Wednesday, 29 January 2014

I believe the children are our future. . .

You can't grow up as a child of the 80s without hearing Whitney Houston (or Tiffany, Debbie Gibson, Madonna, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, The Culture Club, Lionel Ritchie, Whitesnake, Def Leppard, Pet Shop Boys ok Manu we get the picture, save those for another blog post).

I was reminded of this song while out to dinner the other night with colleagues in Christchurch at the Town Ball (great venue for rugby mad fans).  Funnily enough, it was only that night that I saw for the first time, the music video.  Maybe I had seen it but couldn't really remember it, I'm not really sure.  The video follows Whitney preparing for her great moment in the spotlight on stage, juxtaposed and  superimposed with "young Whitney".  Having her mother side-stage or in the wings also shows that she had someone who believed in her while she embarked on her journey as a singer.

The first verse of the song is something that I've thought about often in my teaching career; when I've thought about the quiet students in my Social Studies, English or Music classes who seemed shy, scared or disengaged, especially during the lines "show them all the beauty they possess inside, give them a sense of pride to make it easier".  As adults we sometimes forget how hard it is sometimes to be kids (and probably why teachers become teachers, as they enjoy working with children and are "student whisperers" and really understand where kids are coming from).

The next verse however shows that Whitney growing up couldn't find a role model to look up to and had to rely on herself, to live up to her own expectations.  Is this because people thought she wouldn't amount to anything and nobody nurtured her talent or recognised that she had a gift? Did she not have any friends or peers around her that she could find common interests with?  I keep thinking, man if she was a Pacific Islander, she would've had quite a few cousins and she would've never have felt lonely (extended families abound).

The pre-chorus (the first four lines of the chorus technically) seems to be the turning point - the realisation that the pathway to success is to be yourself and lead your life with dignity.  When she sings "I decided long ago never to walk in anyone's shadow", you start to hear the confidence building.  In the repeat of this section. the variation during the second "I" of "If I fail, if I succeed" confirms that the rising confidence is now self-assured.  Enter the chorus with the broadening of "the gr--ea---te---st" -  shifting the music into an almost anthem-like feel before it returns to normal speed at "love of all".  Musically this is clever, because it suggests that even though at some points in your life you may feel lonely, but once you find love, it can set your life back into motion, a tempo and become the one constant in one's life.

Whitney sings about love happening to her, coming from inside of her and that loving herself is the greatest love of all. This could've been the message that her mother whispered to her in the wings while watching her performance or a promise that Whitney made to herself before she took the stage or something that she would've said when she people doubted that she would succeed.  I guess if people around you don't make you feel loved, as long as you love who you are and truly be yourself- that's the greatest love of all. Whatever the case may be - wherever and whatever way love comes, trust in the love and the worth that you place on yourself.  If you can teach that to kids, then they will be well prepared for their futures.

Friday, 24 January 2014

One day in your life . . .

I came across an old Valentine's card tonight that my husband had given me, completely by accident.
It was still in the envelope that he had given to me that day and he had written the words "My Musical Angel" on the front. I ran my fingers over the writing and took a moment to also run my eyes over the letters one by one before opening it to read what he had written.  Thinking about it now, when I read his nickname for me, I would never have dreamed that he would become an angel first.

Memories of our last Valentine's Day spent together quickly rose to the surface (as did the tears) and as I read the words on the card, it brought back vivid feelings and images of his smile, his excitement that we had the day to spend together and just enjoying each other's company.  I didn't realise it would be the last Valentine's Day with him but one thing is for sure, it's the only other day in my life that comes close to our wedding day.

Reading the card also reminded me of Michael Jackson's One day in your life.  If I had a song that was the soundtrack to that last Valentine's Day and even right now while reading the card again, this would be the song.  My favourite performance is of his live concert in Mexico City in 1975 during a tour.

