Saturday, December 19, 2009

Fabulous Fall '09 Pt. 1 - Jennifer

Well, I guess my days of gleefully singing about having “never been to Boston in the Faaaalll”


have come to an end!

Right now I’m headed home, mingling with a splatter of stars in a cold black dome of night and through my little window I can see an ever changing painting. Strange glimers of light are seeping through rippling waves of cloud below us like creatures in an airy sea and...and I’m done with finals!

I feel a little worse for the ware this semester actually, but every battle of the semester left me with a precious prize that I wouldn’t trade for anything; Anything at all, because I think I finally know that they were the experiences meant for me at this time, and this very place!

My report card may be a little less flashy this year but it’s deceptive, because I learned more than any other semester so far.

To start a summary, I suppose the beginning offers a pretty convenient start, so at the beginning it shall be!

My semester began after an amazing journey to visit my mom in the San Juan Islands where she lives in the middle of the Antlantic Ocean in a Sail Boat!

I stayed with her and Scott there for 10 wonderful days and had all sorts of interesting adventuresand new experiences.


As the semester began I realized that despite the numerous precious experiences that took place, I had been a bit depressed over the summer. I think part of it was having a single room, but 99.9% was having little to think of other than myself. I knew that this was the cause of it, and so I began praying for ways to change that, and boy did something change! Let me introduce you to some of the beautiful channels this change came poring through!
Jennifer ‘Nillo, Juri Ify, and Sofi D’.

Oh dear. What have I gotten myself into? How do I even begin to describe three earthen Angels? Let me see. It’s going to take a loooong time so I think I’ll write it in 3 instalments.

Jennifer…she keeps in touch with my street side.

And she keeps me in line.

My first encounters with her culminated in her declaration from banister: “Dude Girl! You’re ill!! You were Beasting!” “Oh, uh…I’m not sick. I’m a Bee-Sting?”

With a little time however, I learned her dialect and from that moment came many glorious hours practicing solfege (Do, Re, Mi…) and guitar in the park on warm summer evenings, and of the passionate unthreading of our perceptions of right and wrong and of Catholic Abbys. Jennifer has also shown me a kind of love that is a bit foreign to me, the love of honesty. I can not even describe how I treasure her sincerity with me in letting me know where I can grow as an individual. She also has the capacity to serve selflessly without noticing it. In her I saw divinity as she began working on a project I’ll tell you about in a moment. She keeps me laughing and I often find myself flooded with joy just by seeing her at a distance.

Jennifer hopes to one day become a wealthy philanthropist and working at Disney as a character voice, and doing screen writing for television. Jennifer is from the Dominican Republic and had it on her heart to take a group of Berklee students to a third world country to minister there through music. So, finally, in September the little 19 year old fireball began writing a proposal and assembling a team. We spent many nights on Skype working through the 12 page document word by word and slowly, progressed to creating a video, ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KEkVyn4HcQU ) a constitution, meeting with the President of the college, grants, a TV interview…Sheesh. We’ve come a long way! Now there’s a team of 12 of us with Jennifer working to make this happen!

There’s been ups and downs and a lot of stress, and chaos but far more joy and excitment and lots of new experiences and lessons. For example, I learned that when one is in the process of writing a letter to the secretary of the Senator, and is going to save it in one's draf folder, they should be very carful lest they find a crazy, half-baked, mis-spelled draft of notes for a letter to the secretary in their out box with her address in the "To" window, rather finding it in the drafts folder. (ouch)


The thrill of the journey's sparked a little fire in me of joy and excitement that I found addicting. That’s why I couldn’t say no to the opportunity to work with Juri Ify.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Fabulous Fall Pt. 2 - Juri

(Ify is a Nigerian term for an extraordinary spirit. That’s about the most accurate description for Juri I can imagine)

