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Just as we consider you an integral part of who we are, I hope that you think of the Nashville Symphony as an indispensable part of your own lives. November is a time of anticipation. The holidays are right around the corner, and a new year soon begins. It is also a time that reminds us to find the goodness in each other and in our community. In addition to working hard to ensure that your experience with us in the hall is fun and completely rewarding, we place just as much importance on serving everyone in our. Last year, our musicians devoted more than 14, hours of their time to performing, teaching and speaking at these programs.
How does this happen? People just like you who believe that our city needs an orchestra that serves the community with its heart. An orchestra of such high caliber, such musical dynamism, that it is the finale of the Spring for Music festival at Carnegie Hall in May Your support allows us to contribute in so many ways to the remarkable quality of life we enjoy here in Nashville.
So, here we are, in this beautiful hall, sharing music with our friends, family and community. How lucky we are. How deeply thankful. We hope you join us at Carnegie Hall! Check out RoadtoCarnegie. Each person responds differently to medicine. Using DNA, our doctors match heart patients with the right blood thinner.
Consider these ideas for the music lovers on your list:. New this season, the Nashville Symphony Gift Card can be redeemed for anything at Schermerhorn Symphony Center — including concert tickets, dining, drinks and shopping in the Symphony Store! Available for purchase throughout the Schermerhorn, or call our box office at Come visit us at Green Hills Mall! Symphomoney works like a gift certificate — only with even better value, because each voucher can be traded in for the best seats available in the house at the time of redemption.
For more information, call With the holiday season just around the corner, now is the perfect opportunity to plan your holiday outing — and Schermerhorn Symphony Center is the perfect place to host it! Our versatile building contains a wide variety of gathering spaces, and our Catering and Events Team will do all the work to help you plan and execute a first-rate event.
Bruce Pittman bpittman nashvillesymphony. You were there for the first trip. Could you talk about what it means to be going back? This will be my third time to play at Carnegie Hall, but one thing that makes this time special is that my Dad is going. What do you like best about playing viola? I love playing the harmony, and I love being in the middle of the orchestra and hearing everything surrounding me. The timbre of the instrument is warm, and it rounds out the lower and the higher sounds of the other strings, so we blend really well. Which means that when we do get a moment to shine, we can really belt it out.
Who has had the greatest influence on you as a musician? My parents. They taught me how to love music, and when they saw that I was serious about pursuing it, they were very clear about the realities of what it would take to get a job. I would be a mommy to my daughters. Visit NashvilleSymphony. Supporting the arts since Close to the Community.
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We offer individualized learning plans for every student and a robust host of athletics, arts and extracurricular activities — all on a beautiful acre campus near Maryland Farms, just eight miles from Cool Springs and 11 miles from downtown Nashville. At RJ Young we specialize in taking care of the modern office. Increase your efficiency and reduce your overall cost by: Managing all your devices, copiers and printers Providing high quality, low price supplies and equipment Local and prompt technical service Workflow analysis and document management.
For information about our free faculty and student performances, guest artists, lectures, master classes, and more, visit the Blair website at blair. Look around the room We may never pick up an instrument, but we believe strongly in supporting those who do. After all, a community that supports the arts is a community worth supporting. Get to know all the benefits of banking with SunTrust.
Stop by a branch, call SunTrust and Live Solid. Bank Solid. Borodin composed the opera Prince Igor on and off for nearly two decades starting in , but left the score unfinished at his death. Petersburg, Russia; died on February 27, , in St. First performance: March 11, , in St. Petersburg, in a concert conducted by Rimsky-Korsakov, though the posthumously completed opera Prince Igor was not premiered until November 4, Estimated length: 12 minutes Recommended listening and reading: The remastered account on Sony by the Cleveland Orchestra under George Szell is thrilling and includes several other Russian concert favorites, but the entire opera Prince Igor is an experience not to miss.