The thing about a live performance is the insight you have into an artist by the way in which they connect with an audience.  This is reflected in this Mexico City performance, how Michael tells the audience about why he loves ballads, because the slow tempo helps the listener to focus on the lyrics.

I love how Michael is such a consummate performer with the skills to improvise with his "no... no.... no" during the instrumental interlude where you would normally hear the background vocals singing the "la la la la la" in that sweeping way.  I love the musical arrangement and how the violins play the melodic line in the interlude. But when Michael resumes singing after the interlude, the way that he improvises on the word "heart"(see below) serves as a reminder to me of Loma's heart:
You'll remember me somehow
Though you don't need me now
I will stay in your heart
And when things fall apart
You'll remember one day

One day in your life, 
when you find that you're always lonely
For the love we used to share
Just call my name and I'll be there

Live each day like it's that one day in your life.
It will give me, you, us, hope to know that one day we shall meet again.

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

There may be something there that wasn't there before. . .

Disney's "Beauty and The Beast" is my all-time favourite animated movie.  It has all the hallmarks of a classic and timeless tale of enchantment, adventure and love.  From the time that the movie was released, I actually can't recall how many times I've watched the movie.  Everybody has their "Linus blanket", something that soothes them or at least puts you in your happy place, and for me there is something comforting about being able to escape into a fairytale world that has the predictable happy ending, the pivotal turning point driving the story spurs the unlikely hero into action to save the damsel in distress (sometimes the damsel saves the hero because everyone knows girls can do anything).

What makes this movie really memorable for me?  The music of course!  This particular song, "There may be something there that wasn't there before" is sung at a point in the story when perspectives change. Up until that point in the story, both Belle and the Beast were established in their characters with their personalities, their interactions prior to this was abrupt, pained and surly at best.  I was fascinated in the shift in their feelings not only about themselves, but about each other.

The verses of the song is structured in a way that shows Belle setting the scene for the song, explaining the change in the Beast's demeanour and attitude towards her, that despite her initial reaction to his physical appearance, his kindness towards her makes him appear different, more pleasing to the eye perhaps as he appears more human with his acts of kindness, and it includes the Beast gifting Belle the library in the castle.  I mean what intelligent woman wouldn't be excited at the prospect of an extensive library at their disposal?

The Beast's feelings in his verse are quite endearing, when Belle doesn't flinch at the touch of his paw and the way that she looks at him has now changed.  I don't know what you think, but can you remember a time or situation where that has happened for you?  Some of you non-romantics are probably groaning right now but these are the things that memories are made of in relationships, that accidental touch, the subtle shift in the look in the eye and from that comes the wondering about what the heck that was all about???  Belle recognises this for herself that the change in her perspective of him is alarming and that even though the Beast doesn't meet the conventional stereotype of a Prince Charming but nonetheless she does find him charming.

Now, while all of this change or shift in these characters trying to reconcile their own feelings about themselves, let alone about each other is going on; the onlookers provide the final perspective in the story.  As outsiders looking into a situation, it is very easy to make assumptions (correct or incorrect) about what they see, is it real?  Is it being put on? What is happening here?  Why should I be so fascinated by this? Do I have a vested interest in a relationship developing here?

In the context of the story, the onlookers do have a vested interest in a relationship between Belle and the Beast developing because it will break the enchanted spell and their world will be restored to order.  In our own worlds, as onlookers, we may not necessarily have a vested interest in relationships between co-workers (or whatever context) developing, but in the event that they need some support, an ear to listen to their problems (with your permission of course).

So whether you're Belle, the Beast or an onlooker, enjoy those moments of excitement, uncertainty and confusion about your feelings.  Embracing those feelings helps to shape how you will deal with attraction or love in your life.  I guess all you can hope for is what the end of the song signals, a "wait-and-see" moment, while the protagonists figure out what to do, as the audience is treated to the final lingering of these words:

"We'll wait and see, a few days more
there may be something there that wasn't there before,
there might be something there that wasn't there before
there may be something there that wasn't there before".

