Sunday, March 18, 2007

Attention Mothers of Toddlers: Top 10 Things about Choral Concerts that You Should Know

I have made a few observations about these programs that are a part of every school performance. I list them here so that you who have 3 year-olds can get ready. Because even if your kid can’t play t-ball or walk and chew gum at the same time, there WILL be scads of school musical programs. Here's what you can expect. You're welcome.

Above: Godspell, Choral Concert, Annie --actual documentation of my credentials to write this post.

When the nurses handed me a baby girl at Blanchard Valley Memorial Hospital 20 years ago, I thought I knew what was ahead: lots of diapers, chicken pox, birthday parties, braces, middle school, prom and graduation. I was pretty close, actually, except I didn't anticipate one recurring event that has lasted a combined total of well over 20 years between my 3 kids--The choral/band concerts.

Now I ask you: what are the chances that two very non-musical, what’s more … very non-appreciative-of-most-music people, can birth total performers, yay, even hams? But that’s just what happened. We spawned civic performers and lead role-ers and dancers, of all things.

Amazing. It is comparable to finding out that Audrey Hepburn came from the Clampetts. Apparently, the old recessive gene bandit struck twice. You think I’m kidding? We also had two lefties even though we are both righties.

Actually, I do like music, but if I have a choice between music or talk radio, I usually prefer talk, unless maybe Carly Simon is singing “You’re so Vain.”

So we have sat through hours and years of performances. Sure, everyone likes to see her kid shine. But we had to sit through 6th grade bands, 7th grade bands, show choirs, grade choirs, wind ensembles, madrigals, Women’s Choir, combined choirs, chamber choirs, and jazz bands … all to get to my “star.”

But my girls have loved singing and dancing, and we have supported their giftings whole-heartedly, with bouquets of flowers and extravagant praise after recitals and musicals.

Nevertheless, after thousands of hours in dirty auditorium seats in rows so close you can hardly cross your legs, I have made a few observations about these programs that are a part of every school performance. I list them here so that you who have 3 year-olds can get ready. Because even if your kid can’t play t-ball or walk and chew gum at the same time, there WILL be school musical programs.

Top 10 things you can always expect at school musical program:

1. The 6th grade band will ALWAYS play a song that sounds exactly like this: “Da, duh, duh SQUEAK, da, duh duh SQUEAK, SQUEAK.” It’s like they’ve been taught “The Think System” from The Music Man instead of how to play actual notes. This is after weeks of practice. I can’t imagine the first week of band. No teacher gets paid enough.

2. The jazz band (cool kids) will always feature soloists. They will always be the same kids, and the drummers will deliver the most popular solos because they are the Coolest of the cool.

3. Although many kids tap their feet, there are always one or two who really emote while singing, which is pretty entertaining. They just look so sincere--brows furrowed, heads turning from side to side, watching the director’s every twitch. They are in their element.

4. On the flip side, there is always one kid who looks like they jerked him off the corner, dressed him in the choir outfit in a phone booth and lowered him through the ceiling onto the riser. He looks totally lost, does not know the words and appears to be doing penance for a felony. I feel his pain.

5. Choir performances will always include at least one traditional African song and one Spiritual song, such as “Dry Bones Gonna Rise Again.” So we get translations such as

Original lyric: “Dem bones gonna rise again.”
White choral director modification: “These bones will surely rise again” in ethereal, operatic sopanro voices.

6. In an attempt to be culturally diverse and unique, directors will mix up selections as much as they can. The result is that the audience hears what feels like the exact same program year after year: One spiritual, one Spanish, one African, one about peace … you get the idea. Just once I’d like to hear a song about a kite, a dog, a stapler, a Tic Tac. Anything but how music and singing can bring world peace. Just surprise me for once. What if there was a song so irritating that it could actually cause a war? Would parents actually stay for the duration of the concert if the choir sang:

MacArthur's Park is melting in the dark
All the sweet, green icing flowing down
Someone left the cake out in the rain
I don't think that I can take it
'Cause it took so long to bake it
And I'll never have that recipe again
Oh, no!

7. There will be at least one kid who wears something other than the dress code, like a “Git-R-Done” t-shirt. Or he will wear cowboy boots. At least one girl will wear a short skirt or a blouse that is … distracting.

