Friday, December 05, 2008


This is an article recently published in the FACCC Journal.

Imagine the instability at the point of the big bang -- transition at the speed of light.

I have been at smaller big bang moments in which an idea gives birth to a new endeavor that requires a new process. Over time as the process grows and thrives I've watched the progenitors gradually pushed aside because of their creative sloppiness and replaced by those who feel they can leverage the success with better management. The managing process then begins to lose sight of the original idea replacing it with a concern for self sustainability through standardized, neat, and orderly processes. The last step is the calcification of the routinized process, calcified in its own procedural gridlock. I then find little interest in the current expression of our original big bang and slip away.

Can you imagine what it was like at that primordial meeting of service oriented individuals as they banged into the idea of having everyone in our society educated? Can you image their first attempts (one teacher on one end of a log and student on the other)? Pretty inefficient. It could be made so much better. We could teach students just like we make widgets. Mass production. Let's put them all in a room and push standardized content at them and then assess them all in the same way. We could then have cloned thinkers who will move society forward in lock step.

But those of us who still feel the power of the bang find that students are constantly and perhaps fortunately left behind to find their own personal bangs. In fact, those who are successfully extruded from our mass education machine might at best only be capable of service to the banging of others. I think of all the institutional meetings I took part in that had way more than six degrees of separation from the bang's prime directive, student learning--remember the student?

I have just recently retired and made the reverse move of full time to part time teaching. I now have the pleasure of shrugging off all those meetings and simply teaching. I leave just as we are assimilating the no-child-left-behind extension of SLOs. Why in the world have we not stood up to such naive impositions? We all know there are no two students alike. Why do we accommodate such directives that violate our understandings of the diversity of students and the way they learn? We know better yet we rationalize their worth.

The opposite of the dynamic transition of our big bangs is the stasis of procedural conformity. Cults conform, educated minds thrive in the transitional milieu of ambiguity. How do we encourage students to ask the questions important to their lives when we have standardized tests? Life is not standard! Life has no answer book. We are intellectually dishonest when we intimate through our overly specific syllabi that life, like our courses, has specific and known expectations. We should worry less that students know soon to be forgotten obscure details and more that we don't have the tools to rate their ambiguity factors. Instead we should want students, unlike our politicians, to understand why it is important to change your mind in the transitional throws of life.

Rapid transition is exciting and scary. Stasis sucks.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Musings on the Mat

We are a part of a great ensemble. Our instrument chimes at just the right time to add our voice in the texture of the symphony. One thread in the tapestry of life that clings artfully to those around it through a series of interweaving loops, wraps, and knots. A fiber of gold next to a fiber of green; blue and yellow blending with red and brown. The richness of the tapestry, the depth and vibrancy of the symphony depends on the harmony in the ensemble, the sangha.

Sangha is a yogic term for community. Often spiritual, sangha is really any group that works together toward a common goal. Sangha is the ensemble playing a symphony. Sangha is the dance of the loom as it weaves its tapestry.

Yoga is an interesting practice, like music and dance it can be done as individual practice or group practice. I find, while I like practicing on my own, I much prefer to practice in a group, surrounded by my sangha. We are a group of people working individually, but nevertheless unified by our common struggles and challenges, whether it is coming into full lotus or truly allowing our core being to relax. The presence of the sangha assists me in my individual growth.

And, most importantly it reminds me as I roll up my mat and leave the studio, that sangha is out there in the real world and I am a part of it.

With each step, I weave my thread into the fabric and play my melody for the sweeping crescendo.

I am a golden thread.
I am an oboe.

You are my sangha.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

A Child Left Behind

Dave and I just got back from Minneapolis at a MERLOT conference and Dave raised the idea that this national group of educators covering most disciplines in higher education should be a policy making group. Why not produce a Merlot report on the state of education in America. The discussion moved to possible topics. Dave hit it out of the park. He wants to investigate the child that is left behind -- like the entire NBA.

There are some very successful individuals that meet this definition. College and becoming a nuclear scientist was not in their DNA. So, why should every student be defined as successful by meeting a college bound agenda? and a failure if they don't. There are many very successful careers that do not need this as a measure of success.

Then we should not make being left behind as a failure, it just might be a success. Glass half full, Glass really full. Just because the student's educational glass is half empty does not mean that there is only failure in the future for them.

