FOUNDED IN 1902, ST ANDREW’S IS A TOP INDEPENDENT, GIRLS-ONLY DAY AND BOARDING SCHOOL AND CO-EDUCATIONAL PRESCHOOL.

Head of Junior School, Bev van Niekerk Reflects on 2019

It was Keith Richards of the iconic Rolling Stones group that once said – Music is a language that does not speak in particular words, it speaks only in emotions.

I think it would be safe to say that at some time in our busy lives, whether we are young or old, we have all found ourselves listening to a particular song that evokes emotions and memories. Music holds a certain power that cannot be described in words and so too does life.

 It is on this premise that I would like to challenge the famous quote by Forrest Gump that says ‘Life is like a box of chocolates – you never know what you will get’, and rather consider the following – Life is like music – some high notes, some low notes but always a good song.

It has been said that music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything.

Music reminds us how to appreciate the subtleties of life.  A piece of music is full of understated nuances that combined, tell the story behind the notes. The fading away of certain notes, the sharp staccatos, the lone trumpet solo, the highs and lows. All of these can happen within the span of just a few measures and it is these varied tones that bring the musical score to life.

In the same way, life is also full of big moments, little moments and in between moments.  Life is not always glamorous, nor is it always bleak, most of the time, life just is.   What we need to remember, is to appreciate all these moments, because if we don’t, we will always be waiting for the next big thing. Without learning to appreciating the subtle notes that fall in between the booming overture and the rousing finale, special moments will be lost.  Without the subtle moments, or day to day living, we would not have much of a song to sing.  

Music reminds us to keep an open mind.  Interpretation is one of the largest components of the beauty of music, for no two ears or minds are exactly alike.  It reminds us to constantly challenge ourselves while appreciating difference.  The reality is that music, knows no barrier of age or culture.  It isn’t about being politically correct or even about making a statement.  Music is what appeals to the ears and touches your soul.  It is different for each of us and significant in its gifting.  Music can often communicate our thoughts and feelings in ways we are unable to express through or own words.  Music is able to deliver powerful messages that we can apply to our daily lives.

An orchestra is a unique ensemble group.

It can be electrifying when everyone is playing in harmony but when just one person is playing out of tune, it ruins the performance for musicians and the audience alike.  Ensemble performances and their conductors provide a powerful analogy to essential life skills that we should aim to cultivate in our own lives. 

Conductors starts with a plan. They start with a musical score and a clear idea of how it should sound. Only then do they attempt to recreate in real time their musical “vision.”  Teaching our girls to set realistic goals and to strive to achieve them is important and it is something that we should role model as adults. 

The conductor leads with his heart. Great conductors are swept up in the music. They are passionate. They do not just play with their head; they also play with their heart. You can read it on their face. You can sense it in their movement. They are fully present in the moment.  We know that life is fleeting, so let us aim to teach our children that life is precious, and we need to live in the moment rather than in the memory of it.

The conductor is aware of his gestures and their impact. A conductor cannot afford to make an unintentional gesture. Everything means something. The flick of a wrist, the raising of an eyebrow, and the closing of the eyes all have meaning. A good conductor cannot afford to be careless with his actions or his words.  This is a valuable lesson we all need to be cognisant of, words and actions matter!  We cannot be careless with them, instead we need to focus on positive affirmations and sincere gestures so that the music can create harmony.

The conductor shares the spotlight. When the concert is over, and the audience is clapping, the conductor turns to the audience and takes a bow. A good conductor immediately turns to the orchestra and invites them to stand and bow as well. He shares the glory with his colleagues, realizing that without them, the music would be silent.

This is the same in an educational institution.  Without our pupils, teachers and parents, books would be empty and school classrooms silent.  It takes a team effort to awaken music and a team effort to inspire learning. All play their part, and all are equally important.

I would like to think that life is more like a jukebox than a box of chocolates.  It presents us with an array of songs and opportunities, and we have the ability to select which song we want to play. 

The beautiful thing about an orchestra is that there is never just one person who shines, but rather a multitude of performers who create a perfect sound.  Each member of the group doing their part to add value and worth for the greater good.

Martin Luther King said, ‘Music makes people milder and gentler, more moral and more reasonable.’

If this is true, then let the music play and as we listen may we be reminded of what it truly means to be gentler, more moral and more reasonable. My prayer for our community would be that, in these moments, we can create a song of our own that will become a timeless classic that evokes joy and peace.

I give thanks for the lessons of 2019. 

May you all continue to be blessed.


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