Today was the last of my six writing workshops with music students at F.A.C.E. High School. If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’ll know we’ve been working on a project called Caesura – the term refers to a musical pause – in which the students have been reflecting about what the pandemic has meant to them personally, and as young musicians. This afternoon, composer Tim Brady begins working with the same students. Tim will help them set their writing to music. I’m hoping the students’ final creations will be something I can eventually share with you, dear blog reader.
This morning, I spent our workshop time doing close reading and editing of some of the writing the Secondary V group has been producing. We used the “chat” function on Teams to communicate – and in some cases, the students submitted their work anonymously by having their teachers submit for them. The question of anonymity is an interesting one. I remember when I was a kid and thinking how some writer named “Anonymous” had produced a lot of interesting work! I think if writers feel most comfortable submitting their work anonymously, that’s what they should do. But at some point, you need to get in front of the microphone and sing. (That metaphor was inspired by a student I’ll call E, who has been working on a poem about the tiny, beautiful moment as she stands at the microphone, about to sing.)
One piece we read together – submitted anonymously – was called “The Pianist.” The author describes a “deeper blue, a color that reminded me of sorrow.” Ahhhh, I so love that. I had shared a line from sci-fiction writer Rad Bradbury with the students: “Creative is continual surprise.” Well that student’s line, in which a color and a feeling are connected, took me by surprise. Excellent writing, Anonymous!
Another student, whom I’ll also call E, included the refrain “Métro, boulot, dodo” in her poem. For those of you who require my translation services, that means “Métro, work, sleep” – but as you can see, the line sounds waaay more beautiful – and playful – in French. That was what I loved most about E’s poem, its gentle, playful tone, and yet she also managed to describe some of the uncertainty and sadness associated with the pandemic. As we were reading E’s poem, I happened to see one of the students’ teachers – Monsieur Létourneau – on my screen, and I could see from his face that he, too, was moved by E’s poem. Afterwards, Monsieur L told us, “We can discover people through their writing. You all have something to give.”
If you know me, you’ll have heard me say that I get goosebumps in my upper arms when I hear or read something beautiful or important. (It’s a handy trait in a writer!) Well, Monsieur L’s comment gave me goosebumps. Discovering others and ourselves, giving, sharing – for me, those are the things that writing is all about. And music too, no?
Special thanks to my friend, F.A.C.E. teacher Theodora Stathopoulos, for coming up with the Caesura project. Thanks to the F.A.C.E. teachers who have shared their students with me: France Arcand, Marie-Eve Arseneau, Angela Hemingway, Edwin Alirio Perdigon Nieto, Emmanuelle Racine-Gariépy, Catherine Bouchard, Raymond Letourneau and Catherine Le Saunier. Thanks to ELAN’s Artists Inspire program and the F.A.C.E. Foundation for making the project possible. Thanks to Tim Brady for taking over from here. And thanks to the Sec. IV and V EMSB and CSDM students in the winds, strings, keyboard and vocal departments. You guys are amazing. I was a little nervous when I heard I’d be working with 200 of you, but am I ever glad that I agreed to take part in the project. I look forward to watching – and listening to!! -- what happens next. XO to all of you from Monique