When I was first hired as the vocal music teacher by Natomas Charter School in March 2001, I told the executive director that I would only commit to staying for five years at the most. I had other adventures ahead and believed that classroom teaching was not my passion. Then, I met the children.
In August 2001, I was introduced to the seventh graders who would become “my class,” the Class of 2007. I was assigned the role as their class advisor with the 7th grade English teacher. During our first discussion, they said they had heard rumors that most classes had class advisors come and go throughout their time in school, and how they hoped the two of us would stay until they graduated. Seeing their wide, hopeful eyes, and getting caught up in the emotion of the moment, I promised them that I would stay until they graduated. There went any hope of leaving after five years, because they would stay at Charter for six years. I had already completed my first school year, so this would mean I would be there at least seven years. And stay I did.
Through difficult, major events in my life, I stayed. Through challenges with my first line supervisor, I stayed. Through everything, I stayed until they walked across the stage to receive their diplomas. I couldn’t have been more proud of our young people. The person who began the journey as class advisor with me left to start a family, so there were new faces along the way with whom I shared the responsibilities and joys of these fine young people.
The truth is, I don’t know if my contribution to this class was very dynamic, but if nothing else, I was there at every class meeting, at their senior prom, at every major event in which they participated. As their senior year came to a close, I was more than ready to leave my position, but was asked to stay another year, hoping things would get better. I reluctantly agreed. It was 2007, my children had graduated, and I thought my job was over. I stayed one more year, but by the end of 2008, I could not stay any longer. Things had changed so dramatically that I knew it was time for me to move onto another leg of my journey, so I resigned, and went into private practice as a vocal teacher.
My job with this class wasn’t over, though. Recently, I ran into two of my students who told me that they had gotten to know each other in their senior year and now, almost five years later, they were getting married. I was so happy for them because they are genuinely lovely individuals, and I knew they would make a marvelous couple; animated, but marvelous. Several weeks later, I got a message from them saying the minister they had originally engaged had flaked on them. They reflected to me that they were just as glad, because this person clearly had no appreciation for who they were as individuals. They said they remembered that I was an ordained minister and wondered if I would do the honors of marrying them, especially since I had known them for nearly half their lives. Needless to say, I was thrilled at the offer and jumped at the chance.
Today is their rehearsal for tomorrow’s wedding. I will be in the presence of not just two, but six of my students who will stand on the altar as bride, groom, maid of honor, best man, and two honor attendants from the NCS Class of 2007. Clearly, my job is not over. The history we built together has moved beyond the classroom to their adulthood. It seems as though I will continue to watch my young people grow up, get married, have children, perhaps even grandchildren if I live that long, remembering that first day in seventh grade when they sat looking at me with those big, hopeful eyes. Once again, I get to see two of them with big, hopeful eyes, only this time gazing at one another seeing their future together in one another.
My students have gone to prestigious universities, begun marvelous careers in their chosen fields, and started families. They are fully adults now at the age of 23 beginning their own adventures in life. I am so proud of them all and hope to watch as they have their precious moments grow in quality and quantity.
There are few things in this world that touch me more personally than hearing about the possibility of a library closing, especially in a town that I love so much as Woodland. The shock I felt at hearing the Woodland Public Library might die was devastating.
My mother was a librarian, not only by vocation but by avocation. Books, to her, were a refuge. When she would read, it was nearly impossible to talk with her because she would be so lost in her story. She taught me to love books as well, as is in evidence on the shelves that line my office.
When she died, I cried the day a plaque in her honor went up on the Dunsmuir Library wall. It was beautiful, not only because my mother was recognized for her years of service, but because it was in her library where she loved going.
Woodland, California, is a wonderful town in which I spend a great deal of time. As the consulting music director for the Woodland Opera House, steps away from the Woodland Public Library, I understand the value of history, both my own and of incredible places like the Opera House and the public library.
Since the threat to this amazing source of education, literature, and enlightenment has burgeoned, everyone has learned that this facility has operated without exception since 1891 with a minimum of 40 1/2 hours per week of service, even through the Great Depression. This remarkable truth is significant because no other library in California can claim that tenacity. It was the citizens of Woodland who made that happen for these nearly 120 years.
