Friday, December 23, 2016

To See and Be Seen

It’s old news by now, but the echoes of the Holiday Plays keep singing in me. You music teachers out there know the Herculean effort required to pull these things off. The art of the matter is to make it appear effortless and just a natural outflow of everything you’ve been doing with the kids all Fall, while simultaneously attending to the 1000 details that make it all work— from the placement of each prop offstage, all entrances and exits, how characters react on stage when they’re not saying their lines, getting enough safety pins for the costumes and more and more and yet more. Getting kids on stage cannot be a casual affair.

But it should also be fun and relaxed within the tension and this year more than any other, I never once had to raise my voice with the kids or threaten them that they better get it together or else. We all were on the same team and wanted to make the basket together. And we did.

It's such a pleasure to make the effort to truly see the kids and their potential. It is equally a pleasure to be seen. But in today’s world of endlessly streaming entertainment, will the parents get it? Will they understand the work involved and what it means to the kids and what it means for the community? Well, this parent did when she wrote the following letter:

Hi Amazing Music Teachers:

I know I say this after every performance but please know it’s from the depths of my heart. Seeing those plays brought tears!  You have made each and every child a beautiful musician, actor and dancer, and together with them continue to create a feast for all senses. Seeing each child bloom like that is incredible. Thank you for being the heart and soul of our community and for shaping our children with this core.

And I wrote back:

Thanks for your kind words. How to respond to such compliments? I think the most important thing is knowing that you get what we're trying to do, understand what we're aiming for and are able to see and appreciate when we get it right. That, of course, feels great.

It's so easy to shout like some media star, "We love you kids!!" and have everyone go "Rah! Rah! Rah!" But to really love kids (or anyone) is not so simple! It takes thousands of hours to try to get to know them, to see the special thing they carry that needs to come out into the light, to give them the skills and the time and the attention and the opportunity to coax it forth from its hiding place and show it to the whole community. The word "bloom" that you use is a good one, with all its associations of preparing the soil and weeding and watering and finding the sunlight and such.

So thanks for noticing that it’s more than just playing the right notes in the songs—it’s playing the right notes in the songs so that the song sings out truer and supports the dance and the drama and becomes part of the “feast for the senses” that the kids and audience alike can enjoy. If Shakespeare was right and “all the world’s a stage,” we might as well make it as colorful and musical and whimsically serious and seriously whimsical as we can. The kids’ work and performance is always more than enough to justify the effort, but the pleasure is doubled when the parents and fellow teachers truly see it. Thanks for noticing and sharing it with us! And now to the cast party!

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