Posted by: elightkeeper | October 12, 2012

A music lesson for educators

The other morning, as I pulled out of my underground parking bunker, a few notes of music crackled through on my satellite radio. I’m one of those annoying types that can identify a song upon hearing a split second of it.  It was “Sing Sing Sing”, a swing classic from the late 1930s.

As my radio reception improved, I found myself listening to a live recording from a 1938 concert at Carnegie Hall. It was thirteen minutes long, and bursting with inspiration, energy and collaboration.

I think this piece of music should be required listening for every educator.

Below, I have listed four key things we can learn from it.  Call these Learning Outcomes if you must, but please note that you will not be tested on this material. Ever.

  1. This particular piece of music was not like anything that had gone before.  Traces of its influence can be found embedded in jazz, rock and pop culture decades later. The Carnegie concert itself was a total game-changer in music. Get out your highlighter pen here, hard-copy folks, as this next bit is important. New things are worth doing and trying. You never know how something little can result in a great big shift.
  2. This music is a live sound snapshot of collaborative effort.  It is not technically altered, mixed (other than for the performance hall), pitch-corrected, or note-corrected.  It has not gone through the processing plant of musical engineering that dominates a lot of studio recording today. Real is very good. In fact, real is downright magical. Real is more perfect than perfect because it isn’t perfect.  You may quote me on this last statement.
  3. The musicians loved what they were doing.  You can hear it in their playing.  Every note played is soaked with their passion. And the fun in the music is incredibly contagious.  You can hear the musicians and the teens in the audience getting caught up in it as the song progresses. This musical creativity, courage and collaboration had young people dancing in the aisles.  It was unscripted and original  If you love what you are doing, as a teacher or as a learner, it will have meaning and it will show.  And it may spread to others if you have the courage to put it out there.
  4. We do not know if any of these musicians went to school, did well in school, learned music at school or learned in spite of school.  In the big picture, it doesn’t matter where we learn, how we learn or who we learn from. It does matter that we learn, and that the learning means something to us and leads us to discover that which moves us in life.  

So here are two choices for your listening pleasure:  The thirteen minute “Benny Goodman Live at Carnegie Hall in 1938” version.


Or for those in a chronic internet hurry,  a two minute video clip of the piece.


If nothing else, you will find your toe tapping, or if you are like me, your whole frame will groove around like Gene Krupa on the tom toms and you will feel really good for at least ten minutes today.

If I had to assign homework for this lesson, I would give you this:

Sing Sing Sing.

Play like nobody is listening.

Teach like nobody is watching.

Learn like nobody is measuring.



  1. Fantastic musical choice well worth a listen.

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