won't.
To all of you in this imperfect yet often amazing world, enjoy the Holiday season!
|Photo: Desmond White|
"Silence" brings the album to a close, a soft coda with a powerful lullaby for a melody. The quartet is, at the beginning, careful with the melody while Wiesenberg's majestic bass lines over Stranahan's soft brushes. There's a hint of "freedom" in the trumpet-saxophone interaction but mostly they stick to the melody. It's a tender finish to a powerful album. "Why Not" stands out from 2018's bumper crop of new releases for the power of its message and its music. Kind Folk does not tour much, especially since each musician is busy as a leader and/or sideman - Colin Stranahan plays in John Raymond's Real Feels while Noam Wiesenberg has toured this year with Chano Dominguez and guitarist Yotam Silberstein plus his own groups. Alex LoRe plays with lots of people in he New York City but mostly with his own quartet. Find this album, then hope the group tours nears you so that you feel this music in a live setting.
For more information, go to www.kindfolkband.com.
Here's the delightful opening track:
There's not a dull track on the album, so let me just say that "Invisible Sounds: For Kenny Wheeler" is a delight from start to finish. Ingrid Jensen and Steve Treseler shine throughout as do Jon Wikan, Martin Wind (the foundation glue of the music), and Geoffrey Keezer (who is downright brilliant). No pale imitation here, this is real music!
Here's a track to enjoy:
Now about that live show in The Royal Room. NPR recorded for its "Jazz Night in America" series and you can watch it in its entirety below. Goes well with fresh Holiday food or the ubiquitous leftovers paired with a glass of good wine and/or craft beer!