Do we reap what we sow?
Do we reap what we sow? I’ve been thinking about this and want to talk about a recent experience. A couple of weeks ago I received an email from a 17 year-old young woman called Maira Ramirez. Maira asked if I would be willing to be of assistance in helping her complete her final, senior-year project. I agreed to talk further and the following week I sat down at our offices and met with Maira and her lovely father. Soon after the meeting began, I learned more about Maira and her connection to Simply Music. Let me step back in time a little and give you some background.
In 2001, I was approached by a teacher from a local elementary school – Bowling Green Academy. The teacher, Emily Gallo, explained that Bowling Green was one of California’s charter schools. A charter school is a publicly funded, independent school that is established by teachers, parents, or community groups, and operates under the terms of a charter with a national authority. In the case of Bowling Green, the school had a multi-age department, where many of the students came from families that struggled with significant behavioral, financial or educational issues.
Bowling Green had never had a music program in its curriculum, nor did it have a budget to do so. What they did have was a committed leader in Emily Gallo, as well as several teachers who were willing to stand behind her and collectively give of themselves in order to find a way to bring music into the school, and into the multi-age department. I decided to support their commitment.
To help bring the project to fruition I approached Casio Corporation, and they agreed to donate 50 keyboards to the school. I provided the educational videos, audio-recordings and printed materials. I also had one of our senior-most educators, Kerry Hanley, conduct a training intensive with several of the teachers at the school (none of whom had any experience whatsoever in teaching music!!).
Less than ten weeks later, Bowling Green had their first-ever music concert and, in front of a packed audience, every child in the program performed one or more pieces. A member from the Sacramento Board of Education was present, and it was a complete success – a very powerful experience.
About a year or so later, I received a call from Emily Gallo. She told me that one particular student at Bowling Green had been of tremendous assistance to her. She explained that this student had gone through the Simply Music program at the school, and had become an “assistant teacher” to her, helping many of the other students progress through the program. She also informed me that this girl had an enormous personal commitment to music but, given the limited nature of the curriculum that was being presented at the school, she had no means of being able to continue further with the program. In response to this, I offered to pay for this girl to have a year of private lessons with one of our Simply Music teachers, Heather Matsumoto. Frankly, I was happy to do this, and happy to contribute. I never actually met the student concerned and, as the weeks and months passed, I got caught up in Simply Music’s growth and expansion and never really gave the matter a further moment’s thought.
Now, here I was in a meeting with a young woman, thinking that I’m just there to consider helping her with a senior-year project, and what I discovered was that this was the very same girl that Emily had talked to me about years before. This was the very same girl that I had sponsored into private lessons. This was the very same girl, as it turns out, who continued to develop herself as a musician, continued to play daily, and who had become the regular pianist at her church. What a fantastic discovery for me! I was seeing the events of the past come full-circle into the experiences of the present!
Maira explained to me that her Bowling Green experience had been deeply moving and very important to her. Music had become a part of her life. And now, she wanted to give others the chance to have music woven into the fabric of their day-to-day lives. She wanted to take on re-introducing the Simply Music program into her former elementary school. She would need instruments, instructional materials and mentoring support. She would also need the support of other teachers at the school. Most importantly, she would need the permission and support of the principal.
As Maira continued to speak, I became more and more impressed by her foresight, action and tenacity. She had already gone to the school and discovered that the keyboards were still there, packed away in a storage room. Perfect! She had enlisted the support of teachers at the school as well. Furthermore, she had already approached the principal at the school (which is now known as Chacon Academy), and had enrolled the principal into agreeing to re-introduce the Simply Music program. Maira had organized her schedule so that she could attend the school twice weekly and oversee instruction in the classroom. All was a green light. The only thing needed was all of the educational materials and, of course, I was perfectly happy to provide those. In addition, as before, I enlisted the support of one of our senior educators, Diane Correia, to coach Maira on a weekly basis in whatever was needed to assist her in successfully introducing the program. So, last week, students at Chacon Academy began learning and playing music. How fabulous!
And there you have it. An opportunity, from 12 years ago, contributed to a group of students who otherwise may never have had the opportunity to have music in their lives. And from this, Maira emerges – still developing her musicianship, still playing, still contributing music to others. And now she is taking her love of music back to where it began for her. She now gets to further contribute music to the lives of others. And what may come of that? Who knows?
I know that my piano teacher, Frank Forbes, died long before he had the chance to see that his contribution had directly impacted the creating and proliferation of Simply Music around the world. When we share music with someone, when we support a child in having lessons, when we encourage somebody to do something that can have powerful lasting value, we often never see the outcome.
I’m thrilled that I had a chance to meet and speak with Maira. I know that others will be impacted by what she has to contribute. And so it is for every music teacher out in the world. Every lesson you teach is like a seed. And with every student you teach, you plant that seed. You do so having no idea of what future impact it will have. One thing is for sure, as far as I am concerned, I garner great value in the validity of believing that we reap what we sow.
Click here to watch a brief ABC Los Angeles News segment on Simply Music and the Bowling Green music project.
Founder and Executive Director