We know, too, that it is the oldest Carnegie Library in California continuously operated as a public library. What does that mean?
A library was granted money by Scottish-American philanthropist, Andrew Carnegie, of Carnegie Hall and Carnegie Steel (U.S. Steel) fame, if the library adhered to the Carnegie formula. This formula included very specific criteria, including that the city must:
- demonstrate a need for a public library;
- provide the building site;
- annually provide ten percent of the library’s construction to support its operation; and
- provide free service to all.
Woodland has been accomplishing this feat since Carnegie’s first grant was given to Woodland in 1903. Now, however, the collection of more than 100,000 books and other materials, valued at $5 million is at risk of going the way of the dinosaurs.
This is my greatest fear. With the advent of mass media, including television, movies, and the internet, we are seeing the relinquishment of our reading skills, and more importantly our love of reading, through neglect. Sadly, the closure of Woodland Public Library may be a reflection of our developing patterns of literary neglect in the United States.
Citizens of Woodland have an option, though. This coming Tuesday, June 8, 2010, residents will be able to vote on two measure to keep the library open. A Yes on S vote in tandem with a Yes on V vote will provide the action necessary to save our beloved library.
Yes, it’s a sales tax, but it’s a mere quarter per one hundred dollars. A quarter. 25¢. In this age of financial woes, it’s understandable that some may have their questions whether there should be another tax.
The real question is, to save those 25 cents, are the wonderful people of Woodland unable to help the library avoid:
- cutting the adult literacy program by 42 percent, displacing it from its current location?
- allowing their children to have their 7,200 homework assistance requests unanswered?
- shutting the door on the 800-1,000 daily visitors?
- discontinuing the 31,000 opportunities the community is provided to use the library computers?
- turning away from the library doors over half the population of Woodland who hold the 29,240 library cards ?
- not being available to serve the 5,000 attendees at 175 different library programs?
My brother was born in Woodland. I have felt like an honored guest here for over 12 years. This is my second home. I feel an obligation to speak up about this possibly sad end to a dynamic and honored institution.
On election day, please Vote Yes on S and Vote Yes on V to save the Woodland Public Library.
Honestly, it’s a quarter. Our community’s education is worth so much more than that.
Thank you for sharing your voice on June 8 in support of the Woodland Public Library.
Author’s Note: Since the first posting of this blog, I have been notified that another Carnegie Library in Port Angeles, Washington, as well as my mother’s library in Dunsmuir, California, are also facing the same threat as the Woodland Public Library. It’s not a good day.
(2010) Friends to Friends, Woodland Public Library.
(2010) Retrieved from http://www.carnegie-libraries.org/
(2010) Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carnegie_library
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There are times in one’s life when the calender pages seem to change every 20 minutes and one’s watch hands swirl so fast, they are not even visible. It can feel pretty overwhelming.
The balancing part of that feeling comes when one can look around and see that the productivity that is growing is substantial. In its own way, that can be overwhelming, as well.
Often, we ask ourselves what our mission in life is. We ruminate about our relationships and their value, the work we’ve chosen to do or having not been able to yet choose, or where we want to go next on our journey through life. Then, we get busy.
It is then that we realize that if we just do what we feel compelled to do, we will find our purpose by trusting our intuition and training, using our experience and passion, and fulfilling a need that becomes apparent.
It can be as complex as deciding on getting a degree and following a particular career path to simply taking a moment to assist someone else with their project. It is all purposeful and should not be dismissed.
A spinning watch hand or a pile of calendar pages is nothing to lament. It is something to celebrate because it means we are busy working. We are busy making a difference. We are busy.
Stagnancy is the primary ingredient to the soup of dissatisfaction. Idleness is the core to the ball of insecurities and needlessness we can feel inside ourselves.
There is so much on our planet to do that there is not one reason to sit and wait for death to find us.
Teach a child to read.
Clean a park.
Volunteer to sit with sick children in a hospital.
Volunteer for a political action group.
Be a campus monitor at your child’s school.
Coach little league.
It simply doesn’t matter what we do, as long as we are busy doing it.
When we get tired, we just have to sit down and rest. We’ve earned it. Others benefit from your loving action, as does the the community-at-large. Certainly you are a beneficiary of your labors, as well. There is nothing wrong with resting after one has put in a full days work, especially when what you’ve done has helped someone else.
