Monday, June 6, 2011

Frohnmayer Appreciation Weekend - Response

My previous post describes a wonderful event this past weekend (June 3-5) at Loyola University New Orleans--Frohnmayer Appreciation Weekend--held to honor Phil and Ellen Frohnmayer, beloved voice professors in Loyola's College of Music & Fine Arts. This post will discuss how I responded to this inspiring weekend and what I learned from it.

My main response to this weekend is JOY! I found myself filled with joy in honoring Phil and Ellen for their nearly thirty-year career of teaching and singing--a career which is ongoing. It was a joy to celebrate with music, food, friends, prayer, and gratitude. It was a joy to see so many lives that have blossomed because of excellent teaching and excellent mentorship. It was a joy to contribute with my presence and with a small contribution to the Frohnmayer Legacy Fund.

Below are some of the thoughts I am left with as a result of Frohnmayer Appreciation Weekend.

MUSIC AND ART IN LIFE. How poor is a life without music and art. How rich is a life surrounded by music and art. Music and art raise the vibrations of joy in our lives.

MUSIC AND ART IN EDUCATION. How stupid, or should I say cruel, to remove music and art from our children's education. Music and art make life worth living. What good is it to make an excellent living if one cannot make an excellent life? What good is to increase one's financial profits if one cannot deepen one's joy? Every child should graduate from high school knowing how to read music, to sing a melody on pitch, to harmonize, and to play at least one instrument both in solo and ensemble performance. Every child should graduate from high school knowing how to draw. These things should be part of a basic education for every student in elementary and high school.

LEVELS OF PARTICIPATION IN MUSIC AND ART. Anne Marie Frohnmayer commented, during a conversation this weekend, that we can participate in music at all sorts of levels. She herself was enjoying seeing how her parents' former students were using their music now in their lives. They are doing so in all sorts of ways and at many levels. As Anne Marie said, "You don't have to be Pavarotti!"

What can one do with one's singing? Well, one can take major, minor, or chorus roles in opera performances; one can take major, minor, or chorus roles in musicals; one can be a soloist or chorus/choir member in a community chorus or church choir; one can perform at one's local nightclub; one can perform at one's local coffeehouse; one can be a street musician; one can have evenings of song for friends in one's home; one can sing lullabies to one's children; one can sing for people in hospitals or nursing homes.

These levels are also true for instrumentalists and for music teachers. Instrumentalists, especially pianists, also have the option of accompanying. Music teachers are so important, opening the world of music, not only for the gifted, but also for the average, for example, the piano student of average ability who wants to play for the sheer joy of it. And we shouldn't forget the level of audience--the audience is an essential part of a musical performance.

Everyone can participate in music, art, poetry.

WHOLE-PERSON TEACHING. It is clear that the Frohnmayers teach the whole student and teach from their whole selves. Learning is not simply concerned with the subject matter, particularly when learning involves a skill such as singing or playing an instrument, drawing or painting or sculpting, writing, learning a language. Learning involves a student's body, mind, soul, and spirit. Learning is affected by joy, sorrow, success, failure, gain, loss, health, illness, encouragement, criticism, liking the teacher, not liking the teacher. The Frohnmayers are concerned about all aspects of a student's life, always in an appropriate, not a nosy, way.

Also, it is well to teach as a whole person. Some teachers bring only their teacher selves into the classroom. Other teachers bring their whole selves and draw upon the various aspects of themselves as appropriate in their teaching. The Frohnmayers teach from their whole selves.

APPRECIATION. It is joyful to show appreciation! This is a great benefit of writing! When one writes, one falls in love with the subject of one's writing. It is not possible to write well without closely studying the subject that one is writing about. This close study leads to appreciation and love. I may have appreciated what I am writing about before starting to write, but writing allows me to appreciate and love my subject so much more specifically and fully and deeply.

Well, that was a digression on writing. Just simply expressing gratitude, I find, raises the vibrations of joy.

CELEBRATION. It is joyful to celebrate! We should celebrate as much as possible! It is joyful to celebrate accomplishments--even "small" ones! Celebrating and honoring were such a joy this weekend.

GIVING. It was such a joy to contribute to the Frohnmayer Legacy Fund. It is joyful to give in ways that make a difference in areas that one believes in. I believe in the arts for all, and that is where I want to give.

Frohnmayer Appreciation Weekend - Description

This past weekend (June 3-5) was Frohnmayer Appreciation Weekend at Loyola University New Orleans. It was a glorious time!

