Two Alumni teaching during "Intensive Week"

Saturday, 08. December 2018

More about "Intensive week" at the Ecole d'Humanité
Photos of Intensive week 2018


My daughter Molly and I returned recently from the Ecole where Molly (with me as her sidekick) taught a course on “American Folk Traditions” during “Intensive Week". The course included the creation of crankies, loosely described as a precursor to “moving pictures” to accompany ballads. We also taught 30 songs and harmony lines -- from Shape-Note hymns to Appalachian folk songs, Gospel and spirituals, to bluegrass and old timey favorites. Before I expound on what an amazing and memorable experience this was for us, I wanted to dwell a moment on “Intensive Week” – and how it exemplifies in so many ways what makes the Ecole experience truly exceptional and worthy of support. Here is a listing of the course offerings during this year’s “Intensive Week” (Oct 29-Nov 3), taught primarily by Ecole faculty who enjoy the chance to teach something outside of their usual scope of activity, along with occasional guest presenters:

  • Ukulele building
  • Metalsmithing
  • French theater production -- Dance / Choreography -- Yoga and journal writing -- Digital music project
  • Advance Baking
  • Mini-musical
  • Photography
  • Building walls and painting
  • Endurance workouts; hiking; sports
  • Furniture building for the Ecole Café
  • Piano study for the Matura exams
  • Textile projects
  • Snowboard and wagon building
  • Techniques for painting and drawing the human form
  • Car restoration and automotive mechanics
  • Sherlock Holmes: including a hike to Reichenbach Falls across the valley
  • American Folk Traditions.

For Molly, this was a chance to revisit the cherished memories from her senior year at the Ecole eight years ago. For me, it was 50 years ago (!) that I spent the equivalent of my senior year as Natalie Luethi’s helper, working in the office part-time and as two-year-old Doey Luethi’s caretaker. It was astonishing to discover that Doey’s daughter Luca is now a high school student at the Ecole! The Ecole is more than a school. It is a multi-generational, multi-cultural living-learning community, usually with 24 or more different countries represented each year. In addition to providing students with vital lessons for life and a superb academic grounding, thanks to outstanding teachers and small classes, the Ecole offers an inspiring range of classes in arts and culture, as well as sports and outdoor activities, including skiing and four and six-day hikes. The great tradition of an annual Shakespeare production lives on in memory of Natalie Luethi -- thanks to Melissa Bagg. With each day Molly and I spent, we marveled again and again at the glorious views of the alps, the thrill of Singemeinde with the entire community gathered in the Grossen Saal to sing many of the same songs that we sang 50 years ago, the fabulous folk dancing on Saturday night, involving young and old, and the prevailing sense that this is a place where we can celebrate what is right with the world. I have always been grateful to the Ecole and the Luethi-Peterson Camps for instilling in all of my brothers (Hoey, Dick and John) and in me -- and now the next generation -- an appreciation for a wide-ranging set of skills and values:

• "Putzpause” – learning how to really clean, and enjoying it!!
• The importance of going the extra mile to help out
• Punctuality • Importance of listening
• Taking care of oneself and others
• The visual, literary and performing arts – and Shakespeare!
• Singemeinde and Volkstanz!
• Gardening and animal husbandry
• Cooking and baking
• Nature and the great outdoors
• An appreciation of differences
• The value of speaking more than one language
• An understanding of what goes into building community and global citizenry.


Molly Graham Hickman spent her senior year at the Ecole eight years ago. Since she has sung, played and taught folk traditions and earned her Bachelor's degree in mathematics, with a minor in linguistics, from the University of Maryland - Baltimore County. She has especially enjoyed studying the spiritual music of Appalachia and the Republic of Georgia. She works as a data scientist by day; folk musician and teaching artist by night.

Busy Graham spent a gap year as a “helper” at the Ecole, fifty years ago. Her passion for the visual, literary and performing arts and her repertoire of international songs and dances grew exponentially during her time at the Ecole and the Luethi-Peterson Camps. Molly and Busy, together with other Ecole-LPC friends, created the LPC-Ecole Songbook in honor of Armin and Natalie Luethi. Busy has devoted most of her life to the arts and education, from music teacher to artist representative to nonprofit administrator and community arts advocate. She is the founder-director of Carpe Diem Arts in Silver Spring, Maryland, a non-profit arts outreach organization serving the National Capital Region.

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