The Growth Mindset of Variations on a Theme in “Mountain Jam”

It has been quite some time since I have taken the time to visit this particular blog. With the recent connections on Twitter and Voxer, I have the opportunity to take time to connect with other #EduHeroes in my PLN. One of those individuals is Megan Morgan. She is what I call a “Blogger Genius.” Recently, she encouraged me to dust off “Principal Liner Notes” and re-visit the marrow of my reflection. I am taking Megan’s challenge with open arms and hoping that the safety net is firmly in place.

(This will be a brief post due to the impending positive realities of Back to School.)

There is wonderful track on “Eat a Peach” by The Allman Brothers Band. It is called “Mountain Jam” and it is one of the highlights of their historic live performance at the Fillmore East in 1971. The Allman Brothers Band were an essentially an amalgam of blues, jazz, country and rock. The band took standard songs and extended them into free-form musical territory. This was not a new practice in music. Miles Davis, John Coltrane and Ornette Coleman explored and extended musical themes into longer compositions. San Francisco bands such as The Grateful Dead, Santana and Quicksilver Message Service performed extended pieces in concert. Most of this music sired what is now known as the Jam Band.

“Mountain Jam” is based upon a whimsical folk ditty by Donovan known as “First, There is a Mountain.” The Allman Brothers Band, being a multi-racial band from Georgia, took this tune and extended it to epic, symphonic proportions. The live track on “Eat a Peach” lasts a little over thirty-three minutes. Some versions of “Mountain Jam” hit the one hour mark. The version on “Eat a Peach” is considered by the band not to be their best version. It’s hard to believe that when you hear it. The lyrical dual lead guitar work of Duane Allman and Dickie Betts transcends throughout the performance. Berry Oakley’s lyrical bass playing is a revelation of artistry. Then, there is the double percussive attack of Jai Johnny Johnson and Butch Trucks underscored with the Hammond B-3 Organ stylings of Gregg Allman.

All six individuals playing with a sense of urgency for the shared love of music.The band called this “Hittin’ the Note.” Listening to their musical vision is an inspirational and uplifting experience.

I never understood why The Allman Brothers Band considered this version of “Mountain Jam” to be riddled with mistakes. I just heard good music. Upon closer listening, one can hear a few mistakes. What is powerful to observe upon careful listening is how the band covers each other when a mistake is made. In fact, Duane Allman plays a mistake twice purposefully on his guitar to compensate and keep the band moving. Butch Trucks misses a beat during Duane’s count-in after the Berry’s bass solo. You hear Butch Trucks’ frustration as he is scampering to find the right beat pocket.

Despite this mistake, the band plays onward to glory. “Mountain Jam” stands as a milestone in Rock Music.

What do we do in the schoolhouse when a pivotal mistake is made? Do we allow the misstep to hinder our vision and momentum? Is the mistake allowed to conquer the positive mindset? Are we permitted to bounce back from the safety net?

I often wondered how I have permitted power to mistakes I have made as an educator and lead learner. The impact is detrimental to a team, schoolhouse and child.

It is much more important to keep the groove going when a mistake is created. The Allman Brothers Band stand not only as a great band, but also a reminder to have collective growth mindset when it comes to supporting for a comrade. colleague and student who may unintentionally miss a beat.

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