Education Matters: Concert smiles

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"Mom! I have a concert coming up!"

It's hard to not get excited when your daughter is glowing and enthused. I dutifully marked it into the calendar, thinking that it could be a bit tricky for the timing. December has a lot going on, always, and adding in a violin concert had not been on my agenda. Still, she was thrilled ... and I would be there, no matter what.

A couple of days later, she came home with another paper. "Look, Mom, we have a concert."

I was confused. "Yes, we already have that on the calendar. The violin concert at the River Garden, right?"

"No, this is the band concert for school. It's the music I've been practicing, the Pat a Pan one, remember?" She seemed rather disgusted that I was not already aware of all this.

I told her to put it on my desk, and I would put it into the master calendar. Indeed, when I looked, the band teacher had already reserved that date, and it was already into the mix of meetings and events we'd committed to.

Of course, though, sometimes things crop up into life, and the nights become even fuller than we first imagined. The afternoon of the evening violin concert, my second son announced that he "was going" to the high school basketball game. "JV starts at 5, and Varsity at 7, Mom. You are taking me," he pronounced, as he has not quite finished all the driving required to actually get his own license.

I laughed at the way he put his "request" to me — but he also knows that, of all the sports in the cold months, I'm happiest at basketball. It's heated, I won't be soaked in rain or snow — and I understand the game from all the times I had to watch in high school. Plus, I like to be there to see my sons' friends who play.

And then there was the prior commitment I'd made to our church, for Advent supper, followed by a brief service and then choir ... which was already conflicting with violin. My oldest son protested that he had a lot of homework, and didn't want to go to either a basketball game, or a violin concert. My husband indicated that he was more excited about sports than music.

After a couple of moments' thought, I decided it was not completely impossible. "Get your clothes changed for the violin concert," I told my daughter, "and we're leaving in about 10 minutes." I laid out the evening's plans with the rest of the family, pointing out that if people missed the violin concert (where seating was tight anyway), they would definitely be attending the elementary school band concert the following week. A deal was reached with minimal negotiation.

After a couple of outfit changes and discussions about what is appropriate attire for a violin concert — and what's definitely not — my daughter and I were out the door and on our way to the basketball game. We took in the first half, and then passed my husband and second son, who were just arriving. On the way out, I stopped to do some quick Christmas shopping at the booster club booth — happily finding a couple of t-shirts — an unexpected bonus for the night!

We arrived at the church with a few minutes to spare, which we used to prepare the salad we'd agreed to bring. After enjoying a lovely soup supper, my daughter and I headed to the violin concert. This program of string instrumental music in the Brattleboro schools comes from a partnership between the Brattleboro Music Center and the elementary schools. I'm always happy to see the families and hear the music they prepare. I relaxed a bit as a the violins' beginning sounds came out of children's hands, encouraged by their determination and pride as they picked out their melodies.

My daughter's piece was the last before the adults performed. I picked up my cell phone, and recorded the songs so her father could see it later on. Very serious during the piece, she was all smiles as the last note sounded. Her practice had paid off, and her confidence showed.

Thanks to modern miracle of text messaging, the basketball attendees met up with us on our way out the door. Both kids went back home with Dad, and I returned to choir at church, before finally all meeting up again at home by 9 p.m.

After the craziness of that night, I thought we were all set for the next week. But, the band concert met a similar fate. "Mom," my second son announced, again. "I want to go to the season opener for the hockey team." I agreed we could go, as a family, but that he first would be making a stop ... at the elementary school band concert. His begrudging acceptance brought yet another smile to his sister's face.

Her brothers and parents looking on, she played her heart out on Pat a Pan and her other piece. The music was more than familiar, after listening to the practice she had put in at home. She glowed as she took her bows, meeting her families' eyes for the briefest of seconds.

The concert over, we headed out to the hockey rink for round two of the evenings' events. Mentally, though, I stayed a little longer back at this last winter concert of our daughter's elementary career. The music continued to swirl in my head. And in my mind's eyes, I saw anew her happy smiles of pride.

Jill Stahl Tyler is a parent to three children involved in the local schools, at the high school and elementary school levels. She firmly believes in all education, and currently sits on the board for the Brattleboro School Endowment, chairs the Brattleboro Town School Board, and serves as one of Brattleboro's three representatives for the Act 46 Study Committee. Contact her at jill@globalcow.com. The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of the Brattleboro Reformer.

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