Maggie's last day at Boulevard School included a recorder concert. She's been practicing a lot at home lately. I don't remember practicing an instrument that much as a child unless it was the day before a lesson or unless there were other threats or deadlines.
Outside on either side of the front walk were risers for the fourth graders to stand on. The map told us which side to stand on as parents so we could get the best view of our pride-and-joys. The teachers led their classes onto the lawn and onto the risers. Groups of three and four kids shared a music stand. Mr. Austin, who has clearly done this before, asked which child was responsible for turning the pages. He explained that at the Cleveland Orchestra the same person turns the pages in each group sharing the music. Teaching right up to the last minute.
The substitute music teacher came out to lead the concert. It takes a special person to teach a classroom full of fourth graders learning the recorder. Four classes just in the fourth grade and each class meets more than once a week. The teacher took the microphone and introduced the concert. When she finished talking about what we would here, she put the microphone down and turned back to the children.
Every one of the fourth graders was looking at their teacher. She raised her arms and held them in the air. The kids put their recorders in their mouths and stood watching her. She counted off the beat for them. They watched her do it. Their fingers were poised in the right position to play the first note.
She finished the count down and raised her hands in preparation for the downbeat on which the playing would begin. Their eyes all left her and moved to the music and they were off to the races. For the most part the kids didn't look up again until they were finished with the song.
The half of the kids on the right side of the sidewalk played together. They could hear the people near them and stayed in time with those close by. The half of the kids on the left side of the sidewalk played together as well.
The two sides did not play with each other. While the music teacher bravely continued to conduct, the group on the left pulled into the lead. At first it was hard to tell. But then the group on the left extended their lead. It sounded as if the music was ready to resolve itself into a well planned round. But then the group on the left kicked it into high gear. Perhaps it was that the group on the right was dragging. It was hard to tell.
This pattern repeated during each song performed. Sometimes the groups got out of synch to such an extent that the kids themselves heard that the other group was well ahead or behind their group. The teacher explained to the audience that it was remarkable that each group was playing consistently within their sections and that it was expected that they would diverge from the other group.
Maybe it was a metaphor for many other projects I've been involved in. Putting your head down and playing the notes. Acting locally and not noticing the global effects. Maybe not. Maybe it was just two risers full of fourth graders playing for their parents and friends.