Every Thursday, I make a long commute (7 minutes) to Lyon Park Community Center to lead two half-hour long music classes. Most of the students have varying degrees of developmental disabilities, a population I’ve never spent much time around before. The kids are a delight each week-they look forward to a half hour of playing around on the keyboard, and I think since they have fun, they like me a lot too. There are a couple kids in each class who I’m particularly attached to.
The beauty of the class is that the kids get 30 minutes to let music bring them joy. Some kids just sit there listening to the MIDI songs, smiling and humming. Others let me come and sit down and guide their hands to play “Twinkle Twinkle” or “Joy to the World,” or are content to drum out their own melodies which only they and God can hear (literally, since they wear earphones). There are two parts of the class which I look forward to every week: first is when I sit down and play for a kid. I’ll play some Bach, or Chopin, or Liszt, or the Linus and Lucy theme from Charlie Brown, and the kid will just sit there mesmerized. The end result will be a huge grin or a round of applause (especially if it’s Charlie Brown). I love giving a gift like that because the kids don’t hear the wrong notes I play (and neither do I since they have headphones on and I don’t). It’s as pure a gift as I know how to give.
The other thing that I love is our end of class performance. Every week, with the class that is higher-functioning, I ask for volunteers to perform an original composition. It can use the “percussion” setting, or some electronic sound, but it has to be original (no hitting “play” on Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring, or something like that). I try really hard to learn something about the kids from their composition, because I believe that kind of creative expression is incredibly revealing about our inner selves.
The nature of time spent with these kids is that funny things happen a lot. Yesterday, in the second class, one of the most adorable boys just randomly pulled down his pants during class. Another enjoys sniffing my hand, and another always tries to kiss me. I love them all. There’s one other boy who thought I said my name was “Bri-man” on the first day of class, so he has called me that every week since. Each of their lives is a miracle, an unexpected blessing from God, and I am grateful for the many hours I’ve spent with them. The sounds of their harmonies and voices lifted up are part of the new heavens and new earth that God says are coming. I learn music from them. I learn Shalom from them.