If a technical school does not need the "standardized tests" it does not mean that the school or the individual is a failure.

What is illiteracy? Not enough English? Math? Who sets these rules. I am a musician - these standardized tests don't test anything that is really important to me -- music theory, playing the clarinet, writing world class songs.

So this might be the problem. We need more music in the standardized tests. Just get rid of some of the English and Math. All students must be able to play the piano and the oboe.

Yes, this could save the world.


Thursday, July 24, 2008

Flash back

Listening to Obama's speech in Berlin today I remember the same kind of inviting global perspective years ago when I was in college. I was in the marching band at Berkeley and we were having a bonfire rally (yes for the football team). I was back stage in the outdoor theater waiting to go in. Just a few feet away was Bobbie Kennedy. I could feel the heat of this man.

He came out and spoke about the citizens of America and how they needed help. He did not speak of war or force of any kind except the force of the individual to work together with like minded individuals to help the least of us. It was the Kennedy theme but it resonated with me and the others their at this "pep" rally.

I just don't understand why such a large percentage of our population (usually the haves) don't feel any obligation to the have nots.

I guess protecting one's money is everything.
"The government should not take my money"
"Cut taxes -- I don't want my money going to those lazy poor people."
On and on . . . . . .

I know so many struggling poor people who keep saying these same tired lines.

Don't they know that they are not rich enough to be a Republican?


Monday, July 21, 2008

Watching the pros

The World Music online course is developing well. The main authors are such pros. Their expertises do not parallel as much as overlap. One has taught the course for several years and one editor/author has a honest love for the musics and cultures and has lived in many of these countries. The third is a world authority in several cultures and is a complete academic.

Dave and I are essentially producers of the project pedagogically and technologically. The three content specialists together have a vast body of knowledge. Translating it to the goal of this course has been interesting and at times difficult.

The collection of listening examples for the course is being put together by Sony. They are also securing rights for the selections. There are selections that I have never heard of that surprisingly that Sony can not secure rights. I can understand the Beatles not giving rights for our Rock collection but these selections are far far far from the public eye and not valuable to the mass market. Weird. Somebody is not sharing and this is an educational product. AND they would make a little bit of money.

Regardless, it will be a wonderful addition to our suite of online music courses.


Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Snow in June

Who would have thunk it. We (Dave and I and wives and friends) are in Steamboat Springs, CO just to experience the hot springs and the high country. At 5 am it started to snow. It is June and was 80 degrees yesterday. Love it -- snowed in June. So what do you do in June when it snows? You make little snowmen and put them on the railing of the balcony. That is what you do.


Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Our Secret Concert

This year Don, Jeff and I organized with some insider students a secret concert. To attend you had to figure out when and where it was to be. We tried to deconstruct the normal composer/performer roles as well as redefine venue to include electronic media.

Basically, the multimedia students became the composers for the music students who worked with them to draft definitions for musical composition and improvisatory performance. We also wanted to share the "musical experience" with attendees by including them in the greater performance ensemble.

It was a fitting final concert for Don and me. We worked from a conceptual premise that changed week to week as we met with our students. And, the students were great! They trusted us and offered new fresh cross currents to our thinking and were unencumbered by traditional curricular trappings. I was incredibly proud of them.

So.... the multimedia students created video scores which guided all of us through performances. We captured the performances on video and produced them on YouTube -- our final venue. Jeff and his students were essential in completing this final step.

You can find the videos on YouTube by searching for "secret avant garde experience."

If you want I have the SLOs for the creation of the content; the performance is the authentic assessment; and the rubric for evaluating our success is the number of times the YouTube videos are viewed. Viral = Success!


Education Think Tank

I have been thinking about starting a think tank (now that I am retired and dangerous as Lisa says). It should be an educational think tank that is free from the pressures of tenure, bureaucracy, educational fads, program building, or career building. Look what has come out of political groups that have failed from the beginning -- no child left behind. What a disaster.

I have lived through so many fads like "Total Quality Education" -- now, thank God, a forgotten movement. At present the latest fad is "Student Learning Outcomes" SLO. Where is the back pressure on this movement? Out of obligation Dave and I pounded out the SLOs for the music department. If it were something wonderful, we would be better for having done this. But, we just used the accepted verbs in the order desired. And of course, we did not abuse the presentation on the hallowed form. To mess this up would have made the experience drag on and become even more ugly than it is.

