Newsletter
From John Farrell
Spring 2005
March 2005

Greetings Friends,

The calendar says its springtime, and indeed the days are growing generously longer, but I still had to spend a few minutes scraping ice off the windshield this morning and the last piles of dirt speckled snow seem reluctant to completely fade away. Mind you I really enjoy winter. But the 2004-05 edition has been more “wintry” than most in recent memory and we’ve had enough. It’s time for spring!

This winter we had to postpone and reschedule the most school programs in one season since I started doing school visits in 1991. Fortunately, Mary Jain and all the individuals she works with were patient and resourceful and by mid-April we will have completed those bookings -- as long as we don’t have any more cancellations. History reminds me that we could very well have another snowstorm or two.


The most memorable postponement came in January. One Thursday evening I waited until after dinner to leave home to drive to Endwell, NY, which is just west of Binghamton, and approximately 180 miles from home. I don’t mind night driving and there is very little traffic on Rte. 17. At night you are more likely to see deer than cars. On this night though I saw very few of either. The fog was dense, especially along the river valley, and much of the drive is along the river valley. A trip that normally takes a little over three hours took four and a half. I got to bed in the hotel around 1 a.m. relieved that I was close to where I needed to be in the morning.

It seemed like the wake up call came minutes rather than hours later. I stumbled into the shower for a water wake up and then out to the car to drive to Homer Brink School. The good news was that the fog was completely gone. The bad news was that it had snowed about 3” as I napped. Back home in Brewster this would’ve been enough snow to delay or cancel school but certainly folks here in central NY are more accustomed to this and know how to handle it, I thought. Maybe so, but the timing was such that the weatherman and the road crews were caught off guard. Following three or four cell phone messages and calls I learned that the opening of school would be delayed. That’s okay. I’ll get some breakfast and read a little and then head to school. Fifteen minutes later another call. School is canceled. I spent the next four and a half hours driving home through the “surprise” snow storm. I suppose this may be some form of poetic justice (pun intended) for a someone who wrote a song called, It’s Snowing! It’s Snowing! which includes the lyrics, “I hope it snows and snows all night so school will be closed down.” Maybe I should write a song called, “Spring Has Sprung!”

Thanks to Jonathan Wright, Homer Brink School, and Mary Jain we were able to reschedule and I had a great day there in February. This time I elected to leave home at 5 a.m. I received a gift from nature just west of Roscoe when I got about a twenty second view of a large adult bald eagle gliding over the river. I’ve seen this eagle, or one of his relatives, on previous trips through there. I always look and sometimes I’m rewarded.

LOOKING BACK

For most of the winter we try to keep the schedule close to home. Fortunately, I have built up a relatively regional and generously loyal base of schools and organization that have made my visits and concerts annual events. To all of you I am sincerely grateful. I need your help to get through January and February, and the rest of the year too.

I recently returned from Grand Rapids, MI where I was privileged to be part of the Michigan Reading Association State Conference. It was an inspiring, exciting, and enriching event. The conference planners courageously chose Reading and Writing For Peace as their theme. While attending conferences I don’t often get to go to many presentations but I was able to listen to a few of the sessions in Grand Rapids and they were excellent. Arab American poet and author Naomi Shibab Nye allowed me to glimpse certain situations and realities through her eyes and insightful words. My favorite quote from Naomi’s presentation was, “Every act of violence is a betrayal of language.” Her faith in the power of words to help us resolve conflicts is uplifting and contagious. I had to leave in the middle of journalist, author and peacemaker Colman McCarthy’s keynote but I bought two of his books and have finished the first and I’m reading the second. He is the founder and director of the Center for Teaching Peace, a non-profit organization that helps schools establish peace studies programs. Colman’s book I’d Rather Teach Peace should be required reading for every educator and administrator everywhere. No, it should be required reading for every person everywhere. Colman’s respect for and praise of elementary school teachers as peace educators will make you proud to be a teacher. Please order a copy and read it. It may change the way you think and act. It’s available at amazon.com. If you’d like to read an excerpt from the book go to http://www.thinkingpeace.com/Lib/lib050.html. Since attending the conference I have been working on a few new songs. One, titled “Who Was Gandhi?” very simply introduces children to the names and actions of committed peacemakers like Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Dorothy Day, Jeannette Rankin, Mother Theresa, Bishop Tutu and others.

