Posts Tagged 'kids'

Bravo!

Sweetie and I dragged our camera gear down to Meiners Oaks Elementary yesterday.  Amy Hagen was teaching a violin class for the kids.  Getting up earlier than usual is tough for Sweetie, but she finds that gazing at the kids faces is worth the loss of sleep.  Well worth it.

The Bravo  program is sponsored by the Ojai Music Festival.  It’s designed to introduce school-age kids to the wonders of music.  We’ve had the pleasure of photographing them and their mentors for several years.  At elementary schools, the junior high, and performance venues throughout the community.  You’d think that by now we’d seen it all.  That we’d become a bit jaded looking at cute kids with brown and white faces.  You’d think they must all look the same by now.  But no, we’re still captivated.  We still look forward to the next opportunity.

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 Mr. Knopinski would have been amazed.  Arthur was my band teacher at Chicago’s Von Steuben High School.  I played the trumpet.  Not great, just well enough to get by.  I often think of those four years.  It sticks with you forever.  Even if sometimes it was a drag.  Arthur was a slight, mousy guy, sitting behind his music stand.  Beating time with his baton.  Not a guy you’d want to have a beer with.

The Bravo men and women express a flair and dedication that Arthur seems to have missed.  You can see it in the kids’ faces.  They’re riveted.  No shifting in chairs. No doodling.  No punching the kid next door.  They’re not perfect.  But they’re more into it than they would be in Arthur’s bandroom.

Meiners Oaks is, on a good day, middle income.  The neighborhood kids could tell us stories that would rival many TV soaps.  And that’s what’s so gratifying about Bravo.  It brings light to the eyes of kids who might never have the bucks or the opportunity to attend a concert, much less play a musical instrument.

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When we walked into the classroom we were greeted with the sight of twenty-five kids playing the violin.  When I was in grade school, Phillip Ruder was the only kid brave enough to lift a bow.  And these kids could actually play the darn thing.  Itzhak Perlman or Sarah Chang they weren’t.  But someday.  The class ended and twenty-five new kids trooped in and picked up a violin.  Fifty.  Amazing.

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They love having their photos taken.  “Hey mister, what are the pictures for?”   “They’re for the Bravo program.  You’ll be helping to promote it.  You’ll be famous.  Smile.”  And they do.  A lot.

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Parallel Universes

Sweetie and I shlepped to Santa Barbara on Tuesday for an investment seminar.  I always think that Santa Barbara is just up the road…until I get close to Carpenteria and find that we’ve still got miles to go.

We hadn’t been to a Bernstein seminar since just before the dot.com bust of…when was it…the late nineties.  I vividly remember that meeting.   Sanford Bernstein Investment Management was founded by a New York Orthodox Jew with a conservative mindset.  The firm hadn’t invested client money in Internet companies while others gorged on them.   Bernstein clients watched Geek.com and Nerd.net stock prices skyrocket while Mr. Bernstein dragged his fanny and their money through Ford,  J.P. Morgan and General Foods.   Folks at that 90’s Bernstein seminar were  pissed that they weren’t sharing the wealth.  But old Sanford had the last laugh when people finally said “sell my Internet stocks” and their less astute brokers said “to who?”

This seminar was a bit different.  Yes, it was at an expensive hotel, the Biltmore.  I feel awkward and out of place in expensive hotels.  Must be my Ukranian roots.  Sitting down for lunch, I knew right away that things were tough…no lamb chops.  Overcooked chicken was the featured entree.  The only thing that looked familiar were the people in the audience.  I thought, as I did at that 90’s gathering, if a terrorist were to spray the room with bullets, lots of well-to-do Jews would pass their wealth to their heirs sooner than expected.

The two hour message offered by some young (everyone is young to me) investment mavens was, in brief, “Hang in there…the market will rise again.”  I thought…I should live so long…then again.  We ate the chicken, arm wrestled the bread tray, skipped dessert, got back in the car and went home.

The next morning we drove down Highway 33, exited at the oil wells, and arrived at  Foster elementary school in Ventura.  It’s in a heavily Latino low to middle income neighborhood.  The Ojai Music Festival was sponsoring a Chumash Indian music participation program for fourth graders.  Julie Tumamait entertained the bright-eyed kids with stories, dances, flutes, drums, and rattles.

