Before I get started with anything else, I need to start this post with a huge thank you.
Thank you for reading the blog, for sending me emails, for sharing on facebook, for backing me on kickstarter, for hosting me in your homes, for feeding me, for keeping me company, for taking a chance on a random guy with a crazy project, for giving me directions, for providing me with critical feedback, for pushing me to make this better, and for believing in me.
Last December, I met with my sister Melanie in a coffee shop in Armenia to tell her about my idea for this year. I cannot believe it has almost been an entire year since that conversation. At that point in time, I had no idea if this could happen, but I was ready to give it a try and I definitely had a mindset of "what have I got to lose?" Now that things are coming to an end, it is quite a trip to think about where I was at a year ago.
For me personally, the most transformative part of this year was realizing what I am capable of if I put in the time and effort. It is incredibly empowering to know that I can come up with an idea, make a plan, raise money, and see it through to the end, even over a period of ten months. Having said that, I recognize that I wouldn’t have been able to to this if it weren’t for the many people that have supported me physically, financially, and emotionally along the way, so again, thank you!
I had opportunity to drink fresh tea in the himalayan foothills, watch the sun go down in the heat of the Arabian desert, drink coffee in Addis Ababa, party on the beautiful beaches of Thailand, play music with an African ethnomusicologist, eat the best meat ever in Argentina, climb the highest peak in Africa, be a judge in a battle of the bands in Ecuador, and watch the sunrise on the way up to the mountains around Antigua, Guatemala- all just in ten months.
And all those experiences really were just the icing on the cake of my work with all of the students this year.
"Mr. Tom, Thank you for coming and teach us very nice things. You diserve thise notebook and compose new things in it. Thank you! From Guatemala City.
P.S. Thank you for showing us the blues I really like it. Colegio Interamericano thanks you. Bye!"
...and in the corner of the page there are some hearts and music notes and a peace sign and a smily face. I mean, come on. Right? Teaching is pretty cool sometimes. Moments like those a the best.
In Argentina, one of the teachers made a comment about how her student asked her to borrow a pencil to write his lyrics for my workshop. This was a big deal for him, because she couldn’t remember seeing him write anything down in class her the whole year. I only worked with this particular student a few times, but I think he definitely got something out of the experience and it is my hope that he continues to work on his music, and that he starts to ask for pencils in his other classes as well. (Shout out to all the Marin guys and gals).
I also think about my boarding school in India, "North Point." I had a ninth grader who was a huge Macklemore fan (the rapper). I told him I was from Seattle and that I saw Macklemore at a show before he was big, so we had a bit of a connection there. I gave him some feedback with his lyrics (he was a big rapper himself) and on my last day there he gave me a big hug and said "Sir, I am going to miss you so much." I was definitely not expecting a hug from this guy, or that he would miss me, but I suppose you never know. It meant a lot for me. (Shout out to all the North Pointers).
I am incredibly excited to be back in the US on Sunday. I can't wait to see some familiar faces and to just slow down for a bit. Having said that, of course I am feeling a bit sad that things are coming to an end for this year. Everyday I try and come up with new ideas about how to keep this going for next year and beyond. Honestly, I think I just need to go home for a while and try and figure out what is next. It is a little nerve racking- this is the first time I have been in a situation where I really don't have a plan for what is next. Although, the uncertainty is exciting too. I would definitely be happy with teaching a music class at a school back in the US for a few more years, and that seems like the safest and most rational decision to make for the time being. But, we will see.
I am proud of what I have accomplished this year- my classes were solid for the most part, I got hundreds of students to create music and lyrics and think about expressing themselves with music, recorded a bunch of great original student songs, had some awesome performances of original work. However, things were certainly not perfect. I feel like I could have done a better job with focusing on working with more students from less privileged backgrounds, setting up long term goals for songwriting at schools after my time was over, making connections between students across countries, and making more high quality documentation. It is these successes and areas for growth that give me a charge to potentially keep something like this going.
First, create something. I know from my own personal experience that I am happiest when I am creating something new. We spend way too much living our lives as consumers, and always feel like I am getting more out of my time on this planet when I am creating something or sharing with others.
Second, teach something. Share your knowledge with the world. Inspire people to do great things. I don't mean drop everything and become a public school teacher (although props to you if you decide to do that). What I mean is, you have a skill that others don't have, and it is very rewarding to know that you have made a little difference in someone's life, no matter how small.
A trailer for the video I am working on should be coming out in the next few days to a week. Be on the lookout for that.
Please reach out and say whats up! I would love to here from you. - firstname.lastname@example.org
Hope to see you soon. Take care.