Category Archives: arts education

No Limits.

Somebody has to say it.

Most trained educators will attest: those of limited intellect m.u.s.t. be led and protected by responsible minds. When I say “responsible”, I mean the kind of minds which comprehend the scope, nature and implication of such limitation.

Trained educators understand that those of limited intellectual capacity usually have the most difficulty comprehending abstractions. Theirs is a literal world, populated only by concrete objects which they can see, hear, touch, taste, and smell. Likewise, they react only to that which expresses concretely.

What is also important to realize is that those who are limited react as collectives; they either seek their own, or manifest genetically in large percentage within extended families. Next, while they do possess an occasional degree of awareness of their limitations they usually, if “outed” (and, given the opportunity to do so), express via angry or defiant outburst. When found in large gatherings, these are a palpable force. Even more critically, they react according to the limits of their understanding, and this point cannot be overestimated.

No child will obey unless either forced to do so by some perceived threat, or made to understand thoroughly the consequences of refusal. Those of limited intellect behave in similar fashion to children – but, have a far greater impact both on their surroundings and those who inhabit them.

Enter the kind of threat posed by the novel coronavirus, Covid-19. This threat is far from concrete, as perceived; it cannot be seen, touched, tasted, smelled or, apart from its symptoms, felt. Its power is abstract, and respecting that power REQUIRES comprehension of its unseen, undetectable properties.

I do not feel that those in current power within our government have behaved responsibly toward such individuals. Either policy or statistics wonks, they have failed to comprehend the nature of this percentage of our population – its inclination to band together, its almost complete lack of abstract reasoning potential, and its resultant stubborn refusal to comply with what seems to the rest to be simple orders restricting behavior.

I feel the threat of this absence of accountability toward our weakest population. It affects me every day, either by means of verbal retaliation or by actions which show defiance against orders laid out by our leaders. When a child doesn’t understand the consequences of action, such a child will go about his or her merry way, acting according to desire or preference. This is what we are seeing across our country: people who don’t fully, completely realize what is happening, and who are acting accordingly. It is this population which poses the greatest threat to public health, both to itself and that representing the rest.

Somebody, please; take a moment to sound this alarm. Make the Covid-19 pandemic rules clear enough for a fourth grader, and be SURE to include cause and effect on every point. Provide graphic representations, and post them on telephone poles and exterior doors of public places. Create sound bytes for radio, 15 second public service announcements, billboards – and, flood the communities which are underserved with them all. It only takes one insufficiently cognizant person to infect thousands and, when that happens, no limits are too great.

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© 5/20/2020   Ruth Ann Scanzillo.      Sharing permitted upon request of the author, whose name appears above this line. Thank you for accepting responsibility.
littlebarefeetblog.com

Time For You To Go.

 

My last day as a public school music educator was not a celebration.

Although much anticipated, many times over the years, when the day came I was only aware of a couple, key feelings: exhaustion – and, readiness.

In the years one would have called my prime, I would arrive every morning in full, theatrical costume. Every class was its own creation, my body frequently the illustrated lesson. My students and I were perfectly attuned; discipline was a non-issue. If I didn’t have every child, mouth agape, in the palm of my hand, I wasn’t doing my job.

Time cloaked me. Over the years, the scene changed; once too often my perceived role was marginalized. My dear father, well into his ninth decade, moved in to be under my care. Well past my own half century mark, I found myself counting the months, and then the weeks. The Land of Diminishing Returns had worn me out.

Taken in totality, my contribution to public related arts education had hardly been scant or sparse. Ten fully staged extra-curricular drama productions; 250 beginning violinists, en masse, across several grade levels; instrumental ensembles of every conceivable permutation; competitive marching band; adjudicated concert choir and choruses; general/vocal music, K-8; mixed elementary chorus; focused curriculum for the hearing support. But, 25 years was a good, solid run; on June 9, 2011, I was done.

Today, Jared Kushner was interviewed by Fareed Zakaria on GPS. As President Trump’s senior advisor, he outlined the litany of accomplishments achieved by his father in law’s administration. Seven million new jobs. Trade deals, unprecedented. The dollar, strong. The endless war between Israel and Palestine reaching an also unprecedented mutually satisfying potential for resolution.

What makes related arts teachers distinct from the rest of their colleagues is the sheer measurability of their efforts. Everything they do with their students is readily observable by anyone. Art teachers produce student work which lines the walls of the school; music teachers create and direct performances open to everyone connected with the district. Their product is the direct result of their daily effort.

But, any teacher working past his/her point of positive affect becomes a liability. Good intentions are overtaken by fatigue; good judgment loses its edge. Children, ever intuitive, begin to resist them; administrators try to find ways to move them out of the building.

Given the past two years of the present Presidential administration, the glaring allegations, the deceit, the endless self-contradictions, the blatant lies, and the swarm of negative emotion generated, a great divide is now fixed among the American people. A clear half of the population of citizens wants nothing whatsoever to do with this President. Far beyond mere political ideology, the man himself is openly reviled. There is palpable hatred afoot, across wide swaths of the nation – hatred, for the President of the United States, by just under a majority of his people.