So back to the think tank. It would be fresh and welcoming to not try and persuade others of an idea but let ideas or reflections bubble up in a room of proven visionaries and creative thinkers.

I think it should be called The Megill Group (it seems all think tanks have a name like this). Our product would be white papers on the insights or outsights of the group.

Yep, the Megill group needs to meet. Now that every day is Saturday, I guess it will have to be on Saturday.


Monday, June 02, 2008

Stuff -- Good Stuff

Before I retired and now, after it has begun, I faced one question over and over again.

"What are you going to do when you retire?" Not having a great response to this I kept saying that

"I will continue to produce online course and authoring some of them as well."

"For fun?"

"Yes and for money." I would respond.

Well I am now sitting around thinking of what I will really do now that I don't have to go to committee meetings, develop Student Learning Outcomes (SLO), preparing the fall schedule, build a budget and arguing it to whomever, overseeing the building of the new theater, trying to see why the door to my office doesn't work when it is a power lock and has wires rather than keys, what to take home, what to throw away, ---- it just goes on.

I think I have figured it out. I won't be doing the stuff just listed, I will be doing STUFF, GOOD STUFF, STUFF THAT I WANT TO DO.

And of course I will continue to share what I know -- you know that teacher stops working but never stops teaching which is really sharing.

Feeling good,

Saturday, May 31, 2008

I too am retiring

Yes, Both Don and I are retiring at the same time. Weird! The most memorable moment was when we were being reprocessed as part time teachers (now that we have retired from full time teaching). We had to show our Social Security Card and a Passport to prove that we were citizens for Home Land Security.

I guess you are a lot more dangerous as a part time teacher than a full time teacher.


Well, I have been retired for one week now. Interesting perspective. I had a dream the other night and it was all about organizing a student recruiting activity in Studio A. This is crazy -- I don't even have a key to the new building any more.

Looking for a new vision I sat down at the piano and played a Duke Ellington song "In a Sentimental Mood." It was really enjoyable.

I am going to do more of this "making music" thing.

I certainly will have the time.


Monday, May 12, 2008

Making Music

I first heard it when I entered the post office. Someone was humming a song I looked, and the young woman had no earphones. She was actually making music on her own with no external prompts. Music was springing forth from her, and I recognized the tune. Surely a kindred spirit!

How long has it been since I have heard just a regular person make music? We hum or tap along with some other music maker, but to have a song of our own without an iPod, a concert or church setting? Well, there is the short Happy Birthday song often poorly executed and usually sung with a group. We rarely sing the Star Spangled Banner anymore. We listen to hear how many extra notes the singer can add, how heartfelt the song is delivered, and clap when we feel that the high notes were sung with wild abandon, but we don't sing.

Surely we are not so intimidated by experts that we are afraid of our own expression. Probably we did not grow up making any music. Certainly there is less music training for our youngest ones. We think that we have more important things to teach in school. (There is that all important semicolon after all.) The saddest thought of all would be that we are so busy, stressed, and preoccupied with the whirlwind of life that we don't have the energy to make our own music, music that could give voice to our trials and joys.

But, today I heard a brave soul making music, not for others, just for herself, and I smiled.

Friday, May 09, 2008



I just went into the lab at school and the students there were all working on something different. They all had different needs. I floated around from problem to problem. We all know that teaching that is effective -- its all about sharing. After a little time the students were sharing with each other and did not need me as much. Those who gave received more than those who received. It was a great room and it may be the last for me. How weird it this?


Friday, April 11, 2008

Hmm Elephants


Why should the elephants have all the fun? Creating art has been made to be such a mystery. I wish I could draw (maybe I can), I can sing, play instruments, I wish I could dance (maybe I can). It is so amazing that the elephants do not see the "art" of the experts because they would probably stop from embarrassment. Why do we spend so much money on the art of elephants? (Speak for yourselves).

BTW, Did the elephants feel creative while painting?


Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Elephant Graveyards

There is a remarkable YouTube video that shows elephants in Thailand painting self portraits. It is a must see.

Zoo trainers in Thailand have actually taught elephants to paint pictures of flowers and portraits of other elephants.  Zoo trainers in America and elsewhere are following suit, however many trainers here prefer to let their elephants paint "abstract" art.  These portraits are selling for upwards of $25,000 and have been on display in London art galleries.  

