Listen to Jason:

Content on this page requires a newer version of Adobe Flash Player.

Get Adobe Flash player

Posts Tagged ‘elementary school’

Summer Vacation? Well…

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Some of the nicest gifts I've ever received. Thanks, kids! You all rocked!

This spring, I was given the awesome opportunity to share Aloha with school kids here in NYC.  And yesterday, I finished my final session at the last school.

Backstory: Midori & Friends, a non-profit music education organization, placed me in FIVE elementary schools over the past few months.  Some residencies lasted two weeks.  Others lasted as long as nine weeks!  There was a period that I was working with four schools at the same time!  (Please click HERE and HERE to read about some of my adventures in the schools.)

It was Heaven.  It was really hard.  But mostly, it was Heaven.

This morning, I woke up and my brain was still on autopilot.

As my eyes tried to adjust to the light in the kitchen while I made coffee, I began the daily ritual of going through my mental TO DO list for the day.  Which school was I heading to today?  What time I would need to get on the subway in order to arrive on time.   Where had we left off in our last session?  What things would I need to pack in my “Amazing Hawaiian Bag” so that we’d be ready to start, again, today.

And then it dawned on me:  I don’t need to report to a school today.

Summer vacation is here?  Is that possible?


With a cuppa Joe in my hand,  I headed out to my desk.

Again, I asked myself: Am I on summer break?

Not really.  I have all sorts of projects/items on a standing TO DO list that have been waiting patiently for me to finish up my work with the schools so that I could take care of ‘em.

Panic gripped my chest as I thought about all of the things that had been piling up.  What started out as simple things now appeared as monsters–threatening to swallow me alive.

As Anne Lamott reminds writers, we tackle big tasks “bird by bird.”  One thing at a time…

Beside me lay a huge canvas tote bag–my Amazing Hawaiian Bag–stuffed to the top with all sorts of things: songbooks, my pū/conch shell trumpet, hula implements, different varieties of lei, a kīhei and all sorts of other things buried in the pockets.  Things that had been collecting over the past months.

A great place to start!  I would unpack my the Amazing Hawaiian Bag and put the items away until the next residency begins in the new school year.

The first thing I pulled out was a pile of papers that had been given to me by the students yesterday. They are 3rd graders who are really concentrating on their writing skills.  They’d written me the most beautiful, heartfelt letters describing their favorite parts about our time together.

I started reading one.  And then another.  And then another.

And I cried.

Not a weepy, sorrow-filled tear session.  I cried because of their beautiful words.

Then I told myself to “get a grip!” and pushed the pile of letters aside.

I reached further into the bag and pulled out the seashell lei that one of the classes had made for me. (Again, stinging eyes from potential tears.)

I went to put the items in my bedroom and came across a book of photos and drawings that the kids at another school had made for me.

And that was beside a pile of cards and drawings that yet another group of students had made for me.

I took that as a sign.

I carried everything the kids had made for me out to the kitchen table.  I poured myself a fresh cup of coffee.  And I sat and read through their words and was amazed by their drawings and photos.

I surrounded myself in the lei of Aloha that they’d given me.

I’ll tackle the rest of the unpacking of that “amazing Hawaiian bag” tomorrow.

Today I’m just taking it all in.

And I’m filled with gratitude.

Mahalo, thank you, to the kids and the teachers and the schools for an amazing spring session of residencies.

Mahalo for the laughter!

Mahalo for teaching me how to be a better teacher.

Mahalo for joining me in the planting of some seeds of Hawaiian culture here in NYC.


Go get ‘em, kids!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Last week, I had the opportunity to “share the stage” with about a hundred second graders–strumming and singing and dancing and, most importantly, SHARING ALOHA with their friends and family.

And I’m still grinning!

Here are some of my notes from the day:

9:00  AM:  I am standing in the school’s cafeteria tuning the ʻukuleles for today’s performance.  Tables are being folded up from the breakfast period that just ended.  Chairs are being set up in a cluster for the kids to use while they’re strumming.  My hula dancing friend, the lovely Ms. Eleanor, will be here momentarily–the kids are going to be so excited to see her!  And she brought a ti leaf skirt to wear for the performance!  How lucky are we?!

9:30 AM: The first of the five classes has just arrived in the cafeteria–with some of the biggest smiles I’ve ever seen.  ”Aloha, Mr. Jason!”  rings out through the space.  They’re wearing tissue paper/pipe cleaner leis that they’ve made in their classrooms as a surprise. They are decked out in bright colors!  Wow… trying not to show them the tears that are filling up my eyes.  My heart is so happy to be able to be a part of this experience with them.  ”Is that your hula dancer friend?”  They point to Ms. Eleanor and she makes her way over to them to talk and show them her skirt.  We are in for an awesome time.

9:45 AM:  The parents/friends/family of the kids are arriving en masse.  It’s great to see the support that these kids have from their families.  It’s a weekday.  I imagine a lot of these parents & friends have taken some time off from work to be here.  It makes the day even more special.

