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MAY. 6, 2013

Music at OA: A Reflection from Felix

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By Felix Dowsley, Head Resident

Felix Dowsley

(A BLAST FROM THE RECENT PAST: We just dug up this reflection written in February from Head Resident Felix Dowsley’s journal about music at OA!)

Life at The Outdoor Academy is saturated with music. We sing to wake up, we sing before bed, and we sing before most meals. These simple songs, with words that evoke simple happiness with the mere facts of living, mark the important intervals in our days. They celebrate the unity that we experience when our community comes together after busily running around these woods.

Singing in a group presents a hidden challenge to the community. Students and faculty must learn the same songs and commit to sharing that culture. As we teach each other new songs, we open our minds to new influences and perspectives. For those of us who rarely hear the words when we listen to music, we must bring a new intention to our experience. Perhaps even more fundamentally, we must sing together! Though it sounds simple, it can be difficult for thirty people to fall into the same key, and to maintain a steady tempo. Sometimes we are bad listeners, and we’re all singing half an octave apart. Sometimes we’re impatient or still waking up, and the song rushes or drags. But when we’re fully present, the song is cohesive, it matches the rhythm of our shared lives, and our more musically adventurous voices ornament the song with harmonies.

The real magic happens when the music plays on after the formal song is finished. This weekend the music was everywhere, all the more delightful because it was spontaneous. During our Masquerade Ball (to celebrate Valentine’s Day, Mardis Gras, and Purim, all in one go) students passed around banjos and guitars, sharing songs they’ve loved for years and picking through new tunes on the spot. During our Saturday morning trail run, Alex started up a sea shanty he’d learned in Music class, and other runners joined in on the refrain as they charged up the ridgeline. This Sunday evening, Kate passed the Adasehede (leader of the day) to Samantha by rewriting the same shanty to celebrate Sam’s adventurous spirit. Students are blending their musical pasts with the music of OA to create their own songs, and as always, the tune lingers on.