There is also the "Thai Elephant Orchestra", an orchestra of percussion playing elephants that has recorded two CD's.  The star drummer of the orchestra, Praditah, is said to have a remarkably steady beat and also plays swing patterns.  

Is the elephant community an untapped artistic market just waiting to be exploited?  I fear it might be.  Or is this merely one species appreciating the artistic talents of another?

In Africa, it is said that elephants will travel miles and miles to "elephant graveyards" to die. Perhaps they are actually traveling to artistic communes.  I wonder... If we were to stumble across one of those infamous graveyards, instead of piles of bones bleaching in the hot sun, might we find elephants trumpeting and stomping in time while others dance gracefully, their trunks swinging to and fro among portraits drawn in the sand?  

I think... maybe.


Friday, April 04, 2008

Cultural Importance

It is interesting that we have candidates that are new to our electoral system. I don't care if one is half black/half white or the other a woman. I want to know if they can sing, dance, be expressive. Obama is a great speaker but can he sing? Are his words his own? Don't they all have speech writers?

It would be wonderful to see a candidate be openly expressive to the masses. To much to as for?

Has any international figure been transparent?

What was the saxophone and Bill Clinton? He obviously had played the instrument before. Has any of the candidates offered anything except words? I think the world is hungry for something beyond words.

We need an expression true to who you are


Friday, March 28, 2008

Visual Sound

A sound recording was found that predates Edison.New York Times Article This device did not play back the music only record a visual symbol of the sound.

A quote in that article:

“There is a yawning epistemic gap between us and Léon Scott, because he thought that the way one gets to the truth of sound is by looking at it,” said Jonathan Sterne, a professor at McGill University in Montreal and the author of “The Audible Past: Cultural Origins of Sound Reproduction.”

I see no epistemic gap! My brother and I both have jazz text books that for years were only print, without recordings. Finally we both were able to package the actual music with the books. If we had our choice we would throw away the books and keep only the recordings.

Worse is that the music class that meets the general education requirement in most colleges is merely a course about music. Shouldn't you have to actually try to create some music?

I wish I was able to take physics appreciation instead of physics.


Saturday, March 22, 2008

Great political season

This last week has been more than interesting. If you take the delivery techniques of all concerned, they are across the map. Hillary has a harshness to it -- maybe just her voice on a mic. McCain is so soporific he could be talking about anything to anyone -- even when it is about winning a war. Obama has the eloquence we have not heard in many years. I would love to see how listeners would react to swapping content but keeping their delivery style. Would McCain be more convincing if he had the eloquence of Obama? Would Hillary soften if she adopted the monotone delivery of McCain? Would Obama lose his following if he sharpened his tone like Hillary?

I wonder how much is the delivery and presentation and how much is the content.

One thing for sure is our current President lacks in both -- presentation and content.


Thursday, March 20, 2008

Musical Relevance

I'm watching the Sarah Brightman special and she has a great voice but so often sings in this microphone enhanced intimacy that I find absolutely boring. She is singing in St. Stevenskirche. The setting is great but the music doesn't live up to the setting. The human voice is amazing and when it is compromised by artificial amplification we lose its magical human connection. Its like the injury the white mainstream committed to jazz when it robbed the individuality of the performers by placing them in the manacles of ensemble blend. I see these performers as interesting more non musically than musically. Their life stories overpower their musical performance -- a musical Peoples Magazine.

When did jazz become an extension of Lawrence Welk's Linen Sisters? I don't want to hear control, blend and balance -- I want to hear the coordinated ensemble of individuals.

I support PBS but why do they always settle on the safe arts? By the time the arts of relevance become mainstream they are no longer relevant but merely nostalgic.

Relevant art is not polite. It casts cross currents that are unsettling. PBS survives by adopting art after its relevance is no longer controversial--a custodian of consensus, a museum of dated expression beautiful in its familiarity.

I guess I am just jaded. Why listen to music when you can make it? And.. if you make it how can it not be relevant?

