John’s Journal: Spring Travel and A New Music Bridge

Dear Friends,

I hope this greeting finds you in good health. In this challenging time, we are exploring ways to stay connected while necessity keeps us apart. Vital restraints on public gatherings are changing life “as we know it,” affecting us all. While these hardships bring great suffering and sadness, the pandemic is also providing new opportunities for reflection, courage and kindness. Although it may sound cliche we are truly all in this together, and need each other now more than ever. Thank you to everyone who is staying home to lessen the risk to others. Endless gratitude to all the people and organizations who are endangering themselves to help us all. 

Trip to California in March

In early March I spent a week in California visiting schools to provide programs for families and teachers. It now seems like that was many months ago! In Magalia, I had the pleasure of spending two days at Pine Ridge Elementary School in the Paradise School District. The entire community in this district was severely impacted by the horrific Camp Fire in November 2018, considered by many to be the worst wildfire in US History. The students, teachers, and I sang together and even wrote some new lyrics. We composed and recorded a new school song called, “Things are Looking Up at Pine Ridge School.” As I’ve gotten to know the students and staff at the school I’ve been amazed and in awe of their resilience, strength and hope. That’s what the new school song is about. I look forward to continuing to work with them in the future. During my visit I had the honor of delivering hundreds of bookmarks crafted by the Bridges of Peace and Hope Club from AIS Magnet School in Danbury, CT for their peers at Pine Ridge School.

Ms Farrell, a 5th grade teacher at ASHK in Hong Kong talked to the BoPH club in Danbury about distance learning and teaching her students in Hong Kong New York. Within weeks the students were practicing social distance learning themselves.

The bookmarks included messages of friendship and hope. The California students were thrilled to receive these, and many students immediately asked their teachers if they could make and send back “thank you” bookmarks. Unfortunately, the pandemic put that project on hold as California schools closed March 16. 

Students at Pine Ridge love their bookmarks!

On March 12, my final day in CA, I did a teacher workshop for the Contra Costa Reading Association. My sincere thanks to Lynn Gurnee, CCRA, and all who took part. Although people were starting to be warned about the risks of the virus, no restrictions had been imposed at that time. With safe distances and sensible precautions in place, forty teachers attended the session. As I was singing with the teachers, library staff were posting notices on the doors informing the community that effective the next day all library programs were cancelled. I flew home on a red eye flight at 1:00 am the next morning. 

Trip to Europe Cancelled

I was looking forward to hosting the BoPH workshop at the CEESA Conference in Helsinki, Finland March 18-20. Many CEESA schools have participated in our projects and the conference is a wonderful chance to learn and make new friends. I also had an Artist in Residency Program scheduled for late March at the American International School of Vienna, in Austria. I was excited to work with the very active Bridges of Peace and Hope Club and teachers there. These plans also had to be cancelled but I am grateful to both groups for inviting me to work with them and I look forward to doing so again when circumstances permit.

Building Musical Bridges Online

With all my programs for the rest of the academic year postponed, it’s been the most unusual March and April since I started visiting schools over 30 years ago. Of course, this is true for everyone involved in education. As schools around the world shifted to online learning, several teachers have contacted me to ask if I’d be doing music online. I apologize that I have been slow to attempt this. The essence of my approach to making connections with music has always been singing and creating with children and teachers. Since that isn’t possible now, and teachers have asked for songs, I am going to try. Last week with help from my wife, Ann Marie, we posted an Earth Day song on YouTube and shared it on Facebook and via an Email newsletter. I was surprised by how many teachers and friends shared the song with their students, friends and families. Thanks to everyone for your support and encouragement. 

Let Us Know if You’d Like to Receive Links to Songs

Our plan is to share two or more songs per week via video links. For the first week or so we will email this in our Bridges of Peace and Hope newsletter. Of course, we’d rather not clog inboxes with unwanted emails so if you’d like to be on our weekly music mailing list please send word to John or Kelly at one of the following addresses:  or

If you have a request for a specific song or topic, or a suggestion for a new song, please let us know and we will try to accommodate the request! 

It’s the Little Things: A Song About Kindness and How Little Things Make a Difference

Many schools enjoy singing this song about how little acts of kindness can make a difference. In the video, filmed several years ago, ASL teacher Debra Aranson teaches corresponding sign language. Thanks Debra for sharing your time and skill. Thanks also to Michael Donaghey for filming and Jeff Miller for the piano accompaniment and arrangement.

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