Friday, March 24, 2017
All Is Not Lost As Long As There Is Music
The gym of the high school seemed smaller than usual as we made our way inside. The gleaming wood floors of the basketball court were completely obscured by blue matting that had been laid to protect them from the hundreds of folding chairs occupied by musicians clad in their black and white concert attire and by their shiny instruments. We had arrived early, but the stands were filling up quickly. My husband and I scanned the bleachers for a spot wide enough to fit both of us and our ten-year-old son, who reluctantly trudged behind us, loud concert music not being his thing. I realized belatedly that I should have asked my teenage son, the reason we were there, where he was going to be sitting during the performance. Not that it mattered. With seating being somewhat limited, we had to take what we could get.
We found a length of unoccupied bench and sat down, quickly realizing that gymnasium bleachers are designed for teenagers, not full-grown adults. We had to turn our bodies sideways to avoid pressing our knees into the backs of the people in front of us. You could hear "excuse me" all around as people accidentally bumped into each other. After just a few minutes, and still 30 minutes before the concert was scheduled to begin, my backside began to scream in mutiny against the hard, wooden bench. I shifted uncomfortably, trying to find a more cushioned angle, but relief was not to be found.
Sound bubbled up from every corner of the room, rising to fill the space. The blare of horns, the oompa-oompa of tubas, and the cry of the violins rose in random cacophony amid the background noise of the audience passing the time with idle conversation.
Glancing around the room, I decided this gym looked like every other gym I had ever been in. The rows of hard, wooden bleachers lined up neatly along the sides. Hung high on the walls were large banners advertising various local businesses, from orthodontists to car washes to flooring specialists. Pennants adorned the walls above the doors, attesting to a long history of athletic feats. Lights blinked on the two scoreboards, hung on either end of the room, although there would be no keeping score tonight. Musicians and their bewildered parents continued to stream through the doors, filling the room to what I was sure was beyond capacity.
The noise swelled to new levels as the room continued to grow more and more crowded. I wondered how they would ever be able to begin the concert. Finally, the music director picked up the microphone and began to speak. Immediately, a hush fell across the room. The moment we had been waiting for was close at hand.
Then, the music took flight.
It carried us with it, soaring higher and higher before suddenly plummeting back down toward earth, only to rise once more. It exploded through clouds to spin and twirl in dazzling sunlight, followed by another descent into dark clouds. It coasted on gentle coastal breezes and swooped in elegant formations.
Each song took us on a different ride, but oh, what a ride each one was! Not for the first time, I was astounded by the quality of the performances of these middle and high school students. Whether it was the music or being surrounded by all that vibrant youth or the pain inflicted by the bench upon which I sat, I cannot say, but I found myself overcome with emotion.
As the music played, I thought about all the negativity these days that gathered like storm clouds just outside the doors. Story after story carries news of those in charge who seem to not care about taking care of our planet and the people who inhabit it. So many angry and biting comments fill social media from people who have forgotten that insults and put-downs and name-calling were all supposed to have been left on the playground long ago. But here were these young people, 600 of them, gathered in this one room for this one purpose: to make music together. Six hundred young people committed and willing to work hard to create music. To create beauty. To create magic.
Suddenly I was filled with hope. Certainly, all could not be lost if there were still people willing to do that. Each individual played lovely notes, but it was when they combined their notes together that true magic was made. The fact that hours had been sacrificed to practice for this performance was not lost on me. This, the making of music, had been important enough for these teenagers to set aside their smart phones, their tv screens, and their computer monitors. Something inside urged them to create light in a world that is often too dark.
They ended the evening with all 600 musicians playing "America the Beautiful." And in that moment, they made it so.