LOOKING AHEAD

In April I’ll be going to James Madison University in Harrisonburg, VA to do a family concert for the Friends of Carrier Library. This is the twelfth consecutive year the Friends have sponsored this concert. Thanks to Alma Hale-Cooper and the Friends for their hard work and support. I have many cherished “friends” of my own in Harrisonburg that I have gotten to know through this event. In May it’s back to Portland, Oregon for several days to sing with the Kids for the Columbia. Deb Marriott, Carolyn Myers Lindberg and the staff at the Lower Columbia River Estuary Partnership continue to seek ways to support the arts in environmental education. Given the priorities our current government is pursuing both the arts and environmental education are endangered values and choosing to devote resources to arts education is an act of faith and foresight to be celebrated. I applaud and thank you vigorously. It makes a difference. And there is much evidence to suggest that our children can and will be better stewards of the earth than we have been. They have to be.

I’ll be doing several dates at the
Bronx Zoo this spring and summer and look forward to continuing to work with the Wildlife Conservation Society there and at other WCS parks.

In July I will be doing a keynote presentation at the Pennsylvania Governors Institute For Early Childhood Literacy. Information about that will be available on the website at the “Schedule” link. In addition to these programs I am highlighting I also have many school programs and community events planned and they too can be found on the web site.


WORKS IN PROGRESS

There are dozens of songs and several book ideas that fall into the “works in progress” category, although at times it seems they would be better described as “works in suspended animation.” As I mentioned in a previous newsletter I now have enough new songs to record three CD’s but it is a process that requires considerable organization and time, and sufficient money to make it work. When I have the time I don’t seem to have the money and vice versa. In the acknowledgements section of one of Colman McCarthy’s books he refers to an old Irish saying that goes like this: “The trouble with a good idea is that it soon degenerates into hard work.” For me writing the songs and thinking of good story ideas comes easily. It’s the rest of the process that becomes like pushing a boulder uphill. For the time being my boulders are wedged on the side of the hill but I hope to soon marshal the help I need to get them moving again. My friend Kent Brown at Boyds Mills Press assures me that the two book projects in his office have not been moved to the waste basket and that they are going to happen. They are The Stargazers Alphabet, and Dear Child. He also encourages me to keep writing and submitting ideas. The CD’s “to be” will include a collection of songs geared more to adults than kids, a new CD for the youngest of my listeners, and a project that focuses on living peacefully while rejoicing in the wonders of nature that surround us. I expect to begin work on these soon with my gifted friends Jeff, Dana, and Jon.

FAMILY NEWS

All of us are well in the Farrell household. During March break Ann Marie, Colleen, and Patrick enjoyed a week in Florida visiting Ann Marie’s folks. Jack is spending several days in Philadelphia working on community service projects. He will most likely be attending SUNY Potsdam in the fall. He’d like to study theatre arts and writing. Maggie just completed a great basketball season. She also passed her drivers test and is now willing to help us out by driving herself wherever she needs to go. In May Katie will finish up her second year at Boston College and is hoping to spend the fall semester studying in South Africa. Though my mom has spent most of the winter homebound, she continues to keep tabs on all of us from her recliner. She monitors the weather channel closely and handles numerous phone calls everyday. Gladys, our African sister, remains Mom’s gracious care giver and our dear friend. April will mark three years that Gladys has lived with us.


“NEWSLETTER ONLY” CD OFFER

Many of you have supported me over the years by buying CD’s and also by giving them as gifts to friends. I thank you very much and would like to offer you a reduced price on any CD’s you’d like to order now. To take advantage of this (and to have a chat with Mary Jain) please call 800-928-4007. All CD’s will be $12 each (this includes shipping and tax) for up to three CD’s. If you order 3 or more CD’s the price is $10 each (this includes shipping and tax). This is the lowest price we’ve offered. Call Mary Jain, tell her what you’d like and she’ll ship them right away and you can send payment. This is only good for phone orders. Mention the “Newsletter.”

NEW LOOK to WEB SITE

Rich Copley, the trusted webmaster, is playing around with some new ideas to keep the web site updated and fresh. We have added new features including quotations and song lyrics. There is link to “Printable Posters” for promoting upcoming events. We are also changing the photos and hope to add features that will include sheet music for some of the songs and more classroom activities you can use. I would also like to make new songs available on the site before CD’s are finished. If you have any suggestions or questions please call Mary Jain or email us at the web site.

As always thanks. What I do doesn’t work without help and I’ve been blessed with kind and generous friends. Keep a song in your heart!

Peace, Love and Music,

John

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December 2004 Newsletter
 
       

2005 Hope River Music
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