Let Me Be a Bridge
By Roger Sams
Director of Publications
Music Is Elementary
I’m an Orff Schulwerk teacher through and through. Not only has Orff Schulwerk impacted my teaching, it has impacted the way in which I process life. The honoring of creative process and my need to generate art informs me every day, but particularly on days when my heart is hurting. I simply need to express myself through art-making when big stuff is happening in life.
I teach in the Orff Schulwerk teacher education program at University of Missouri – St. Louis each June. When I teach, I fall in love. I’m that kind of teacher. I love my St. Louis peeps. When the riots and discord broke out in Ferguson, MO in August 2014 following the shooting death of Michael Brown my heart broke for our country, but my heart break was also personal. St. Louis feels like my city. I have taught/loved teachers who teach in Ferguson. This was impacting my community and my heart was taking it personally, so I did what I do when I’m in a period of high emotion, I made art. At least I started to write a canon. I got as far as “Let me be a bridge. Let me be a bridge of love. Let me be a bridge of love and light.” Nothing else came. I couldn’t finish it.
The following June, while teaching at UMSL Dylan Roof killed nine at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. My heart broke open once again the rest of the canon came spilling forth. In the three years since this canon was written I’ve come to realize that I was being inspired to write my life’s mission statement.
Let me be a bridge. Let me be a bridge of love. Let me be a Bridge of love and light.
Tearing down the walls of hatred and fear I’m expanding my love ‘cross the divide.
Shining my heart light, illuminating darkness, I will not fear the darkest night.
Last week we experienced the MAGA bomber, eleven people were murdered at the Tree of Life Congregation and two were killed by a hate-motivated shooter in a Kroger store in Jeffersontown, KY. Three more rounds of hatred inflicted by Americans on Americans. School shootings have become unsurprising. We have become a people who choose to attempt to solve our problems through violence. There is a better way; the way of love and artists can lead the way.
Music holds the capacity to heal and to reach across boundaries. We are at a time in history when it would serve us well to choose to get interested in building bridges of love. It is time to get interested in learning how to love those who are different from ourselves. As music educators we have the power to be a positive influence on young people and help them make music that inspires them to reach across boundaries, to shine their light, and make the world a better place.
“Let Me Be a Bridge” is a challenge for elementary choirs and I never intended it to be sung by young students, but children around the country have risen to the challenge as their teachers have offered them the opportunity to perform this work. I share it with you here. If you teach middle school students or older, it will work nicely for you. Put all of your male voices on the third part. If you teach upper elementary, enjoy the challenge. Many teachers choose to work with the students in creating movement so that it is performed in song and movement canon.
Music Is Elementary offers this to you as a free gift with hopes that it will inspire you and your students to shine your light into the world.
Thank you, Roger, for this heartfelt song. In these times it is so important to let music be a bridge to learning about and teaching diversity and love. At the end of one of my programs last year, we sang “Peace will come” and my students continue to ask to sing it. There is hope.
Thank you so very much Roger! So touching and needed in these times. You are a blessing.
Beautiful. Thank you.
Thank you, Roger, for sharing so much of yourself in your work and for sharing that work with us. Your thoughts and words are truly an inspiration for all of us who know and love our students and communities.
Beautiful!!! Thank you!
This is Roger again. I forgot to mention that these wonderful singers are students in the University of Missouri – St. Louis Orff course during their final sharing at the end of their course in 2015.