Monday, June 22, 2009

40th Anniversary of Woodstock

Being the music and history lover that I am, I am excited about this summer being the 40th anniversary of what most people consider to be the pinnacle of the 1960s era of activism. The Woodstock Music and Arts Festival took place in Bethel, NY from August 15-17th, 1969. Appropriately dubbed "3 days of peace and music", Woodstock is widely regarded as the most famous musical gathering in our nation's history. The biggest artists of the time gathered in upstate New York in an event which, despite its logistical problems, was a peaceful gathering. During the 1960s, musicians really seemed to represent the voice and conscience of the counterculture. You can learn much about what was going on in the United States by reading and listening to the lyrics of artists such as Bob Dylan, Crosby Stills, Nash & Young, Joni Mitchell, and many others.

The signs of the 40th anniversary are everywhere this year. In fact, a student of mine brought me in a Woodstock "coozie" from Target. Apparently Target has a big display of Woodstock items and apparel to coincide with the anniversary. This summer also includes a re-release of the original documentary and album, a 40th anniversary concert in Bethel, as well as a full-length Hollywood feature film.

Over the course of this summer, I'll be attending several concerts (including the anniversary show) which feature some of the original Woodstock artists. I'll be updating the blog with pictures, reviews, and opinions on my travels over the next couple months. I feel pretty fortunate to be living during this time period where many of the artists who gave a voice and soundtrack to a generation are still alive and performing.

To begin, here are a few photos from the Crosby, Stills, and Nash concert I attended this past weekend along with a review from the Boston Herald:

CSN perform in perfect harmony
By Brett Milano / Music Review

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Early in his show on Sunday with Stephen Stills and Graham Nash, David Crosby explained why he hadn’t told any political jokes yet.

“The problem is,” he said, “that with Bush out of office we’ve lost half of our best material.”

That’s one possible reason Crosby, Stills & Nash were feeling upbeat. In any case, the veteran trio is apparently feeling a second (or third or fourth) wind. Their harmonies were solid over two long sets, which hasn’t always been the case (after some health problems, Stills’ high register is back from the dead).

They seemed comfortable with each other, a change from recent years when Stills and Crosby/Nash seemed in different orbits.

And yes, there were still plenty of political songs, from Crosby’s Woodstock-era “Long Time Gone” to Nash’s 9/11-inspired “In Your Name.”

To some extent, a CSN show is always about the reassuringly familiar. Much of their 1969 debut album got played as always, and the night closed with the usual singalong on “Teach Your Children.”

But Sunday’s set had a few surprises. For one thing, it opened with a long stretch of acoustic material, which CSN usually save for the middle. There were catalog surprises, including a pair of Buffalo Springfield gems (“Bluebird” and “Rock & Roll Woman”) that Stills hasn’t performed regularly in decades. And there were a half-dozen songs from an all-covers album that the group plans to record with producer Rick Rubin later this year.

Cover songs may seem a bizarre move for a group that’s known largely for its songwriting. Some of Sunday’s choices - Dylan’s “Girl from the North Country,” The Rolling Stones’ “Ruby Tuesday” and Tim Hardin’s “Reason to Believe” - have been done to death already. But these oldies served to return the group to its acoustic-trio roots, and fit in surprisingly well after the first album’s “Helplessly Hoping” and “You Don’t Have to Cry.”

The group’s enthusiasm for these cover songs seemed high (Crosby shouted “Surprise!” after every one) and the best-performed of them all, the Grateful Dead’s “Uncle John’s Band,” was also the best-received song of the night. With apologies to the current Dead, it was nice to hear it done by a group that can actually sing.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Thoughts on Service Learning for 2009

As some of you may know, I have been on a committee over the past couple of years to investigate the future of service-learning at Norton High School. The main idea of service-learning is that you integrate some type of service into the classroom learning process. The large project that I have worked on over the past 2 years has been the historical tour of Norton for the 3rd grade. My students research and learn about their local history. They then take their knowledge to the streets of Norton and guide the elementary school students around town. Thats have your learning and your service. I really think this is a great idea.

Here are links to some local newspapers who have covered our activities this year...

The million dollar question in regards to service-learning is how to we officially integrate it into Norton High? Should there be a requirement for all students? Should all teachers have to complete a service-learning project over the course of the year? Should we simply just encourage it and count the hours towards the community service requirement?

I truly believe in the concept of service-learning. I think it can be one of the most rewarding high school experiences. If you ask any of my students who have done it over the past 2 years, I think they will certainly agree.

Any suggestions or comments? How do we bring about more service-learning?