As my final year at this high school comes rapidly to a close, I'm trying to attend as many events as possible; partly out of a sense of administrative responsibility, partly because I want to savor what little time I have left. The other night I had the privilege of attending the final vocal concert of the year. Our music director has become a very good friend of mine, so I try to do as much as I can to support his progam. (His students are also some of my favorites; I've always had greater rapport with the arts kids than the athletes.)
His concert Tuesday night was nothing short of superb. I always enjoy getting the CDs made from these performances, because you sit there thinking to yourself "Wow, (s)he's really talented" and then you listen later thinking "Wow, that's a student?!?" The Concert Choir, which is made up of many grade levels, includes several students who routinely visit my office; so it's encouraging to see them involved in something productive. What I think I enjoy most about the Concert Choir is Maestro's selections--they're complicated. It's one thing to sit and enjoy the music, but quite another to watch different parts of the choir do different parts and play off each other. It's not just a whole group of people singing at the same time . . . there's some timing and arragement that goes into this--and it pays off.
The solos are always my favorite part, because those students really shine. Some, of course, you know will do well. They've been doing well for years. Others surprise you: there was a duet ("Phantom of the Opera") that blew me away because although I knew those two students were in the music program, I had no idea how talented they were (and they were, believe me). There was another student--we'll call him Double-A--who has done the alma mater for my daily announcements before, but he did half of a duet ("Lilly's Eyes") that made me sit back and take notice. I had no idea he had that kind of talent. (Maestro tells me that if he can keep his ego in check, he'll be dynamite next year.) There was a solo that made me uncomfortable, which is rare: we have this senior whose arrogance brings new definition to the term, and although he's got some talent in the music and drama departments, it's hard to see it with his ego in the way (I mean, at two different points, he seemed to question the accompanist's playing, which is altogether uncool). Anyway, he did this German piece ("An Die Musik"); and when you combine heightened arrogance and the German language, it just makes my Jewish sensibilities want to get up and run from the room. My favorite solo by far, however, came from my fiancee's TA (and after hearing her I'm sorry I missed her in this year's production of "How to Succeed in Business"), who is an outgoing senior. She did "The Stars and the Moon," which was perfect for her--she has this 1940's-singing-screen-star thing going on not only with her voice, but with her presentation (and, quite frankly, her look) and it all comes together as though an entire production team has been working on it for years (and she's had it ever since playing a unicorn in the middle school "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe" production). I've never had much contact with her during her time here, only what I see in productions and occasionally in conversations in my fiancee's classroom; but over the years I've had maybe ten or fifteen "favorite" students--she's two of them.
Madrigals were impressive, not just because it's a concentration of vocal talent, but Maestro's selections really bring it out. He chose two Haydn pieces that included several solos each. Again, complicated in that different people are doing different things throughout each piece. For several of the seniors, this was the swan song. They'll certainly be missed (but I have CDs!).
As I prepare to finish my final year here, I gotta tip my hat to the Maestro. If I ever work at a school with a music director half as motivated and skilled, I'll be a lucky man. If you read his blog at all, you know that he struggles sometimes with the "administrative vision" working against him; they want to see a music program that appeals to a lower common denominator, and he wants to run an on-campus conservatory. Given that so many of our students are high-performing academics destined for the Ivy League, his approach makes a lot more sense, and still he must fight off the spectre of a marching band with a crucifix and cloves of garlic. When it comes to his educational approach to music (instrumental and vocal) his heart is true, his cause is just, and his victories are sweet. He and I also fly our geek flags pretty high, so it's little wonder we get along as well as we do.
I will miss a great many things after I leave this school. I will miss the music program more than a lot of the others.
Bravo, Maestro. Bravo.