This morning, I was giving vocal music lessons to my students at the Woodland Opera House. The young ladies range in age from 8 to 16 years old. They are well-disciplined, kind, talented, and very sweet to be around. I feel very fortunate to be invited to watch and participate as these young people grow in their art.
Last week, one of my former high school students and current singing student, Adrian, just went out on a national tour with his friend, Miss Ricky Berger. He’ll be back in a few months. He had taken it upon himself to begin lessons again to improve his performance. He is now ready for this tour.
It got me to thinking about a time when I was in eighth grade. I used to walk past this girl who, every so often, would doodle in her notebook. I’m sure she didn’t think a thing about her flowers, scribbles, and faces, but I loved what she drew. It was in 1972 that I became Shirley’s fan. Over the years, I stood on the sidelines watching my friend finish high school, go to college, get married, and have children. I’ve also seen time pass when her art took a back seat in her life.
Yesterday, I had an opportunity to go to Pacifica, California, to attend Shirley’s art show, “Arts on Fire,” at the Sanchez Art Center. Since her art has returned as a major focus in her life, after her family, of course, she has been amazingly prolific. Her incredible oil painting hung in the show, “Napoleon House,” was based on a particular moment in a restaurant in New Orleans, Louisiana, when she and her husband were there on vacation.
The actual building, Napoleon House, was constructed as a place for Napoleon Bonaparte to live in the United States after he would have fled France; however, he died before he could ever see his American domicile.
In addition to the tantalizing history, Shirley Manfredi’s painting is stunning.
Although I was never too effusive directly to Shirley about her art when we were young, because she would just laugh and look confused at my appreciation for her creativity, I did, on occasion make a comment or two. It was the best feeling to congratulate her yesterday when she realized she was awarded a Juror’s Special Mention in the show.
Shirley’s sister, Sharon, who is the godmother to all my children and a beloved aunt, and my husband, David, were in attendance, as well. Shirley’s husband, Louis, and their children could not be there, unfortunately.
It’s starting all over, I suppose. It’s 2010 and I’m beginning to watch a third generation begin their artistic process. It’s an awesome place to be, to be quite frank.
To be in Woodland to see my students successfully audition for “Les Miserables – Student Edition” a couple of weeks ago, at Adrian’s last concert in Sacramento for a while last Saturday, and Pacifica for Shirley’s show on Friday, really put my participation in art in perspective. I think, in many ways, I’m a cheerleader, of sorts. I smile, offer my thoughts when invited to do so, and cheer when the accolades arrive for these students of various art forms. Some may believe I have more to do with my students success than I do.
As I tell them so often, “I can talk until I’m blue in the face, but if you don’t do the work, then I’m just spouting hot air. My job is just to share some thoughts and, then, watch art grow.”
After years of teaching voice privately or in a school setting, I’m taking my lessons on the road, as it were.
I’ve been joyfully affiliated with Woodland Opera House for twelve years and finally, I’m beginning vocal classes there. It’s exciting to have yet another part of my life experience melded with this 100-plus-year-old theatre.
As I’ve been preparing for my classes, I’ve been wondering why some people are afraid to sing. Could it be because as the breath of sound begins, it resonates with one’s heart? As this intimate expression of our feelings and art exits our bodies, it doesn’t stop until it finds its way to another’s heart. I suppose to some, this might be fear-inducing; however, not to me.
This truth is simultaneously intimate and grand.
The fear that we may feel is like a pain when we’ve been injured. They are both simply messages to our brains that we have work to do to make things right. Because fear and creativity cannot co-exist, we know that once we get beyond that fear, we have every opportunity to grow creatively and emotionally, and some would say, spiritually, through our art.
If you are interested in participating or simply want more information check out my Facebook page for these lessons, James Glica-Hernandez @ Woodland Opera House.
Group lessons are on Thursdays at 6:00 PM.
Individual lessons are on Saturdays between 9:00 AM and 2:00 PM.
I also teach privately from my home in the West Natomas area of Sacramento, California on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.
I look forward to hearing your voice.