Although he completed only a small body of work, Alexander Borodin was a significant player in the movement to cultivate an autonomously Russian approach to composition in the second half of the 19th century. He belonged to the St. Petersburg-based circle of maverick composers who rejected preconceived Western European patterns in their quest for an authentically Russian art. Borodin exemplified their preference for selftraining and the passion of the amateur over a polished conservatory education.
Indeed, his own official training was in medicine and chemistry, and his research as a biochemist made lasting contributions to the field. Between his scientific career and frequent bouts of ill health, little time was left for composition. Even so, Borodin became a pioneer of Russian instrumental music, as well as a major link in the development of Russian opera through. Scholars continue to debate whether the manuscript, which was discovered in the 18th century, is authentic or a forgery. From the welter of sketches left behind, Rimsky-Korsakov and his student Alexander Glazunov prepared and orchestrated a complete performing edition.
Prince Igor is set in the year and recounts the fate of the title hero, ruler of a principality in present-day Ukraine, who leads a military expedition against Khan Konchak and his marauding Polovtsi. He fails and is captured, but escapes to rejoin his people and rouse them toward eventual victory. The Dances begin with a gently dreamy introduction. The present performance gives us a chance to hear the choral scoring that is part of the Dances in their original operatic context, with the female slaves singing here of homesickness for their native lands.
A fourth dance pulses at breakneck speed. Earlier dance themes are reprised and juxtaposed before a swirling frenzy takes over in the thrilling final section. The Polovtsian Dances are scored for 2 flutes and piccolo, 2 oboes 2nd doubling English horn , 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 4 horns, 2 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, snare drum, bass drum, cymbals, triangle, tambourine, glockenspiel, harp, strings and mixed chorus. Fly away on gentle breezes; Fly swiftly, songs of love, to greet our homeland Where once we lived in hope and knew no sorrow, Where once we sang, rejoicing in our freedom.
Fly away, our songs of freedom! Fearless, mighty, ruthless warrior, hail! Sing his praise! Great Konchak, praise him! Fiercer than the scorching midday sun! None can equal him in splendor, none! Slaves and captives…all acclaim him, Slaves and captives…all acclaim his glorious name. Captives I took from the tribes of the Caspian. They can make you forget all your loneliness, Choose any who attracts you, and she shall be yours. Braver far than all before mighty Khan, great Konchak!
Praise our Khan, Khan Konchak! Let all people please him dancing! Offer songs of homage to our glorious Khan Khonchak! Praise Khan Konchak! Estimated length: 34 minutes Recommended listening: One of the standout recordings in a crowded field is by Boston Symphony Orchestra with Seiji Ozawa and soloist Viktoria Mullova Philips.
In his early years, Tchaikovsky had an ambivalent rapport with the Mighty Five but ended up following his own path as he mixed national Russian elements with techniques and forms from Western tradition. Unlike Borodin, he underwent conservatory training and began to prepare his career methodically. But all his careful planning could not have prepared the composer for the events of and the turmoil they would cause. Soon after the marriage, Tchaikovsky abandoned his bride and fled to a temporary exile in Western Europe, where he at last experienced a period of relative emotional calm while sojourning in the Swiss town of Clarens.
Possibly a former lover, Kotek served as a very practical muse by advising the composer on technical matters about the solo part. To give. The music clearly steps back from the emotional turbulence and soul-searching attitude of the contemporaneous Fourth Symphony, though to be sure it exhibits an extroverted theatricality of its own. What to listen for Tchaikovsky integrates a considerable arsenal of technical challenges for the soloist with a deliciously juicy, unhurried lyricism that somehow also manages to touch on the epic.
Although darker undercurrents occasionally intrude, the stereotype of the hyper-emotive, crisis-ridden Tchaikovsky takes a holiday; instead, we encounter an almost Mediterranean gracefulness. Beneath all the pyrotechnics, meanwhile, is a wealth of inventive reimagining of the material. The first theme, for example, cleverly emerges from what seems to be a free-flight improvisation, while.