Eating with Jennifer in the Caf. one day a girl next to us said “Hey Hannah, I know a woman who’s teaching music in the Detention Center. Would you want to help?” I can’t really describe what I felt when she said that. Other than a sense of happy urgency, as though something so meant for me, so menat for me that it was almost myself, was calling me to come and I needed to listen. Three days later Jennifer and I were waiting for Juri Ify in Starbucks across from the 150. Eight years ago, as a student in Berklee, Juri started a collaboration between Berklee and the Boys and Girl’s clubs in which students went to teach the kids music. Last month they celebrated the installation of a 60K dollar recording studio and a finished music facility. Juri began programs like this throughout Boston and even in Washington State. On the side Juri models, plays piano for the Boston Ballet, is the music director for a Boston Theatre company, accompanies for a local choir, teaches 100 private students weekly lessons through a music studio, makes and sells jewelry, knits while doing sit ups, and that’s all I can remember right now. However, this wasn’t enough for her so she decided to start a non-profit organization called Genuine Voices.


That’s where I come in.

When this tiny little Japanese woman arrived and sat at the table with us my life changed. Her passion beamed soberly from her eyes and I wondered if I could really be of any help to her. I wondered what it was like in the Juvi, and what the boys were like. She told me about how she’d worked in maximum security teaching groups of 10 boys and how it’d become so stressful was vomiting blood and had to stop. She told me precious stories of changed lives and her love for the boys. I told her I wanted to go, wondering what in the world I was doing.

A couple days later I was on the T (the subway) headed to the “other” part of town. Juri met me at the station and walked me across the street to the massive building of brick.



We walked to a black metal door and pushed a button on an intercom. A creeky stairwell met us inside and we climbed it to another locked door. The second floor is the school area which is surprisingly warm and inviting. As soon as I stepped inside the nervousness was gone and I sat with a little boy. A tiny little boy stuck in a sixteen year old body, and topped with a 3 foot afro. I’ve met most of the 20 resdents now and have yet to meet one that’s not a little boy inside. When I’m with them I wonder about their mothers and how it can be that I am the one allowed to be with them right then. I wonder how in the world such a rotten thing could have taken place. I get angry at evil and at whatever led to a childhood spent in such a place. I hate to be let out of those latched doors and see them knock on the little window from inside and wave, peering out of their 40,000 sq. feet of reality, into a forbidden world. Stepping onto the sidewalk is a privilege they don’t have. It’s so strange. But the center is a wonderful place. There are so many amazing staff personnel there and I’ve been deeply touched time and time again by watching their interactions. It’s beautiful. I respect them so deeply and love them for what they do. My first few visits to Eliot, (the Center) I spent giving private piano lessons.



It was amazing to see the talent in some of these boys and I slowly became addicted to the moments of enlightenment and victory, particularly with the ones who were easily angered or discouraged.

Since then my time there has evolved into 2, two hour, group sessions every week which I lead with a fellow student named Oliver. We’re easy to point out of the chaos there, I’m the homeschooled blondy, and he’s the little vegan “Cracker.”


(Above is: Ai - who will be helping us in the spring, Juri, Me and Oliver, waiting for his Veggie Burger...

which was well worth the wait)


Here are some stories:

Eddy: Eddy is 16 years old and was convicted for armed robbery. He caries a large wispy afro that rocks with his stride. The other boys show clear respect for him, although he’s not as big as most of them. He often talks about his family and his grandfather who died recently. This has thrown him through some hard times, being stuck “inside” through that process. Here he is playing piano in one of our early lessons. The camera cuts him while he's giving me the greatest compensation I could get: saying "I'm a BEAST!!"

video

“Big Baby”: Big Baby is about 250 pounds of bulk reaching over 6 feet high and looking out over the world from a gentle baby-face. He’s slow to speak and usually quiet when he does. His ambition is to become an airplane steward so he can see the world. One day I told him there was a beautiful sun beam in the hallway. It had to come through the directors office and to the hall through a small window, but it was warm and a fiery orange. He came and stood in it with his eyes closed and we just enjoyed it for a moment. I wondered how long it'd been since he'd been outside.

