Making Room for Music in the ELA Classroom (Part 2)

Posted on January 1, 2016


“Music is the literature of the heart; it commences where speech ends.”― Alphonse de Lamartine, French poet and politician

This is the second in a series of posts where I’ll write about the role of music in my ELA classroom–and in my life. Find Part 1 here.

Matt Jones is an incredible musician, but he is but the first of a long line of incredible players, writers, and singers I’ve met in my English classroom. Another Maple musician of immense talent is Nick Ford (Class of 1997). Many past and current Maples know Nick as an extraordinary painter and their favorite substitute teacher, but I first knew him as an actor, an incredible improvisational performer. Nick was a star pupil in my Drama class where he always had us in stitches with his razor-sharp wit and impeccable timing–but I didn’t know he could sing or play guitar. Then one night, some years after he had graduated, I was out with friends, singing Karaoke downtown at The Barley House. When I passed Nick’s table, he let me know that he would be quite thrilled if I’d sing a song with him. I agreed to do it. We sang and laughed our way through “Roadhouse Blues” by Jim Morrison and The Doors.

A door had opened. One thing led to another, and we started getting together to sing on Sunday nights, and before we knew it, we had been singing as a duo for close to a decade. For years, we met every Sunday night and on many vacation days to sing away the hours. Over that time I learned to sing and play simple percussion instruments, then graduated to playing a full drum kit. Through our collaboration, I grew by leaps and bounds as a singer and as a percussionist. Looking back on our time together, I feel a deep sense of gratitude for all I learned from and with Nick, and more importantly, for all the joy I experienced in simply making music together.

Though we never settled on a band name, we found ourselves playing open mic nights at local venues; in the AHS Jazz/Popular Music Festival; at a Peace Festival in Trestle Park; at First Friday Open Mic nights downtown…We even spent a year co-mentoring the AHS Ukulele Club–helping high school musicians learn to jam and perform–


–but mostly we played music at my house, in the band room or out on the patio–simply to bask in the beauty and pleasure of making music.

I love the way our voices sound together. Our harmonies transported me, and our jam sessions were transcendent. When we sang together, my spirit soared and my soul found peace. You can hear it happen here, in our “Healing Song,” a medley of “No One Knows I’m Gone” by Tom Waits and “Minute Prelude” by Leonard Cohen. (Also please enjoy the large painting behind our heads in the video; it is Nick’s painting.)

Lately life has taken us in different directions, but I’ll always cherish the music we made together. I’m glad I have a number of recordings that we made; although they are a far cry from playing live, when I miss it, I can sing with him on the stereo. Thank you, Nick Ford, for being my musical mentor. Go Maples!


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