i opened my laptop to the facebook tab this morning and this picture was waiting. in the way that facebook picks and chooses memories for you to zip back to, days of throwback, this photo was labeled as “8 years ago” and immediately i was there. it was a celebratory post for the “world premier” performance of the ukulele band. a rainbow of color and delight and what an arc it had.
the best parts of a director’s job as a conductor are to see the coming-together of community, the coming-together of practice, the coming-together of confidence, the coming-together in ensemble. those moments when it all syncs into a piece of music, a song, into utter joy expressed by melody and strummed chords. these are defining moments, moments in the groove, moments when everything jibes, moments when all is in alignment. these ukuleles were a gift both to people who had played or sang before and people who had never experienced the camaraderie of music performance. these ukuleles were a gift to people who watched. i was happy to see this ‘memory’ in my facebook feed early today.
scrolling further, coffee next to me, and facebook was full of the olympics and stories of great athleticism, stories of winning, stories of not-winning.
in the last couple days simone biles withdrew from olympic events. she got a case of the “twisties” she said. in simple terms, as i am not an athlete, this is a dangerous and precarious situation when an athlete mid-air has a time of blankness and is forced to rely on muscle memory so as not to get hurt. her vault suffered and she, aware of the sheer importance of this body she had trained and relied on, turned to her trainers and coaches and stopped. they respected her decision. they respected her physical health, the importance of every appendage as an athlete. they respected that her decision to withdraw was protecting her athletic ability in the future. they did not ask her to place her physical form at risk. they did not label her decision to withdraw and rest that which gave her her life’s work – her body and her mind – as not working for them, as a demerit costing her payroll or esteem. instead, to their credit, those in power trusted and honored her decision and supported her in it, no doubt encouraging her. she placed her physical and mental health over her aspiration to win more metal and, in those decisions, has probably made more impact on the world than maybe anything else she’s done (even while recognizing that she has leaped and vaulted and hand-springed her way into most-outstanding-gymnast-ever-dom). respecting her decision and respecting her mental and physical health, not questioning but relying on her professionalism, her wisdom, her intuition, her knowledge and experience and – this biggie – upholding the value of keeping her safe and thereby keeping her future as an athlete wide open – this is vastly important and profoundly absolute.
scrolling further down facebook i came across a post about kerri strug. after a 1996 olympic vault during which she drastically injured herself, her coach insisted she go back and do it again. despite her best intuition, despite the long-lasting injury she would sustain as a result of not resting after her fall, she was pushed to go on. in some not-honoring-her-but-placing-importance-on-power moment, she pushed on. 1996. 2021. reading posts comparing these, it’s evident there has been some growth. it’s also evident there hasn’t.
i scrolled back up to the top of my feed. i stared at the circle of ukuleles. in these moments post ukulele-band-rainbow-arc, in these moments as covid continues to wreak its wreckage and its wearying challenges, i hope that those people who were in the band still take out their ukuleles. i miss them and our music-making. i hope that muscle memory reminds them how to play. i hope they sing. i hope they remember all those stunning moments of cohesion – making music.
it’s interesting the juxtaposition of what you see on facebook on any given morning.