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When we began our vocal lessons, my student had a challenging history with singing. During the first show he had ever done, he was asked not to sing out loud, but to simply lip synch the words, because he didn’t appear to be able to carry a tune.
He came into my current show late, and unfortunately, his mind still replayed those old tapes he had learned in his previous experience. He arrived at my home to catch up on all the music in the show and his mother warned me about this fifteen year old’s challenge with pitch.
After about twenty minutes, he not only sang in excellent pitch, but could remember everything I’d taught him after only one or two times listening to what I was modeling.
I’ve never thought of myself as a great teacher. I honestly don’t think I am. I’m good, I suspect, but not great. What I can do, however, is give people reminders of what they already know how to do. I’m a great piece of reference material.
“When you speak, does your voice go all over the place like an out of control rollercoaster? No. That’s because you can hear pitch well enough to modulate your voice appropriately.”
That’s all he needed. When he realized that he’d been using his listening skills to hear pitch for his entire life, the rest was cake.
I just got a call from the director of a show at the theatre where I work most often. My student was recognized for having one of the best voices of the young men who auditioned. They were stunned with his progress.
I reminded the director that it was my student’s work that got him to that point in only a few months. He’d chosen to utilize the skills he already had in a new way. The benefit for him… and the theatre… is that his work paid off.
I am very grateful for the opportunities I’ve had to work with wonderful young people who are at various levels of security. Certainly, there is a talent differential to be considered, but what I’m learning is that if they have permission to succeed, they most often will.
So, here I am basking in the joy of seeing yet another of my students feel his sense of accomplishment. What a great day!
Derrion Albert, 16, was viciously beaten with fists and boards because this honor student was walking in front of the Agape Community Center, in the Roseland area of Chicago, and involuntarily got caught up in a violent melee in the parking lot next door between two groups of high school students.
Fouad al-Rabiah, a 50-year-old Kuwaiti man, was detained at the United States Detention Facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for eight years because confessions were abusively extracted from him based on United States Justice Department erroneous suspicions that al-Rabiah was assisting Osama bin-Laden and al-Qaeda in the Near East.
According to an Associated Press report, in her decision to release al-Rabiah, U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly wrote that al-Rabiah’s interrogators “began using abusive techniques that violated the Army Field Manual and the 1949 Geneva Convention Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War.” She continue that, “The first of these techniques included threats of rendition to places where Al Rabiah would either be tortured and/or would never be found.”‘ The judge went on to say that the government’s case was thin.
Mr. al-Rabiah was finally released from the detention facility in the last week of September 2009. Unfortunately, Mr. Albert did not fare so well. He died on the street where he sustained his horrific pummeling.
In both cases, two groups were fighting for respect and innocent people suffered because of it. The Justice Department and the group of high school students, which has not been defined as a gang in the media, both decided that they would defend their rights to action and correctness in any way possible, no matter who got hurt.
In the case of the Chicago students, one group did not like that the other group from the projects was attending their school, Fenger High School.
With regard to the Department of Justice, they arbitrarily decided in October 2001 that because al-Rabiah was schooled in aviation and had indicated that he was on his way to help refugees through charitable organizations in Afghanistan, he was actually on his way to support the group that caused the destruction on September 11, 2001.
How is it possible for our children to learn about honor, respect for human life, and freedom when our federal government is teaching them otherwise? In what way is an eight year detention based on suspicion and abuse going to show our youth that one must open his mind and heart to another’s truth?
As we sit in our comfortable chairs at home, twisting our faces in disgust over the death of Derrion Albert, we should also remember we taught those high school students how to choose. We instructed them, in the bright light of the media, how to judge without information, how to act before knowing, and how to selfishly fight for what is not only ours.
Derrion Albert died at the hands of our ignorance. Fouad al-Rabiah lost eight years of his life with his family at the hands of our ignorance. We lost a bit our national honor at the hands of our ignorance.
It is time to stand up and teach our young people that we must make thoughtful decisions based on all the information available. We must look at those around us as our brothers and sisters, and not those who are trying to take what is not ours to begin with. Our young people must learn that to receive respect in our community, we must act honorably and with accountably in our society.
