Monday, December 17, 2007

Middle School Strings

Both of my kids were involved in school music groups since they were in middle school, and my husband and I have gone to dozens of their school concerts. I’ve found that when your own child is performing, somehow the end result always sounds quite good (as opposed to all of those dreadful concerts by kids you don’t know). If you fill an auditorium with parents, it doesn’t matter how badly the kids play—the parents will be thrilled.

The worst concert I ever sat through, (featuring none of my own children, of course), was the first ever performance of the 6th grade strings at my kids' middle school. The strings program was brand new, and there were about a dozen kids sawing painfully through Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star and Mary Had a Little Lamb. Excruciating, really (although their parents thought it was marvelous!) Why would I ever want to repeat that experience?

Well, it turns out that two of my friends (whose nests have emptied and after years of teaching private lessons) have become music teachers in public schools in the area, one as the director of the middle school strings program, and the other as a high school chorus teacher. And now is the season for their holiday concerts, so we decided to show our support for their new careers by attending these concerts, and maybe indulge in a little nostalgia for the many years we watched our own kids.

First up was the sixth, seventh and eighth grade strings concert, and I have to say, my expectations were pretty low. The concert was held in the middle school’s cafetorium, which is a cross between a cafeteria and a crematorium. There was a pretty basic stage, no stage lighting (yes, the big fluorescent ceiling lights stayed on the whole time), and plastic chairs arranged in rows. But the place was packed with parents and grandparents and siblings, and you could tell they loved every minute. And it turns out that knowing the conductor is nearly as good as having a child on the stage. The seventh and eighth graders were surprisingly good, and it was fun watching our friend conduct. The sixth graders were shakier--the piano and conductor set the tempo, and then the kids played every song at half that speed. But they were a big step up from that infamous concert by the first year strings at our middle school, they managed to play a bit of harmony, they looked cute in their band outfits (God, sixth graders are tiny!), and there was punch and cookies after the concert as a reward.

Next up: the high school chorus concert this week. I’ll let you know how it goes.

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