R – This is “concert month” for music teachers virtually everywhere. I saw Matt Murray’s Gorham High School singers Sunday, Jarika’s 4/5 singers at Waynflete last night and I’ve gotten a few concerts of my own in the books already. It is a strange feeling, observing the audience either from the podium or from their own perspective. What are they thinking? What’s going through their heads? And why should that be of any consequence if it is all about the music education (the process and rehearsals that led up to the performance)?
Our concerts reflect and represent so many things. But as I like to remind myself and others, sometimes you need a blessing to walk into your life, and other times you provide the blessing that someone else needed without your even knowing.
My first High School I went to as a teenager was a private “college prep” school the next town over from me. I wanted to be challenged further and figured that going to a private school would be an improvement over my home town High School (I was wrong, but that’s a conversation for another day). That private school had no music program. For my first two and a half years, I wasn’t involved in one at all. Then, during my Junior year, a friend of mine told me that I had to come hear the local High School Christmas Concert he was in. I gave in and went. The concert began with the lights going out in a 1,000 seat concert hall that was packed. Down the aisles came 180 singers with candles singing Silent Night, arranged by Malcom Sargent. 180 singers out of a school of 400. 180 singers including every member of the state championship basketball team later that year. 180 teenagers all of whom were from my own home town. I was reduced to tears before the song even finished and the rest of the night I had what Ben Zander calls “shiny eyes”.
Just under 4 weeks later my transfer to my local High School was complete and the next year and a half inspired me to the point of realizing what I had to spend the rest of my life on earth doing, getting to touch the lives of thousands of people along the way.
All from one song at a High School Christmas Concert in northeastern Connecticut in December, 1981.
Don’t assume that you know the impact your concerts have on people. You don’t. Don’t think that the notes – right and wrong ones – are what your audience is always paying attention to. They’re not. Don’t think that your concerts aren’t a blessing to someone’s life who you may not even know. They are. Last night I saw parents glowing when Jarika began the concert by having the audience sight read along with their children. Yeah, sight read. Sunday afternoon I saw pride in that audience at Gorham High School that was something truly special. At my concert Monday I turned around to bow and saw faces in the audience I’ve never seen before – and wondered what they were thinking…
… that we largely don’t get to see the trees behind us doesn’t discount the fact that we dropped the seeds along the way from which so many of them grew. And it doesn’t discount that those trees are very, very real. And it doesn’t discount how genuinely magical this time of year is for us in music education if we stop to reflect on that. My only wish for my colleagues this month is that they pause just long enough to take the moment in; providing the blessing that others needed or didn’t even see coming. A microcosm of what our lives can be.
Dropping the apple seeds.