The classroom was crowded with the decor bordering on organized chaos.  The kids’ regular teacher, a lovely young woman, seemed at times the very picture of a drill sergeant.  I was amazed at how she kept her composure, all the while monitoring her charges and simultaneously grading their homework.

I think Julie must be almost as old as I am.  She’s the Valley’s resident Chumash expert and shows up at anything faintly related to her ancestors.  Sweetie and I have photographed lots of kids participating in all kinds of Music Festival programs.  It’s a daunting challenge for the instructor.  The kids usually start out with sort of a “what am I doing here” look on their faces.  They move on to studied indifference.  Keeping them from engaging their nearest neighbor in some sort of mayhem is common.  Getting their attention and keeping them interested is the goal.  Julie was a master.

She began by providing background information.  I don’t think anyone heard it.  Next, a video of Indian dancing accompanied by Julie’s jousting with the remote control.  The kids were indifferent.  Having set them up in this manner, she then went for the jugular.  Forming forty kids in a circle, the center of which was crammed with chairs and desks, she handed out all manner of rattles, drums, flutes and whatnot.  She showed the kids how to hop up and down while moving clockwise and blowing on or beating their Chumash instruments.  It was a sight to behold.  The kids were ecstatic.  They couldn’t get enough of it.  It went on in various forms for nearly thirty minutes.  I was exhausted…and all I was doing was taking pictures.

Before we left the classroom, we both hugged Julie and told her how happy we were that she survived.  So was she.  And she had to do it again half an hour later.

So what’s this got to do with old Mr. Bernstein you say.  I’m not sure.  Maybe it was the contrasts.  A bunch of adults listening to investment strategy versus kids who barely have enough lunch money.  Old folks wondering if their legacy would last til they keeled over versus kids who have no idea of mortality.  Skeptics who’ve heard it before versus kids who haven’t.

Bet the kids would love lamb chops.

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Fresh air

Morey ran in the cross country meet at Lake Casitas yesterday.  Great day for a meet.  Overcast sky and perfect temperature.

Our grandson just started high school and has been running a short time.  He did fine, coming in somewhere in the middle of a pack of over a hundred youngsters.  All the public schools in Ventura and a few from L.A. were there.  Must have been a thousand kids in first, second and senior years.  Earlier in the week, Sweetie asked Nancy “How many kids are going to be there?  I’ll bake cookies.”  She would have needed a U-Haul.

We’ve been to the lake lots of times.  “Just drive into the park, turn right and go about two miles to the parking lot”  Nancy said.  What she forgot to tell us was that you had to walk half a mile from the car, uphill…carrying enough cookies to start a small pastry shop.  I left my camera bag in the car, stripped all unnecessary weight from my body and began the Bataan death march.

What I didn’t strip off was my three foot wide Obama/Biden button.  And, being a modest girl, Ila kept her Obama t-shirt on.  There were lots of parents walking with us on the march.  Even more were at our final destination.  Vast crowds of on-lookers.  I didn’t see any other Obama buttons or shirts.  For that matter I didn’t see any McCain buttons.  No signs, no hats, no shirts.  Nada.  You would have thought that the election was over.  All those folks and no one seemed to care about politics.

Everyone but Sweetie and me.  I walked around sure that everyone was staring at my button.  I was sure I was being talked about.  “Look at that guy.  Doesn’t he know this is a school meet?  What the hell is he sticking that button in my face for?  Old fart.”

I was tempted to remove the button.  Instead, taking the middle ground, I tried to hide it.  I shifted my t-shirt to one side.  I carried the cookie boxes high up on my chest, like the girls used to carry their books in high school.  Sitting on the ground, I hiked my knees up in front of me.  Standing, I faced in the direction of the fewest people.  I stood in the back of lines.  I avoided eye contact, sure that everyone was a Republican…or worse, an undecided Independent.

About midway through my out of body experience, we were walking along the road where a bunch of fifteen year old girls were stretching, hopping up and down and warming up for their race.  Couldn’t help but notice them.  Cute as can be.  As we passed, one of them said “Great shirt.  I love it.  I just love it!”  Sweetie waved back and said “Thanks, good luck in the race.”

I calmed down.  We had the same experience with more kids.  No one looked at us like we had horns.  It was wonderful.


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