Music’s charms soothe this savage breast
Posted on October 11th, 2012
swear, Marcel’s first orchestra concert was better than therapy.
Three groups performed—beginning, intermediate and advanced. The gym was hot, but parents and siblings were packed in tight in the bleachers to hear what all that work in class and at home sounded like in context.
The orchestra director apologized for the lack of programs. She had 50 more printed than she thought would be called for but the size of the crowd had outstripped her best estimate. It seemed like a good thing to be wrong about.
When I was in the eighth grade, I was a part of a choral program at a public junior high. We spent weeks preparing for the school’s Christmas concert. What I remember most, though, was the first full-on group rehearsal we had together. I was singing along with my alto and soprano sisters, all about how “love filled the earth at the news of the Christ child’s birth” when the boys joined in.
I was so overwhelmed by the sound of their voices, I stopped singing.
Our parts had been lovely without the tenors and what few basses the teacher was able to muster from a class of 13-year-olds, but with them we were so much more. That song became bigger than the room. The sound we produced could move furniture or, at least, it seemed so to me. How could we not, then, move the people who faithfully turned up to hear us at our holiday performance?
Last night, I felt that way again. When those children determinedly plucked and sawed away at their instruments (some of which you know had been nothing less than recalcitrant toward their owners during practices over the previous weeks), their individual efforts were gathered up and projected out to into something surprising and remarkable and significant.
It is one thing to be told that you are a part of something bigger. It is something else entirely to hear that play out all around you.
I have spent the better part of the last week ruminating about some of the ills of middle school, including but not limited to the 24-7 need for a dress code for some of these children (Lord), the erosion of our moral fabric and the sky just generally falling in around us. The usual, you know? Listening to those students—about whom, I’m just going to be honest here, I haven’t been thinking the most charitable thoughts—made me feel hopeful.
About the work being done. About the art being made. About the larger lessons Marcel might be absorbing—whether he knows it or not.∗