Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Our Hope For the Future: Middle School Young People Like These

The Spring Choral Concert at Crittenden Middle School, Mountain View, California, gave all who attended a bright picture of the future of America.

A friend of mine invited me to see her son perform at his local middle school's Spring Concert. The family's father is in the Marines and has recently deployed for Bahrain, where he will serve for a year. 

When they learned this would be a twelve-month assignment, the family was a little stunned.  But when he departed in April, they pulled together to make it work.  They are now doing what military families everywhere are doing:  their best to cope, to serve, and to go forward with a smile, so their loved one can do his job, and return to the arms of his family.

My friend Katie's husband, and the rest of America, should know how well they honor him while he is away, with activities like this one.

The Crittenden Choral in action.

Petite musical director, teacher Leanne Rzepiela, must retain her tiny size by exerting a large number of calories doing arm raises as she conducts her lively group of sixth, seventh, and eighth-graders.

Honestly, from watching the news, I thought kids this age were all obese, in gangs, spent their free time sexting, tagging, littering, smoking, and playing video games.

Not these kids.  They sing. And it was a delight to hear them.  Their repertoire ranged from Afro-Brazilian music, to Zambian folk songs, to a Minstrel Lay from the 16th century.  The group recently won a $1000 prize for its "mash up" of "Heaven/Somewhere Over the Rainbow" which included footwork that would be the envy of "The Drifters"--if these middle school kids had any clue who they were.

I even got to hear a duet of "Stupid Cupid" a hit Neil Sedaka wrote for Connie Francis about a million years ago. "Hey, hey, set me free!  Stupid cupid, stop pickin' on me!" I was so fascinated, I sneaked out my iPhone and Googled Neil Sedaka just to see if he were still alive.  (He is.)

Barbershop harmonies from the Barbershop Boys (And One Girl)

Katie's oldest son, who will start high school next year is one of the lead singers of the school's barbershop group.  What a delight!  They sang pop classics such as:  "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" (a favorite of my father in his last year); the ancient Ricky Nelson hit "Hello Mary Lou (Goodbye Heart)"; and wrapped it up with a little "Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah."  Hooray, what fun.  Katie's son is handsome, intelligent, and mature, and appears ready to move on to his next stage in life.

When we all went for ice cream at the end of the evening, Katie's youngest, her seven-year old daughter Holly, wanted to ride with me and we chatted away. "I like looking ahead," she told me, "so I've already marked off my calendar up to June." Then she paused and asked me, "How long has it been since April 3rd?"  That's the date her father left.

"Why almost a month and a half have gone by," I said.  "He'll be back to you in no time."  She held onto a very large stuffed bear she was carrying and pondered that.  Then we got out and all had large ice cream cones.  Ice cream is one of the best medicines for the heart, though doctors have yet to discover this well-known folk remedy.    

When Holly had chocolate ice cream all over her face, she was full of smiles as were the rest of us. It gave everyone a break from marking ahead on the calendar. The music had done the same. The children learned to access that special musical part of the brain, and they had fun doing it. And the adults watched and marveled at the shiny newness of youth, with its promise of renewal for all the world.

Volunteers from the Society for the Preservation of Barbershop Singing in America are volunteer advisors at Crittenden, who donate their time to coach each of the four sections in the complex four-part harmony.

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1 comment:

Laura said...

Robin, how lovely that you attended the concert. I know of *parents* that have to be dragged to their child's performance. I'm so glad the kids have such a wonderful music teacher.