December 25, 2005 at 5:58 AMI attended a special winter concert earlier this week. One of my students (M) played with her school orchestra, which is comprised of fifth and sixth graders. However, my student, a fourth grader, was included because she plays so well. (**pride**) The concert was very well attended – standing room only. There were a lot of proud parents there. My student’s contingent included both parents, three grandparents (the fourth was sick), her younger sister, and me. Her grandmother had bunches of flowers for her and her sister; her father had a digital camera with a long lens; and one of the grandfathers had a video camera and a monopod. We took up a whole row in the audience. Before the concert, I remarked to her father, “I don’t think we had anything like this when I was a kid.” He replied, “My elementary school didn’t even have an orchestra.”
We couldn’t see M onstage because she was smaller than the kids in front of her, so her mother moved up for a better view before the concert began. She was chagrined to see that M was crying, so she rushed towards her, uttering the universally understood and respected maternal cry, “Child in tears!” M was crying because her shoulder rest had come off of her violin and she didn’t think she would be able to play. Her mother dashed out in the hall to look for it, and, fortunately, met a little boy who had found it and was bringing it to the orchestra leader. The mother took it and gave it to M just in time. Then she told me, “That’s the life of a mother. Always a few steps away from disaster.” The orchestra conductor -- bless him – had waited for the crisis to resolve before starting to play. The kids played beautifully, especially those in the violin section. Then the school band with its 75 members played, and finally, the chorus sang. M sang in the chorus, and we could see her because she was in the front row. She looked so happy as she sang.
After several rounds of applause, the school principal came out and spoke to the audience. She looked very proud, and she thanked everyone in the audience for their support. I could see and hear that she meant it. I thought about it. There are only 330 kids in the school, and one third to one half of them played in the orchestra or the band or sang in the chorus. That’s a very high level of student participation in the music program. The students who sang in the chorus gave up one day of recess each week to rehearse. (That’s why there were so few boys in the chorus.) Each student who performed probably had several people in the audience, judging from the size of the crowd. It really does take parental support for almost all of the students to participate. Most of the parents of kids who play instruments listen to their kids practice; encourage them; take them to their lessons; pay for their lessons, instruments, and books; and generally stay a few steps away from disaster for their childrens’ sake. The parents, the teachers, and, of course, the kids, contributed to making this a very special winter concert.
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