Generally, I am a pretty good sleeper. Occasionally though, I awake in the middle of the night and can't get back to sleep. When this happens I usually click on the television and try to find something to occupy my restless mind. Often, it's something on C-Span. While we in the U.S. are sleeping, things are happening in the rest of the world. Sometimes they happen live on C-Span. I didn't realize this until July 1st 1999. The Scottish Parliament was meeting for the first time in almost 300 years. They televised the opening ceremony in Edinburgh on C-Span, and I stumbled upon it.
It was a historic occasion, and I was witnessing it as it happened. The stately old buildings of Edinburgh were impressive. The pomp and pageantry were fascinating. I was touched by the emotion of the people. I was inspired and I was happy that I hadn't slept through the night and missed it all.
Recently, I stumbled upon an old Press Club event. It took place during the Clinton administration, and they were "roasting" Rahm Emanuel. This was just after President-elect Obama had named him as his "right hand man" and I didn't know anything about him. I learned a lot about both Rahm Emanuel and David Axelrod that night. I saw what good friends they are and how important their families are to them. I learned that Rahm Emanuel had served in the IDF. I heard about his reputation as a "pit bull" and got a taste of his sense of humor. I thought it was a good way to learn more about these two people about whom we will will be hearing in the near future.
Last night, I awoke at 4:00 a.m. and met another fascinating person on C-Span. They were broadcasting a talk by Marin Alsop. I had no idea who Marin Alsop was. I soon found out she is the first woman to direct a major U.S. symphony. She is director and conductor of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. She talked about the importance of teaching young children about music, explaining how music education helps students in all areas of learning.
Under her direction, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra has begun a program called Orchkids. Orchkids is an after-school program for children in low-income areas of Baltimore, in which they are taught about music, given instruments and lessons and mentored. Their slogan is "Planting Seeds for a Bright Future".
She talked about a similar program called "El Sistema" which was started in Venezuela in 1975. It has taken children from the poorest areas and introduced them to a whole new world through music. They travel the world, and have appeared at Carnegie Hall. This program was the brainchild of one man, Jose Antonio Abreu.
Marin Alsop also spoke of being inspired by Leonard Bernstein's Young Peoples' Concerts in the 1950s. I remember being inspired by them, too. I saw them on television as a child. I have just learned that the entire series is now available on DVD. I am so glad to hear that.
So, sometimes in the middle of the night, when I can't sleep, I learn about things that I find worthwhile and fascinating. I learn about things I hadn't known before. It's nice to discover these things at 4:00 in the morning.