Grammy Award-winning flutist, singer, and storyteller Joseph Firecrow returns to Malden May 31 for a full-length performance at St Paul's Episcopal Church, 26 Washington St., at 8 p.m. Firecrow will offer more of what enthralled audiences at the Opening Celebration for Malden Reads in February, a web of stories and songs that energize and nourish the mind and heart. Firecrow is a sought-after recording artist, composer, flutist, storyteller, and performer. He has earned awards, accolades, and artistic opportunities for his work. In addition to releasing seven albums, Firecrow’s musical talents have been tapped by Ken Burns for the director’s documentary “Lewis and Clark: The Journey of the Corps of Discovery.” Firecrow has also won numerous awards, including songwriter of the year, best instrumental recording, and flutist of the year from the Native American Music Awards. His fourth album, “Cheyenne Nation,” earned him a Grammy nomination in 2001. Most recently, Firecrow was awarded Best Flute Recording for “Night Walk” by NAMA. He was also given the honor of opening the ceremony with a statement, prayer, and song, a fact that reflects the respect he has earned from within the Native American artists’ community. These awards are a credit to Firecrow’s musical achievements. They reflect his musical skill and reputation amongst fellow entertainers. And yet at the heart of his performances is a role that goes beyond music. This role, as a Cheyenne flute man, is what shapes his life and work. It is the heart of what he does and is, as he explained in a recent interview. As a child, Firecrow heard the song of flute in the evenings on the Northern Cheyenne reservation in Montana that was his home until age 9. The soulful emotion of this evening sound, delivered by then flute man Grover Wolfvoice, stayed with him even after he had left the reservation as part of the Mormon Indian Placement Program, from which he only returned during the summers. In college at Brigham Young University, he enrolled in a flute-making class taught by John Rainer Jr., instructor of Native American music. In the class, Firecrow made his first Native American flute and learned how to play. This experience, along with his reading of "Cheyenne Memories," a book of the legends and history of his people written by his grandfather, John Stands in Timber, moved Firecrow to reconnect with his Cheyenne identity. At this time in his life, however, he was still unsure if music was to be the driving passion of his life. After college, Firecrow pursued a variety of opportunities, “sowing his oats,” as he puts it. Working at a number of hard labor jobs and as a tree planter and sawyer for the Forestry Department, he then moved on to oil rig and power plant work. But Firecrow became concerned about the ways in which these jobs were destructive to the planet. He returned to the reservation in his 30s with the flute he had made in college and starting making and playing the native instrument with newfound eagerness. At that time, many people on the reservation were keen on ceremony, for which the drum was the most important instrument. They mocked his choice of flute over drums, claiming it as a female-oriented instrument. Firecrow rejected this notion completely, because the flute according to tradition had always been for males only. Used in social contexts – often played at night – it was to be used to express love for others, for family, for wife and children, and for spirituality. Women, according to the Cheyenne beliefs, did not need this catalyst for expression. Men did. Remembering the influence of John Rainer Jr. and inspired by Native American flutists such as Carlos Nakai, Jonathan Maracle, flutemaker Hawk Littlejohn, and many other talented musicians, Firecrow continued to pursue flute with growing intensity. He says, “I loved playing it. I would make flutes by the fire. I would play into the night.” As if the flute had always been with him – just quiet – Firecrow mastered all that was connected to the beautiful wooden instrument so traditionally intertwined with the identity of his people. It was from the tribal elders that Firecrow learned the art of the flute man. They taught him that, “To be a storyteller has to come with a flute man’s role,” he says. And this also means “doing right, being clear about the intent of playing, and knowing where the flute comes from. For music, for the Cheyenne people, is not a distinct practice, it is part of everything else.” Playing flute then also means learning the stories chants, and songs of the people. It means “walking with deliberateness,” doing right, embodying what it means to be Cheyenne. All of this, Firecrow gained through guidance from the elders and in community with the people. The elders have given Firecrow their blessings as flute man. But they continue to watch him and test his knowledge and accurate representation of the songs, stories, and flutemaking. “Often,” he says, “when I least expect it – like at the grocery store in the checkout lane – I’ll have to recite a story or sing a song. Other times, they’ll throw me a piece of wood, and I have to construct a flute on the spot.” Firecrow is happy for this ongoing relationship. He always gives the elders credit. He remembers them. And he wants to make them smile. When he leaves the reservation, Firecrow brings this spirit of humility and respect for elders and for people in general with him. Whether he is composing, performing, or fusing versions of his Native strains with classical, jazz, rock, or contemporary music, he works hard and shows reverence for the complete experience of playing. The nature of the music, the audience, and his companion performers may change, but he always knows where the flute comes from, where it is going, and the reasons he plays it. And those reasons – the desire to connect, to express his love and appreciation, to inspire wonder for everything that connects us as humans, is what drives Firecrow to share much more than music with those who hear him. The Malden community and Malden Reads invite you and children aged 10 and older to join us as we share the wonder of Firecrow’s pure and compelling performance on the evening of May 31. Tickets are available at the door for $15. Students and seniors are $10. Twenty-five percent of the proceeds of the concert benefits Malden Reads. For more information about the event, visit maldenreads.org. For more information about Joseph Firecrow, visit josephfirecrow.com.
