Tonight, I had a musical experience that I simply can't compare to any other. As a musician since I was 10, I have had my share of concerts, etc. This evening, I shared in a musical journey that will impact me forever.
This evening students from the school where I teach, PS2X, in the South Bronx combined with students from The Rollings Middle School of the Arts from Summerville, South Carolina. The first obvious thing that you notice is how culturally diverse these two groups of children are. The magic happened when they sat at the piano and touched the keyboard. This concert was a true celebration of how music connects us regardless of race, religion or beliefs. It showed all of us that were there that music is a language of the soul and that if you allow it in, it can connect you to people that you have never met as well as those that you hold dear in your heart.
I was surrounded by the classical music of the children in the PS2 Keys 2 Success Program http://thekeys2success.org/ and the visitors from South Carolina. The audience jumped to their feet at a jaw-dropping performace by a young man named Lonnie Russell. We were dazzled by the magic of Christopher Yates. One moment that struck me was when the duet of "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" was happening. A chilling singer named DeQuincy Attiberry was accompanied by a young pianoist named Peyton Lehew. The young man on the piano struggled at points in the piece but somehow the two young men connected in a way that not only got them through the piece but put tears in my eyes. Music is powerful, it moves us.
I had the honor tonight of watching the face of Tom Hall, the music teacher from my school that puts his heart and soul into this group of children. I listened to the music and watched the show but really observed Tom. It made me reflect on some recent conversations that I have had with him about teaching in the Bronx and why we do it. These are the moments that make that all make sense. He wore his heart on his sleeve and the kids tickled the ivories in his honor.
My night ended with a surprise interview! The reporter wanted my views on the concert. The impromptu interview caused me to stubble at times. How do you put such an experience into words? Until they interviewed one of my very own students, Chayonne Lewis. At a young 4th grade age, he spoke with pride about how the program changed him. How when he is put into difficult situations, the "Keys" force him to think about how he should handle things. He spoke about how he ran with the "wrong crowd" and how he now has friends that are in the "keys". I stood there with my chin on the floor and in my mind thought about how he said everything that I was thinking.
So, thank you Alexei Nichols, Raun, Chayonne, the Keys 2 Success and of course, Tom Hall, for an experience I will never forget. I know this is one that I will reflect upon with great pride and the comfort in knowing that music bonds us. It soothes the soul and makes you dance. It knows no color, no violence and can touch us in a way that is hard to put into words.
Labels: Alexei Nichols, Bronx, Keys 2 Success, music, music education, PS2, Tom Hall