Ok, I have to stop and write for a moment because only a minute ago I felt this overwhelming sense of happiness and I simply must mention it! Today I bought a mango and tonight I took a bite of it and realized it was possibly the most delicious thing I’ve yet tasted. And I felt so incredibly at home and happy. It’s the small thing like that which make a place like this feel so right and so good. I remember the moment that I fell in love with Aix, France—it was when I had run down my 5 flights of stairs to take out the trash and I was on my way coming back up the stairs when the stairwell light timer went out. I was left in the complete darkness. I smiled—grinned even, and I knew I loved it there.
And now tonight with the mango and the feeling of belonging and having friends here—loving people here too. And I wondered how I could go another December without eating such a mango as this.
Three things I’ll write about briefly because I haven't written in so long!
- Teaching at Makumira University- Last week I started teaching at the only university that offers a music degree in all of Tanzania! I’m really excited to have this opportunity, as it will certainly be unlike any I’ve ever had! This semester I’ll teach a class on composition and arranging- the first time this class has been offered. Next term I’ll teach the composition course and also help teach a conducting class. I’m so excited! Last Wednesday was my first day and I met my class of 13 Tanzanian men, ages 30-45! So in walks this little muzungu girl ready to teach all these men somethin’ about music. I’m sure I looked a little silly, but we can only do our best, right? I asked them some questions about themselves to get a perspective on the class first—most are teachers of main-course subjects in primary schools and they want to also start teaching music in their schools. A few are choir directors with churches, one guy is a police officer who plays in their police brass band.
A few have composed or arranged, but overall the experience with composing is very limited. They almost all sing, but few play piano or have a main instrument. There’s lot’s to learn for them and for me. The first class I taught on musical motives- I was pleased that they knew the definition of a motive and they could eventually guess the 3 kinds of motives (rhythmic, harmonic, melodic). I played several pieces for them where we could hear these kinds of motives- it ranged from Bruckner 4 to Charles Mingus jazz to Beethoven 5. I think the concept of ‘motivic development/economy’ really hit them when they listened to Beethoven 5 differently than they had before. I have to be careful though because first I played Bruckner 4 and I wrote his name on the board. Then I played C. Mingus and only said his name, so someone asked me after they listened to the Mingus, “was that Bruckner too??” oops! Big difference. They were all very respectful and kind and only one or two of them looked board during the Bruckner, so I have hope! Haha At first I thought I didn’t know what I would lecture on each week, but now I’m starting to get a lot of ideas and I’m thinking ‘I don’t have enough time!’ Oh also- there is another teacher at Makumira who’s a professor at University of Tennessee and he’s here on sabbatical for a year!! How crazy is that!
- Umoja end-of-term concert: On Saturday we had a fantastic concert given by a LOT of the students in Umoja Music School. We had them perform everything from Brandenburg Concerto to Smoke on the Water to the piece that I composed for Umoja Ensemble. All of the teachers were so proud! I think the piece I composed went really well, too, as the kids performed it so well and Alison played violin beautifully with it and Tiana conducted the ensemble wonderfully and I accompanied on piano. Annette told me after that it brought tears to her eyes! That meant so much. Glad the first song I wrote in Swahili went so well!
- Umoja Collaborative: I feel so lucky and so excited because I am about to start a very big project collaborating with Tiana, Umoja teacher and fantastic dancer/choreographer, and Collette Albiolo who was my art history teacher when I studied abroad in Aix 2 years ago! She is an incredible artist and you must see her webpage: http://www.albiolo.eu/
The three of us are starting a big collaborative project with Umoja Ensemble where Collette is providing fabulously colorful abstract images to accompany music that I’m composing for the ensemble and Tiana will help create the choreography and visual element for the performance. The date is set for June 16 and we’ll have Collette fly down to be here for a week before the premier. Tiana and I sat down last Thursday and drew up a story that will be the basis of the project. It’s going to be about a dream the children have where at night they all turn into ants! They search for food, fly through the air, almost get smashed by a herd of elephants, burrow deep into the ground, and then when the sun begins to rise the ants turn back into Children. I’m very excited to get started on the composition. Now the question is … WHEN?! I leave in one week to go home for Christmas! It’s so crazy. I’m really excited and actually a little bit nervous about culture shock back into my homeland.
Only one more week of work. Push push push! Ninaiweza!