I wish I could express the hundreds of different emotions that went through my head last night. We went up to the Fox Theatre for the annual St. Louis Public School Music Night. Kids from the music programs of all the City Schools get to perform on the big stage for the night. They spend the whole day there getting ready. A couple professional organizations volunteer their time, so it results in a great evening. Emotion #1: I spent my youth in those school bands and loved every second of it. It all started when, at age 11 or so, I asked my Dad if I could play drums. Well, what I really asked him was could I have a drum set? His answer was that if I took lessons, he’d buy me “a drum.” Well, I went straight to the music director at Woodward Elementary the next day and announced, “I’d like to play the drums.” He said, “I don’t need any drummers, how about the trumpet?” I responded immediately, “sure! When do I start?” He gave me a little coronet that day. I took it home at lunch time, opened the book he’d given me and proceeded to play my first C scale. I already knew how to read music from my guitar lessons, so I made it through the book pretty quick. I remember him saying that I could join “ensemble.” I had no idea what that meant. It still strikes me today that he said not “the ensemble,” but just “ensemble.” Wow, I was going to be in Ensemble! It sounded pretty high-class. I’m sure we stunk, it was just grade school afterall; but playing in this ensemble; this band, it was a feeling like none I’d felt before. The product was greater than the sum of its parts, and that intangible would keep me interested in music forever.
Emotion #2: I could have sworn I saw my little sixth-grader up there playing her alto-clarinet. But no, that’s not her. She’s the one in the middle there, playing flute; the senior who days with this school band are drawing to a close. I’m telling you; it was yesterday that I was watching her with the other middle-schoolers toot out their tunes with the usual squawks and squeaks you’d expect. She’s off to college this fall, and there’ll be no more Christmas Concerts.
Emotion #3: Just the pure joy of watching and listening to the kids perform. Some of them were truly good. A group from the Performing Arts High School was particularly good. A big choir sang “Go Down Moses” as two ballet dancers, one girl, one boy, interpreted the story with movement. (I couldn’t help chuckling to myself as I imagined some lawyers from the ACLU busting in yelling “Stop this! Stop this right now! We cannot hear this overtly religious material in this public forum!”)
I felt all of these things. Sometime individually; sometime all mashed together. I wanted to be down there, then I wanted Emily to be twelve again, then I wanted to go hug and kiss all the kids that were down there. Now, I’m just glad to have experienced a pleasant evening at the Fox. [Here's a link to my thoughts from last year's show.]