With his thick hands I don’t know how he’s been able to play piano but he’s picked it up with unprecedented endurance, and over just 4 months is reading chord symbols. He started out with an attention span of what felt like 2 seconds and has wound up spending hours on the piano working on just one phrase. When he improvises his phrases have a beautiful melodic couture. Here are some quotes from a note he wrote to me:

“You have opened my perspective on life and shown me that there is more to life than hanging out and getting in trouble. Thank you for your gratitude and patience in teaching me.”

S: S is a broad shouldered bright eyed young man with a beaming smile and good eye contact. S’s ambition in life is to become a social worker and work with troubled youth. He’s attending the Bible studies at the prison and is very respectful and open. S played saxophone in middle school because his brother had one, but he wished he could play the violin. S is remarkably musically inclined in percussion, guitar and bass. He picks up instructions quickly and respectfully responds to our authority. Oliver brought in a violin for him to try and within the first hour he was playing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. He’ll be released back into society while I’m on break so Oliver is working to start an After DYS music program so we can keep in touch with him. I think he was teary when I said it was my last time to be there with him.

Oliver and I are the only ones working at Eliot right now but we are to begin scheduling other students to come in and help us. We hope to be teaching at more facilities in the Spring. Juri titled me Director of Outreach for Genuine Voices and I’m responsible for bringing groups in to share with the boys. My first act as took place last Friday. It was a bitter night and I walked down Massachusetts Ave with a trail of 17 Berklee students close behind me. The excitement and joy and gratitude I felt for those students and in anticipation of the night was almost sacred. The students were members of the Berklee Concert Choir, and the Woman of Peace choir, which is composed of 50 women from 42 countries and sings songs from various cultures

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E4mNnSyAPa4

The members of the choirs sacrificed almost 3 hours of their Friday night the week before finals to come and minister to these boys in a strange, scary place. When we arrived at the center, they sang their souls out for, and with the boys, breaking out into spontaneous hymns and carols. One of the staff members said “I’ve never seen some of these boys light up like this! It’s almost scary!”

To wrap up the semester we wanted to put on a performance as a band. When we arrived and started preparing they were mumbling “I aint doin none of that performance shit!” (excuse my language) and I argued for a few minutes with Big Baby about weather or not he’d do it. I felt like a proud mom when those boys played the whole way through the form in front of their peers and the staff. After we played two rhythmic pieces we just jammed on different progressions. I can’t believe they’ve gotten to the point that we can jam!

Fabulous Fall Pt.- 3 The Jolly Journey

God has blessed me till I over flowed and then some more

(This picture was taken at a memorable White Elephant Party in which I mistook the popuri for snack mix...yum.)

with friends that are so good to me, and for, me that I am not going to embark on the frustration of trying to describe it or I might faint with aggravation, so let me just give you a few examples!

As I approached my 22nd year of life I was in the practice rooms with the lights out, praying about how I wanted Jesus to be involved in various parts of my life, inviting him to come bring his light and peace, and just to hang out as it were in all my relationships and such. When the clock's hands were straight up I heard someone wispering outside my door "No wait, guys, I see her stuff in there!" and I opened the door to a lot of scrambling and a lighter, a DD bag, a Large Jesus candle and the sound of "Happy Birthday"

as my friends lit the only candle they could find and presented me with a chocolate cake doughnut. Does God answer prayers or what?

Later that weekend I embarked on the long awaited ice-skating birthday celebration I'd been planning for some time. A huge bouquet of the beautiful flowers of my life, in their many personalities and characters, joined me at the school and we set off for the alleged time of our lives. Being a bit distracted that week I casually tossed all preparation such as directions, hours of operations, and transportation to the wind. All of us were ecstatic about skating, and we had five first time skaters with us, making the anticipation even greater!

After a ridiculously long wait in the cold we set off on the bus which eventually took us to a stop a 25 min walk from the rink. It was a bittter evening, and my friends were scrabbling with their iphones to find the map, since I had taken no precautions in that area. While walking we passed a T stop about 2 minutes away from the rink, meaning that I'd made them walk for nothing. When we finally arrived, not only was it closed, but they'd not even layed ice in the rink yet! It was now late, the sunday before finals and everyone had lost 2 hours of study time for a freezing walk in the snow.

