Recently I shared a rather profound experience with my oldest and dearest friend who unfortunately lives 3000 miles away in San Diego. We met way back in second grade and have been finishing each other’s sentences ever since. The occasion was our annual long weekend at a North American city we select on a rotational basis, a tradition we started many years ago. This year it was his turn to select the location and he choose Las Vegas.
On our second night there we landed at The House of Blues where Carlos Santana has been performing for several years. Our standing room only seats surprisingly parked us just a stone’s throw from the guitar legend who we both saw together way back in August 1969 at New York’s Fillmore East. The two headline bands back then were Three Dog Night and Canned Heat and under their names on the marque, appearing in significantly smaller letters, was “And Introducing Santana.” A wiry 20 year old kid with a sound unique to rock music took the stage, held the audience spellbound and probably caused the headliners to consider the nearest exit! Two weeks later Carlos Santana appeared at Woodstock and the secret was out.
That was 46 years ago and now here I was almost bellied up to the stage with the same good buddy watching an older, and like many of us grayer, Carlos Santana just kill it with his guitar and his mix of Latin, blues and African influences. Talk about bookends! I was engulfed as I allowed the music to take me to those parts of my soul that can only be realized at a live concert, especially when you are so close to the artist that you can practically touch him!
Gone was the ever present marijuana smoke that permeated the Fillmore East in 1969. Now it was replaced by the faint glow of hundreds of cell phone screens as the audience attempted to capture the moment. I admit I was one of those people! But what truly surprised me was what came next. As I looked to my left and right, nearly everyone was texting their photos and tweeting their thoughts to those not fortunate to be at this incredible live event. Some examples within eyeshot… “The man still has it.” “Now he’s playing Black Magic Woman.” “Wish you were here.” And my favorite, “I am at the Santana concert in Vegas!” Exactly… “I am at the concert,” not feeling the concert, not lost in the concert, not part of the concert, but at the concert. I found myself getting annoyed by the speedy digits banging out these messages and the distracting glow of the screens. To prevent myself from saying the wrong thing, but more importantly to get back in the moment, I moved to a darker spot and Carlos had me again.
So one might think that this is an anti-technology rant…frankly that would be too easy and too obvious. While the cell phones were indeed the source of my initial annoyance and disturbing in a way that all of us have experienced many times, I realized, particularly during the cab ride back to our hotel, it was something else. It was that, “Hey, I’m at the concert” post that stayed with me.
How many of our students are simply “at school?” Not engulfed in school, not feeling school, but simply at school? Too many I would imagine.
Chuck Scranton spent 35 years in schools, 28 of which were in school leadership. From 1993-2008 he was the Headmaster of Burr and Burton Academy in Manchester and taught in the English and history departments. He served on the Executive Committee of the Vermont Independent School Association and the Board of Directors of the Independent School Association of Northern New England. Chuck received his B.S. in Economics from Wagner College and his Masters in Education from Rutgers University.