Yesterday afternoon, while standing in my new spot on the risers for the Chorus of Westerly’s dress rehearsal of Dvorak’s Stabat Mater, I found myself surrounded on two sides by middle-school aged girls. It was one of those cool, sunny, glorious spring days just made for a bike ride and an afternoon barbecue. Instead, these young ladies were indoors, standing pin-straight on hard, wooden risers, performing very demanding music. Every 45 minutes or so, they were able to sit for a few minutes and have a drink of water before standing up and singing again. I was impressed by their focus, discipline and respect for each other as well as the adults.
As kids will do (adults, too), they would chat during breaks. What I heard them discussing among themselves was just as surprising as what I did not. I didn’t hear a single one complain that their feet hurt, they were tired, that it was hot, or that they wished they were outside, enjoying the day with other people. Instead, I heard that the Dvorak was beautiful, one of their favorite pieces of music, and that singing it was “awesome” and “amazing,” and they couldn’t wait to do it again.
Though many years have passed since I was that age, I do remember a few things. Like how good feels to have a role to play in something larger than yourself. And how much easier it is to strive for excellence and achievements that are seemingly beyond your years when you are surrounded by adults who believe you can do it.
At the close of the show, when the last note has faded and the applause comes to an end, the Chorus of Westerly is about more than just musical excellence. It’s also about doing everything we can to help the children in the chorus realize their full potential on their journey to adulthood. The girl-talk I overheard yesterday proves to me that it’s working.
Brenda F. Greene