As we headed back to the T I was soggy with apology. I could hardly believe I'd done that to them. As we turned back however, my friends simply broke out in "Happy Birthday" and listed the reasons they were glad to have come on the adventure. God has made some good people indeed!

A more specific example is the beautiful young girl in the dorm room next to mine whom I met last semester.

(Sofi Isaiah and I, the three musketeers, waiting for breakfast after a 4am recording session)

She invited me to go out of town with her to stay some friends of her family in one of those alleged places we only hear tell of in college: a “home.” I accepted her invitation and we embarked on the first of many late night excursions on the T to a little piece of Heaven on Earth. The family we stayed with, the Saints, live 40 min. from Boston in a quaint suburb. They press wine and brew beer, he’s a carpenter and she did stained glass for the Met in NY and such places. She ran away from home at 17 and he spent 5 years in the woods after High School.

Now they live in a beautiful home where sunbeams dance through the dogwood branches and window panes onto their grand piano and hard wood floors. Next to their house is Grace Church, where both of them are ministers. Well, where both of them are THE ministers.

It’s a small chapel that they cut the timber for by hand. Between his carpentry and her stained glass, entering it is one of the most beautiful experiences I’ve ever had. Every square foot has ornate meaning. To enter the chapel is to enter the physical manifestation of their love and appreciation for God. As I swam in the peace of the sanctuary under the rainbow beams warming the frozen Bible figures as they pushed through them, I realized the glory of sharing the thoughts of your spirit with those around you. I was deeply impacted by the freedom with which they shared the gifts they had been given and was inspired to stop analyzing my abilities and my faults before sharing with those around me. That Sunday I played in church and resolved to continue being less wary of sharing my gifts. It was a precious lesson, but it was only the beginning. My moments with Sofi in that place, and then beyond, when piled all together form a huge tower of truth and growth trickling with tears of laughter. It was in the Saint’s kitchen that I wet my pants from laughter for the first time in a long while J and it was in their living room that I spent thanks giving swing dancing into the early hours of the night. I appreciate their unprecedented hospitality more than I can describe!

Sofi’s passion for life is incredible. Every moment is an adventure for her and she is consistently living in the present rather than the past or the future.

Her name is completely fulfilled in its very essence as a source of wisdom for me. I think the most precious lesson I learned from her this semester is to live a dance of gratitude for everything I go through rather than analyzing each moment. I mark that epiphany as another turning point in my semester and from then have felt a seed of childish joy re-growing within me.


Alright. Now that I’ve completely typed away any chance of people reading everything I wrote, I’ll shut up! Thank you for reading despite my long-windedness! I hope you found some mental nourishment to snack on and I hope you choose to live to the fullest potential possible, enjoying the ride along the way!

Friday, May 29, 2009

Homes Sweet Homes

Before we turn to a bit of the past, I would like to make restitution.  I owe you a great debt of gratitude for providing me with this opportunity to avoid my homework by writing to you!  Thank you very much!  
Now.  To May 7th, 2009!
In a wonderful, cool blur, finals blew past and I slid through my last few days in Boston feeling strangely like an observer... or as though I was playing the latest Wii product: "Berklee xBox: Hannah's Final Face-off" perhaps?  Either way, arriving at the alleged end of each course, and having time to spend with friends before leaving seemed quite surreal.    My trip to the airport gave me a chance to get back down to earth however, as I lugged over 80 pounds on a Subway Detour and who knows how many flights of stairs.  (No I do not require 80 pounds of maintenance supplies, thank you.  It was a storage mix-up.)  Finally however, my battered, decaying suitcase and I arrived just in time for what was a wonderful flight.  
I can think back of all these bright little moments from the Spring that I thought "Oh, what I would do for an evening sipping tea and seeping in rich conversation at the Holland's!" or, the Sundays I tuned in to Radioshine online before church to hear what the weather was in Flagstaff.  I wasn't "missing" it, as far as I could recognize, but it was a sweet thing to anticipate returning. 
 I could scarcely get over how thick the feeling of home's air was and the smell of sun-baked pine-needles cooling under the beaming milky-way as I climbed down the rickety stairs to the runway at Flag's air port!  And Mmm the crickets!  
What a precious 2 weeks followed!  Each day was more perfect than I could ever have planned, or perhaps I should say than I did plan.  I was able to catch up with almost everyone I'd hopped to.  (excuse that preposition)   Some had changed quite a bit 
and others were exactly the same.  (Lilly's lookin' proud because she fattened me up a little.)
It required great amounts of effort to retain composure at times 
 
