I can usually read kids pretty well and gauge their enthusiasm for music. But not everyone. As a young boy, Alder had a poker face. It was really hard to tell what he was thinking and feeling.
At fiddle camp each summer, Alder would never be in the middle of the musical circles that would form. He was always on the edges.
During the lunch hour, campers would decide to play music, kickball, ultimate frisbee, soccer or sharks and minnows. Some would sit under a tree with a counselor who would read a book out loud (a favorite for the youngest fiddlers).
Alder did none of these things. He would gather up all the 5 gallon buckets we use to sit on and build enormous towers. Or he would climb the trees. Or he would instigate some sort of competition with other kids that typically involved collecting the most buckets.
The counselors and I had to always have one eye on Alder because he rarely took part in the ‘regular’ activities at lunch. We needed to make sure that the bucket towers were not too tall, or that he stayed on the low branches or the competitions didn’t get out of hand.
For a while, I thought that each year was Alder’s last as a student. But he kept coming back. Slowly, he moved from the edges of the group towards the middle. And his fiddle playing got really good.
Alder is now a skilled musician with a gentle character, self-confidence and a quiet presence. Our lessons together are a joy and he picks up songs incredibly fast. He is coming back to camp again this summer. But this year he is in high school and will be a counselor.
I know that Alder is going to be a natural mentor for the campers. I think he is going to be especially effective at working with those campers that feel safer at the edges of the group.
But, I’m also looking forward to having Alder connect with the other counselors. I take a special pleasure in seeing how much my counselors enjoy their week at camp. At the end of the day, they are often still together under the oak tree playing music and talking long after the campers have left.
My goal is for every camper to eventually become a counselor and enjoy the satisfaction that comes from playing music together and helping others. It is the last step of my teaching program for showing students how to make music a rewarding part of their life on and off stage.