Day 1: My first performance of the 365 Days of Performance was, of course, to my wife. I sang her the song I wrote for her, and that we sang to each other at our wedding. Even though I wrote the lyrics and music, I still couldn’t remember them all the way through without messing up. After the performance, I promised her that the last day of the series, I’d sing it to her again after having practiced it for a year. Maybe I’ll be better at it then.
Day 2: After a weekend of visiting my parents and having a great time at the Green Pastures in Elmira, I returned to work today to teach a few lessons. With my new quest in mind, I decided that my performance today would be for my student, Mark Johnson (yes, a jazz bassist named Mark Johnson) in our lesson. At first I thought this might be a cop out, but upon further consideration I changed my mind. This shift actually reminded me of a Hebrew school lesson I was taught my my Rabbi, Scott Glass.
One of Rabbi Glass’s lessons dealt with the importance of Jewish holidays. “Which Jewish holiday is the most important?” he asked the class. Naturally, being greedy little 11-year olds, we said Hanukkah with the eight days of presents, chocolate coins, and all the macaroons we could stuff in our faces. “Nope, try again,” he said. Next we thought of Rosh Hashanah and Yon Kippur, the bookends of the High Holidays and the beginning of the Jewish calendar. “Good guess, but wrong,” Rabbi Glass quipped. We then proceeded to list as many holidays as we knew; Purim, Passover, Tu’Bishvat, Sinchat Torah, whatever we could think of (for lack of anything else, one kid even said Christmas). Finally, Rabbi Glass, with a little bit of exasperation in his voice said, “Shabbat is the most important holiday.”
We were baffled. Shabbat happens every week. Usually when we thought of a holiday, it was something that was rare, something that happened once a year. Rabbi Glass went on to explain that Shabbat was the most important holiday because it happened every week. Shabbat symbolizes rest, study, time with family, contemplation, restoration, and prayer . These are all things we need as humans to counteract the crazy lives we have during the week. It’s a once-a-week vacation day where the really important things in life are brought to your attention.
And thus, I felt the same about the performance today. Shouldn’t we as teachers be at the top of our game every day for our students? In actuality, there should really be little difference between our day-to-day performance level and the performances we present when giving a concert. In fact, that’s usually the reason students study with a teacher, to absorb and learn from an expert up close. It’s the “little” performances in our lessons and classes that matter the most, because those are the ones that actually shape the success of our “greater” performances, both as presenters of music for a concert, or in a classroom situation. Like Shabbat, however, these performances tend to be overlooked as routine, but in the end, carry the most consequence in our musical lives.
So Mark and I played “Yesterdays” and we performed for each other. He learned a lick or two, and I learned a new way to talk about performing. On to the next…