Friday, February 17, 2012

Thunder Soul and musical education...

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[VIDEO] Thursday night I went to the local movie house (ICE Theaters-Chatham 14) to see a special Black History Month presentation of a documentary Thunder Soul. It's the story of a high school stage band that were able to accomplish so many accolades with their performances not only in this nation but around the world.

The documentary started off with the original band members who had attended a Houston high school back in the 1970s and how they came together as well as talking about the man who brought them all together. "Prof" Johnson was a music teacher who definitely made an impact on his students and was able to write music around the popular style at the time.

They talked about the genre of stage band music. How this band - Kashmere Stage Band - had essentially outperformed all the other stage band. In the words of one Kashmere band member those other bands were technically good, however, they didn't feel the music and had no soul. They did some things as performers much different than other similar bands of their era.

Then they talked about the breakup of the band. Questions by officials at the Houston school board about how this band could afford to tour and then they just decided it was time to break it up instead of continuing to support such a good thing in a poor neighborhood high school. Ultimately in frustration Mr. Johnson just retired because they gave him a lot of grief for doing his job.

Typically it's safe to say this blog isn't an always activist blog, but there was a point to be said in that last paragraph. "Prof" opined in this movie that anyone who wants to take music (or art) out of our schools should be fired. His point was when would be the next time any youngster would at least get a chance to play a musical instrument of any type.

I had to think about my music teacher at Bennett-Shedd, her name was Ms. Burnett. I remember making fun of her because she wore sneakers to school one day. I had never seen that from a teacher and rarely did I expect back then any teacher would wear casual clothing to school.

In any event, I'm sure my classmates in that era did the typical music thing listening to key songs and what not at the time. Unfortunately there isn't much that I remember of those times where we studied music. The only memorable material was all the notes and to arrange them on a musical staff.

The point to be made here is what if students had the ability to touch a musical instrument at the time. Just to get an opportunity to play around with an instrument just to experiment with the idea of having any type of musical talent. If there were instruments at Bennett-Shedd there was only a piano that no students (unless they already had talent) ever played.

Granted I'm sure it's a financial issue but can one really have musical education without allowing one student to play an instrument of some sort. It's OK to study musical notes and arranging them on a music staff, but one thing I never learned in school was to at least carry a note whether with a voice or an instrument.

I'm giving credit to "Prof" Johnson he did it with his students back in the 1970s allowing them to perform as a band. Would today's music teachers on the elementary & secondary levels allow the young people to do it now?

BTW, if you can find it go see Thunder Soul!