10:00 AM:  One last look at the kids and the show’s running order and then we’re off.  I am thirsty already.  I think I must be sweating.  But it’s not nerves.  It’s excitement.  Ok, kids!  Let’s do this!  Go get ‘em!

10:30 AM:  How is the time moving so quickly?  I mean we’re having a blast!  And I just looked down at my watch and realized that the “show” is half over.  I wish we had more time!  The kids are doing an awesome job!  Singing out with some of biggest voices I’ve heard.  And strumming the ʻukuleles so proudly.  Right on, kids!  Right on!  I know Aunty Irmgard would have loved hearing them strum & sing SASSY LITTLE MYNA BIRD!  And… throughout the performance, I’ve been asking them about things that theyʻve been learning over the last couple of weeks.  Things like  the parts of the ʻukulele, how we tune an ʻukulele, etc.  Not only are they great performers, but they’re knowledgable performers–and eager/happy to share that knowledge.  So cool!

10:45 AM:  Ms. Eleanor and I just finished our “comic hula” where we demonstrated what can happen when you don’t pay attention.  Using pūʻili (spilt bamboo rattles), we improvised a hula line and simple choreography–and I managed to get WHACKED in the head from not paying attention!  Ha!  It was great to be able to illustrate that for the kids.  Telling the kids about that in the classroom is one thing–showing them in person brings it to life.

10:55 AM  Time for the HUKILAU SONG!  All 100 kids singing and dancing at the same time!  It’s like a hula flash mob!  Did someone say that it’s “just simple hula?”  No way!  These kids know what a Hukilau is–and they can tell you all about it!  Just ask ‘em!  (That’s a story for an upcoming blog post.  Stay tuned…)

10:58 AM:  My gut says we need to finish with a teachers-only Hukilau line.  Did I mention that this is a surprise for the classroom teachers?  Yup.  But these teachers have been ultra-supportive throughout our time together.  I know they’ll do it.  The kids’ll LOVE IT!  (Post script:  the kids LOVED IT just as I’d imagined.  YES!  And the teachers looked like they were having fun, too…)

11:00 AM:  The kids surpassed even my wildest expectations.  They rocked it.  I’m completely exhausted and yet, I’m totally invigorated.  Love this!

We had 5 classes of students.

We had 26 ʻukuleles to strum.

We had 200 dancing feet. (210 dancing feet if you count the classroom teachers!)

And about 100 of the sweetest voices and 100 of the biggest smiles you’d ever seen.

I am so happy to have been allowed to be a part of that day’s celebration.  We all showed up and said YES to the task/challenge at hand.  And we did it.

They did it!

Well done, gang!  Well done.


Sharing Germs and Learning Tunes

Monday, November 21, 2011

This weekend, I realized that the kids I’ve been working with at an elementary school here in NYC have shared so much with me.  Not only their hearts and their music–but also their GERMS!


On Friday night, about 24 hours after my session had ended with the kids the day before, I noticed that I wasn’t feeling well.  My body ached and I had small-kine chills.  But as soon as I realized it had probably come from hanging out with the kids the day before, I couldn’t help but laugh.  They really DO share everything.

I’m happy to repot that I’m “on the mend.”  The worst seems to be over and I look forward to feeling better–and fully recovered!–by Thanksgiving.

In other news:

Earlier today, I sat down to start working on a song that has won my heart this week, PUA ʻAʻALIʻI.

This Nā Hōkū Hanohano Award winning song (composed by Lee Ann ʻĀnuenue Pūnua) totally blew me away the first time I heard it.  (Please click HERE to read an article about that awards ceremony.)  It was a few years ago, so the circumstances of where I heard it are lost somewhere in my memory banks.  I do remember loving it.  (**Note:  I have started to carry index cards with me because I am constantly making “mental notes” about music that I hear, but those “mental notes” don’t always stay with me for very long…)

On Friday night, I was listening to Kawika Alfiche’s CD, Kaleʻa, and the song came on.  Ah! I recognized it immediately!  I stopped what I was doing so that I could peek at the song’s title.  I might have even said aloud, “This is a song I should learn.”

And then at a party on Saturday night, I heard the song, AGAIN!

So I sat down and started looking at the song this morning.  And you know what?  I triple love it.

I love its simple structure–no need for a complicated melody, vocal acrobatics or a complicated structure when you’ve got a song that expresses so much beauty in four short verses.  Each verses has only two lines!  A real testament to Ānuenue Pūnua and her compositional skills.  I tip my hat to you, for sure!

The song is haunting.  It stays with me.  I find myself humming it while I work.  (In fact, I’ve been humming it the whole time I’ve been writing this blog post!)

And I look forward to “going deep” while I study it–chewing slowly and carefully and really allowing it to sink into my bones.

I love a song like that, don’t you?

Happy Monday, gang!  How was YOUR weekend?  Drop me a line and let me know…