FRANKLIN - State education officials on Tuesday refused to back away from their decision to block a planned expansion of the highly ranked Mystic Valley Regional Charter School in Malden, prompting the school’s officials to threaten a lawsuit.
The state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education took no action on Education Commissioner Mitchell D. Chester’s decision to impose conditions on the school’s charter renewal, effectively stalling any decision on expanding the school’s student population.
In February, Chester, citing a “clear record of insularity and opaque decision making,” denied Mystic Valley’s request to expand enrollment from 1,500 to 1,900 students. He also placed several conditions on the school’s charter, including a requirement that Mystic Valley expand its board of membership and set term limits for its members.
On Tuesday, after contentious back-and-forth between school representatives and state officials, Mystic Board of Trustees Chairman Neil C. Kinnon called the board’s decision not to overturn Chester’s decision a “mini-IRS scandal,” and said his board will not arbitrarily impose term limits and add members because the state says it has to.
“We are going to follow our own plan about how we are going to replace our board,” he said. “There is no question that there is some level of targeting going on here.”
Mystic Valley School Superintendent Martin L. Trice said it needs to slowly expand enrollment from the current 1,500 students to 1,900 over the next 12 years to maximize academic and after-school programs.
Representatives from Mystic Valley say they will go to court to fight the state’s decision. Attorney John D. Hanify who represents the school, said the decision has raised serious questions about the state’s authority.
“This is a school that passes (academically) with flying colors,” he said. “It is inappropriate and unlawful to impose conditions on its charter renewal.”
Mystic Valley says there are more than 2,500 students on the school’s waiting list. In recent years, the school has been ranked among the top 10 schools in the state by Newsweek, US News & World Report, and The Washington Post.
But Deputy Commissioner of Education Jeff Wulfson said the state is simply representing the public in this case.
“Public schools have elected boards, so there is a level of accountability,” he said. “There is nothing like that in charter school boards, so we have to act on the public’s behalf.”
Wulfson said complaints from parents and teachers about the school “have clearly gone beyond what we’ve seen at other charter schools.”
Those complaints, many from anonymous sources who say they fear retribution from the board, range from a lack of adherence to the state’s Open Meeting Law to a failure of the board to address concerns about transportation, the admission system and other issues.
“The board’s role is not only to be academically successful, but to act as a public body, with transparency and a responsibility to the public,” Wulfson said. “We feel they have fallen short on this too often.”
The conditions -- such as new board members -- are not extreme, according to Wulfson. Three of the board members have been trustees since the school was founded in 1998, he said.
“This is not probation, this is just conditions,” Wulfson said. “I don’t understand the level of push-back on these conditions, which are not very onerous. Most people would say they are perfectly reasonable.”
The following was submitted by Mystic Valley Regional Charter School in Malden:
The Mystic Valley girls' softball team qualified for the state tournament for the sixth consecutive year with a 12–2 victory over Pope John of Everett Monday.
Freshmen Colleen McGlynn and Bryanna Cimetti and Senior Violet Sullivan had four hits each to lead the offense.
Leah Thomas continued her dominance on the mound, striking out eight and walking only one batter for the complete game victory.
With the win, Mystic Valley improved to 10-8.
