If one shining example of everything going right can redeem an awful couple of weeks, this is it.Â You have to read the whole story and watch the video.Â Just go do it and come back here (or not; what I have to say about it will be at best a few flowers strewn before its triumphant progress).
There is so much to like about this story, I don’t know where to start.Â Black is personable, not full of himself, self-aware, smart.Â He presents himself as a musician, and a reflective, critical, attentive one who knows why this speaks to him and that does not.Â But because no-one successfully told him he couldn’t do these things, he also blithely (but not insouciantly) undertakes to be a luthier and a first-person journalist, not to mention figuring out how to push through his hero’s entourage protection without being a jerk or whining. Â And he writes beautifully, at large and small scale (I’m dying to know how much copyediting his piece needed); the articleÂ is a textbook demonstration of how to write personally without being arrogant or egotistical, and technically without showing off or making the reader feel ignorant. (Post-posting afterthought: Icing on this cake for me is that Black fired up a soldering iron and used his hands to actually make something. )
If you get out of their way, provide the kind of stuff they can’t get for themselves – whether it’s ice time, a workbench and some tools, an obedience course in the back yard for the dog, or an allowance to buy guitar parts with – kids this age will reach higher than you think they can and accomplish wonders that will stay with them all their lives. Campbell gets props here, too; he welcomes Black as a member of his guild, trades chops, gives encouragement, doesn’t head-pat or condescend, and plays out the whole story without upstaging Black.
I hope Black turns up in my class down the line, but he’s already reminded me to be extra-careful to give my own students (older, but no less capable of stuff they and I don’t realize they can do until they try it) space,Â complements to their own latent talents, and the balance of encouragement and tough feedback Black’s parents and teachers obviously got right.