We were at the end of the period and the 8th grade band and choir were on stage. We had been working on a “Change Is Gonna Come,” as a band and choir joint performance. Musically the 8th graders were doing fine, but there behavior did not reflect the gravity and meaning of this song. I put my hands up and glanced over to the choir. I saw a girl standing at the top corner of a choir risers doing a silly dance. I put my hands down and yelled across the stage to her.
Jessica. Stop it! All of you, get it together. I had about a minute to speak with Representative John Lewis last week after he spoke to all of you. I told him that we were working on this song. He told that this was one of those songs that they would listen to after a hard day of marching or felt their lives were threatened during the Civil Rights movement. Listening to this song gave them hope and inspired them to continue this work the next day. You need to not be like every other 8th grader and look further beyond 6 inches in front of your face and reflect the meaning of this song in how your perform.The grade immediately took on a more serious tone and did a great last run through of the song. The next day, I found Jessica in art class. She was sitting down helping a friend hot glue gun some decorations on a pillow they were making in class. I asked the other girl to give us space and I talked to Jessica. I explained to her that I knew she wasn’t the only person who was misbehaving and that one the reasons I called her out was because I didn’t know the name of the girl she was standing next to who was also goofing off. I told her how I remembered her as a 3rd grade student and how proud I was of her work in the musical and the young woman that she had become. She thanked me for my words and we left it there. Yes, Jessica is in choir and I don’t teach her, but i taught her when she was in 3rd and 5th grade and like all of my students, even though they are done with me as a teacher, I'm not done with them as their teacher.
My favorite moment when conducting a group of students is right before we start. While the song is going, it’s very engaging and challenging, but it’s very intense. After a song is done, there’s the rush of feeling and adrenaline slowly ebbing. Right before I start the song is the most fun. Yes, I have a metronome click going in my head, but there’s something else going on. There is the kinetic musical energy, the anticipation and the feeling of something special, that something amazing is about to happen.
Right before starting the finale of the concert looking out over the band, I could see in their eyes and their posture and I could feel their energy, ready to break loose. We all had worked so hard and now it was the time to have fun. I glanced over at the choir director and she gave me a thumbs up. As I gave my prep beat, I heard an unearthly silence, I felt a weight in my arms and smiled in pure joy. Like the weightlessness before hitting the water coming off a diving board, there’s a feeling of freedom before the sound come over me as the band started.
I felt this way because I knew we were going to sound great. This finale was a result of the work of our students and teamwork of my music department. The positivity of our process ensured that we would be successful. Pride in the preparation and the process is pride in the performance. There was more pride that I can describe all throughout that night, the past week and in the past months.