Tonight, I attended my cousin's 6th grade graduation. A big step in his young life. He will be attending a new school next year. The all dreaded... middle school. In a way I envy him. Not really him but his current place in life. He has so much ahead of him. So many major decisions and crossroads. But he hasn't crossed them yet. He still has so much time.

What I really want to write about tonight is the musical portion of this graduation service. No, I don't intend to be a musical snob like so many who comment on Youtube performances. I get fighting mad when I see people dissecting a young person's performance... telling them how "awful" it is without any thought for the amount of courage that it took for them to even get up in front of a crowd and perform, much less post it on the internet! And then there are those who like to make criticisms about performances without offering the least bit of constructive advice. My theory on this is that these people simply try to feel better about their own performances by searching for examples that THEY find inferior and then tearing them apart- or they like to act like they actually know what they are talking about when they actually lack the knowledge to back up their comments with constructive advice. Blah! really rubs me...

But that moved me totally off track. Back to my cousin's graduation ceremony. As I said, it was a 6th grade graduation. As one might expect, it included a few selections by the 6th grade chorus. Now, as a singer and a musician, I never go into a public school performance expecting to be blown off my feet. Not that I never HAVE been, mind you. I just don't expect that. And that's not really what I think is most important especially at this very young age. What I want to see are young people who are inspired and who are truly part of a "musical experience."

What is a musical experience, right? To me, a musical experience is something subjective and individual to each of us. For these kids, what I wanted to see is a group of young people who's faces lit up... whose eyes "twinkled" just a little more as they sang the notes and lyrics to some very moving songs. And there were some very moving songs. But the kids... they looked absolutely scared to death! There were at least 40 in the ensemble. I doubt that 10 of them were actually singing. The director banged on the piano while 10 children very carefully made sounds. That's right, made sounds. And the thing is, there were some good sounds. I don't think that many would have noticed because it was so tentative, but some of these children had wonderful voices and ears! But they were so uninspired and so CAREFUL.

It was as though they were afraid that if they opened up, they might make the slightest mistake... God forbid that! Sure, kids and even adults are naturally like this when singing or performing for the first time. But it shouldn't be that way with a group of students who have been singing together since the 1st grade. What I wanted to see is some sign that someone has helped to instill into them a LOVE OF MUSIC. Music is a gift to us all. It is something that we all will carry with us through the best and the darkest moments of our lives. It's something so natural and human- truly a wonderful gift. I think that the number one objective of an educator of young people is to help them FIND their love and appreciation of this gift. That doesn't mean that you don't guide them in developing their skills. But don't scare them away from singing before their voices even change! Good Lord.

Anyway, I was proud of my cousin. He won the "accelerated reader's award." Something that I think will also be very valuable to him as he grows and matures. He absolutely loves to read. Well, tomorrow it's off to Kingston, TN for another graduation. Sorry for the rant. ;)



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