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There’s a wonderfully poignant moment in the “Handle With Care” Video by The Traveling Wilburys. Here is an amalgam of rock heroes huddled around an old-fashioned microphone suspended microphone harmonizing. In the video clip, smiles are abounding between the musicians as they knowingly take satisfaction that they are to onto something that is simply cool and transcendent. It’s a beautiful spot for a band that is hiding in a seemingly anonymous humility. It is pretty easy to pick out George Harrison, Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, Roy Orbison and Jeff Lynne in this line-up of musical goodness. These are music icons stepping away from myth and pretense joy-filled that they have found a collaboration that soars.
Five friends playing music and taking joy in each other’s company. That is in essence the definition of a supergroup. Friends coming together bound by some mutual purpose or common bond for the pure love of music. The Traveling Wilburys fall under the category of supergroup.
When I got the noble nod from Jeff Zoul to join the second configuration of the Education Write Now Writing Retreat, I was purely overjoyed. In fact, I did hear the strains of “Handle With Care” in the distance. I would have the opportunity to collaborate with a supergroup. This was a supergroup composed of friends and colleagues from my PLN. We were joined our passion for Education and our task to write a book in two days was nothing short of Nirvana for me. Jeff and the band he was putting together for Education Write Now, Volume II was made up of educators that I greatly admired. One could even say that I was a longtime unabashed fan of all involved. Jeff’s books served as virtual sherpas for me in my first days as a principal. His invitation was akin to George Harrison asking me to join The Traveling Wilburys. What made this gig even sweeter was that all proceeds were to go towards a teen suicide awareness and prevention group known as the Will to Live Foundation.
Our purpose with Education Write Now, Volume II was to write in a common key pertaining to an issue that we felt other educators would benefit from in our noble profession. All roads led back to the core of our passion in the profession: Relationships. We had two days and 5,000 words each to make this book happen.
Gathered in Chicago, ideas flowed freely. There was humility and support as fingers danced on laptop keyboards. Respectful space was given as individuals roamed within the internal space of individual thoughts. Supportive feedback was shared. Critical questions of clarity stirred.
As I gazed around my surroundings, I realized I was in a supergroup like The Traveling Wilburys. There was Randy Zigenfuss quietly nodding at one of my references to the bombastic 1950s bandleader, Stan Kenton. Winston Sakurai was across the table from me immersed in deep thought. Rosa Perez-Isaiah and Sanee Bell are trading drafts. Danny Bauer is putting the finishing touches on his chapter and doing pre-production work for his podcast. Lauren Davis of Routledge Publishing is providing encouraging editorial support Elisabeth Bostwick is typing at such a speed that the keyboard cannot keep up with her amazing insights. Jeff Zoul is wordsmithing away in concentration. Laura Gilchrist is sharing an encouraging smile as Onica Mayers reminds us all of our collective purpose with the rallying cry: “Relationships matter, people!”
My chapter is entitled “Connecting with the Center: Bringing Passion to the SchoolHouse.” I take a childhood memory involving hearing “Rhapsody in Blue” for the first time during a class field trip and how it almost got me thrown out of a concert hall a the age of 10. My solo involves how it’s vital for passion to be immersed in the schoolhouse as a vehicle to build authentic relationships. Music is my passion and connecting to my journey as an educator has provided a power entry point in building relationships with the students, teachers and families I serve.
Here’s a quick snippet from my chapter contribution:
Passion is the denominator for so many ways to compel positive change and sustaining relationships. Classrooms and schoolhouses are transformed when this passion is in the foreground of the vision and mission.
We must also remember that passion is as two-way street in the schoolhouse. Students and Teachers must be able to feel free to share their respective passions for learning, interests, pursuits and hobbies. In other words, we typically align this with students expressing their passion. There are many vehicles for students do this in creative projects that run the gamut from Makerspace, Project-Based Learning, Passion Projects, Google 10% Time. Teachers are often looked to be the sage on the stage or the facilitator compelling students to share and express their passions and gifts. The paradigm has to shift to a norm where teachers can take risks and share their passions, too. When I was a classroom teacher, everyone knew I loved music and films. The classroom walls were filled with posters of The Beatles, John Coltrane and The Who. I encouraged students to share their music posters as well. Any time I could talk Music with students was an opportunity to build a relationship. Incidentally, it’s important for school leaders to follow suit. Modeling our excitement over a passion in hobby or some aspect of educational practice, school leaders can help ignite a culture of positivity and creativity fueled by sincere passion.
Sharing our passions unabashedly in the classroom or schoolhouse is meant to build that community of possibility for our students. Placing more passion in the day-to-day operations of the schoolhouse will only uplift students. Students need any opportunity given to express their gifts, ideas and passions. It is part of our calling as educators to make that happen.
