"Rag-tag band of lunatics..."
"No, 'lunatics' makes us sound worse than we are..."
"This is way beyond joke level!"
"The best way to end the week..."
"An opportunity to see colleagues in a different or less serious light, doing things beyond teaching, and showing some awesomeness."
Since 2007 Dana Hall School has had a Jug Band — a do-it-yourself musical group of faculty, staff and family — playing everything from washtubs to guitars and trumpets, while having a great time in weekly jam sessions that are part relaxation, part rehearsal, and part after-school hangout. Though I'm new at Dana Hall School, teaching computer science classes here since September 2022, I have been welcomed and made at home by this group, which had its annual performance for all students last week.
The weekly get-togethers have a cheerful do-it-yourself attitude. People are glad to see each other. All are welcome, with musical knowledge ranging from zero to years of orchestral experience. The mood is both confident and self-deprecating; there is some story-telling, and people suggest songs to try. Can you teach us the chords? Are the lyrics online? Does it go with tambourine? Let's improvise!
Memories from past years include instruments (French horn, maracas, vibra-slap, trumpet, and jug, of course), song choices (no, some lyrics won't do), people (beloved friends, including somebody who sped up during every song), experiments of song-mashups, and finding a chair for a pawn-shop drum kit.
Eventually, as the springtime concert approached, a set-list evolved as we rummaged for songs that we think are cool, that we can actually play, and that won't put students to sleep. In recent weeks there was an addition to the pretty well-established song-list: Mary Potter brought her flute and sheet music of the haunting "Ashokan Farewell" in memory of our dear colleague Chris Johnson.
The days before the concert included a multi-hour sound-check and rehearsal, and several gear set-up and tear-down sessions. Onstage we had 15 people with more than 100 years of Jug Band experience and 497 years of total musical experience, with a second-generation player and two people, Michael Frassinelli and Linda Derezinski, who have been with the Jug Band since its start in an animated lunchroom discussion in 2007. There were singers, and people playing banjo-lele, flute, guitar, harmonica, mandolin, percussion, piano, string bass, ukulele, and violin.
I'm proud of us: we were inspired in the live performance, sharing music and love back and forth with friends and students. (And feeling some nerves too, and relief that the microphone feedback problem was solved.)
We represented varied branches of the school including (in more or less alphabetical order): Art, Athletics (a coach or two), Business, Class Dean, College Counseling, Computer Science & Engineering, Department Chairs, Dining, English, Families (a parent of alumnae, several spouses of administrators, and that second generation musician), House Director, IT, Library, Math, Middle School, Social Studies, Upper School, and World Languages. (And people from Admissions, Tech Theater, and Science rehearsed with us during the year.)
This year's show started with "Deep River Blues" and "Dancing in the Moonlight." Then the "Ashokan Farewell" had the band members listening intently to the flute and violin melody. Next was "Teach Your Children" and Fleetwood Mac's "Don't Stop (Thinking about Tomorrow)" in honor of the seniors. A year of rehearsal and friendship had gone into a 14-minute show, and with "Wagon Wheel" accompanying their exit it was time for students to head to their next classes, as the band starts to prepare for next year.