One of the reasons I enjoy being a teacher is that, in ways large and small, I can make a positive difference in the lives of others — just as many of my own teachers have done for me. Today’s Music Monday investigates this idea.

For me, one teacher — Professor Eloise Hay — who I only knew briefly in 1996 during my last class at UCSB made an impact on me, though I wasn’t initially aware of her influence when it happened. (I was too concerned with graduating).

William BlakeIt was in this class — English 40, English Literature 1800 to 1900 — that I was first introduced, at least academically, to William Blake.  Since then I have always felt an emotional and creative connection with Blake, and his imaginative interpretation of humanity.

My interest in Blake inspired me to launch “WilliamBlake.com – Cybersongs of Innocence.” While it has not yet evolved into the resource I envisioned, I hope to eventually expand it into a user-created Wiki (as time and resources allow).

Why I mention this is that it was on this date  — April 30, 1996 — that Professor Hay died of inoperable brain cancer. Although I only had her for that one class, and never knew her beyond the 12 weeks of my last quarter at UCSB, I remain grateful for the opportunity to have learned about such a wonderful craftsman of creativity as William Blake.

One of Blake’s more famous works is a short poem titled “And did those feet in ancient time”  which can be found in the preface to his epic 1804 work Milton a Poem, one of his collection of Prophetic Books. Today this short piece is more commonly known as the anthem “Jerusalem” — for which, in 1916, Hubert Parry wrote the music to accompany Blake’s words.

The theme of the poem is that, during his lost years, Jesus travelled to (what is now) England and visited Glastonbury. The song is a popular English anthem and is performed at various events each year — including the April 29, 2011 wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton (another coincidence and reason why I share this song on this date).

Although I am not religious, I appreciate the works of Blake and find the song based on his poem inspiring and uplifting. There are many versions of it available online, but I selected a more modern version of it as performed by the English rock group Emerson, Lake & Palmer below:

For reference, the text of Blake’s poem follows:

And did those feet in ancient time.

Walk upon England’s mountains green:
And was the holy Lamb of God,
On England’s pleasant pastures seen!

And did the Countenance Divine,
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here,
Among these dark Satanic Mills?

Bring me my Bow of burning gold;
Bring me my Arrows of desire:
Bring me my Spear: O clouds unfold!
Bring me my Chariot of fire!

I will not cease from Mental Fight,
Nor shall my Sword sleep in my hand:
Till we have built Jerusalem,
In England’s green & pleasant Land.

To blog, or not to blog: that is the question.

Edutopia: Teachers Shake Up Shakespeare with Digital MediaSince William Shakespeare died on this date in 1616 — and is widely thought to have been born on the same date in 1564 — it seemed fitting for today’s Music Monday post to shine the spotlight on the famous Bard of Avon.

After some searching, I discovered the TEDxTalk Video below that features hip-hop artist and founder of of the The Hip-hop Shakespeare Company, Kingslee “Akala” Daley.

While not entirely music in the true sense of Music Monday, in the video, Daley connects modern hip-hop music with Shakespeare’s melodic rhymes and also discusses the wider cultural debate about the power of language.

Similarly, a recent Edutopia article titled “Teachers Shake Up Shakespeare with Digital Media,” explores how teachers are now using digital technology and social media to help their students understand and embrace Shakespeare. In response to a subject students typically bemoan as boring, they are eagerly creating raps, podcasts, and short films.

According to the article, “Teachers are finding that allowing students to emulate the playwright and make the text their own gets them more excited to learn the plays…Having students perform is the key to learning Shakespeare effectively, and video and audio tools enhance that performance for today’s learners.”

Given the above, it is only fitting to proclaim: if music be the food of love, play on!

Sometimes you can say more with music than you can with words.

In that spirit, I am today launching a new feature on this blog in which I will showcase a musical selection on Mondays appropriately titled Music Mondays.