because every thing, even the mundane, felt like such a party!
The trip seemed very much like desert actually, and I think it was just a gift.  
In addition to all the dear treasures with whom I'd awaited visits, I wanted very much to: Go camping, and, Wake up a morning or two in the girl's room.  Both of these came to pass and were as wonderful as always.  
Dad and I went to Blue Ridge Reservoir - which although was not at it's best as far as representing it's name, provided the perfect place for dad and I to get out of the city.  I FINALLY GOT DIRTY!!  and had my fill of fresh troutand hot chocolate, and campfires.    


As for the girls...I was able to cash-in several of the infinite hours I'd like to have with them.  In case you haven't gotten a little Heaven for a while, here's a little bit for you to savor until you can make it over to 12 Oaks yourself:  
video  I caught Munday's first recital, some grass hoppers with Brookie, and some Z's with The Junes.  Perfect.
 For the beauty of my time in Flagstaff however, Boston was never without my mind, and I found myself continually referring to it as home.  I suppose I now consider it one of my three.  I guess if you're going to have an excess of something, homes are a good thing to choose.  
I returned to a matured Boston that had moved on from the glee of blushing trees carelessly tossing blossoms about,  to stately forests of green.      
I do miss the flamboyancy of spring sometimes, but the summer is equally enjoyable 
and hardly without its own splashes of color.   (I doctored that a little:). )
I think one of my most commonly reiterated statments while outside is "I had no idea places like this really existed!"Such sceans are far less sappy in really life than they seemed when I'd attributed them to an artist's imagination.     Boston is a beautiful place; And safe too!  They have many alternative, nonviolent methods of prevention and of increasing public awareness...  

I think the world is a blessed place and always trying to tell us so, if we'd just slow down.


I currently posses my own room because I'll be a Resident Assistance in July for the High School summer camps!  I'm really looking forward to that!  If you want to pray for something for me you can pray for contentment and the ability to do my best here.  I think I might be afflicted with chronic itchy feet syndrome, always wondering if I should be elsewhere, yet longing to relish each step, as it last such a short time.  Summer school offered me lots of time to think and journal and even read a little, which is so sweet for me and makes me feel much more alive and like myself.  That time is quickly draining however, as classes become heavier, but I'm thankful for the time it did last.  I hope you all are well, and appreciate your reading so much...as in I both So much appreciate your reading, and I appreciate that you just read so much!  
Hope you are well!  Thanks again!










Sunday, April 26, 2009

Majors and Minors of March

_______________________________  That’s the “fill in with typical opening statement” blank where you get to put what you know I’m going to say, namely “I'm so sorry it's been such a long time since I've written!  I can hardly believe how time is flying!”  But regardless, life keeps on going, I’m sure you can relate.  Something perhaps less predictable or relatable is that I’m currently suspended, along with a massive piece of metal, in mid air!  (I’m flying to Portland)  It’s been nice to have some time to step outside campus and think back on the past few months.  It is interesting to see the splattered assortment of random experiences begin making up a hazy picture of my journey thus far. 