Like Mendelssohn in his highly influential Violin Concerto, Tchaikovsky positions his cadenza earlier than usual, at the end of the development. Its music represents an intriguing synthesis of thematic splicing and showy technical hurdles. In this simple, light song, the soloist indeed seems to vocalize a gently muted, melancholy aria of pristine emotion. Here the ethereal soloist becomes an earthy fiddler, playing with bloodrushing abandon. Most audiences, however, have been more than happy to be guests at this village party.
In April , he introduced the first of two concert suites he would extract from the full-length score. The unique dance style of Vaslav Nijinsky who created the role of Daphnis inspired particular musical gestures. The music is usually encountered in heavily abridged form, without chorus, in the second of the two concert suites extracted by Ravel.
But even when performed outside its original theatrical context, the full-length ballet is a marvel of compositional design. In Part One, undulating harmonies — enhanced by the chorus — form one of the central motivic ideas of the score, while the flute plays a theme of fluid rhythms associated with the nymphs and Pan.
A lilting meter accompanies the graceful dance of Daphnis. An unaccompanied chorus serves as a transition to Part Two, which features the menacing music of the pirates. This begins the familiar music from the Second Suite. Using divided strings, Ravel instructs the players to remove their mutes one by one as woodwinds mimic birdcalls.
The chorus intensifies the impression of shafts of sunlight dispelling all darkness and worry. A rapturous development of their love music abruptly segues into the orgiastic concluding dance. On a spring afternoon, young men and women pause from tending their sheep to worship before an altar representing three nymphs.
Dorcon engages in a dance contest with Daphnis but loses and is ridiculed by the assembled group. A sandal left behind is evidence that the pirates have abducted her. Giving in to despair, Daphnis is comforted by the trio of nymphs, whose religious statues mysteriously come to life. They summon the form of Pan, god of the wild and protector of shepherds.
Pan intervenes through his army of satyrs, and the miscreants flee in terror. He writes extensively about music and theater. She plays on a Stradivarius violin that was bought for her exclusive use by a private sponsor. Beverly Anderson Karen L. Hayes William F. Piston Al Powers Robert C. Anderson Jonathan Carle Justin E. Combs James L. Get up, get loud and shout it out! American Soul Some call it Motown. Some call it Soul. Revel in the sweet, smooth sounds that defined an American musical genre with songs made famous by some of the greatest recording artists of all time.
Midnight Magic These ghostly drummers are hip and magical. This team of drummers is fast with their sticks and just as fast on their feet. Halftime The sound and style of the Historically Black College and University marching bands is legendary. Enjoy this tribute to the iconic halftime extravaganza made famous by HBCU bands from across America.
Ultimate Drum Battle The one-on-one battle of some of the best drummers you have ever witnessed. This versatile group of musicians and dancers brings explosive energy and athleticism to an eclectic mix of sounds. The cast has honed its precision and energy with years of training in marching band programs across the southern United States. Drumline Live is thrilled to share the American marching band experience with a wider audience. There are more than historically black colleges in the United States, located almost exclusively in the Southeast. Along with the private black colleges and universities founded later by the American Missionary Association, these Reconstruction-era schools became the backbone of higher education for African-Americans.
It was in these bastions of higher education that the tradition of the show-style marching band was born. HBCU marching bands began, as most do, to support the college football team. They have since grown into a sport of their own, featuring characteristic high-stepping, funky dance rhythms and an exciting musical repertoire ranging from classical to Top Celebrations of HBCU marching culminate in competitions that draw audiences of as many as 60,, a testament to the popularity of the sport. But it is only recently, with films such as Drumline and a flurry of high-profile marching band appearances, that this tradition has begun to capture the imagination of the American public.
Get on the road to carnegie! Be there to cheer on your hometown orchestra and to be a part of this historic occasion. Shortly after having her baby, Jessica was diagnosed with heart failure. While she waited for a transplant, she needed a heart pump. With more than 45 regional locations, Saint Thomas Heart offers greater access and experience that comes with seeing more heart patients than anyone in the state. And that means more survivors. Learn more at MoreSurvivors.