Cover of the Carmina Burana Score (Showing the Wheel of Fortuna)Due to the nature of my schedule, there might not be an entry here on every Monday, but whenever the mood strikes, there is some thematic relevance, or some especially poignant purpose in doing so, you will find music here for your aural enjoyment.

This selection — the opening movement of German composer Carl Orff‘s “Carmina Burana” — is a “scenic cantata” and is based on 24 poems from the medieval collection Carmina Burana.

This piece — which deals with the idea of fate (fortuna) — was chosen because today is the 60th birthday of Bill Belichick, the head coach of my favorite NFL team, the New England Patriots.

According to his official biography on the Patriots website, Belichick, who is in his 37th season as an NFL coach, is:

Bill Belichick (Darth Hoodie) Prowls the Sidelines“The only head coach in NFL history to win three Super Bowl championships in a four-year span. He currently ranks 10th all time with 177 total victories as a head coach. His winning percentage of .639 ranks third in NFL history among coaches with 150 or more wins, trailing only George Halas (.682) and Don Shula (.666).”

How’s that for good fortuna? Of course, there have also been struggles, but, Belichick took a team from the bottom of the NFL and made it a championship contender. This piece is also played at each Patriot’s home game as the players enter the field.

Lastly, Belichick casts a rather “ominous” presence while on the sidelines during games and, due to his frequent wearing of hoodies, has often been called “Darth Hoodie” (a reference to Darth Vader).

And so, without further adieu, here is O Fortuna for you to hear:

Yesterday was April Fool’s Day, but Autism is no laughing matter.

What is Autism? According to the National Institutes of Health, “Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a range of complex neurodevelopment disorders, characterized by social impairments, communication difficulties, and restricted, repetitive, and stereotyped patterns of behavior.”

Autism often locks individuals in a world of their own, but on Monday, April 2, 2012, the planet will join together to “light it up blue” today for the fifth World Autism Awareness Day (WAAD). The inaugural WAAD was observed on Wednesday, April 2, 2008.

One of only three official health related United Nations Days, WAAD  “activities help to increase and develop world knowledge of the autism epidemic and impart information regarding the importance of early diagnosis and early intervention. Additionally, WAAD celebrates the unique talents and skills of persons with autism and is a day when individuals with autism are warmly welcomed and embraced in community events around the globe.”

The incidence of autism diagnosis has exploded in recent years: in 2000 1 in 150 children were diagnosed, whereas the most recent figures indicate that 1 in 88 children have received a diagnosis.

This is a 20% increase from the previously reported 1 in 110 children who received a diagnosis! More troublesome, according to noteworthy additional facts, Autism affects boys more commonly than girls — the incidence of diagnosis is now 1 in 54 boys! Previously, that number was 1 in 70.

As I have previously noted, I am personally touched by this increase in autism diagnosis:  my eight year son, Jacob, received his autism diagnosis just before his third birthday.

Since then he has made remarkable progress, most notably due to early intervention services such as Applied Behavior Analysis services provided by the Center for Autism and Related Disorders (CARD). Due in large part to CARD, Jacob’s inner light now shines brightly.

He has emerged into the thoughtful and intelligent little boy he always was.

He loves to tell bad jokes, do math, learn about the life, and he even recently tried out a batting cage!

He can now overcome his obstacles with eagerness and enthusiasm.

All this — and much more — from a sweet little boy who initially only spoke in 3 to 6 word sentences, lined up items, heavily stimmed and exhibited many obsessive compulsive behaviors.

Grateful is a word that barely communicates how I feel.

Despite the many challenges he has faced, Jacob continues to inspire and impress me. I am so proud of the progress he has made, and will continue to make. It is my hope that Jacob can always exist in his ebullient essence. By all accounts, Jacob is blooming!

I remain committed to Jacob’s enduring progress and will forever be his most ardent ally. I continue to make the most of my moments with him and my younger son, Max, and celebrate his achievements every day.

And so, even if you aren’t personally affected by Autism — although the chances of that are continue to decrease while the number of diagnoses increase — I encourage you to make an effort today to learn more about autism and understand the unique individuals who share that diagnosis.