University of Maryland is a beautiful campus with lots of hills. They couldn’t have done a better job of providing housing for us that is any farther away from the Performing Arts Center where all of our classes are. My usual routine is get up and go for a walk and then get ready for class. Not so much this time. It’s a 20 minute hike, (as the crow flies!), to get to class. I figure a mile in the morning and a mile in the afternoon are plenty. It’s also a mile to the obscure parking lot where I have to park my car. I’ll be getting plenty of exercise this time! I’m trying to ignore how bad I think the accommodations are and focus on the cool stuff that we’re doing. After my Macon, GA experience I’m spoiled for ever staying on a campus again without my own private double bed and bath with laundry en suite.
Don’t get me going on the parking that I’m paying for either. I have a pass that allows me in about 6 numbered lots all of which are a good distance from the dorm. I picked a lot that suits the #11 on my pass; however, there is also a sign that says “K lot” and a sign that says “5 lot.” So I made sure to take a picture of my car parked in the one sign that says “11” to show the cops if I get towed!
Key questions for this institute are: How do you define American? What are the functions of National Symbols? How is social dialogue given voice through music?
When I applied to Banner Moments, the information said it was “music centered.” My thoughts were as long as they don’t expect me to sing, I’m good. And I stated that in my application! You know how the kids in the classroom don’t always get their way? That’s me this week. Each morning we start out with 45 minutes of rhythm, singing, dancing with this terrific teacher, Dan Tolly from Ann Arbor. This guy teaches elementary kids and I swear he never raises his voice above a loud whisper. He models for us how he controls the class every day with hand gestures and body movement, barely speaking his directions at all. You can see a still of him in action at this link…notice me in the front row. They only one who doesn’t know the correct hand sign!
Spent most of the day on some background history of American Revolution and role of music in the Colonial Period. Think no TV, internet, radio. Music was in every house, tavern and street as a means of entertainment, sharing news, and socialization.
Funny “small world” story. As I was coming back from lunch I got a Facebook message from Sarah, one of the professors who facilitated the Cotton Culture NEH institute I did in Macon, GA two years ago. She said, “My friend Anne is presenting at your Institute this week, please say hi.” I turned to this woman who had just walked in and introduced myself. I said “Sarah said for me to tell you hi.” She just about had a heart attack. Small world.
In the afternoon we began sharing our musical biographies. We were asked to bring a song that best describes you. This has proven to be a fabulous and intimate way to get to know people. Folks are throwing their life story out in front of a bunch of strangers with no safety net. We heard from a guy that nearly lost an arm in a coal crusher, a woman who performed a song that brought her dad to tears, alcoholic parents stories, cancer stories, deceased parent/sibling/child stories. Two out of three had an emotional tale that brought the others to tears. A quick and blindly trusting way to get to know your peers.
I thought about how we are defined by time and place. My place was Southwest Virginia and my time was the 60s and 70s. I was 7 when JFK was killed in 1963. I was 8 when the Beatles were on the Ed Sullivan show six months later. I was 12 when Martin Luther King was assassinated in 1968 and 13 when Jimi Hendrix played the Star Spangled Banner closing out Woodstock in 1969. The Vietnam War ended in 1973 and I was 17. I thought about those formative years between 7 and 17. I was inspired and influenced by the “hippie movement” and the events of the Civil Rights Era, but I felt that any comments or discussions on those topics were clothed in the fact that my grandfather was a police chief and was dealing with those issues on a personal level. I was anti-war, yet my Lt. Colonel uncle was flying in and out of Vietnam. I felt like what I was really trying to do was maintain peace within my life and self. This piece of music stirred emotion for me when it came out in 1971 and still does every time I hear it. Found out recently while I was researching it that it was produced by Phil Spector who called it “our National Anthem.”