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A Quarterly Journal
Jeffrey Woodward, Founder & Owner
Ray Rasmussen, General Editor

Volume 12, Number 1, March 2018

Glenn G. Coats
Carolina Shores, North Carolina, USA

Without You

Mrs. Plemons says I am responsible for all subjects except Physical Education. “You are in charge of both art and music instruction as well,” my supervising teacher tells me. She reminds me that playing the piano is a plus for a new teacher, otherwise you will be flying on a wing and a prayer.

I almost know the words to the Harry Nilsson song by heart but listen to the single again and again in order to get them right. I press down hard as I print the lyrics on the first page of the master copy. Then I walk down to the copy room, separate the sheets, and attach the first page to the drum with waxed side out, turn the crank on the ditto machine, and make a copy of the song for each student. In my lesson book, I write down the goal of my lesson: The children will appreciate and enjoy a popular song.

I begin by asking my class about their favorite songs. Sarah raises her hand and says, I just love “Shall We Gather At the River.” I ask them if they have ever heard of the Billboard Top 100 and tell them that we are going to sing a song that was number one earlier this year. I tell them it sounds a little like The Beatles and maybe they will have heard it on the radio. Billy and Amy pass out copies for me and I start by reading the song aloud as they read it silently. Next the children read the words along with me. I ask for volunteers to read it alone and a sea of hands goes up. Everyone wants to try. I suggest that each child just read the beginning rather than the entire song:

No I can’t forget this evening
Or your face as you were leaving
But I guess that’s just the way the story goes
You always smile but in your eyes your sorrow shows
Yes it shows

My idea is to play the song a few times then have the children sing along. I carefully place the phonograph needle down on the record. In an instant, they rise up as if in church for a prayer. The students are swaying back and forth and some are dancing behind desks. Their feet scuff and tap the wooden floor. I just let them go for the three minute duration of the song as the singer’s voice soars through the octaves.

tufts of cotton
she asks why I chose
a sad song



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