A fever is not conducive to writing, but getting over one certainly is... body purged of bothersome bacteria, and head comparatively clear, I emerge -- still wrapped in a bathrobe, pj's, and two pairs of socks (por si acaso) -- to translate thoughts through keyboard.

Tomorrow afternoon I plan to attend my second music rehearsal in Santa MarĂ­a. I started going to the fourth-year students' music workshop partly to get to know more students and partly because their teacher expressed interest in my research and invited me to sit in on his classes. As my schedule shifted, I ended up going exclusively to the fourth-year workshop, where the kids spent last trisemester learning about the history of contemporary music, from jazz to rock-and-roll to pop to heavy metal to electronica. This trimester, they are learning to sing and perform songs on their own, and I serve as occasional translation and pronunciation expert, since a large selection of their songs are in English: "Yesterday," "Every Breath You Take," and Elvis's "Can't Help Falling in Love with You" among them.

I was convinced that the effort would fail -- not because I thought the kids couldn't sing, but because I believed they wouldn't. I believed that when it came time to perform, or to practice performing, they would refuse to do so. I believed this because, despite their ability to yell from one end of the courtyard to the other, the students here strike me as quite shy. First, they avoid standing out from their peers (a normal enough feeling), but beyond this, I've witnessed kids refusing to comply with teachers' requests/orders -- refusing to answer questions, refusing to bring books, refusing to sit in a new part of the classroom, refusing to sit or work with a new group of peers. They simply refuse, and there's no making them comply. I had assumed that the kids in the music workshop might respond similarly, and simply refuse to do something that would make them stand out and make them vulnerable to critique.

Happily, I was wrong. We met last Thursday afternoon in the music room, and the music teacher and an accompanist on bass guitar tinkered with arrangements while two students from the workshop practiced setting up the sound board, hooking up the mic and amps and speakers. The first girl got up to sing Elvis's song, and though she had the lyrics in front of her on the music stand, she'd clearly learned them by heart, and she sang a nearly pitch-perfect rendition of the song. The music teacher encouraged her to sing with more emotion, with more feeling, and the name Antonio came up -- a boyfriend, perhaps? -- and the other students cracked up, but the girl's next time through the song was more emotive.

I was remembering the hours upon hours I'd spent in my high school band room, practicing, hearing the band director's tantrums, but ultimately feeling like I had a part and was somebody because of it. I was also thinking I was probably not the best consultant for a vocal group (and that may be an understatement), but my idea was to be there if the kids were there and to put myself "out there" if they were putting themselves "out there." It turned out that the music teacher had plans for me to perform, as well, and he'd even identified a couple of songs he thought I might like. And with that, my participant observation just got a little more participatory.

I've also been assigned a part in The Police's "Every Breath You Take," to accompany the girl who sings the solo and cover the part where Sting belts out "Since you've gone I've been lost without a trace, I dream at night I can only see your face ... baby, baby, pleeeeeeez!" My partner wasn't too broken up about me taking that part. The lyrics go by quickly, and it's no small thing that they are singing in a second language.

But mostly what I was struck by during our two-hour practice was the way the kids behaved. They sang on their own when practice stopped because the sound equipment needed adjusting. The girl I sang with asked me to keep snapping my fingers to help her come in at the right time -- and this may seem insignificant, but I've rarely seen a student ask for any help at all, so the fact that she wanted to do a good job and was asking for help to do it, was huge. When the music teacher told her he'd had no idea she could sing so well, she looked like she didn't believe him; when I reiterated that she was doing a great job, she said, "Really?" And by the end of the rehearsal, there was a look on all of the students' faces that hadn't been there before: a look of pride. Seeing it made me realize that I'd been missing it and that I hardly ever see it on students' faces here. It simply doesn't enter into the equation or dynamics of what's usually going on; things tend to fall out on the negative side, unfortunately. But not in the music rehearsal. There, they were proud, and happy, and interested in what they were doing.