Andrew Kincade


BA, Theater (Classics minor), Kenyon College
MA, Humanities (Philosophy and Medieval Studies concentration), University of Louisville

Before I was ever a teacher, I was a camp-counselor. They’re similar jobs, but counselors don’t need degrees. One summer, I landed a job as a camp counselor for the City of Louisville’s Art in the Parks. Many of the other counselors were classroom art teachers, who wanted a summer job to supplement their income, and there was one drama teacher as well. I was an aspiring musician, and I was hired to add a musical dimension to the camp. 

 We had a lot of fun making our own instruments and learning songs. At the end of each week there was a show and tell for the parents. One week, I had the idea that the kids would write their own songs, and then we would record them and play them for the parents. The kids would then take a cassette home (remember those?), and they would have a recording they could listen to for… well, for as long as people listen to cassettes. 

 Getting a nine-year-old to write a song might sound like a tall order, but they loved the experience. When you think about it, all you need is a voice and (maybe) a piece of paper to write down the lyrics. The plan was for me to accompany the kids on guitar and record them on the last day. I was surprised at how well everything went, with one exception. 

 Two of the boys were from St. Joe’s orphanage. Throughout the week, I had tried encouraging, cajoling, and occasionally begging them to work on their song. They just wouldn’t do it. I noticed that they didn’t sing during the sing-alongs. This really bothered me. I didn’t know anyone who had lost their parents, and I wanted to make sure that they got as much out of the program as any other kid. I also really wanted these kids to take home a copy of their work. 

It was the last day, and I had recorded all the other kids’ songs. I had the two boys from St. Joe’s last. I knew they didn’t have a song, so I was trying to encourage them to just play one percussion instruments. I figured that they might not want to sing, but every kid likes to bang on things, right? Even this didn’t seem to interest them. I was busy telling them about how awesome it would be for them to be able to listen to their own performance, when one of the kids accidentally tilted the microphone to the speaker causing it to feedback. I went on with my speech. Then he did it again. Both of the boys got excited. That’s when I decided that the feedback would be their performance. 

I added a little punk guitar, and the boys took turns creating feedback. I’ll always remember the sheer joy those boys had recording their song. If I ever feel like I’m just not having any success as a teacher, I think back to that day. It’s like Miles Davis said, “It’s not the note you play that’s the wrong note--it’s the note you play afterwards that makes it right or wrong.”