Our ears are tuned to listen carefully to the wants and needs of Nashville. We invite you to talk with us, challenge us with your personal and business financial needs, and let us show you our commitment to hear with intent and deliver a client-driven solution.
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Eldred was featured in the PBS Soundstage. He performed in the 25th anniversary tour of Jesus Christ Superstar and starred as The Tenor in the national concert tour of. Merchant began her musical career as the lead vocalist and lyricist of the pop group 10, Maniacs, releasing two Platinum and four Gold records with the group between and Together with artists like R.
In , Merchant began her solo career with a self-produced debut album, Tigerlily. With her latest and highly acclaimed Nonesuch recording, Leave Your Sleep, Merchant embarks on a new artistic path, creating literaryinspired songs composed for expanded musical ensembles and orchestra.
Live performances of her new music have been enthusiastically received by both longtime fans and new audiences. In conjunction with her next orchestral recording, due to be released in , Merchant will undertake an extensive touring project, performing with symphony orchestras throughout the world. In , she curated a collection of her own work for a double album, Retrospective, and another for her former band, Campfire Songs. Throughout her career, she has also been dedicated to supporting a variety of nonprofit organizations by lending financial support and raising public awareness.
Merchant has also served as an appointed member of the prestigious New York State Council on the Arts. The first official opus by one of the seminal figures of musical modernism, the Passacaglia nevertheless draws on a revered form that carries the weight of centuries of tradition. First performance: November 4, , in Vienna, with the composer conducting. Estimated length: 11 minutes Recommended listening: Pierre Boulez leads an authoritative performance by the Berlin Philharmonic Deutsche Grammophon. Yet for all his revolutionary influence, Webern himself remained profoundly connected to musical tradition.
His respect for the past was reinforced by Schoenberg, who became his teacher in Webern wrote a doctoral thesis on Renaissance music, and even in his most. The piece was conceived as a graduation exercise following four years of intensive private study with Schoenberg. After earlier experiments with program music, Webern deliberately chose a structure that would enforce abstract discipline on his imagination.
The passacaglia was originally a dance in triple time but had developed connotations of solemnity and even tragic gravitas. I mean, Jesus the Prophet is on every single page of the Gospels, right from the start! His birth is the announcement of a prophecy, and of a whole new and very different kind of relationship with God. And when he comes back down the mountain to his disciples, he is illuminated in the fullness of his prophetic role. Jesus takes on Temple and Throne, head on, every time he meets them.
Jesus criticizes not just the keepers of the Temple, but the very developers of the liturgy itself. We read in the Gospels how they had passed a new canonical, ecclesiastical law called the Corban. Now remember, this is the Jewish community. Religion is at the centre of the home, with the internalization of the Torah and the commandments, and of course the importance of the great history of the Exodus.
They have a very tight family system that is supported in the Scriptures themselves, and the assumption was that young people took care of their parents. That was not only the social service system, it was an act of Jewish sanctity, that the parents would be cared for — until the leaders of the Temple changed the law.
And they changed it this way: that you would not have to commit yourself to the care of your parents if you paid the Corban. What was the Corban? It was a tax. If you paid the Corban to the Temple, you were released from the obligation to take care of your parents. Jesus whips into the Pharisees about that one, because it is so clear into whose pockets that money was going.
He spoke up, very clearly, about how he felt about it. Joan meeting with native women in Ciapas, Mexico; And as we discover more about important issues, I would call that a very holy meeting. We own them! Too often, we are pretending we have no responsibility. When God called Isaiah into prophecy, he asked him to be a watchman. God told Isaiah to watch at the gates for danger, and to give the people warning if he saw danger coming. And it should be coming from our churches and faith communities. This is a great crossover moment, which is going to decide the future of the entire globe.
There are huge issues in front of us, and we cannot continue to go blithely on our personal way and ignore them. But you cannot claim to be following Jesus if you simply divorce yourself from everything that God has created. He left the rest of creation for us to complete. At the International Peace Council front row, centre right.