“Even though we have been successful, it is important to note that several younger players have really stepped up their game in the second half of the season which has driven this team into the playoffs," said coach Scot Barry. "It is that drive and commitment to wanting to do whatever it takes to make the team successful that makes this group of girls very special.”
Derek Mozuch, 24, got out of his car on Highland Avenue near Charles Street in Malden about 12:45 p.m. Monday and chased a person with a knife, Malden police Lieutenant Marc Gatcomb said in an e-mail.
When off-duty Malden Police Officer Rob Selfridge was nearby and tried to intervene, Mozuch ran back to his car and drove off. He was tracked to Woburn, where he was arrested on charges of reckless operation of a motor vehicle and assault with a dangerous weapon.
A man was arrested in Malden Saturday after allegedly robbing a woman inside an ATM vestibule, police said.
Luis Ricardo, 29, of Everett is charged with armed assault to rob.
Ricardo allegedly confronted a woman inside the Century Bank ATM vestibule on Ferry Street, stole unspecified items from her and fled, according to police.
Witnesses pointed police to Holyoke Street, where they found Ricardo.
City Councilors in Malden will meet with transit police on Tuesday to discuss public safety at the Malden Center MBTA station.
The council's Public Safety Committee is slated to meet with MBTA police to discuss issues related to Malden Center at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Malden Government Center.
The Public Safety Committee is made up of Councilors Barbara Murphy, Judith Bucci, Craig Spadafora, and Peg Crowe. City Councilor Neil Kinnon is the chairman of the committee.
Teaching is challenging, rewarding, exciting, exhausting, and never boring. Actually, every day is a new adventure. Lately, I’ve been struggling; Not with teaching students, but with everything else that goes along with being a teacher in a needy urban district where resources are stretched thin.
I am struggling with teaching well over 100 children a day while wearing so many other hats. Our students walk through our doors saddled with burdens. Some children are from difficult home lives, some are homeless. Others have arrived on our doorstep from war-torn nations, refugee camps, or from countries of sheer chaos. Students often show up hungry. Others are in need of shoes and clothes. Some are grieving the loss of a parent, which vary from parents who have no contact with their children, to parents who have died or been killed, to parents who have been lost to addiction, mental illness, or incarceration.
Even so, teaching is easy compared to the mental anguish and emotional drain of serving as counselor to children who are emotionally scarred. Our social worker/adjustment counselor oversees 600 students four days a week. She has a consistent caseload of 40 students, and an additional 10-plus extra students each day to tend to as each daily crisis arises. If you do the math, you will understand that teachers absorb much of the pain and agony some students bring to school with them each day.
In addition to students in crisis, we are also teaching students with intellectual, emotional, and mental disorders with limited special education support in our classrooms. I love my job, I love my students, but I am exhausted and drained. If teachers are to prevail at making every child successful, we need help in our classrooms. We need help to meet the needs of our kids who are experiencing personal and emotional crisis. We need special education assistance for our students who need individual support.
When I think about what our struggling students lack, I have come to realize that no matter what their burdens are, they are each lacking consistency. School is their safety net. School is their refuge. Each day, for eight hours, they are safe. They have structure and they are surrounded by people who want them to grow into productive, conscientious, caring adults. For our students to succeed, they need assistance within the walls of that refuge.
Teachers will teach all students. Teachers will accommodate workloads and differentiate instruction to reach all types of learners. We will provide kindness, empathy, and respect. We step in when counselors are not readily available to children in crisis. When special education students are not getting enough individual attention, teachers spend extra time to meet the needs of these students and give them the academic support they need to make gains. How do we continue to spread ourselves to meet the needs of all our students?
Should we invest in staffing counseling within our schools so that counselors have reasonable caseloads of students and teachers can teach? Should we rethink how special education services are delivered by special education teachers so that students are properly supported, and budget appropriately? Should we have additional staff to teach and support the large number of English language learners so that they are successful in meeting standards?
The answer is yes. We need to invest in our kids by providing them with access to counseling. We need to invest in our kids by providing our special needs students with specialized teachers working alongside general education teachers in their classrooms. All children can learn with the proper emotional and academic support no matter what their challenges. Some may learn differently, at a slower pace, or at different levels, but they can achieve if we provide the proper support. We must support our students.
Kathleen Sullivan is an elementary school teacher in Malden. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.