Aaron Dworkin's "rePLAY"

Aaron Dworkin's "rePLAY"

"Trying to recapture how as a child, the way you felt the thrill and excitement of going to a music store."

Aaron Dworkin is a musician, novelist, and professor. He’s also Shar Music’s®’ Poet-in-Residence. He was kind enough visit us at our Ann Arbor flagship store – down in “the Vault,” our concrete-walled studio – and record his poetry for Shar Music. (Fun fact: “the Vault” is a former laser-testing laboratory, hence the insanely thick walls.)


Here is Aaron performing his second poem for Shar Music, entitled “rePLAY” – in honor of our reduced price rent-to-own program that supplies refurbished stringed instruments for students –




He also took some time out to discuss his individual poems, and his writing process. He also pointed out he views himself as a Poetjournalist, not a Poet-in-Residence, so we asked him to unpack that term a little:


Shar Music: So, you are Shar Music’s “poetjournalist”-in-residence: and that’s a term, “poetjournalist,” that you created. Do you want to talk about that a little for us? What that means, being a “poetjournalist.”


Aaron Dworkin: Sure. So, I was looking at where my poetry was focused and what I wanted to do – and thinking about this role, not just of journalist, but the term “photojournalist.” And basically, came to this realization that what was I trying to do was use this medium of poetry to creatively illustrate the events and stories of our time and of history.


Here is the full text of “rePLAY”:






The fundamental flicker of sunlight

Dawning in a child’s eyes

The first time they behold

Notes created from what they own

Beneath their chin and bow hold.


It sends an empire of pride

From my heart

To their shoulder

Upon which rides the instrument

Of their desire.


As a parent

I bear the fears

For perils and uncertainty

Which they aren’t aware

To be scared of yet.


It’s too small for their fingers

A string broke fracturing

The melody of a downstroke

And my confidence to fix it

As easily as I lace their shoes

Before my morning embrace.


And can I really afford

What might be a brief affair

In a dream where I adore my child’s

Mind that changes mood as easily

As key changes in a tune in book 2.


And what if that sound is just not right

I don’t live a life of soundposts, bridges

And chin rest tensions yet I want to trust

In this array of options.


(there IS a partner that exists more than more worry)

This screenplay for their life

Requires a partner to aid

Replacing the broken strings

Of my tenacity striving to realize

The capacity of my child’s runway

Together staying in harmony

With my budget and their youthful


An adventure highway

Examining the capability

Only made possible

Through this amazing program






Shar Music: So, we sometimes suggest topics for you to write about, such as in the above poem. What do you find it like, being offered a topic like that? Do you find it inspires you in a way that you might not have gone? Or do you ever find it constraining?


Aaron Dworkin: For me, I love it. Because when Shar Music calls me and says, for example, “Hey, okay, we need a poem about strings in the life of student,’ I begin to look at strings in a different way than I ever have as a violinist.


So, the exploration of strings as a Poetjournalist is different than my exploration or knowledge of strings as an actual instrumentalist. So hopefully I can share that. So of course, that goes to… “How can I look at or think about strings differently? And then of course utilize that – use this mechanism of poetry to connect and share that with other people. And I really do love that process.”


Shar Music: In the poem “rePLAY’ you write this – ‘The fundamental flicker of sunlight/ Dawning in a child’s eyes/ The first time they behold/ Notes created from what they own.” And the theme of childhood does come up in a several of your poems. Is this in relation to learning music, and creativity and expansion? Or is it a theme in your own life? You said that you started out playing music at age five – and now you’ve developed into the person who you’ve become.


Aaron Dworkin: Well, a combination of a number of things. Certainly, a key part is that Shar impacts so many young people with their merchandise. And impacted me. And so, in doing that – In thinking about these poems from the perspective of Shar and especially Shar’s constituents, I do want to speak to that. Because a significant part of Shar’s constituents are either young people or people who serve young people – whether they be parents or teachers.


So that certainly is a common theme throughout many of the poems. And then especially with this… I felt like the rePLAY program, really it serves as almost this security blanket for parents. Right? And for educators of young students. Where this ability to have that flexibility – whether financial or changing the size or type of instrument, etcetera. And oftentimes for a parent or a teacher of a young person, there’s all of these worries that arise.


So, I wanted to try to depict and illustrate the importance of what’s happening for the child. But then also share some of the consternation or hesitation or worry that can arise. And yet how a program like rePLAY has the ability to actually address that – and to alleviate that worry.


Shar Music: I’m a writer, so I felt this way as a kid about bookstores and comic book stores… But were you trying to recapture how as a child, the way you felt the thrill and excitement of going to a music store?


Aaron Dworkin: Absolutely. Totally.





Aaron Dworkin is a MacArthur “Genius” Fellow and was President Obama’s first appointment to the National Council on the Arts; he is a current Professor of Arts Leadership and Fellowship at the University of Michigan’s School of Music, Theatre & Dance, as well as the founder of the Sphinx Organization, a non-profit dedicated to the development of young Black and Latino classical musicians.


He has recorded and collaborated with a range of artists, including Yo-Yo Ma, Damien Sneed, Anna Deveare Smith, Damian Woetzel, Lil Buck, and others. He is a best-selling author and the writer of the poetry collection They Said I Wasn’t Really Black.

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