Kolbe Times: Your book mentions many modern-day spiritual giants who had such strong prophetic witness, and whose lives had a big influence on you. It was also good to be reminded of the rejection they often faced. Who are some of the other sources of courage in your life? Joan Chittister: I have to say that the sisters in my own religious community in Erie, Pennsylvania are an inspiration to me. I also remember something very powerful that I witnessed when I was getting my doctorate from Penn State University.
One night, studying in my room in the Graduate Hall in Atherton on College Avenue, all of a sudden I could hear this noise around me. It was kind of like a shuffle, shuffle, shuffle. Well, I finally went over to the window, and there I saw thousands of students in a candlelight parade, walking up College Avenue silently, to the gates of Penn State University. Once there, they read the names of the Vietnam dead, for something like 35 straight hours.
It was quite phenomenal. They were all anonymous prophets who put their books down and went to College Avenue for a commitment greater than themselves. And then my studies were over and I went back to the monastery, and my own sisters were being carted off in wagons to jail. They were holding sit-ins in the big oil offices in Pittsburgh and in the offices of our representatives and senators in Washington.
I should also mention that I have been a great follower of Thomas Merton. His journals are wonderful from the point of view of personal spiritual mysticism, and that was very meaningful to me. On the other hand, his book Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander helped turn attitudes toward war around, and that was extremely important. I just need to be a little braver. Joan Chittister: Exactly. But the person who stands up and states their opinion and asks questions is the most revolutionary person in the population.
It can be done with respect, and even with kindness. But you know, you just have to take those first steps. Start with little things. It seems that every day we hear about events in the news that make you just shake your head in disbelief. It seems to be devolving too fast. It is not about turning into a hippie. I believe in small groups that get together to study issues — not bemoan them; study them! Get good, readable books. Sister Joan, thank you for writing this book; thank you for being a prophetic witness in our world; thank you for being a model of courage for us; and thank you for your time today.
Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. Acts One of the first things that happened as the church was born that first Pentecost, years ago, is that Christians started sharing everything they had.
They worshipped in their homes. The gospel was lived out of dinner tables and living rooms. We are living in a time of unprecedented economic disparity between the rich and the poor, the haves and the have-nots. Masses live in poverty so that a handful of people can live as they wish. The average CEO in the U. In contrast, it was the ethic of the early Christians that no one had a right to more than they need while others have less.
Should we not give the same name to one who could clothe the naked and does not? Generosity cannot be forced or legislated. It has to be provoked by love. The early Christians did not have community because they shared stuff — just the opposite. They shared stuff because they had community. It is simply what happens when we are driven by a love ethic to love our neighbor as ourselves. Statistics are not enough. Campaigns are not enough. We will never make poverty history until we first make poverty personal.
Find me where I am hungry. And homeless. And naked. And in prison. Calcutta street scene; photo by Rita Willaert. In the end, the final judgment according to Jesus is this. All of us will be gathered before God, and we will be asked a few questions — not a doctrinal test about eschatology, inerrancy of Scripture. We will not be asked if we believe Mary was a virgin, or if the world was really made in seven days. When I was a stranger, did you welcome me in?
When I was sick, did you take care of me? The true test of our faith is how it is expressed in love and compassion to the people in this world. Jesus did not come to give us guilt, but to give us life. But I would gladly do it for Christ. I will never forget learning this from a homeless kid in India. Every week we would throw a party for the street kids, kids years old who were homeless, begging all day to survive.
One week, one of the kids I had grown close to told me it was his birthday, so I got him an ice cream. He was so excited, he stared at it mesmerized. But what he did next was brilliant. He yelled at all the other kids and told them to come over. He lined them up and gave them all a lick.
Not guilt. Emily Kettleson is an artist. You can see her love of expression in the way that she focuses intently when she draws, and the pride with which she shows off her portfolio. However, most people do not see that side of her. They only see her developmental disabilities. Laviolette took the time to get to know Kettleson, showing her around her workplace and introducing her to staff.
