I just got back from a week working with an amazing group of teens at the Boxwood Festival and Workshop, a week of classes and concerts for children, teens, and adults.

boxwood teens

It’s hard to know where to start in explaining the nature of this week. It’s all about points of overlap between early and traditional music. Classes are focused on everything from baroque flute to rhythm to improvisation.

But more than that, Boxwood’s explicit goal is to nurture the full artistic potential of each participant.

Now I know that everyone says their music education organization does this, but what they really mean is actually quite narrow (“you’re going to play really well”).

Boxwood is different because it has its foundation In Chris Norman’s expansive view of musicianship – which means not only playing well, but understanding how what you’re playing relates to historical contexts of multiple kinds.

Musicianship is also about understanding how the fact that you’re playing at all means something about who you are, how you relate to other people, and maybe even what it means to be human.

So at the beginning of the week, I was explaining this to the Boxwood Teens and telling them how important it was to stretch just past their comfort zones. “Take a rhythm class even though you’re not a percussionist and try dancing if you don’t normally dance,” I told them. “You know, carpe diem – seize the fish!”

They had apparently never heard this very, very bad joke before. I was tickled at how tickled they were by it. It became an unofficial motto, and I have to say I was thrilled that it did.

I had designed the teen program to balance the dual needs for choice and continuity that are both so important for us all at that age. Whenever adult classes were going on, teens could choose between those and attend whatever spoke to them. When there weren’t adult classes, we had special teens-only activities that gave them chances to connect with each other.

It was the first year of the program and I was naturally nervous about how it all might go, but they dove in headfirst and came up with pearls, again and again.

Seize the fish, indeed. So the next few entries are going to be about the ways that they – and we – endeavored to do just that.