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery. . .

This blog post is a song request by +Shannon Vulu 

When I think about learning something new that doesn't sit quite right with my own personal philosophy or goes against the beliefs and values that I have been raised on, Bob Marley's "Redemption Song" comes to mind.  Before I can begin to discount what other people say who I may not agree with (you can't say you hate somebody, when it's really their actions or words that you might disagree with), it is important to separate the issue from the person.  As we all know, once you make things personal, it can get ugly, or unprofessional or just plain messy and off-topic or random.  Other problems can eventuate because you chose to get personal with somebody rather than resolve the issue.

What happens when that somebody may not wish the issue to be resolved?  What can you do then?

Depending on the situation and how much you can affect some positive change (we're not talking how much control or power you have, but how you can make something happen for the greater good), some challenging conversations may need to be had.  How honest the other person can be, well. that also depends on what their motivations are.  Do they want a resolution or do they want control and power?

When I think about how I can better understand people who I may not understand, I put on my "empathy glasses" and try to see things from their perspective.  It can be hard at first to do this, I'm not saying that you're going to replace your beliefs with theirs, but it is important to consider why they think the way they think, what factors contribute to these beliefs and how these beliefs impact on your world and how you can co-exist, even if you can't agree.

But one thing you do need to be careful about, if you think too long and hard about the issue that seems to perpetuate the divide that the issue creates between you and that somebody, Bob Marley says none but ourselves can free our minds.

And even if he was talking about a different context on larger national and global scales, I don't think you can make an impact in wider circles until you can communicate well in your interpersonal and intrapersonal perspectives.  

To me, Bob Marley exemplified authentic leadership from an intrapersonal approach (Shamir & Eilam, 2005).  From the music he created and the response from his countless fans worldwide, he was able to co-construct authentic leadership from an interpersonal approach (Eagly, 2005), especially when he asks the listener "who will help to sing these songs of freedom."

So emancipate yourselves from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds.

Monday, 13 January 2014

Under pressure . . .

As the world around me (southern hemisphere at least) have their noses back to the grindstone (or back to work) after the holiday season, we can anticipate that at some points in our jobs we will be put "under pressure".

In a previous post, I talked about David Bowie's "Space Oddity"(see the "Ground Control to Major Tom" post) on how we can look to the year ahead and he features again in today's post with his performance with Queen in "Under Pressure".

I love the scat singing in between the verses and during the repetitive "people on the streets" in the song because it seems as if they reflect the sounds of people chatting, what you hear on busy streets, with that cacophony of sound where words don't make sense because at times the world doesn't make sense.  But come to think of it, the scat singing could also be an individual trying to get away from the pressure with distractions or procrastinations (whichever you prefer), muttering utterances to one's self, anything I guess that helps to relieve the pressure.

When I hear the line "turned away from the world like a blind man", it reminds me of Flight of the Conchords and their style of singing an octave apart but it also signifies in the song, the futility of trying to escape from the harsh reality of the world.

You can hear the intensity start to build to the surface in the last section of the song before the realisation that "this is ourselves" and how we live our lives "under pressure" I can fully understand why Vanilla Ice chose to use the distinctive bass line that almost never was, but luckily one of the band members was able to recall it before it got lost in the space and time continuum of epic riffs.

The 1992 concert (at least I think it's 92) featuring Annie Lennox and Bowie singing the song with the Queen band members showcases the beauty of the song.  I guess depending on one's taste, you can be pretty sick of the song after a couple of times and be quite content to never listen to it again, or for a while at least.  For me it's one of those songs that I can't get sick of because it has everything that a really good, classic, timeless song has - variety, opportunity to improvise, familiar sections, music riffs that can stand alone, and lyrics that speak volumes.

Every song has a bottom line, one sentence that summarises what the song is all about.
So what is this song really about?
I find it in two words  no it's not "under pressure".