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Beatles and History of Rock and Roll

I'm currently listening to the soundtrack from the movie Across the Universe. If you haven't seen the movie yet, I would recommend it. I was intrigued. It takes Beatles songs and through different orchestrations, harmonies, and performances, fits them into its storyline. Like Moulin Rouge, I was impressed with the orchestrations and how the music coincided with the storyline and aesthetic mood. Even if the love storyline is not your cup of tea, if you watch the movie, I think you can recognize the wonderfully artistic work by the orchestrators, writers, editors, and performers. This also fits in well with the discussion of the sustainability of Beatles music. I'd love to hear what you think.


History of Rock and Roll Discussion

Hello All,

I'm currently listening to the soundtrack of the movie Across the Universe. I saw the movie and was really intrigued. It sets Beatles songs into a storyline taking place in the 60's. Like Mouiin Rouge, I was impressed at how the songs were orchestrated to fit the plot and dramatic mood. Even if the love storyline does not peek your interest, I believe that you will have to recognize the beautiful work done with these wonderfully written songs. It features a very talented cast as well. I thought that this might fit into a discussion of Rock and Roll history and the timeless

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Power of Music Srikes Again. . .

Alright, this blog is authored by five musicians and one dancer. I, as the outspoken dancer, am willing to begin the discussion, but I leave it up to the experts to duke it out.

Three words. . .

"Yes We Can"

Check it out if you haven't seen it yet. Regardless of political affiliation, it is well worth experiencing the invisible yet tangible power of music.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Migrating to new software

This spring Dave and I decided to migrate from ETUDES (a Learning Management System) that a friend of mine had written to Moodle which is an open source LMS. Well the temptation to revise and update the content at the same time have overtaken us. Well we are close. Every time we tackle such a huge migration we say "for the last time". Well, after doing this kind of thing so many times I think I have finally learned there is no last time.

Now that we are almost done I am liking the product. Like birth, I guess the pain is forgotten and well worth it.

If any of you don't know what open source software is, do a web search.

Power for the people.


Sunday, February 03, 2008

White Socks

I remember when living in England that I was teased for my white socks. I think more than the wardrobe is the sense of entitlement that most Americans have while traveling. There have been many times while traveling in Europe that I have been absolutely embarrassed to be American. I remember one woman in a train in Italy almost twenty years ago complaining to my mother that no one knows how to speak English. If they want our tourism they should learn to speak English is what she said. I do not know every language. I have to admit that I was lost in France. Yet, I learned the few phrases such as "hello" and "thank you." I also spoke Spanish to people abroad before I broke into English. I was surprised the other day in going to IHop that their menu had everything on it also in Spanish. We have immigrants not just traveling, but moving here, and they are not expected to learn English?

Friday, January 04, 2008

International image

That last post was from Beth. She just got back from Spain. Dave is now in Italy. The dollar is so weak that essentials cost more than you want to know. I have not traveled to Europe for nearly thirty years. The response to us has obviously changed. There are guidelines for travelers to not "look American". It looks like this view of Americans has really shifted in the last ten years.

At least they are still addicted to our music. But they are producing their own music more and more. It is more fun to make and produce music than to "import" it.


Thursday, January 03, 2008

What does it take to be American?

Traveling abroad is the best way to confirm your sense of self and heritage. Home becomes a powerful concept when you are 9 hours ahead and eating nothing but Iberian Ham morning, noon and night (Yes, its novelty wore off after the second breakfast).

The unnerving part for me was everyone’s ability to peg me as “American” on first glance. Granted I am 5’11, fair skinned with light brown hair and blue eyes, but still. Couldn’t I be German? Austrian? Scandinavian? English? Australian? Heck, even if they heard me speak couldn’t I be mistaken for Canadian?

No. Apparently not.


So what is it about me that makes me so identifiably American. I wasn’t wearing white tennis shoes, my wool coat was conservatively fashionable, I am relatively fit and thin, and I wasn’t draped in red, white and blue. What was it? My un-dyed hair? My lack of multiple facial piercings (I do have my nose pierced)? My posture? My facial expressions? My non-descript suitcase? What? What?!?

I guess I am just not Euro-Chic enough.

And, the reaction was always the same, a mixture of apathy regarding our presence and a sort of “I figured as much” kind of look. We had to acknowledge the fact that being two twenty something, American girls was going to get us nowhere. Being American was going to get us less than nowhere. Face it. The American dream and the American dollar just aren’t what they used to be in Europe.

Sing with me: Oh Ca-na-da!