Phil and Ellen Frohnmayer have taught voice in the College of Music & Fine Arts at Loyola University New Orleans since 1982. They came to Loyola after a seven- or eight-year career of singing opera in Germany. They are wonderful teachers and wonderful singers, and they have kept a full schedule doing both--teaching and performing--for nearly thirty years. In the last several years, Phil has had two bouts with cancer, requiring surgery and chemotherapy each time. He is clear of cancer at present and continues his teaching, as does Ellen. Phil and Ellen have a daughter, Anne Marie, who is also a singer and lives in Pennsylvania.

Several of the Frohnmayers' former students decided to have a reunion and appreciation weekend for the Frohnmayers, who truly are beloved voice professors. The Frohnmayers are very involved with their students, helping them not only with their singing but also with life issues and with launching their careers. So--a committee of former students arranged for a truly magnificent weekend of appreciation, music, and legacy building. This last means that a Frohnmayer Legacy Fund has been established to support the teaching and performing of opera at Loyola University New Orleans. I am proud to say that I have made a contribution to this fund.

I have to say that I have NEVER seen anything like this done for any professor at Loyola (or anywhere)! Well, I would like to give a description of the weekend.

GALA RECEPTION & MUSIC EVENING--NEW ORLEANS OPERA GUILD HOME--FRIDAY EVENING. This was an evening of visiting with friends, old and new, all connected with the Frohnmayers. It was an evening of delicious food served buffet style. It was an evening of appreciation, as letters were read by former students who could not be present. It was also an evening of music, performed in an intimate, living-room setting. Here are some of the pieces that were performed:

  • "Papageno-Papagena" from The Magic Flute by Mozart--Anne Marie Frohnmayer sang the role of Papagena in a very animated way!
  • "Mi Chiamano Mimi" from La Boheme by Puccini
  • "La Ci Darem La Mano" from The Marriage of Figaro by Mozart
  • "I am the Very Model of a Modern Major General" from The Pirates of Penzance by Gilbert & Sullivan

PRAYER SERVICE--IGNATIUS CHAPEL AT LOYOLA--SATURDAY MORNING. This included prayers, readings, and music. Each person lit two candles, representing something to be healed and something to be thankful for.

MASTER CHAT WITH PHIL--NUNEMAKER AUDITORIUM AT LOYOLA--SATURDAY MORNING. This was a master class in which several of Phil's current and former students each sang a piece and Phil provided a critique and worked with the student on breathing, posture, vowel quality, dynamics, and many other aspects in order to achieve an effective musical and emotional production. I was sitting with people who had never before seen a master class and who were absolutely fascinated at all that goes into perfecting a piece of music. We really were watching a true master at work with his students. Among the pieces performed were an aria from Billy Budd by Benjamin Britten and "Un Bel Di" from Madame Butterfly by Puccini.

GALA PERFORMANCE & CHAMPAGNE RECEPTION--ROUSSEL AUDITIORIUM AT LOYOLA--SATURDAY EVENING. This was a wonderful musical evening. These are some of the musical highlights:

  • "Walking" by William Horne (a Loyola music professor), sung by Patrick Jocobs and accompanied on piano by Logan Skelton. This piece consists of an email by Phil Frohnmayer set to music by William Horne! Phil had written about the walks he took through New Orleans neighborhoods while being treated for cancer.
  • Two poems by Emily Dickenson ("The Moon Is Distant from the Sea" and "'Hope' Is the Thing with Feathers") set to music by Logan Skelton, sung by Suzanne DuPlantis and accompanied on piano by Logan Skelton. Logan told us that "The Moon Is Distant from the Sea" suggested to him the relationship between Ellen and Phil as Phil was being treated for cancer--Ellen reaching out to Phil and influencing him with her love and care and Phil responding.
  • "Gluck Dass Mir Verblieb" from Die Tote Stadt by Erich Korngold, sung by Tyler Smith and Betsy Uschkrat and accompanied on piano by Carol Rausch. This was special because I often sit at the same lunch table with Tyler and Betsy (who are married and who both teach voice at Loyola) in the faculty dining room. This weekend was my first time to hear them sing--and they are wonderful, alone and together! I also learned that Tyler and Betsy will be giving a full recital on Saturday evening, September 17! I absolutely plan to attend this concert!
  • "Sola, Perduta, Abbandonata" from Manon Lascaut by Puccini, sung by Melody Moore and accompanied on piano by Carol Rausch
  • "Madamina, Il Catalogo E Questo" from The Marriage of Figaro by Mozart, sung by Kenneth Weber and accompanied on piano by Carol Rausch
  • 'E Strano . . . Ah, Fors'e Lui . . . Sempre Libera" from La Traviata by Verdi, sung by Rachel Elizabeth De Trejo and accompanied on piano by Carol Rausch. Gorgeous!
  • "Aprite Un Po' Quegli Occhi" from The Marriage of Figaro by Mozart, sung by Alfred Walker and accompanied on piano by Carol Rausch
  • "The Promise of Living" from The Tender Land by Aaron Copeland, sung by everyone who had performed and accompanied on piano by Carmen Leerstang