The recent impeachment trial has left half of America emboldened, and the other half utterly slain.  People can hardly look each other in the eye, fearfully wondering what is in the mind and heart of another. The climate, the prevailing mood is one of enmity. Were we at the mercy of the horse drawn carriage and musket, very little would restrain man from taking arms against man, woman against woman, child against child. All of this, over the person of the President of the United States.

Perhaps, instead of charging ahead like some Roman conqueror, President Trump should stop. It might be time for him to pull the lens back, expand to panorama, and take a candid look at the America his presence has created in the minds of its people. If he cannot do that, either because he is unable or unwilling, then he negates the very lives of those who are repulsed by him. He expresses virtual ethnic cleansing, reducing half of the population to zero value.

If he were not to stop, preferring instead to lead his faction into a future fraught by his own amoral, craven appetite for supremacy, the rift between himself , his following, and the rest of the nation would only grow wider. He would, by remaining in office, entrench the divide between the two Americas – perhaps beyond repair. In the face of and in spite of economic prosperity, he would single handedly destroy the soul and spirit of the entire country.

President Trump, don’t make us wait until November. Collect your laurels; accept your prize. Take your once in a lifetime lucky strike, and put it on the shelf with the rest of your shrine to self.

It’s well past time. Time for you to go.

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© 2/2/2020   Ruth Ann Scanzillo.   Please respect the rights of those who produce original material. Do not copy, reconstitute, extract, or otherwise dismantle and distribute this piece without express, written permission of its author. Thank you.

littlebarefeetblog.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

Paul Yoculan Younger, Epic Prince of Entertainment.

Pop was never my thing, back then.  But, I secretly wished it could be.

Raised on two part a capella worship music, performed by the untrained, first listening to my father croon into my ears while he fed me the bottle I always had an affinity for a grown man who could really sing.

Paul was definitely grown. His skin betrayed his age, but he still wore a shag to the shoulders as if it were the coolest, and a denim jacket same.  And I think, but I’m not sure, that the day I stepped into Larry’s basement for my keyboard “audition” he might have already been there.

The Classmates were a vocal quartet of high school friends circa 1957, which was the year I was born. Frank, Jim, Larry, and Ronnie, three out of four second generation Italian and one black American with voices to blend. But, Paul was their friend, and became a final set fixture at nearly all our gigs. The reason he was in that set was because we always closed with “Peppermint Twist”/”SHOUT” – and, these were his signatures. Paul had spent his heyday singing them with his band, The Epics, both in Vegas and at the “World Famous Peppermint Lounge” – in New York City. The Epics were the band The Beatles came to see and hear after they played New York. It’s true; look it up.

I’d always had a solo voice, of sorts, suited for weddings and funerals, a solid Debby Booner. But, when our tenor couldn’t quite carry the Frankie Valli leads, and Frank asked me if I could, these became my own semi-signature tunes from behind the keyboard for the second set. “Big Girls Don’t Cry”; “Sherry, Baby”; my choice, the Ronnie Spector “It’s My Party” and, nod to the Beatles, “Twist and Shout”.

To Paul, I was probably the furthest cry from a female singer. I didn’t dress the part and, worse, I didn’t carry it. Frank had saddled me in the shoes of the same name when I produced my own pair and, when he acquired royal blue bowling shirts with white cuffs and collar for the guys, I got one too – along with one each of the violet and pink ruffled tuxedo long sleeves to match with black pants.

Never sure if this were on consult or his own idea, but one day Paul had me come over to his house and meet him in his basement. He wanted to coach me into singing lead. Out front. Like a real girl singer.

His wife, sweet and accommodating, provided iced tea on a serving tray. I squirmed. This man sucked on a Throat Disc and wailed like his life depended on it; how could I possibly learn from him? Ah. The arrogance of youth.

I actually don’t remember all of what happened during that session. He told me stories of his days in the circuit, and we listened to some forty fives and he talked about style. I concluded that I was probably the only female singer he’d ever met who would not be groomed for the front. He must have been convinced; we never met again, over iced tea or anything else.

But, what we did do was play out. Paul got us the best work in the big bars. He’d always be our finisher, and he was so good at it – stirring the crowd into a frenzy, pushing his cords until I thought they would just splinter out every time, I was content to crank the keyboard bass until the woofers jumped from the floor and ride all the way to the end on that Roland Hammond B3 preset like a boss. I was so happy just to be part of his show.

Paul’s show kept on, too. Long after I left that band to accept my first public school teaching job, he’d still be found singing. Few of us musicians knew he also coached baseball, and well enough to do so for major high school programs in our region. But, he would not stop singing. That voice which, to my ear and experienced vocal nodes, was always on its last legs just never gave out.

I don’t know what happened, really. Something about a heart problem, requiring major surgery, and complications, and the ICU, and then death. How does that occur, in our time, anymore? Yeah. Paul was 82. But, from the first time and every time I’d seen him over the years he was always, already older than me, old – but young. Younger than all the rest. Paul Younger.

Rest in Peace, you old crooner. Or, keep on wailing. It’s your call, Paul. You were our prince of Pop.

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© 12/29/19    Ruth Ann Scanzillo. All rights those of the author, whose first hand story it is, and whose name appears above this line. Please respect this tribute, exactly as it is written. Thanks.