On that note…

Author: Heather StClair  • 

This past weekend, I attended a music recital where the participants ranged in age from 5-18 and played either piano, recorder, or flute. The music was beautiful and themed to set the mood for the holidays. The students were well prepared and poised. The stage was set and the post-concert table was perfectly aligned and displayed a wide variety of cookies and delectables. Most perfect were the words from one of the instructors that struck a chord with me. “Performing is nerve-racking; it’s supposed to be,” he said. “But it’s not about being perfect… no musician or performance is. It’s really about how you respond when you mess up.”

What timing. The night before, I witnessed the great talents of our own students during the musical performance of Aladdin, Jr. There, students in grades 3-12 were on stage in front of a packed house. There, without a safety net, someone mouthing lines to prompt them, or the ability to call a timeout – they thrived. Despite some laryngitis, one case of the flu, and fatigue across the cast, they persevered – they played the next note.

A visitor to the performance from out of town introduced himself to me after the show. He thanked me for a wonderful evening, complimented our cast and crew, our facilities, and its Directors. But it’s what he said after that was most illustrative of our school.

“Dr. Rush, I must tell you something I saw that was remarkable,” he said. “Your students really seemed to be having fun up there – they were really into it. But what was so great to see was when they messed up or something went wrong, they laughed or smiled, or carried on so naturally.”

It took me for surprise, only because I see this all the time at our school. But then, he pointed out something that is absolutely true.

“Most Directors or most schools tend to create a culture in performance where kids are afraid to mess up, for being barked at, for ruining the show, or trying to attain a perfect show,” he said. “Not only was your student body acting in the show, they were also doing lights, sound, and tech… and when unexpected things arose, they carried on in a normal and human way… it was wonderful!”

Often I have spoken about failure. Failure is where we learn the most. And while it can be hard to watch, especially if it is your own child or one you know very well, it’s the truth. Wouldn’t it be nice to live in a world in which errors weren’t necessary? Maybe. Would I love to live in a world in which mistakes are natural or even valued? Yes. In reality, though, it is best summed up by a music hero of mine named Miles Davis who once said, “It’s not the note you play that’s the wrong note — it’s the note you play afterwards that makes it right or wrong.”

I’m glad that our school is a place where our children have the opportunity to play the notes for themselves.

Happy holidays to everyone and here’s to the notes we will play together in the New Year.

Best,

Matt

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