Parents who live in the heart of gang territory have had to learn that they must guide their children not to “snitch” so that their children don’t die. Those of us who are not faced with the daily threat to our well-being understand that this is not the honorable way to do things, but we are not as clear about how dangerous it is to teach our progeny otherwise. The truth is, that none of us are immune from these threats any more.
One of the words being discussed to combat this tide of radical fear is leadership. Gang mentality is not about leadership, it is about a huge group of followers. What must we do to combat our children’s sense of powerlessness and voicelessness today is to ensure our children have a stronger vision of themselves as necessary and valuable members of our community. We must help them understand that their voices count, but only when they are building life, not destroying it.
The answers to these agonizing questions are so difficult, if we are to tell ourselves the truth.
Parents must harken back to the time of the colonial revolution against England and to the Civil War. We must teach our boys and girls that to stand up for what is honorable at all costs is more important than allowing the underbelly of our country to prevail. There has to come a time when the eagles that reside in the spirits of our children must rise above those who sadly accept their existence in the realm of the cockroaches, the slimy shadows of fear and tyrrany.
This means that some of our adults and children may be lost in the war against fear. The truth is that we are losing them now in staggering numbers as it is; and for what? Territorial supremecy? Colors and spraypainted symbols on walls? If we must die to protect truth and freedom, God knows we’ve done it before. The real war is not against Afghanistan, Iraq, or North Korea. It is an internal war of ethics and culture. It is a war of truth and wisdom.
Strong economics, vivid education, ethical training, support for dignity, and insistance on reason, are the only roadways toward the light of strength that we must walk.
The poignancy for me is that the place where Mr. Albert died was called the Agape Community Center. Agape is the Greek word for the purest kind of love. The ripping dichotomy between the name of the facility and what happened next door is overwhelming.
What a poor job we are doing as a country of instructing our children about honor, respect, and leadership. Ask Derrion Albert’s family. Ask Fouad al-Rabiah’s family. I bet they’ll certainly tell you.
When we, as California residents, look at this period in our history, we will shake our heads. We will wonder how it is that we twice elected a movie star… again… to run the seventh largest economy in the world; someone who cannot see beyond his own satisfied reflection in his mirror. We will ask ourselves, “What was wrong with us?”
Today, I received a letter from the governor, in response to a letter I wrote to him, asking him to work on the budget before him remembering that his actions would affect multitudes of the poor and disabled, the young and the elderly, the unemployed and destitute. He proudly suggested that he was doing what was best for our state, even though he understood, “that college students will pay higher tuitions, some teachers may be laid off, and our state workers will get less money. But the only way to save our great state is to spread the sacrifice.”
Spread the sacrifice? The only people who are sacrificing in his budget are those who can least afford to lose anything in this dire economy, one to which he refers in the letter as the “greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression.”
His inability to see beyond his own nose, to recognize what real suffering is in this state, is abominable. I believe with every fibre of my being that as he sits in his capital office, he genuinely thinks that things will be better in the long run because of his cuts. He couldn’t be more wrong.
State workers, the poor, and families of sick children and adults will all be in more debt because of his cuts. They will lose their homes, if they still have them, max out their credit cards, borrow from family members who can ill afford to help, and grow our state debt for Medi-Cal costs, so that Governor Schwarzenegger can say he balanced the budget. All he has done is to flex his muscles to impress those in power, believing that those of us at the grassroots are buying his malarkey.
In addition, our children will be less able to compete in the job market because of the cuts to education funding. The most qualified teachers are going to leave the state to make a reasonable living in an environment that isn’t impacted with more than thirty children to a classroom.
After thirteen years of working for the State, I can tell you that the budget is a series of creative numbers, moved around to show what officials want them to show. Nothing has really changed at the state level. We still get our federal monies. We still get all our taxes. We will still operate the programs that are a priority to the Governor.
The only thing that has changed is the perception of the right-wing politicians who can now feel vindicated by the governor’s signature on this decimating bill.
I am deeply saddened by the Governor’s choice making abilities and that he sees so little about those he serves. My only solace is that this nightmare will be over in a year.
There is a dichotomy in these United States of America that is so vividly being presented in the State of Connecticut regarding our freedoms. In the second of five states in the country to allow gay marriage, there comes a video from the Manifested Glory Ministries that shows a sixteen-year-old young man having a “homosexual demon” exorcised from his body.