It's "give love".

Because after all is said and done, no matter how much pressure we may be under, we must always remember to give love wherever we can.  Not pressured to give love, but that despite the pressure, you still have it in you to love. So give love everyday.  It's hard but the more we are conditioned to do this, it becomes part of our human condition. Give love despite being under pressure.

Friday, 10 January 2014

Honesty is such a lonely word....

I don't know if it's because I'm a pianist but Billy Joel is one of my favourite singer/songwriters in the business - he is a true artist and a musical legend.  If you're a fan you would have watched his brilliant performance on Inside the Actors Studio, hosted by Jim Lipton.  Originally intended to be a seminar with legendary actors teaching acting students about the craft, in this particular episode, Joel offers a masterclass of his collective works, explaining the inspiration behind his music, behind particular themes and what inspired him to write (it's a songwriter's dream workshop).  Joel commands attention from his audience and even if you're not a fan of his music, there is no denying his pure musical genius (ok ok ok I'll stop gushing - can't help it, his music speaks to me).

An annoying habit that I have is when I have conversations with people, I can spontaneously break out into a song that matches the last words uttered in the conversation (it drives people nuts).  Without fail when the catchcry of "aw I wish people/he/she/they would just be honest that I start singing Joel's song Honesty.

When dealing with people in difficult situations or when potential conflicts lurk beneath the surface, this is when honesty becomes a ninja and acts stealth-like and is elusive.  You get a sense of wariness with the stealth-like behaviour of honesty because it can surprise you when you least expect it and you're unprepared to deal with the weight or the 'feel' of the honest, does it fit quite right and how do you wear that honesty? Can you carry it around with you?  And if you do accept that honesty, does that mean it can turn into baggage s that other people can see it?  But we're not talking about this type of honesty.

What Billy Joel is talking about is almost like 'unrequited honesty'.  Like unrequited love, no matter how hard you pine for it and long for that person to realise that you exist, you will never get that honesty that you crave - so what do you do?  Get all clinical and try to improve the conditions in the environment to make it conducive for honesty to exist or appear?  Encourage honesty to 'give it a go' and participate in group discussion, reassure honesty that it's ok if you don't agree with the group - just be yourself ok honesty.

Honesty is such a lonely word, everyone is so untrue.
Honesty is hardly ever heard, but mostly what we need from.... each other.

Friday, 3 January 2014

Calling 11 bloggers - you've been tagged :-)

The following 11 bloggers have been tagged:
+Natalie Faitala
+Dave Fa'avae
+Anthony Faitaua
+Togi Lemanu
+Mark Osborne
+Te Mihinga Komene
+Tahu Paki
+Nadell Karatea-Kokiri
+Moana Timoko
+Anne Kenneally
+Leigh Hynes

If you don't have a blog - TOO BAD haha.
Now is a good time to start - New Year's resolution WOOP WOOP!

The blogging task includes:
* Acknowledge the nominating blogger 
* Share 11 random facts about yourself
* Answer the 11 questions the nominating blogger has created for you
* List 11 bloggers
* Post 11 questions for the bloggers you nominate to answer, and let all the bloggers know they have been nominated.  Don't nominate a blogger who has nominated you.

Here are your 11 questions:
1.  If you had the power to create change in education in Aotearoa, what would it be?
2.  Who was your most influential teacher in high school and what was the most memorable thing they said to you?
3.  What is more important to you - the Christmas card or the Christmas present?
4.  If you were a contestant on the Amazing Race - who would be your racing partner and why?
5.  You are a contestant on Mastermind - what is your specialist topic?
6.  Which NZ road rule should be omitted from the road rules book?  (I don't drive, just curious to hear from drivers)
7.  What is your favourite app at the moment?
8.  Which social media site is the best to use and why?
9.  If you were trying to convince a prospective blogger to start blogging, what would you say to encourage them?
10. Should we have a four day working week in Aotearoa?  Give an explanation for your answer.
11. What is the most important thing you want to knock off on your "bucket list"?

