Personal blog from workshop leader Franka (saxophonist/singer/teacher) about her experiences in the Welcome Notes project in the Netherlands:
When we start a Welcome Notes workshop, many of us are strangers to each other. Yet, generally, within a few minutes we are playing together with the openheartedness of children. That’s the power of music – it bridges the divides of language, origin, cultures and customs. It can lift a weary heart, release blocked life energy and heal trust that has been broken. What a way to welcome new people to my country!
But it’s never a straight road. When we come to a location as workshop leaders, we know that we can expect everything to be different to what we had prepared for. The number of participants can be affected purely by the shape or layout of the building, or by the flu epidemic doing the rounds, or by a cultural celebration day. Sometimes we manage to nurture a longer relationship with participants, but often the people we played with a week ago have disappeared (transferred? deported?), new ones have arrived and we don’t know anyone in the room. The chairs we used last week may not be there now. The key to a cupboard where we stored our instruments may be missing. The ‘lead singer’ of our collectively created song is nowhere to be found.
My most-used skill as a workshop leader? Flexibility!
So, if the sands keep shifting, then what’s the use?
One time, I went around the rooms of the refugee center to invite people to join us for our workshop. A few rooms down from the workshop space, one man wearily declined the invitation, saying that he needed to rest. I was surprised to see him joining us halfway through the workshop. He was tentative at first, but participated more and more abundantly by the minute. When we finished, he was the last person to stop playing. Grinning from ear to ear and bursting with energy, he told me that his uncle was a musician and that he could feel his uncle’s blood flowing through him now; maybe he was a musician too! He told me about his long, harrowing day at the IND (immigration) offices for his long-awaited interview. He felt depressed and exhausted when he got back to the centre, but now he was feeling so happy that he could do that whole day all over again. He joined us for every workshop after that, until the centre closed down.
For me, THAT’s the use!