Sometimes You Break A Clarinet

Aaron's Blog

How Children Succeed

Written by Aaron ⋅ Published on Wednesday, 15th May, 2013

While in New York in February, a group of us in the Arts Education program visited New Design High School. The principal of New Design, Scott Conti, welcomed us when we arrived; his passion for education and commitment to the success of his students is inspirational. He recommended we read How Children Succeed by Paul Tough.

I finished reading How Children Succeed last night and loved it. Paul writes with a good mix of anecdotes from schools he visited and psychological research from a variety of sources. I think anyone with an interest in education would gain something from reading this book.

The main point I took away is the value of character strengths for student’s success in both school and adulthood. The character strengths Paul Tough is referring to are a set of skills that help student’s succeed in life; skills like zest, self-control, gratitude, curiosity, optimism, resourcefulness, resilience and integrity. Paul Tough explains that these character strengths aren’t fixed, they’re mailable and building skills like resilience enable students to be more successful in life.

The below TVO interview by Allan Gregg provides a good overview of Paul Tough’s book.

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Lily Ockwell Changed My Life

Written by Aaron ⋅ Published on Friday, 5th April, 2013

In the weeks since returning from New York, Sleep No More has continued to echo in my mind. Based on Macbeth with a film noir twist, Sleep No More is an immersive theatre and dance experience by Punchdrunk and presented by Emursive. I loved every moment and hope to go again.

When you arrive at Sleep No More you are given a playing card at coat check and told to continue on down a hallway, almost void of light. Soon enough you arrive at the Manderley Bar, dimly lit and reminiscent of jazz venues like Birdland. When your card is called, you’re lead to another room with those holding the same card and given identical white masks. Here you are told not to speak from this point onward, that anonymity is vital. Should things become too much, you are instructed to seek out someone in a black mask and they will lead you back to the bar. Next you’re lead into an elevator; as it rose we were told fortune would favor the bold. The elevator stops on several floors, only a few people are allowed off on each floor. Once you step off the elevator, what you do next is up to you. There is no back stage or intermission, the artists are in character for the duration of the performance. As you move into the world created in Sleep No More, you might forget you’re watching something that is staged.

Once off the elevator, I began to explore the dimly lit hotel; reading notes, opening drawers, peeking at mirrors that had been turned to face the wall. I was in a small sitting room when a scream came from one of the hallways; in danced Lady Macduff, played by Lily Ockwell. The surreal beauty of Lilly Ockwell’s performance, the seamless flow of dance and acting held my attention completely. I might have explored more of the hotel or followed other characters but I chose to stay with Lady Macduff; this involved a lot of running, being locked with her in a small closet sized room, and ended with her kiss on my cheek.

What I mean by “Lily Ockwell changed my life” is, seeing her performance as Lady Macduff in Sleep No More made me realize I need to sort out my priorities. I’d ignored this for a while but, as my twenties progressed, my life began to feel lackluster and unmotivated. The dedication of everyone involved with Sleep No More inspires me to do more with my life. I want to make good art and see more of the world. I want to have more amazing experiences like Sleep No More. I want to motivate students and be amazed with what they create. I want to live deliberately.

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The Rooftop Graffiti at New Design

Written by Aaron ⋅ Published on Wednesday, 3rd April, 2013

In February, I spent a week in New York as part of the Arts Education B.Ed. program. One of the many highlights for me was the tour of New Design High School, lead by two students in their senior year. The incorporation of design and art happening at this school is inspirational. Our tour ended by sneaking up to the roof, which is covered in some of the most beautiful graffiti I’ve ever seen. Below are some of my favourites.

That last photograph shows three of the spots that have been painted white to make way for new artwork. Being up on that roof was amazing and reminded me of the Graffiti episode of MTV’s Downtown; Matt lets Fruity and Chaka tag along when he goes down into the subway tunnels of New York to paint. The rooftop space at New Design is available to book for events, very cool.

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The Broken Clarinet

Written by Aaron ⋅ Published on Saturday, 2nd March, 2013

Sometime around dawn the day after I graduated from high school, I stepped onto a bus and left to play clarinet in a marching band for three weeks. Stops on the tour included Oregon, Chicago and Detroit. We slept on air mattresses in school gymnasiums. We played in competitions and parades, occasionally with rain soaking through our uniforms as thunder informed us more lightening was not far away. It was amazing.

I played clarinet, bass clarinet and tenor sax throughout high school so I was confident playing in wind ensembles and jazz bands but marching band was different. Marching band was a challenge. Marching band was something I’d never actually considered doing. The thing about marching band is knowing how to play an instrument doesn’t cut it, you need to be coordinated enough to move all over a football field in a choreographed sequence while you play in tune and on the beat. Fun times.

The high school I went to didn’t have a marching band and I don’t know of any high schools in Canada that do. How I came to be in a marching band is, a few of my high school friends played in the Regina Lions marching band; three weeks before their summer tour, they mentioned the band needed another clarinet and I volunteered. Memorizing all the music and choreography in three weeks wasn’t an easy task but I worked hard and refused to give up. When I think back now, I still think it was a great way to end high school.

On days when we didn’t perform in a competition or parade, we’d practice. For hours. In the sun or rain. Occasionally on fields that clearly didn’t get a lot of funding for upkeep. One morning on my way out to practice, I stumbled over something in the tall grass. It was not a pok√©mon. Every muscle in my body froze. I looked down. The thing I’d stumbled over was one of the other players clarinets. Her clarinet was now severed in two. Of course clarinet’s are designed to come apart in a certain way but this really really wasn’t it. There had been this snap; it wasn’t an overly loud sound but it was enough to thoroughly drain the blood from my face.

After first going ballistic, the girl smiled then told me her clarinet had broken in the same place before and she knew how to fix it so I shouldn’t feel bad. I felt horrible anyway. At lunch I felt like nobody would sit with me and I might have been content to become invisible but I kept going. Slowly that day went on, the tour gradually continued to be amazing but I’ll always remember the day I learned sometimes life goes how you expect and sometimes you break a clarinet.

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