Enjoy :-)

Aw man....... I've been tagged LOL

I've been tagged in a blogging meme by my online friend +Sonya Van Schaijik.

The blogging task includes:
* Acknowledge the nominating blogger
* Share 11 random facts about yourself
* Answer the 11 questions the nominating blogger has created for you
* List 11 bloggers
* Post 11 questions for the bloggers you nominate to answer, and let all the bloggers know they have been nominated.  Don't nominate a blogger who has nominated you.

1. I learned to play the trumpet when I started high school only because we had a church brass band
2. I passed Grade 8 Trumpet when I was 17 (even after my trumpet teacher had quit teaching me)
3. I was supposed to study "performance trumpet" at university but didn't think there were any other Pacific Island trumpeters I could hang out with
4. After my music degree, I was supposed to study "performance voice" (soprano) at university but didn't think there were any other Pacific Island sopranos I could hang out with
5. I learned how to play piano when I was 13 and started teaching piano when I was 16 - last year marked 20 years of piano teaching :-)
6. My first ever job was as a piano teacher, even though I was desperate to work in a supermarket like my peers at the time #fearofmissingout
7. I can mimic accents from different countries and I used these accents when I worked part time at a call centre one year for the NZ Election and NZ Census phone line service
8. I can wiggle my ears #handsfree
9. I once emailed Helen Clark (NZ Prime Minister at the time) from Fiji in 2008 and that same year when I met her, I asked her if she had received my email - and she replied "Yes I received your email". My whole life changed from that one conversation :-)
10.  I always have conversations with taxi drivers and find out where they are from - and then we talk about their country's music (but not when the taxi is full because too many conversations at once can distract the taxi driver)
11. I am currently in my first year (provisional year) as a PhD candidate but never really learned how to drive a car #postdoctoraltask

1. What language do you use when you become emotional?
Depending on the emotion - but if I'm angry - then it's definitely Samoan, as it's my first language.  Even though I was born in NZ, my first language that I learned was Samoan.  Actually come to think of it - for all emotions - it's Samoan, as it is the essence of who I am.
2. What is your favourite movie genre?
Depending on the mood I'm in...... I think I like independent films/quirky films/film festival type movies.
3. Who inspired you to set up your blog?
+Anthony Faitaua helped me to set up my blog, but I think +Togi Lemanu and other friends who were already blogging inspired me, because they were sharing their voices.
4. Who are your mentors and why?
Depending on the context I'm in as I have many mentors - including my parents and brothers (immediate family) for reminding why I do what I do, my late husband who kept me sane and grounded and loved me unconditionally and my masters' supervisors - Dr. Trevor Thwaites and Associate Professor Greg Booth who believed in me and my academic voice - and still do, that's why they're my PhD supervisors :-)
5. What is one survival tool you would choose to take on a journey and why?
I would probably take a Bible as my compass as it has really cool stories that I can read on the journey. I would also take a Samoan hymnbook to sing from to keep my spirits up to survive.
6. Where do you like to go for thinking time?
Because of lack of privacy and time to travel - I go to the happy place in my mind and think about what I need to mull over and digest or solve
7. Which do you prefer - watching on the television or live streaming?
I'm a TV person.  Live streaming can get frustrating at times with its unpredictability.
8. List x3 goals for 2014 and explain why you chose them
i) Look after my health because nobody else can do it for me
ii) Start my PhD because nobody else can write it for me and
iii) Continue to make memories with people worth remembering
9. Tell me about your closest mountain, river or other natural landmark
Western Springs Park (or Western Springs Lakeside Park if you want to call it that) is a wildlife sanctuary surrounding a natural spring-fed lake, one of Auckland early water supplies.  The park is surrounded by a cluster of major nearby attractions included the Auckland Zoo, Museum of Transport and Technology (MOTAT), the Chamberlain Golf Park Course and the Western Springs Stadium.  #aucklandcitycouncil
10. What is your earliest childhood memory?
I think wandering around the church while the service is on and being given lollies by Fuimaono Taala Konesane, the founding member of the EFKS church in NZ.  
11. Write your favourite whakatauki, quote or proverb and explain why you chose it.
My favourite whakatauki is the one I have put in my pepeha: 
E koekoe te tui, e ketekete te kākā, e kūkū te kererū - the tui chatters, the parrot gabbles and the wood pigeon coos. Because my name means 'bird' in Māori, I wanted a whakatauki that reflected the different personalities or traits of different manu.  I need to be knowledgeable like a tui, I need to be able to divert and distract like a parrot and I need to be able to calm down a potential conflict or situation with words.  My favourite quote is the one I made up in 8. (iii) and my favourite proverb is from the New Testament: Romans 8:31 to remind me who my ultimate boss is.  I also like ole ala ile pule ole tautua - the pathway to leadership is through service - I will always serve my Pasifika communities around the world in whatever capacity my strengths and skills can be used.  