Stay tuned for another anticipatory post and the conclusion of the blog series Danny Bauer! Be sure to follow #EdWriteNow as we head towards the December release of Education Write Now, Volume 2: Top Strategies for Improving Relationships and Culture. You can pre-order the book HERE.
I don’t smoke cigarettes, but if I did, then my brand of choice is Everest. Beatles Recording Engineer smoked Everest cigarettes. I should mention that I am not espousing tobacco usage in any way shape or form. Additionally, I am not some blind follower of my favorite band that I have to emulate certain vices just because they did. The Everest brand is my nod to a recording hero whom we just lost this past week. He was 72.
Next month, I was to meet my hero in person at The White Album International Symposium. at Monmouth University. Excited being a speaker at this event along with Mr. Emerick, even though I am below the bottom of the bill, I had this notion of that we would become fast friends. I imagine him listening to my fandom babble with polite respect as he signed my well-worn copy of his memoir, Here, There and Everywhere. He may have discreetly looked at his watch as I attempted to explain my minor footprint in the Beatle Universe as the author of The Pepper Effect.
What do you say to a person who literally sat feet away from The Beatles as they recorded masterpiece after masterpiece? He become more than a 9-5 sound engineer dutifully turning knobs to balance volume. Emerick was a willing participant and collaborator on The Beatles’ quest for innovation in recorded sound.
Geoff Emerick started his tenure as lead sound engineer with The Beatles and Producer George Martin at the age of 20. He began the quantum leap forward that was the “Revolver” album. On that album, he helped capture the technical and emotional essence of John Lennon’s image for the song, “Tomorrow Never Knows.” Lennon wanted his voice to sound like a thousand Tibetan monks chanting from a mountain. Emerick delivered request and then some on that track.
Later, a Grammy Award for Best Sound Engineering would grace Geoff Emerick’s hands for his innovative contributions on “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” That album reached a standard for the band due in part to Emerick’s willingness to experiment and push against the status quo of his industry’s constrictions at the time. Emerick had worked for a large conglomerate that was fixed it traditions of capturing recorded sound. Sound Engineers were supposed to be in the background clocking in their hours and silently turning knobs on a mixing board.
Geoff Emerick did not settle for bargaining with the status quo. He did not settle for it as he entered into EMI Recording Studios with The Beatles for their final studio masterpiece. I imagine this scene:
Gathered around the audio comfort of a sound board on a Spring day in 1969, The Beatles are listening to a playback of “Here Comes the Sun.” Geoff Emerick lights another Everest from his trusty pack. Ringo nods in agreement at the audio pole position of the beautiful hand claps on the song. Paul gives a thumbs up as the vocal harmonies balance just right on the song’s bridge. John sneaks a sly smile of approval to George’s acoustic guitar fretwork. George listens intently to make sure that his song captures the warmth of sunshine.
Paul notices the sound engineer’s cigarette pack. A simple, serene drawing of Mount Everest is imprinted on the package. A revelation hits him. “We should get the lads to fly to the Himalayas and have our picture taken in front of Mount Everest for the album cover. We could even call the album, ‘Everest!’ It would be a nice nod to our friend, Geoff.”
The idea of calling their final album “Everest” was indeed bandied about by The Beatles. A fitting title for a band that had conquered many peaks along the way to establishing an immortal musical legacy. Here they were about to embark upon a final peak with Geoff Emerick as one of their collaborative sherpas guiding them upward to a new and final pinnacle.
The album that was to be called “Everest” morphed into the title that we now know as “Abbey Road.” The fanciful idea of flying to Mount Everest for a photo shoot was abandoned due to logistical realizations by the band. We now have the iconic image of The Beatles crossing that famous street emblazoned on memory.
Thinking of Everest, I bet Geoff Emerick would have made an amazing sherpa. His calm guidance, solid perseverance and collaborative mindset would have benefitted any mountain top expedition. Pushing the image of sherpa into the classroom, I can see how those attributes would serve Geoff Emerick if he were a teacher. Gently pushing the status quo in service and support of kids and leading them towards the creation of daily masterpieces, I believe that is quite the legacy for an educator.
All of these things come to mind as I ponder this imagined conversation with Geoff Emerick at “The White Album International Symposium.” Arms extended, we shake hands and I realize that thanks to a young sound engineer our world is a better place when you listen to Sound at the top of Mount Everest.
This is a fan letter.
As a slightly rabid Beatle fan, I often find myself dwelling within a recurring dream. It involves being an official 5th Beatle. The dream defies convention and I am probably prime fodder for some sort of Sigmund Freud Dream Symposium. Regardless, it’s a dream that pops up on my subconscious soundtrack.
