Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Jurple Daze

Last Wednesday evening the light was transcendent, finely filtered through a lifting mist, a Millet or Monet brushed to life. A surprising thunderstorm had passed lending a new quality to the atmosphere, charged yet caressing. The storm wind had shaken the fully blooming jacaranda leaving a dazzling blue purple carpet on my front lawn. Jurple, the name I’ve given to jacaranda’s brilliant, messy shedding, covered whole streets as if a royal tropical wedding had just passed.

For those who have never seen a jacaranda in its glory, the sight can be oddly jarring, great swaths of light bright purple amazingly consistent in color, at rooftop level, welcome but unexpected. Now that they’ve been blooming for two to three weeks I’ve grown re-accustomed to the shock of pastel, but that first week rounding a corner I’d still flinch from their sudden beauty.

In academia spring is also the time of year for re-acquaintance with joys almost forgotten in the press of work, a time to revel in student accomplishment. The year can grind down one’s bones and molars, sweet optimism and gentlest trust. In other words, three quarters of preface, start up, midterms and finals punctuated by outbursts of ego, drama, caviling and sniping is thrust to the background to focus on what matters most, the education we’re trying to provide to largely worthy, talented, and sympathetic individuals, our students.

A week ago Saturday I attended one of two Master’s recitals of one of our Arts and Letters students, the multi-talented Madelyn Washington. Ms. Washington lectured on Afro-Latin music and sang several works to illustrate her points. I enjoyed speaking with her mother, whom I’ve met at several of Madelyn’s performances including our French “Bonnet Day” concert in the Luckman where she sang a world premiere (November 2007), the Larry Harlow concert (November 2008, Professor Paul De Castro conducting) and performances of the Women’s Trio coached by Professor David Connors.

That particular Saturday I attended four events including the launch of Statement magazine. This past two weeks has been packed with many happy celebrations of student work, the Cinematic Visions student film festival, “Short Order,” the Cindy Bernard collaboration with Art students at the Luckman Gallery, student Weslie Brown’s composition recital, the Jazz Ensemble concert, the first world dance concert (and the first dance recital for many participants), and the Munitz lectures in English.

But in this whirl of events my thoughts return to Madelyn, and all the students who have completed their degrees and will be moving on. That’s the bittersweet note in this late spring jurple daze; our students always leave.