8. The directors will dress completely in black and look like they are enjoying themselves more than the performers or parents. They are.

9. There will be some kind of historical song in the program. Recently we had the Indiana state song, “On the Banks of the Wabash,” which was a smash hit 100 years ago. Ironically, that was when talk radio pulled away a good percentage of listeneners, as well.

10. There will be a plea for letters of support to school boards and other governmental agencies to stop the annihilation of school music programs across the country. Apparently, music programs are on the endangered list right after cotillion classes. Ironic, since I’ve been to six different music events this year for one kid.

OK, I can handle a few more programs since she’s only in 8th grade, and I’m sure I’ll mist up at the last one someday as I did with her sister. That’s the thing with parenthood. You’ll feel like you’re stuck in a loop forever, and then one day you realize, “I’ve changed my last diaper. She drives herself to the library. He has scheduled his first semester of college classes.” There will be a last choral concert.

Until then, I’ll keep supporting kid #3. And although I’m not musical, there is nothing more fun than singing “You’re so Vain” with her in the car when I pick her up from school. And we had a real bonding moment over that very song this week when I explained Carly’s silence over the subject of her song, and how everyone thinks it’s Warren Beatty. And what she means when she says, “I bet you think this song is about you, don’t you” when it appears to be exactly that, but not like he thinks. Where else can a girl learn this stuff—the story behind the music—except from a talking-head non-musical mom?


Susanne said...

Mine is in the choir for the first time this year too, so we'll see how it goes. I might be joining you on this journey of sitting in six concerts a year. And I will enjoy it while I can. I will. I will. (And I'll have to watch for that kid that they lower through the roof!)

Big Mama said...

You are a wealth of wisdom, my friend, and as the mama of a 3 year old, I appreciate it. I don't know if mine has any musical talent, but she is most definitely a ham.

I have a feeling I'll be sitting in plenty of audiences over the years.

samurai said...

*sigh* All I have to say is... Amen.

I have a 'geek', a 'jock', and a 'princess' and my beloved keep looking at each other and, when not blaming the other, wondering where this talent comes from. :)

Deena said...

At least my mom and dad only had me to watch perform year after year after year after year........

I myself gave birth to two hams and one chicken!! So I've had my fair share of performances as well!

Clemntine said...

Well, as a Fine Arts major and veteran of musical theater, I wasn't prepared at all to raise Madame Basketball. It was halfway through the season before I stopped calling the practices "rehearsals". She also plays harp and piano, so I know she's really my kid.

Susan said...

None of my boys have done choir, but I did and we DID sing MacArthur's Park. I was laughing out loud. Now the boys have played in band...and you are SO RIGHT about many of these things. Just think of how their brains are growing each time they learn new music.

Have a great one.

:-) Susan

Christine said...

This is hysterical! And as a musician (singer/choral director) myself it's great to see the "other side". I loved the one about the kid pulled off of the corner. That's so true.

And I'd love to hear a song about a there one?


Linda said...

this is so funny! This is exactly the way it is, but we just don't realize:)
Great post!

Mommy, the Human Napkin said...

I can't wait till my kids are older and are performing or playing sports or whatever. Then I can purposefully NOT yell and scream like my own mother did. Man, that's embarrassing. It would be one thing if she'd been encouraging, but good grief... I've never been so sick of the word "Hustle!" as I was when I played softball in school.

Linda said...

You know, Mommy, I really caught flak when I didn't yell like crazy at my son's games when he was little. Other moms thought I was snooty or something. I mean, yeah, I cheered the team on, but I didn't go nuts, and that was just weird to them.

RealEstateGirl said...


These are too funny! Our son is Drum Major for our High School's marching band and yes, he's the one alto-sax in the jazz band that gets all the solos! To add to it, my husband and I are band booster presidents, so we're the ones that drive you nuts asking for donations!

My husband is in the Symphony in our city and I wrote a similar post about the Symphony concert. Check it out on my blog if you get a minute! I think it's in the February archives.

I'll check back in on you often! Love your writing!


Kelli said...

Ok, so I really WAS toturing my parents all.those.years.


WOO HOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!

(ba da da!)