April 22, 2018
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Worth it


March 18, 2017
Worth it

Once upon a time there was a child. Like all children, the child wanted to do a good job at children things; do well at school, do well at home, be a good kid, learn, play, and be encouraged. As the child grew they began to realize they weren’t good at everything they tried. They were good at, say, English but not so good at Math. They were OK at sprinting but terrible at baseball. They were able to focus in Humanities but couldn’t keep their concentration in Science.
Sometimes they felt 
Alone
Misunderstood
Ugly
Stupid
                            different

Caring family, friends, and teachers told them they were fine, were special, and were valued. But the child felt embarrassed when they were called on last for team picks in physical education or when they were eliminated from the spelling bee. They hated their face and wished they looked like the popular kids. They wished they were skinnier or taller or heavier or shorter.  They wished they went to a different school. They had acne, developed physically at a different rate than others, had a body shape not found in magazines, smelled like ethnic food, just smelled because sometimes that’s what happens, couldn’t sing, couldn’t dance, couldn’t control their changing body and feelings, couldn’t do a lot of things.

Of course they could do a lot of things but those things didn’t seem to make them feel better.

All of these wished-for-qualities and perceived inadequacies made them feel outcast, like they seemed weird to others. Worse, though, they felt weird. Sometimes they were teased, sometimes they did the teasing, sometimes they were included, and sometimes they did the ignoring. They did things to feel more fit-in-able, often to no avail.

Then one day older students came to their school to demonstrate musical instruments. The child was fascinated by the sounds and sight of these instruments. The child went home and asked to play an instrument. Some had to beg, some were told yes right away, and some were told no (no-we can't afford it, no-it’s not important, no-you’ll never get anywhere playing music.)

But this particular child was told yes.
So the child started on an instrument and played in their school band. It was the most fun they had ever had. They weren’t very ‘good’ at this instrument but they loved it nonetheless. The other kids had fun, too. (Well, some didn’t so they quit or complained and wished they could just keep playing baseball. Some of them did just that and were very happy in their choice, thank you very much:)
But some kids stuck with it and made band friends. They had moments when they didn’t feel so self-conscious, so lonely, and so stupid.

Sometimes they even felt like they fit in.

Oh sure, they were called the band nerds (or worse) and pretended to brush off nasty remarks from some non-band people. They waited anxiously for the hour when they could race back to the band room. They arrived at school early to make quick retreat to the band room, attended band class, hustled to the band room at lunch, free period, and after school. They adored their band directors (it is true, though, that some students and teachers thought the band director was weird, too) but the child thought the teacher was the coolest ever. They immersed themselves in the world of band, each and every day practicing the same darn music (would it ever sound recognizable?) But somehow they persevered, practiced, rehearsed, learned about listening, and eventually made sounds that came together to sound like music.

You know, music: nothing that is proven to cure disease, doesn't necessarily innovate in the tech world, doesn't solve mind-bending equations (well, some music does call for a lot of math problem solving) or is what we call reading, writing, and arithmetic (though musicians KNOW how related these concepts are and deeply appreciate their importance.) They made the kind of music that made them feel part of something, something bigger than themselves, something more than their acne. It made them content and made their audiences smile and clap. Though young in years, they subconsciously understood the relief of finding like-people, the relief of fitting in somewhere, the joy and blessing of community.  When these musicians were challenged or teased they couldn’t exactly defend the worth of their beloved music. They just loved band-more than school, or any other activity. They lived for that class, for those people, and felt secure surrounded by the ‘differents’ who weren’t very different from them at all. They were grateful for their warm and fuzzy band-blankie.

Thank you band, band directors, private teachers, and weird ‘differents’ for making the child feel appreciated and normal;) No matter how much someone cuts you down, or cuts your funding, they can never ever take away the feeling of togetherness that music (and the arts, in general) provides to the performer and the audience; that beautiful exchange of energy that requires both parties present. It’s something we are privileged to have had in life, and something we are compelled to share through performing, exhibiting, acting, viewing, teaching or other creative means. For those who don’t appreciate the worth of our community, our contributions, or our priorities, we want you to know we’ll fight for our space in this world. We’re here to include you in our abstract way of being, thinking and expressing as your equal citizens-not more or less- just equal. And you know what? Perhaps because some of us got a taste of weirdo-exclusion early on, we understand that we are all the ‘differents’, which makes us all the same.

So, band nerds and geeks unite! Please step up and remember the child who didn’t fit in and help the now-children who don’t have opportunities or have the money or have the government funding, or have the government funding, or have the government funding, to feel part of our beautiful musical, artistic world. Please care about and for them when our community and greater artistic community are threatened to the core.

There is a child out there right now feeling weird and abnormal while they await their art-moment. Together we can fight an ungracious, inartistic, fixed mindset with the loudest political symphony we’ve ever known. We can band;) together and set examples of humanity and compassion for those who include us, for those who don't, and/or we can just fight harder and better.

That child is worth it.

The arts are worth it.

You are worth it.

We are worth it.


Postscript

The Old Lady with the Brown Bag

I wonder how many 1980’s Boston University students remember the grey-haired, old lady in the navy blue dress, with a pin (or was it pearls?), carrying a brown paper bag and pillbox purse. She attended so many concerts. She sat to the side of the stage in the first row and cheered us on. Sometimes we made jokes about her-sometimes we called her the bag lady. She was our greatest, most avid supporter.

I remember her well, in part, because once she came up to me after a quintet concert. She told me we were like her family. She told me how proud she was of us. She told me how much she appreciated our music and how she loved us. It was a bit odd at the time, a bit overwhelming and confusing. Sadly, I can’t even remember her name.

What I can remember is that, for whatever reasons, she felt a deep connection and appreciation for what we kids were doing on stage and was devoted and faithful to us. She supported us wholeheartedly as we sought our art and true selves through sound and we, somehow through music, made her days brighter while she brightened ours. 

She was worth it, too.