Being involved with the MentorAbility program has been a great experience for both Laviolette and Kettleson. CASE is a national association of community-based service providers and stakeholders working towards employment inclusion for people like Kettleson, who have a desire to be included in the community and to improve their skills and abilities.
Borrows is a changemaker, and has long been a champion of MentorAbility. Through this program and many other initiatives, Borrows and her Board strive to increase capacity, employment and personal fulfillment for persons with disabilities. At the same time, they want to help employers learn more about individual disability experiences, recognize talent and potential, tap into a pool of potential future employees, and demonstrate community leadership.
CASE has created and delivered several programs related to persons with disabilities. As an umbrella national body, CASE has designed awareness and support services, and implemented them in conjunction with its over association members. DEAM promotes and celebrates the many and varied contributions of workers with disabilities. CASE strives to spread the important message that a strong workforce is one inclusive of the skills and talents of all individuals, including people with disabilities.
Their MentorAbility program is putting that message into action. The company brought together over 30 Talent and Acquisitions team members from across North America to participate in a MentorAbility event. The two have formed a firm bond of friendship. In February , with government support, MentorAbility became a national project, with plans to replicate the program in all provinces. The new MentorAbility Canada Project has a number of far-reaching goals. In addition to mentoring Canadians with disabilities, it will set up an ecosystem of social partnerships — uniting the efforts of government, businesses, and community organizations and developing lasting relationships.
Through the MentorAbility program, we hope that Canadian businesspeople will see the real person behind the disabilities — someone with talents, passions and unique abilities to bring to the workplace. My grandfather Gido passed away when I was seven. I remember him keeping it in his night table.
It was something to be feared. My father showed it to me once when I was ten, with a stern warning. But after watching the James Bond movie, and having reached the ripe age of 35, I asked him again about the razor. This time, he handed it to me with hardly a word. In its condition, it would have been best used as a letter-opener.
Something was compelling me to pursue this, so I sent it away to be properly honed and restored. When I got it back, it looked brand new and sharp as a lightsaber. Now that I had the razor, I had to figure out what to do with it. I started asking around town about how to properly use the thing. As I asked around, one name kept coming up. It turned out he was a guy my age who happened to be a firefighter here in town. This is old technology, dating back hundreds maybe thousands?
There is no sense to it at all, other than the fact that for some inexplicable reason I felt compelled to master this thing. Weeks went by. A little more YouTube. A little less blood, but still, it was starting to become clear I needed help. I decided to phone Pete. My name is Keith Kitchen. Literally ten minutes later, I got a call from Pete.
Pete here. We got together and had a great visit. Pete had me over a few times to learn how to hone and strop a razor, and gave me a few much-needed pointers. Before I knew it, I had not only mastered the art of a straight razor shave, I was soon buying old razors off eBay, restoring and honing them, and selling them for a tidy little profit.
Pete and I became good friends. A few years later our community suffered a bad house fire. Our fire department prides itself on a quick response time, but on this particular afternoon they were severely delayed by onlookers in the area who congested the streets, preventing the fire engines from getting through. One of my friends, who serves on the auxiliary, had to get out of his vehicle and run three blocks with his turnout gear air tank, helmet and protective clothing due to the traffic.
In the end, two houses were lost and there was a lot of noise in the community over what went wrong. I ignored it and kept driving. I turned around and headed back to the Firehall. Pete and I had a long talk about the events of the day before, and the unfair criticism the fire department was receiving. I listened and told Pete I was on his side, and also that I was praying for the folks at the fire department. About a year ago, Pete called me up and asked if we could go for coffee.
Firefighters are tough people. Physically and mentally fit. They rappel from wind turbines and rush into burning buildings. I sing about my feelings for a living. What would I have in common with them? Though, to my credit, I DO shave with a straight razor now, so….
The fact that in , in an increasingly secular Canada, a fire department would call on a pastor to help is no small thing. The Holy Spirit is always moving. Always working. Often in ways that are imperceptible, and through streams we can hardly trace. Like the compulsion to stop in at the Firehall that day. The thought that I needed to call a stranger about a straight razor. The fascination with this ancient technology. I suppose even the decision to watch a James Bond movie one night. In fact, we should expect them as we are being moved along, written into a grander story than any of us can imagine.