Also, Donald Boomgaarden, Dean of the College of Music & Fine Arts, gave a beautiful explanation of the Frohnmayer Legacy Fund, and Tony Decuir, Associate Dean of the College of Music & Fine Arts, read several letters from former students who could not be present and gave his own reminiscences of the Frohnmayers' arrival at Loyola in 1982.

It was an inspiring and gorgeous evening!

This post has described Frohnmayer Appreciation Weekend. My next post will describe what the event meant to me.

Harry Potter: The Phoenix's Song of Lament

When the beloved Professor Albus Dumbledore dies toward the end of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Dumbledore's phoenix, named Fawkes, sings a beautiful lament, described on pages 614-615:

Somewhere out in the darkness, a phoenix was singing in a way Harry had never heard before: a stricken lament of terrible beauty. And Harry felt, as he had felt about phoenix song before, that the music was inside him, not without: It was his own grief turned magically to song that echoed across the grounds and through the castle windows.

How long they all stood there, listening, he did not know, nor why it seemed to ease their pain a little to listen to the sound of their mourning, but it felt like a long time later that the hospital door opened again and Professor McGonagall entered the ward.

This is the power of beautiful music of deep feeling. Such music seems to be not only outside the listener but also within the listener's soul. Such music expresses the listener's feelings in a beautiful way--turns the listener's feelings, even if those feelings are very painful, into something of beauty. And in so doing, such music heals.

If one's soul has been damaged, one way to heal the soul is through music and other types of art. Art heals the soul. Music heals the soul.

I would say that anyone whose soul has been damaged by being abused or traumatized, or by abusing or traumatizing self or others, would do well to make music and other forms of art an important part of his or her healing. Such a person would do well to surround himself or herself with beauty. Prisons and half-way houses would do well to take note of this. So would hospitals, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes--any place that focuses on rehabilitation and healing.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Harry Potter: Prophecy

In Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Professor Albus Dumbledore expresses a very sensible view on prophecy. Dumbledore says that prophecies are not automatically fulfilled. Rather, a prophecy is fulfilled only when people act on the prophecy.

A prophecy was made at Harry Potter's birth. We read the prophecy on page 841 of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix:


The Dark Lord, Lord Voldemort, is aware of the first half of the prophecy: that the one with the power to vanquish him will be born to parents who have defied him three times and will be born at the end of July. Voldemort knows this because one of his servants was eavesdropping when the prophecy was spoken, but the eavesdropper was discovered and removed from the premises after hearing only the first half of the prophecy, which the eavesdropper dutifully reported to Voldemort.

Dumbledore points out that Voldemort himself has singled Harry Potter out as the subject of the prophecy by attempting to murder Harry when Harry was one year old. Not having heard the second half of the prophecy, Voldemort is unaware that he will thus mark Harry as his equal and that Harry will have powers of which Voldemort knows nothing. Indeed, in attempting to kill Harry, Voldemort himself dies (or would have died if it hadn't been for his horcruxes, which keep him in a sort of half-life from which he can rebuild himself). Also, in attempting to kill Harry, Voldemort transfers to Harry some of his powers--not his evil character but his powers. Harry, for example, like Voldemort, has the power to understand and speak Parseltongue, the language of snakes, and a mental connection is established that allows Harry access to something of what Voldemort is thinking and feeling. Also, Voldemort, in attempting to kill Harry, first kills Harry's father and mother, who give their lives in attempting to save Harry, thus assuring that Harry will want to avenge their deaths by killing Voldemort.