I have down days and times when things feel very hard for one reason or another, but life’s been sweet.  So sweet I spend a lot of time feeling either guilty, or questioning my grip on reality.  Maybe I’ve always known I enjoyed life so much.  Or maybe I always loved life, but felt that I should partially be holding out for bigger things.  Now I’m where I thought I’d never be and have found that life’s the same everywhere; so I might as well indulge in it wherever I am.  Crazy how life can be nearly completely the same and nearly completely different simultaneously.  I’m finding that all the values, principles, and morals I treasured at home are just as prevalent in the city; and the sweeping power that snuck out of the piano late at night, is the same as what pours from each heart at Berklee (and provably every performer at Carnage).  I’m also learning that there exists a lot of people.  They can all live together and get excited about similar stuff and can accomplish huge things.  Yet in the end,  it’s the same little things that matter.  Stuff that I was taught by example when I was small...thanks family!  Speaking of family I arrive at one of the majors of March:  A visit from Mom!     
Spring Break arrived about 4 days too late thanks to my poor prioritizing, making it a grossly welcome relief from the stress of midterms.  Mom arrived the same day, a gratefully welcomed refreshment.  Our first night we walked the beach and I was glad to later find the species called “kids” (as in a small individual dwelling outside the college environment) has yet to become extinct.  I know this because I got to swim with some at the hotel that night, and I got my first boyfriend.  The next day I took mom to church and we wandered around a beautiful Boston on the verge of spring.
We explored the USS Constitution
 
and the Old State house as well
while enjoy the general beauty of Boston 
 
along with some good conversation, which, in Boston with all the intellectual giants, can be found virtually anywhere.  
After some excursions in and out of the fitting rooms
we finally found a good outfit
and Mom bought me some new clothes and shoes and several pounds worth of delicious food to fill them.  We ventured into Chinatown and a bit of “little Italy” as well.
Our last day, a friend from the trio where I’ve been playing classical music, took us outside the city to his neighborhood.  His house could be easily be mistaken for an antique shop It was nice to see nature again and Mom and I were able to get our Old Building Fix.
   
I introduced mom to Mac while she was here and they got along quite well  video  
 It was a Wonderful Spring break, maybe it’ll be my best!  Thanks Dad!

For another sort of major subject, I was accepted into the Music Therapy program and will begin taking classes for the major in the Summer.  I'm having doubts again, but I think the practicums (going to different facilities and actually practice the therapy) will settle things for me.  I think about Kenya a lot, and the whole clinical situation, and wonder if it's really what I should be doing, but I've critically examined the situation and upon much pondering am currently considering the possibility that I just might be prone to hyper-analysis.  

I tried to insert a video of my ensemble midterm here but it wouldn't upload :(.

One last point on March before I go would be the inspiration I'm gaining everywhere I turn.  Unexpected experiences keep taking place that help me to understand music and consequently, my self.  My fellow students are particularly responsible for this, as several people are cheering me on to find my passion.  Here's a clip from my journal about one of them:  

 It was something I'd never considered.  Like I'd stepped into his mind.  And it now it was me who was handicapped as I sat like a foreigner in a new region of my native country.  My feet rested dumbly on strange ground never seen by its owner.  The swirling grained stokes of wood floor stood solemn and dutiful like a beautiful house maid.  Three bare tight white walls, a narrow bay window, a futon slid into the back corner, and a heaping table without order and without junk.  The blinds recoiled only as far as the window stood open.  What need was there for anything more?  Cables lay across the floor like silent, invisible snakes of another dimension. Come to think of it, it is quite remarkable that he was able to remember the location of his every possession in sheer blackness.  I wonder what life looks like behind his eyelids.  I wonder what he sees.  There were no visual cues as to what sort of place I was in, other than their absence.  

I felt something though I didn’t recognize it at the time.  I felt like receptors began waking all over me.  I began to listen; to feel.  To see with my ear and hand and skin and mind.  It’s beautiful.  It’s beautiful to exist.  Even the breeze has color and a conversation wears form beyond the reach of the eye.   Like wax down a candle, or perhaps like antlers on a dear, time marked it’s path and some immaturity was shed inside me.  I’m glad to loose it.  “A musician must listen, it’s important.” And suddenly that was all that was left.  

My friends have been wonderful to me beyond words from their varied roles in my life, each one so very different and sweet.  

 

And so life continues!  Crazy isn't it?!  

Thanks so much for reading!