Here’s the dreamscape scenario:
I am outside a grand and ornate concert hall located in a city of unknown origin. Emanating from the walls of this venue is some of the most beautiful music I have ever heard. The music is serene yet uplifting in tone. I hear acoustic guitars, sitars, strings, bells, pianos, mellotrons, harps. Then, I hear familiar voices blended in stunning harmony. This piece of music sounds like a hybrid between “Across the Universe” and “Because,” two familiar Beatle songs. Somehow this music is new and different. I walk closer to the concert hall and I see a poster on the marquee. Pictured are familiar faces of The Beatles, yet they are older. It’s a reunion show. Then, I noticed myself pictured among them. Panic erupts in the recognition of my visage accompanying the Fab Four. I realize that I am supposed to be on stage with the band. I reach for the nearest door and it is locked. I begin to run around the perimeter of the building and furiously grab at any entry point. All doors are locked. I hear a familiar voice addressing the audience along the lines of, “We are not sure where our fifth bandmate is but we will carry on without him.” It’s Paul McCartney and he sounds irritated by my absence. I have let my band down and I am forming apologetic words hoping my four friends will allow me to remain with them.
I awaken with a numbing rawness at the realization that I could have been in The Beatles.
Now, please know that I am nowhere near the status of those who have been anointed 5th Beatle status. I do feel an affinity for the band having been a fan for forty of my forty-eight rotations on this planet. I am pretty certain that I am not the first to imagine being in the greatest band in the annals of music history. In my mind, John, Paul, George, Ringo and Sean has the nice ring to it. We could be bandmates, indeed, as I imagine running along side them during the cinematic opening of “A Hard Day’s Night.”
As we approach the fiftieth anniversary of the release of “The White Album, ” many esteemed authors and speakers will share the brilliance of this double album. An oft-told tale of Eric Clapton guesting on lead guitar for George Harrison’s “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” will definitely be shared. Clapton is mentioned in Fifth Beatle Guessing Games as a logical addition to the band. Later, Clapton’s name is mentioned as a possible replacement by John Lennon during the angst of the “Get Back”/”Let It Be” Sessions. Clearly, Eric Clapton is the Fifth Beatle! Or, is he?
The Fifth Beatle conversation is a fascinating and rich conversation for fans and critics alike. Many names have been bandied about in debate proclaiming finality. Billy Preston, Eric Clapton, Yoko Ono, Pete Best, Stu Sutcliffe are all names that have been clothed in Fifth Beatle regalia. Paul McCartney has mentioned Producer George Martin and Manager Brian Epstein as contenders for Fifth Beatle status.
I think of the beauty of The Beatles’ collaboration over their short life span as a band. They were a tight little band who immersed themselves in a brotherhood that few could enter during the course of their musical union. That tight brotherhood might have seeped into my subconscious that prevents me from joining the band in what is supposed to be a dream of my creation.
As I muse over the Fifth Beatle debate, I think of the band’s performance of “Hey Jude” on David Frost’s “Frost on Sunday” broadcast in 1968. This classic song has reached universal proportions as not only a huge hit for a pop band, but it has evolved into an anthem for solace and inspiration. The band’s performance on Frost’s program is iconic for many reasons. An enduring image from that performance is a throng of people surrounding The Beatles as they perform. They were invited to dwell among the band during their televised performance.
The array of audience members is diverse and eclectic. They represent our human family joined together by the universal language of music. The Beatles are interacting with this group in such an authentic and loving way as they sift through the musical marrow of “Hey Jude.” The members of the audience are not succumbing to past tenses of Beatlemania. There is an understanding between band and audience that is something special. The interaction is innocent and joyous.
As the camera pulls away at various intervals, it is sometimes difficult to determine where John, Paul, George and Ringo are located. The group is so large and they are literally immersed in the performance with the band. (Click Here for the performance.)
Then, it hits me like Ringo’s opening drum fill on “Hey Jude,” we are all the Fifth Beatle.
We are all invited to join the band. All are welcome to this unit because The Beatles music transcends category. Their canon is universal and timeless. Reflecting our experiences, The Beatles invite us to embark upon “long and winding roads” that compel us to consider love, peace, loneliness, fantasy and many more keys embodying our collective humanity.
This lesson of inclusiveness has seeped into my leadership as a classroom teacher and principal. I took a page from my father who often rallied me to aspire to greatness with his wisdom: “Everybody plays. Everybody is off the bench. We are all starters.” I used the same line in my professional role as an educator. I guess I have been inviting kids and teachers to join our schoolhouse band for years. Everyone is in my version of The Beatles, too.
There are no locked doors at a fantasy reunion concert that prevent us from joining the band. We are a part of the music. We will always have that connection as long as there is sound and the sound is infinite, deep and beautiful.
Everyone is in the band.