What is your professional background? I worked a decade as a comics retailer, 2nd best job; was an office worker for a couple of years for the company that proved Ivory Soap was 99 94/100% pure soap, and other years elsewhere. Worked in a library, behind a movie theatre popcorn stand, and several summers in various camp jobs, stable hand, pots washer, arts ‘director’.
How would you describe yourself as a musician? I wouldn’t. I was a singer. I play a bunch of instruments indifferently; guitar because it’s readily portable. I’m a lyricist with a background of my father’s LPs, Cole Porter, the Hammersteins, Noel Coward, Durante, Sinatra, Armstrong and Fitzgerald, and a lifetime of Lennon/McCartney, Dylan, Paul, and also Carly, Simon, Laura Nyro, the endless list. And Dr. Suess.
What came first: songwriting or Montessori? Songwriting came first, by many decades.
What led you to Montessori? 24 years in Children’s House because the girlfriend of a housemate asked if I’d want to be a classroom assistant, afternoons at the school where she taught, around the corner. It was school as school ought to be: I was so pleased by the respect for the kids—and such little kids so capable. After a while they told me I should undergo the training. Enjoyed that, too.
How did you use music in the classroom? I taught my students to sing the alphabet song backwards. We beat claves in rhythms and sang songs I made up like “Push in Your chairs” (fish can’t do it, and neither will bears). Best was when we had an upright piano in a corner, played ‘Respectfully’ by anyone at any time. We made instruments of paper-towel rolls with jingle-bells affixed. We walked the line while music played, froze motionless when it stopped. We had group sing with all three CH classes together, led by the amazing Burchie Green, and all-school sings often led by upper el.
What inspired the song ‘What the Hand Does?’ “The human hand allows the mind to reveal itself’ sang to me, and ‘What the hand does, the mind remembers’ seemed to pair with it, maybe even complete it. I walked around the yard for many days, singing these lines over and over until I began seeing them in concrete actions—painting/pastel-ing; making music. When I hit “wish I were there,” I understood where the song was going, and the first two verses shaped the rest of the song.
What else would you like to add? I’m always hoping to interest singers. I’ve a bunch of “materials songs,” ‘Red Rods’ Report,’ ‘Building the Broad Stair,’ ‘Try the Trinomial Cube’ and a song for each of the animal groups, “Birds’ Waltz,” “Me, an Amphibian,” et al., as well as the usual far-too-many “grown-ups’ songs.” I’m trying to learn more about presenting The Time-line of Life, since that, too, seems like a perfect ‘hook’ for a song. I illustrate many of these, including “We Shall Walk,” in comics form, using rubberstamped images and comics’ language of layouts.
Where can readers learn more? All of this is on Facebook as ‘Walking Man Songs,’ ‘Songs for Classrooms,’ and ‘Walking Man Comics.’ Songs can also be heard on Soundcloud and YouTube, mostly all sung by Tom Knight. Several other songs are also available on Burchie Green’s albums, ‘Taking My Dog to Dinner,’ and ‘Cool Cats’ Café.’