School is underway and while I haven’t had a chance to begin reading instruction with any of my new students yet, I did have a chance to experience something special I would like to share with our Teaching Tolkien readers. While I have watched Peter Jackson’s film adaptations of Tolkien’s works multiple times, last night I was able to experience one of them in a brand new way.
This weekend Wolf Trap (www.wolftrap.org), a local performing arts venue, presented The Fellowship of the Ring as a multi-media concert. The film was shown in HD playing on both in-house and lawn screens while the Filene Center Orchestra, the City Choir of Washington, and the World Children’s Choir performed Howard Shore’s score live. Not missing any details, every single note of the score from the New Line Cinema logo to the closing credits was performed by a plethora of instruments. Being a musician myself, I had a special appreciation for the amount of rehearsal time that was involved in mounting such a production. Aligning the timing necessary to play along to the score of the film requires perfect precision and accuracy. Conductor Erik Ochsner never missed a beat as he led the orchestra through the two plus hours of music.
Experiencing something old in a new way can allow you to notice things you may not have picked up previously. While I have always enjoyed listening to the film music of Middle-Earth, it was a completely fresh experience, as if listening with new ears, to hear and see the music performed right in front of me. While journeying through Tolkien’s Middle-Earth has a transformative power all its own, Jackson’s film adaptations allow the viewer to be transported to a world that they only imagined. Experiencing Howard Shore’s score live makes the illusion all the more convincing.
My only regret of the evening was that I was not surrounded by my little dwarves. My former students would have loved the multi-media viewing experience and I’m sure it would have further enhanced their appreciation of Middle-Earth. Looking back on our classroom journey, my students continuously remarked that their most memorable moments of the journey were our special fied trips to the movies and the theater to see The Hobbit. Not only were these opportunities for them to experience literature outside of the classroom, but also to experience the world outside of their own limited experiences.
While I do not like to think of my students as “limited” in any way, they are often characterized as being limited English-proficient. They are also, unfortunately, often limited in their experiences and exposure to cultural opportunities. Many of my students come from socio-economically disadvantaged homes. These children’s families cannot afford movie tickets, much less theater or concert tickets. While some may feel that playing fields can be leveled in the classroom, it is often what happens outside of the classroom that allows some students to academically perform better than others. This is where the role a teacher plays in a child’s life is vital. Teachers often need to pick up the slack, when busy and hard-working parents struggle to make ends meet.
The same holds true for exposing students to rich literature. Students who come from homes where literacy is not valued, can struggle to get books in their hands or have meaningful literary experiences. Teachers should not and cannot assume that all students read for pleasure. For some children it is a luxury to even own a book. Whatever journeys this new school year will afford, I hope I can continue to offer each and every one of my students the opportunities, both inside and outside of the classroom, that will allow them to be successful in school and life.