The internet was abuzz yesterday with the latest bit of improvised wizardry from HAM4HAM, the little squibs of entertainment and tribute devised by the folks at HAMILTON, THE MUSICAL. Lin Manuel Miranda organized an MLK Day tribute to his elementary school music teacher, Barbara Ames. I can't think of a teacher more deserving. She wrote a wonderful MLK song which the kids not only sang, but remembered -- as the adult alumni gathered in the school auditorium proved. I had the opportunity to work with Barbara in the late 80s and early 90s when we were starting a new chamber music and jazz program for the K-2 set at the 92nd Street Y. She was always a passionate advocate, taking her choristers to Washington DC for annual tours and giving them fabulous rep to sing. Her classroom was a chaotic mess of Orff instruments and scattered bits of sheet music -- all of it in the service of giving the kids a very rich musical education.
The thing about music teachers is that, of course, Barbara is not alone. Recently, I had the chance to work with about 45 wonderful NYC music educators at Carnegie Hall, and it's not hard to imagine each one of them having an Ames-like tribute in their future. It's not music in the schools month yet, but it certainly felt like it was yesterday.