“Singing brings joy.” – Art Garfunkel
The summer after my freshman year of high school was when I was formally introduced to the music of Simon and Garfunkel. My friend and I convinced my father to drive us down to the Wisconsin State Fair, where our school’s jazz band was playing. We got there early and heard a jazz band and swing choir perform, “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” I was hooked. I had to find the original version, and I still own and often listen to the greatest hits CD I bought that summer.
Ever since then, I have been a complete devotee to the music of Simon and Garfunkel. The simplicity, the lyrics, the purity of tone, the orchestrations, the harmonies. All of it. I have never seen them perform together live, and I pray there is still a chance in my lifetime. Two years ago my husband and I had the opportunity to see Paul Simon here in Milwaukee, and it was a concert experience I’ll never forget. The voice, the guitar playing, the backup band, the passion for his work after all of these years. Last month my husband surprised me with tickets to see Art Garfunkel at a small old theater in Madison. Again, it was a concert I’ll never forget but for very different reasons.
We walked into the Barrymore Theater and saw a relic of the past. The seats are probably original to the old building, paint peeling from the ceiling, the floor painted baby blue. All told, the venue probably holds less than 400 people. For any other performance, it might be an improper or unsuitable location. But this was “An Intimate Evening with Art Garfunkel.” Mr. Garfunkel had been battling a condition called vocal paresis, which left him unable to sing. After many months of work and rehab, the voice was starting to come back in its beautiful form. For 90 minutes, he sang and read original poetry and told stories of the old days, and all was well with the world. I got to hear one of my favorite singers, though not at the top of his game.
One of his poems posed the overarching question of why someone with so much life experience and no need for anything want to work so hard to resurrect his art. What’s the point? Singing brings joy. So simple, and yet something so easy to lose sight of.
I love what I do for a living. It’s my pleasure, my hobby, my passion. Playing, creating, listening, teaching music. I cannot imagine life without it. There is no doubt that the last year of my teaching career has been a series of challenges to what I do, what I believe, and what I stand for as a music educator. The time, the late nights, the emails and phone calls, the scheduling, the meetings, the paperwork. I have often thought about the many ways there must be to make a living with less stress than I’ve felt, but in the end, Art’s words speak to me. Singing brings joy. Music brings joy. Listening to my current playlist in my car has kept me grounded in that simple truth. “Ho Hey” by the Lumineers, “Carry On” and “Some Nights” by Fun, “Forever Young” by Bob Dylan, and even “Fishin’ in the Dark” by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. How can you not feel a sense of joy listening to good music?
So while I am caught up in the minutia of the struggles of my work, I will remember Art’s words and look at my old CD cover with his picture on it, and I will remember why I do what I do and could never really be happy doing anything else. For me, for my students, for all. Singing brings joy. Maybe someday I’ll have any opportunity to tell him how much those three words meant to me that night. Thanks, Mr. Garfunkel. Love, Your Adoring Fan.