Visit his website to find out more about Keith and his music. Click on images to enlarge. In conversation with my colleagues, we all agree: teenagers are experiencing a mental health crisis of epidemic proportions. Their battle may be silent, but troubling statistics are becoming too loud to ignore. The growing tension is palpable both in and out of the classroom: a sense of powerlessness and unease lines the edges of conversation I overhear parents having at the Sports Plex, and the grocery store.
Often our own anxieties fuel attempts to rescue, solve, and fix our kids, and not surprisingly, the recipients of our best intentions recoil. Or maybe we have the opposite reaction. Finding ourselves in uncharted waters we dismiss and withdraw; ignoring, avoiding or minimizing the problem. Sometimes in my own classroom, I catch myself interpreting symptomology as laziness or defiance. From that space, I try to discipline the surliness, inattention and irritability, instead of investigating what is beneath it.
Roots are, by nature, hidden beneath the surface. So I manage what I can see, blind to the fact that these behaviours are symptoms of dysfunction, not causes. The poetry unit I designed for the students of my junior high Language Arts classroom was an attempt to re-imagine our dialogue about mental health. I wanted to bring awareness to the matrix of interacting variables that affects each and every one of us, and the way we relate to ourselves, each other, and our environment.
Though I unquestionably advocate for crisis services for teens in distress, I also believe strongly in addressing the problem upstream. Changing classroom culture is imperative if we are going to make a difference for students prior to the point of acute crisis. My vision was for a classroom working collaboratively towards freedom from reactionary discipline, bullying, and stigma. I wanted a space where teenagers could engage each other openly in an exploration of their internal struggles, for the purposes of greater understanding, compassion and support.
Poetry functions in many ways like a back door, giving adolescents a new path to a place where they can speak about aspects of their experience which otherwise remain buried. Poetic language provides the safety of allusion, when pain is too raw to name directly.
Inviting creative expression is often cathartic in itself, and a poem can function like a guide, drawing us into ever-deeper layers of our own associations. Sometimes, as my students have repeatedly demonstrated with the poignant specificity of a well-chosen metaphor, the only way to truly describe an experience is through image and analogy. Our poetry unit began with a discussion of fifteen topics, for which I designed introductory paragraphs and questions to inspire further thought.
Topics included anxiety as a mind-body response to perceived threat; self-harm as a testament to emotional pain and trauma; bullying as abuse; and suicide and addiction as symptoms of disconnection. We also talked about acceptance, emotional awareness, mindfulness, and our relationships to Self self-concept, self-esteem, self-love, self-talk, and self-care and Other compassion, acceptance over judgment, and supportive friendships.
Each student chose a topic and a partner and added depth to their inquiry by defining and familiarizing themselves with mental health terminology such as bipolar, self-injury, cortisol, and depression. I also sent each student home with a list of recommendations for further reading if they were interested, including a few of my favorites: Depression and Other Magic Tricks by Sabrina Benaim, and Sad Birds Still Sing by Faraway. As a class, we discussed slam poetry competitive performance poetry as an art form, and the way it has been used by many who have felt marginalized, to share their experiences.
Below are some powerful lines that came from it:. We then invited Dr. On this note, I strongly recommend reaching out to experts in the field, because they are often willing and eager to help! For Dr.
Williams, writing is a way of engaging critically and responsibly, not only with the world around us, but also the one within us. She uses her passion for the written word to draw students into a deeper encounter with themselves and each other through projects which focus on poetry as pedagogy, feminism, and intergenerational wisdom. She took what we knew about poetic form—what we were supposed to know, according to the mandates of provincial curriculum—and broke it open, expanding our imaginations about the possibility of poetic verse.
