People who Inspire me–Mrs. Hodson

Sourdough boule

Mixed: 11 pm (wow, usually I’m in bed before then…)

Molded: 2:15 pm next day

Baked: 4:15 pm

Gave to Ms. Hodson–teacher extraordinaire…

Here she is pictured with her daughter, before a performance of Pirates of Penzance last November.

I have no doubt that if Ms. Hodson had lived anywhere in Ireland during St. Brigid’s time, she would have been found out, led to Kildare, and asked to teach music to all the children, plus direct the cathedral choir and probably have the whole community singing like angels in no time. Rebecca has musically influenced our family for many years now, providing countless experiences for my children to sing in festivals, in operas, in weddings, but more than anything she has taught them to sing beautiful music and provided an excellent example of what it really means to teach something well…

I’ve watched Rebecca in action for a long while, and have studied her (I coordinated all the uniforms for a local children’s choir, so hung out in the back room–a lot!), hoping to pick up a few of her secrets–some I’d like to share with you today–especially if you have an active role in educating or raising children. Even though she is so musically gifted, she is foremost a teacher, and I believe that she could inspire folks to learn just about anything. She contends that any child can be taught to sing–and it’s true, I’ve seen some miracles happen!

Respect and Love

Rebecca respects children. From the get go she treats them like musicians, like professionals and she loves them with hugs and smiles and countless encouraging words. She never talks down to a child–never rebukes a note gone wrong, but instead uses positive examples to get kids moving down the right path. “Jessica, sing that again for us–that’s just what I was looking for!” And Jessica happily sings the phrase, and those who weren’t quite getting it now have an example to follow, and Jessica is thrilled for having done it right.

Discipline and Play

Rebecca encourages both discipline and play. We traveled with her to a festival in Hawaii, when my children sang in the local children’s chorus. Ms. Hodson loves to have fun, and rallies behind the kids to get in the pool and swim and scream and splash around. But when it’s time to sing, the kids are expected to stand up tall, to be completely engrossed in the music at hand. This balance or trade off of both the fun and the work was a part of every rehearsal, of every musical endeavor. The children knew that the hard work went hand in hand with laughter and learned to flip between the two through basic signals that Rebecca used. One signal I remember is her “Ooooooooo” that she would sing in her head voice and then the children would all join in. The other is a clapping rhythm that the teacher sounds out, clap, clap, clap-clap-clap.  Then the kids repeat this clapping. These signals are markers between play time and work time–they’re simple methods that work beautifully.

Expect More

Rebecca told me on more than one occasion that the kids are capable of so much, and that it’s up to the teacher to take them to the depth of their abilities. Sometimes I would look around at the scraggly group of kids lined up in the rehearsal room and think, “There’s no way she’s going to get that piece of music to sound like it’s supposed to.” But she did. Step by step, with encouraging words and so many examples of exactly what she wanted she would lure out the right notes and tones and feel. Some of my most memorable musical experiences have been listening to these children in concert–singing pieces that hold profound depth and musicality…

I think her teaching methods, of respect and love, of discipline and play, and of expecting more are worth passing on and celebrating. We had dinner together at her home, and what a dear friend she has become. I am grateful for her influence in our lives, and hope that you have someone musical in your community who inspires you, too!

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