One of the extra perks we receive as parents of school-aged children is school music concerts. This special bonus is similar to your dentist telling you, “On top of your regular cleaning today, we’re going to throw in a free root canal.” Only with a dentist at least you get to suffer in a reclining position. For school music concerts you get to sit on bleachers, where halfway through the concert your butt cheeks fall asleep, which irritates the rest of your body, which is forced to stay awake. Your knees are digging into the person in front of you, and the person behind you is re-adjusting your spine free of charge. You’ve never met the person beside you, but they’re sitting so close you might as well be sharing the same skin. Your nose is constantly treated to the pungent odor of a school gymnasium. All fresh air (the kind with oxygen) has been sucked away and replaced with musty stagnant air (the kind without oxygen). And to top it all off, if it got any warmer the brass instruments would melt and the woodwinds would become tinder.
I’m amazed at the number of parents who turn out for these events. What motivates them to attend? Frank and Beverly are sitting on the sofa in their living room. Frank turns to Beverly and says, “I think we should do something different tonight.”
Beverly responds with a devilish grin, “A little hanky-panky, Franky?”
Frank shakes his head and says, “I want to go someplace that is crowded and stinks. Someplace where the music is so bad it makes your ears water.”
Beverly’s eyes light up, “You’re finally going to take me square dancing?”
Just then their middle-school daughter Frankina enters the living room and announces, “I have a band concert tonight.”
Frank leaps up from the sofa. “We’re there!”
It’s amazing the number of parents with video cameras who wait until the performance starts before remembering they forgot to charge the battery. Picture the look of disappointment on the faces of all Trent’s relatives when Trent’s father says, “I’m sorry, everybody, we were going to show you a video of Trent’s band concert, but the camera malfunctioned.” Even Great Grandma Althea, confined to a wheelchair for the past 38 years, stands and does a celebration jig.
I have found, through painful experience, that no one other than you and your spouse really wants to see a video of your child doing anything. No matter how spectacular it is. You could show your relatives a video of little Katie rollerblading backwards up the side of a skyscraper blindfolded, while pulling an articulated bus with her teeth, and their only response would be a yawn or a blink (the minimum signs of life).
Another interesting thing about school concerts is the concert program they hand you as you walk in. The songs that appear in the program are never the songs the band actually plays (or the choir actually sings). For example, one program I read said that the band was going to play the “Theme Song from Star Wars.” But when it came time to play “Star Wars,” the band opted instead to play an original composition titled “Clarinet Squeaks and Trumpet Splats.”
When my daughter was in grade school, she played the cello in the school orchestra. Now I love my daughter. And I love the cello. But I didn’t love the two of them together.
I’ll never forget her first concert. After the violin, viola, cello, and string bass players were finished tuning up their instruments, the teacher/conductor turned to the audience, bowed, and said “Thank you, that was our first song, ‘Fyord De’ la Pfluer’.” Then we clapped. She then informed us that the concert would last approximately 30 minutes. Not a problem. I had heard tales of people suffering on the rack for twice that long, although the only sound they had to listen to was their joints popping. Fifteen minutes into the program something truly amazing happened. It was over. They were done. They took their bows, and we removed the programs from our ears.
My daughter has since traded her cello in for a lovely set of vocal chords. She is in choir. Now with musical instruments, you have to tune them. Once you tune them, you can no longer blame the instrument for making whatever noise comes out of them. With singing, your vocal chords are your instrument. And you’re either born with “in-tune” vocal chords, or “out-of-tune” vocal chords. You can’t reach down your throat and tighten one and loosen another.
Case in point—my wife has a set of “out-of-tune” vocal chords. “Out-of tune” is actually an understatement. They’re more like “out-of-town” vocal chords. This generally would not be a problem except she likes to sing. She’ll be singing along to a song on the radio and the artist will actually refuse to keep singing until she shuts up.
The most important thing to remember about music concerts is to show up. Don’t drop your kid off at the door and go back home, or to work, or to any other of the 2,037 things you’d rather be doing. It is important to your child that you are there. And no matter how hot, crowded, and pungent the gym is, no matter how painful the music is to listen to, your child will always remember you were there for them. And that alone is worth the intense and unrelenting torture you’ll endure.
Over the years, my wife and I have videotaped every concert our children have participated in (with the exception of a few camera malfunctions). How many times have we sat down and watched them? Zero. Why? We’re saving them for that special time in our lives when our children are grown and making mortgage payments of their own.
That special time when we want to stroll down memory lane in the safety of our comfortable living room recliners. That special time in our lives when we’re old and gray—and deaf as door knobs.
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Check out L. Dustin Twede’s website at www.ldustintwede.com.