Prophet Patricia McKinney, and the church overseer and McKinney’s husband, Calvin McKinney, have apparently performed several exorcisms on young people who are attempting to release themselves from the perceived grip of their homosexuality. The video, as one can imagine, is dynamic in that the young fellow, whose name was withheld, was seen thrashing on the floor, eventually vomitting during the twenty minute, vociferous event.
As revolting as the concept of a “gay exorcism” is to my mind and heart, one question is raised, “Is the family’s freedom of religion alive enough to practice their faith as they see fit?”
If the child’s parents gave the McKinneys permission to perform this rite, the McKinney’s were willing to perform the rite, and if the child himself agreed to experience it, does the family of the parishoner have the right to practice their religion in whatever way they choose, so long as the boy wasn’t injured physically?
Some might say that the boy should feel free to be gay if that’s what he is. If that is true, which I believe it is, as well, then shouldn’t he also be allowed to participate in the rites of his church just as freely?
Concern is correctly expressed that the exorcism will damage his psyche and sense of self because he is not being supported by his community for being who he genuinely is. We must invite the question as to whether there are other religions who, perhaps not so vehemently, do the same thing to their beloved children. Families often criticize and shame their offspring because of their sexuality. Doesn’t that also do horrific damage to the child to have people he or she loves dispense separation, vitriol, and, perhaps, violence against that individual because of the child’s sexuality?
How obscene should it be to us as a people to wag our fingers at the McKinneys for doing what we do to our own children in other ways?
“God, I wish my son wasn’t a freakin’ fairy.”
“Jeez, why can’t my daughter just find a nice man with whom to settle down and have a family, instead of that horrible dyke?”
The high horse on which many are riding right now is growing more and more lame. The pedestal on which many of our fellow Americans would like to believe they sit is cracking under the pressure of our own hypocrisy.
In this video, there appeared to be a belief that this child harbored a demon named, “homosexuality.” Isn’t that what many in our country believe? Those who fight against the equal rights for marriage certainly are making that statement to their children. Those who sit idly by and watch our junior high students commit suicide because they are being perceived as gay are saying the same thing.
Let’s see things as they are for a change. We are culturally a bigotted and judgmental people on the whole. We see ourselves in distinct and separate groups and we like it that way. The good news is that we are slowly recognizing it and the damage it is causing. We are changing. We may even arrive at a place where, for example, in this country, we are all Americans first, instead of insisting on being hyphenates, such as Jewish-Americans, African-Americans, or Straight-Americans.
Change is hard. Cultural therapy is phenomenally painful and difficult. We will, however, survive and flourish once we get to the other side. At that point, we will be able to better see our brothers and sisters as equals in every way.
What a great day that will be.
What we must not do, though, is lose sight of the fact that for each of our rights, there are those who will show us the extremes of what having them means. The McKinneys are just those people. For some, Rosie O’Donnell and Ellen Degeneres would be just those people, as well.
There must be room for everyone if we want our equality and rights to live in the broadest possible way.
The only exorcism I’d like to see is the banishment of hatred and ignorance. I’d go to that ritual today!
I just heard a video poem from a young woman on her roof about the slaughter taking place in Iran. It broke my heart. It made me think.
To think that in 2009, our world children must see their peers shed their blood or lives for the right to have a voice in their own country.
To think that in 2009, our world children are dying because they fear that being considered gay is so shameful that it is better to die than be perceived in that light.
To think that in 2009, our world children must die because they haven’t received the simple netting necessary to keep away malaria.
To think that in 2009, our world children must die because there is a two child limit in some places on the planet.
To think that in 2009, our world children must die because of such pervasive overcrowding or inadequate funding, they haven’t enough to eat or adequate medical care.
To think that in 2009, our world children must die because criminals are so bent on making money they will sacrifice our little ones to attain it, while the government does so little.
To think that in 2009, our world children are allowed to witness murder and sexual content in their games and television, yet the same parents who permit that do not talk to them about their own spirituality, whatever it may be.
To think that in 2009, our world children are dying all over the world for choices we, as adults, have made.
To think that in 2009, our world children have not learned that their dreams really can come true because we, the current decisionmakers, have not facilitated the manifestation of those dreams.