I will tag the 11 bloggers and include their 11 questions in the next blog post :-)

Thursday, 2 January 2014

Who could it be? .....Believe it or not it's just me!

Continuing with my sheet music theme, when I think about the greatest TV theme songs that I enjoyed growing up with, I can't get past Mike Post.  I had sheet music for so many pieces he had written, such as L.A. Law, Hill Street Blues and Magnum P.I. He was also responsible for producing records by Kenny Rogers, Dolly Parton and Van Halen in the 80s.  His most successful TV theme was for the hit show "The Greatest American Hero" which reached number 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 in its heyday.

I loved watching the bumbling hero Ralph Hinkley try to fly and learn how to help people using his powers (the costume wasn't helpful, but hey he had to work with what the aliens gave him) but he worked with his friends (the FBI agent and the lawyer) to foil the evil plans of the bad guys that he came across in his path.  I also think that the fact that he was a teacher also appeals to me more now as an adult as I was also a part of this illustrious yet undervalued profession (what's more important than teaching future generations of nations I say!).

When I compare TV themes of yesteryear with current TV themes, I really miss the lyrics, because to me that's what made the TV shows memorable.  The TV theme for "The Greatest American Hero" shows a montage of scenes of Ralph in his many adventures.  The lyrics for me speak about the fact that we are capable of greatness, even if we don't believe it sometimes, but that when we are handed opportunities, we must rise to the challenge.

Look at what's happened to me
I can't believe it myself
Suddenly I'm up on top of the world
Should've been somebody else

Believe it or not 
I'm walking on air
I never thought I could feel so free
Flying away on a wing and a prayer
Who could it be?
Believe it or not it's just me 

It's like the light of a new day
It came from out of the blue
Breaking me out of the spell I was in
Making all of my wishes come true

Believe it or not 
I'm walking on air
I never thought I could feel so free
Flying away on a wing and a prayer
Who could it be?
Believe it or not it's just me 

I watched the movie "Parkland" with my sister in law and thought that the director had handled the story of the events on the day of JFK's assassination from an angle that was previously not told in other films.  Tom Hanks was one of the producers of the film and his son Colin Hanks also starred alongside a great cast including Billy Bob Thornton and Marcia Gay Harden to name a few.

By focusing on the hospital and how people tried to save his life and bring themselves out of their normal everyday sense of selves was nothing short of superhuman or superhero-like.  Even the subplots of involving the impact of JFK's assassination on Robert Oswald, brother of Lee Harvey Oswald and the film footage of the assassination as recorded by an unassuming cameraman was brilliantly portrayed.

I guess for me it means that we can be the greatest versions of ourselves, we can be the greatest heroes in not just our lives, but for the lives of others in what we do everyday.
By doing this we can stop asking ourselves who could it be?
Believe it or not it's just YOU!