My son is in a gang.

My son is in a gang.

I’m not proud of this, but I can’t watch him 24/7. He uses the term “crew” but I'm pretty sure it's a gang.

Now, before you envision him hustling stolen auto parts, flashing his "signs" while wearing his colors, you should know that he’s in first grade. The gang? They call themselves "The Pug Crew." Sounds ominous doesn't it?

I asked my son, "How did you get in The Pug Crew? Do you have to love all things pug related?" Nope! Apparently, being in The Pug Crew has nothing to do with pugs at all and the only membership requisite is that you have to race every member in the crew. When you hear of other gangs “running” drugs, apparently The Pug Crew just takes the running part seriously. 

Evan and his pals do like pugs, but really, they just want to belong to something.

Even as a first grader, Maslow’s need for “love and belonging” has taken hold of my son. He wants and needs to be a part of something, and connected to someone else. He wants to share a bond, while differentiating himself from his peers. Name, gender, class, and teacher only go so far on the rough and tumble world that is the first grade playground. So there he is, running (literally) with his fellow Pugs, finding his place and setting himself apart. According to Maslow, he is developing self-esteem and on a pathway towards self-actualization. Heady stuff for a first grader, if you ask me. 

You and me, we’re not so different from Evan and his crew, and our rehearsal halls bear some resemblance to the first grade playground.

In music, we work towards one sound, created by many instruments. We work at fostering homogenous values in heterogeneous ways. We push students as individuals inside of a group setting. We create harmony by creating diversity (1st, 2nd, & 3rd parts). In music, in order to become one, we must first become many.

In this way, Maslow and music may have something in common.

To my way of thinking, it’s okay that the band is different than the choir and the choir is different from the orchestra. I believe the woodwinds need to be different from the brass and the violins need to be different than the violas. I believe that concert band needs marching band to keep kids engaged and that individuals playing solos make the ensemble better.

Maybe in order to be one in music we have to be willing to be many. Maybe the ONLY way to have a safe space for everyone is to have a DIFFERENT place for everyone. And maybe, just maybe, the reason music is so powerful is that, more than in any other space in school, we have learned that in order to put things together, we have to first break them apart.

We ALL want to be a part of something and connected to someone. We all want to believe that we are special or different in some way (myself included). Which is why I asked Evan if I could be a part of The Pug Crew. He said NO!

Apparently, I'm just not fast enough.

My search continues.