Dumbledore points out that the prophecy would never have been fulfilled if Voldemort had not heard the first part of it and then acted on what he had heard. Dumbledore also points out that Voldemort's actions insured the fulfilling of the second part of the prophecy. On page 510 of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Dumbledore says:

Voldemort himself created his worst enemy, just as tyrants everywhere do! Have you any idea how much tyrants fear the people they oppress? All of them realize that, one day, amongst their many victims, there is sure to be one who rises against them and strikes back! Voldemort is no different! Always he was on the lookout for the one who would challenge him. He heard the prophecy and he leapt into action, with the result that he not only handpicked the man most likely to finish him, he handed him uniquely deadly weapons!

These deadly weapons include the powers that Voldemort transferred to Harry as well as the deep hatred for Voldemort within Harry because of Voldemort's murder of Harry's parents. Dumblemore also points out that, because Voldemort murdered Harry's parents, Harry would want to kill Voldemort even if Harry had never heard of the prophecy. Therefore, it is not true that Harry must try to kill Voldemort in order to fulfill the prophecy. Voldemort is the one who is making the prophecy all important, meaning that Voldemort will continue to pursue Harry, and this makes it inevitable that either Harry or Voldemort will finally kill the other.

Harry, too, has a choice. Voldemort will continue to pursue him, but Harry himself has a choice in how he will respond, as expressed on page 512 of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince:

It was, he [Harry] thought, the difference between being dragged into the arena to face a battle to the death and walking into the arena with your head held high. Some people, perhaps, would say that there was little to choose between the two ways, but Dumbledore knew--and so do I, thought Harry, with a rush of fierce pride, and so did my parents--that there was all the difference in the world.

While the lesson of Greek tragedy is that we cannot escape our fate (that which the fates have ordained, or prophesied, to be our lot), the lesson of the Harry Potter novels is that we have choices. Prophecies are fulfilled when we choose to act on them. Even when someone else's actions "force" the fulfillment of a prophecy in which we are involved, we have choices as to how to respond.

Harry Potter: Dumbledore's Consistency

I have just re-read Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, the sixth (and second-to-last) of the Harry Potter novels. This is the novel in which Professor Albus Dumbledore dies, a huge blow to Harry Potter, to all the faculty and students at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardy, and to the whole magical community.

One of Dumbledore's qualities that has struck me in each of the Harry Potter novels is his marvelous consistency. Dumbledore is unfailingly calm, polite, and kind. Dumbledore's calmness, politeness, and kindness remain consistent, no matter what circumstances he finds himself in and no matter how someone else may be treating him. Whenever someone insults Dumbledore, he remains calm, polite, and kind. Dumbledore's behavior is determined by his inner sense of who he is (a calm, polite, kind person); he is not a chameleon who changes his behavior to match the behavior of the person interacting with him. This doesn't mean that Dumbledore allows himself to be trampled upon. He is quite firm in standing up for himself, but he remains calm, polite, and kind, even while being firm.

Some of us match our behavior to the behavior of the person with whom we are interacting. This allows other people to determine our behavior and makes us chameleons. If the other person is polite, we match that person's politeness; if the other person is rude, we match that person's rudeness. Others of us, like Dumbledore, know who we are and remain consistently calm, polite, and kind (firm, too, when needed) no matter whom we are interacting with. If we are like Dumbledore, we determine our behavior ourselves, based on a deep sense of who we are. The other person may be polite or rude, but if we are consistent, we will remain polite because that is who we are.

Harry Potter: Horcruxes

Horcruxes are introduced in the sixth Harry Potter novel, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. On page 497, we learn that a horcrux is "an object in which a person has concealed part of their soul." Further, also on page 497, we learn that "you split your soul . . . and hide part of it in an object outside the body" and that, after doing so, "even if one's body is attacked or destroyed, one cannot die, for part of the soul remains earthbound and undamaged." Then, on page 498, we learn that splitting the soul is done by committing murder, for "[k]illing rips the soul apart."

This information about horcruxes is conveyed as Harry Potter and Professor Albus Dumbledore observe a memory of Professor Horace Slughorn, using Dumbledore's pensieve. In this memory, Professor Slughorn is talking privately with a Hogwarts student, Tom Riddle, who later becomes the evil Lord Voldemort. In the memory, Tom wants to know about horcruxes, one of the most evil forms of dark magic, and Professor Slughorn reluctantly answers his questions.

In Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Lord Voldemort, a.k.a. Tom Riddle, has pushed the boundaries of dark magic further than any other dark wizard. Using horcruxes, he has split his soul, not just in two, but into seven pieces, seven being a powerful magical number. This, Voldemort believes, will insure his immortality. One horcrux can possibly be found and destroyed, but with so many horcruxes, the likelihood that they will all be found and destroyed is so slim as to be negligeable. And the power of the magical number seven gives extra protection to the pieces of Voldemort's soul. As long as any piece of his soul is encased in a horcrux, Voldemort cannot really die, although he can be reduced to a very diminished form of existence. But, from this diminished existence, Voldemort can rebuild himself.

To destroy Voldemort and the evil he plans to unleash upon the world, it is necessary to destroy each of the horcruxes and then to kill Voldemort himself. Dumbledore believes that the seven pieces of Voldemort's soul have been split as follows:

  • Within Tom Riddle's diary (already destroyed in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets)
  • Within Slytherin's ring (already destroyed by Dumbledore earlier in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince)
  • Within Slytherin's locket (believed to be destroyed by someone with the initials R.A.B., as discovered by Harry toward the end of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince)
  • Within Hufflepuff's cup
  • Within some other object belonging to Ravenclaw or Gryffindor
  • Within Voldemort's snake, Nagini
  • Within Voldemort himself (the final piece)

So, we have this evil and powerful wizard, Voldemort, who, as stated on page 500 of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, is an individual "so determined to evade death that he would be prepared to murder many times, rip his soul repeatedly, so as to store it in many, separately concealed Horcruxes." As we learn on page 498, this is horribly unnatural, for "the soul is supposed to remain intact and whole. Splitting it is an act of violation, it is against nature."

Voldemort is an individual with a single-minded focus--one might say a deep obsession--on becoming immortal and gaining as much power as possible, even pushing the boundaries beyond what has been thought possible. Needless to say, the type of power that Voldemort craves is power over others. So deep is Voldemort's desire for immortality and power that he is completely willing to rip his soul apart, not just in two, but into seven pieces--committing murder each time.

The world is filled with people who, in large and small ways, focus on obtaining something so intensely that what is truly important in life gets swept aside. Certainly, we see this in male politicians who find it so important to gratify their momentary sexual desires that they have sex with a prostitute or an intern or a woman other than their wife, completely tossing aside their marriage commitment, their family's happiness, the respect of their community, and their political career. This is perhaps different from Voldemort in that Voldemort is constantly obsessed with immortality and power, whereas these politicians appear to give in to gratification in the moment. But the willingness to toss aside deeper values for selfish reasons is the same. In both cases, the individual destroys himself in order to have something lesser--Voldemort destroys his soul to have earthly immortality, and the politician destroys the trust of his wife, his family, and his community to have illicit sex.

I would say that a person rips their soul, or at least harms their soul in some way, through acts of various degrees of seriousness. These include murder, rape, verbal abuse, illicit sex, stealing, gossiping, lying, power plays, and unkind words. Thoughts count, too. In fact, so does any thought, word, or deed that violates the Golden Rule. Anytime, we treat others in ways that we would not want to be treated ourselves, we harm our souls. This includes thinking unkindly about others or talking unkindly about others when they are not present. It includes acting unkindly toward others, whether directly or indirectly. (An indirect act of unkindness, for example, might be leaving a mess behind for someone else to clean up. This can happen on an individual level as well as on a collective level. We might, for instance, consider the collective behavior of leaving a polluted world to future generations or leaving future generations burdened with a heavy financial debt.) Unkindness can often be subtle, as when we subtly put someone "in their place" by talking down to them.

Whenever a person engages in unkind behavior, it is because that person strongly desires something lesser than the joy of a principled life, such as power, money, revenge, sex. I will also say that a person can harm their soul through unfaithful behavior, even unfaithfulness to self. This can happen when one is not faithful in caring for one's health, such as when one engages in smoking, substance abuse, overeating, or being a constant couch potato. In these cases, such things as a large or small high feeling, escape from reality, comforting tastes, or the pull of inertia become more important than assuming responsibility for maintaining one's health.

I should mention, though, that sometimes a person is in dire need of something that will save their life and may violate someone else's right in order to fulfill their own need. The author and feminist scholar of pornography, Andrea Dworkin, recounts how she was once in an abusive relationship in which she was kept isolated from others and never allowed to have money of her own so that she remained completely dependent on her "lover" and had no means of escape. She finally did manage to escape, but to do so she found it necessary to steal money. I hardly know what to say about this, but I do find it understandable.

In any case, the horcruxes in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince point out the very real danger of harming one's soul in large ways by murder or rape but, if we think about it, also in daily actions, words, or thoughts of unkindness or unfaithfulness.