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  • Writer's pictureThomas Doggett

Kicking off the summer

The school year wrapped up last week and I didn't waste anytime getting my summer started. But before you get jealous, realize that the end of one school year is immediate beginning of the next school year; the work of a band director is never over...and that's ok. When I think about what some might see as inconvenient or redundant, I just remind myself that I did inventory on guitar picks...1000's of guitar picks. I also played Mustang Sally on more than one occasion for an empty room...or worse, a some-what full room of people who could care less that I'm performing Mustang Sally for their enjoyment. It's all in how you look at it...laughter helps too...a lot of laughter.

I never have time to read for enjoyment during the school year but I made an exception and started my summertime reading early and finished a book one day in. Last Tango in Cyberspace by Steve Kotler is a fictional story based on current or near current realities. The book connects many of my personal interests: technology, social issues, and futurism. A big message in the book is empathy:

The notion was invented by psycho-physiologist Wilhelm Wundt to describe our ability to experience another’s experience, and different, Wundt thought, from sympathy and compassion. Empathy is about the transmission of information; sympathy and compassion are reactions to that information...A couple of years after Wundt’s invention, philosopher Theodor Lipps wonders why art affects us so strongly. Comes to see the act of viewing art as an act of co-creation. An artist has a primal emotion that becomes an original insight that births a work of art. Viewers tap that source code via viewing, as if the feeling that led to the original insight gets broadcast, and people with the right kind of radio can detect the signal. Tune the frequency correctly and the experience is shared experience, transmitted through an object and across time....Needing a name for this process, Lipps borrows einfuhlung, German for “feeling into,” from an 1873 aesthetics dissertation. This gets translated into English to become “empathy” in a 1909 textbook, but not before the poet Rainer Maria Rilke recognizes this experience as a superpower, calling it “my very greatest feeling, my world feeling, the indescribably swift, deep, timeless moments of this godlike in-seeing.”

I find this to be so powerful. I also enjoyed Steve Kotler's last book Stealing Fire which is about current brain research and flow-state.

The past three months of school have been busy that I haven't been exercising. Except for that day when Louis said to me: "Do you run?" "I think about running." "Can you run a mile" "I can run a mile" "How about two miles?" "I can run two miles." So, two band directors ran two miles one day. That kept me in shape until now. So, I got a membership at this gym called PowerLife Yoga. It's crazy intense. I've been working out every day for the past four days. My goal is to workout regularly for the next month before I travel out west with my son.

I went to the Pride Parade in Des Moines last Sunday. It was a beautiful day for a parade. A parade about being loving, kind, and accepting...about being empathetic. Leading up to Pride Weekend, I attended an amazing lecture at the Des Moines Art Center by David Getsy titled The Possibility of Queer Abstraction. Not only do I understand queer abstraction, I understand art a lot better: "...artists have found in abstraction a way to resist the ways in which the human form is categorized, marked, and stereotyped." Go see the new exhibit now through September 8.

Months ago, I bought tickets to see Snarky Puppy in Kansas City. I have missed the Pups every time they have come close to Des Moines. This time was special because Bob Reynolds was going to be with them. After getting tickets for me and my son, I learned that Game Grumps was going to be in Des Moines the same night. That's my son's I call them a group?...a comedy team?...doesn't matter, my son loves them and I think they are hysterical. Game Grumps was sold out in Des Moines but I had tickets for Snarky Puppy already. The smart people in my life suggested that I look to see where else Games Grumps would be...low and behold, they were going to be in Kansas City the night before Snarky Puppy and tickets were still available! So, me and the boy got in the car and drove down to Kansas City for a three-day excursion. We had a great time at the Midland Theatre with Game Grumps and the Kauffman Center with Snarky Puppy.

If that wasn't enough, I got to hang with Bob Reynolds after the show. We had a minute to talk about teaching, playing, and family, of course.

Have a great summer. Go do that thing you've always wanted to do.


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