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North Coast Current

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Family Matters: The courage to play

As a child, I was terrified to present in front of my class. When I needed to give an oral report, I would take an “F” instead. Now sitting in the audience with my wife in the multipurpose room of our son Kevin’s elementary school, my heart ran the four-minute-mile inside my chest.

Kevin marched into the room with his classmates. The second-graders all wore white shirts and either black pants or skirts. A huge red paper bowtie decorated their collars as the students took their place on stage with flutophones in one hand and their musical lesson notebooks in the other.

Kevin had been practicing like a teen prepping for his first driving test. Over the past two months while watching TV, engaging in a game of “Sequence” or even at the dinner table, Kevin would hold the flutophone in his lips, shifting his fingers on the instrument to play “It’s A Small World,” “London Bridges,” the theme from “Winnie The Pooh or some other children’s song.” Quyen and I found it curious that he took the instrument everywhere, even when we went to the grocery store.

Now the principal of the school introduced the students from the three second-grade classes and raved about how they had rehearsed under the guidance of Mrs. Dillon, the school’s music teacher. Mrs. Dillon came forward and told the audience how proud she was of the students’ dedication to this performance.

She sat in the metal folding chair facing the students and proceeded to orchestrate a musical chamber of flutophones in perfect harmony to all the songs we had heard Kevin practicing at home. The students flipped their music charts in unison as they completed one song after another to a chorus of applause from appreciative parents.

Then Mrs. Dillon called up small groups of students from each class to perform a special song together. Kevin and six others from his room played “The Saints Go Marching In.”

Mrs. Dillon placed color-coded plastic musical tubes called “boomwhackers” on a table, and students from each class approached to take hold of the tubes. At her signal, they thumped the plastic tubes against their heads, hands and bodies to play coordinated notes that comprised a song. Even the gaffes brought cheers from the parents as the students made music by whacking the plastics tubes.

Mrs. Dillon turned to the audience and announced that one special individual from each class was assigned a solo because he or she practiced above and beyond the call. Each of the soloists needed to audition for the part, and after screening the participants, she felt confident that the soloists knew all their songs from memory.

Kevin represented his class. My heart jackhammered as he stood by himself in the middle of the auditorium. I remembered how frightened I was to be singled out as a child. Now alone, in front of all the students, his music teacher, the second-grade teachers, his principal, parents and family members in attendance and before his own parents’ intent gazes, our seven-year-old stood and belted out “This Old Man.”

Kevin played the piece, and I held my breath the whole time. At the conclusion of the song, Mrs. Dillon tapped Kevin on his shoulder to signal a job well done. As Kevin walked back to his seat, I couldn’t have been prouder of him. On this day, my son showed me that courage isn’t limited to soldiers on a battlefield or a firefighter racing into a burning building. My son showed me that courage could also be glimpsed in a second-grade auditorium.

Columnist Ray Wong is a San Diego-based writer. E-mail comments to raywongwriter@juno.com.

 

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Family Matters: The courage to play