Indodana and Las Vegas

Dr. Brookey quieted the students in room 801 with a wave of his hands. His blue shirt was smartly tucked,  adorned with tiny white and red flowers, a navy blue sport coat to match, his glasses pushed back on his forehead. “We’re just rehearsing,” he paused as he strolled to the front of the room. “But can I ask you, are you really going to convey the story? Can we try it again? This time, sing the story. There should be a complete change.  Music is about communicating, really communicating. It is not just hitting the right notes.”

Dr. Brookey then shared his thoughts about the recent tragedy in Las Vegas. “Indodana is a timely song for us to sing. This song is a lament, a sort of grieving, that ends with a recognition of the hurt and pain caused by violence.” For those not familiar, Indodana is a South African song, from the isiXhosa language. I came to find out that much of the middle part of the musical piece is untranslatable and in some instances translates as “crying.” I watched as students first sang the song as it was written, notes on a page. The second time around they moved past pitch and tempo and told the story. Dr. Brookey was moved.  I was moved. Students were moved.

This lesson was timely for students. As I came to school early yesterday I found out about the tragic shooting that took place in Las Vegas. According to the latest reports, 59 people were killed and over five hundred injured. The news is devastating for the victims and their loved ones, for us as Americans; really it is devastating for everyone. During times like these we take seriously our charge as a school community: to provide a supportive, understanding, and safe environment for all students.  Part of that work is about offering up positive spaces at school where students engage in open and honest conversation with teachers about their fears and frustrations, their troubles and difficulties. In classrooms these past two days, I saw this discourse on display; students openly caring for the world beyond their own.

While the shooting in Las Vegas requires that we as a site are ever mindful of our safety protocols and procedures, know that we will also provide a safe place for students to deal with our world. We are strong as a community, and stronger still when we recognize the importance of expanding our circle of caring. Tomorrow night, October 4th, at approximately 7:30 p.m. at First Methodist Church on Colorado Blvd. in Pasadena, our choirs will sing to communicate something beyond music. I hope you hear it.

Ian McFeat