She transcended the dusty must-dos of odes and sonnets, and nudged us to the edges of each line break, encouraging us to question the purpose of a pause. Her presentation and presence left us empowered to analyze poetry with open hearts and critical minds. Armed with all of this knowledge and momentum, students worked together in pairs to craft a spoken word piece for performance. Not to mention the great job the kids did in writing and performing. I wish all the junior high students in the city would be so lucky.
Thanks for organizing such a special program. I feel it made a big difference in educating our kids and parents about mental health, and in the process, starting to take away the stigma. Label jars….. When it takes over, screaming, crying, throwing things, I watch, horrified. And society watches, horrified. To continue the fight.
An uninvited guest, That nobody wants. Like Dr. Blassey Ford and all the women before her, will they deny m e my emotional reality? Mock me? Criticize Me? Emotional Awareness by Lilah and Aiden. My emotional testimony is a remarkable profile in courage. Blassey Ford and all the women before her, will they deny me my emotional reality? As teaching professionals, we are in a unique position to influence the conversation about mental health. We are front-line resources, first-hand witnesses, and helping professionals with keen insight into the student experience. We know that deconstructing stigma and opening up spaces for conversation is a courageous and a necessary act, and yet many of us feel entirely ill-equipped to provide psychotherapeutic support to teens facing the challenges of anxiety, depression, self-harm, bullying, stigma, and more.
Poetry is one such access point to provide teenagers with an opportunity to process and integrate their emotions, find catharsis in self-expression, and discover a way to connect their personal suffering to the shared experiences of their peers. Our poetry unit invited us to query our narratives around mental health, open the floor for conversation about potentially taboo topics, expand our vocabulary, and add layers to our capacity for empathy.
As evidenced by the samples above, poetry was our vehicle for imagining, visioning, and challenging the societal scripts which mire mental health challenges in shame and stigma, and leave many teenagers to suffer in silence. I am increasingly present to the reality of a formidable, generation-deep mental health stigma facing teenagers today. As a collective, we are starting to find ways to increase mental health awareness and dismantle some of the shame and silence perpetuated by stereotypes — but we still have much work to do. Bullying, fear of our own shadows, and age-old socio-cultural scripts perpetually bubble up in the microcosm of a junior high school.
Though empathy, new language, and emotional awareness would benefit many of our social spaces, the hallways and lunchrooms of middle schools are war zones desperately in need of armistice. Moving through this unit expanded our understanding of mental health from category to continuum, and fostered a sense of shared experience for the purposes of greater connection, and greater compassion. It happened in Sing Sing Correctional Facility, a maximum-security prison operated by the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision, where some inmates spend decades on custodial sentences for the most serious felonies.
Photo by Peter Greenberg; Creative Commons. But on a late autumn afternoon, these men of Sing Sing became my joy teachers. For this selective academic initiative, run entirely on private funds, students come from Sing Sing itself or on transfer from other New York prisons. They learn intensively, giving up all non-emergency family visits.
They graduate with accredited masters degrees and become savvy servants of the sacred. I joined them as honorary observer, a rabbi and seminary teacher with a parallel career in government and public policy. One course I teach is about joy in spiritual life — the joy of spiritual life, what spiritual life teaches about joy, when joy distracts from real spirituality — and how religions and religious practices figure in it all.
As a student and teacher of joy, I wanted to see and hear these men and their teachers in a place of seeming joylessness. I wanted to be a fly on the bleak prison wall. I wanted to hear what they learned about joy. What they said knocked my socks off. What they said might have been ripped from the literature of academic theology, the spiritual radicalism of 18th century mystical Hasidism, or the 21st century positive psychology. These men distinguished between short-term emotional peak experiences of joy and long-term disciplines of building a happy life.
These men spoke of redemptive joy — seeking spirit and spirituality not as a balm but as perhaps the toughest task-master of their lives, demanding total truth and transparency with their past. They spoke of redemption, not as a short cut or one-way ticket, but as a constancy of communion at the frontier of regret, remorse, repair and renewal. Intuitively, they understood that spirituality, taken the wrong way, can be a vice rather than virtue.