Tonight was the Final Bow performance for my son’s high school choir. This is the highlight of the year. It is where the seniors get solo’s and get to show off their seasoned talent. This is our sports event, our playoffs, our final round. Harmony is the name of the game here and on our team, everyone can participate. And just like sports, we have some that are naturally more talented than others, some that have worked really hard to gain access to their talent and others who have the attitude of commitment and continue to rise to the challenge, knowing that they may never be as good as some of their teammates but still they show up, they sing, and they support their team.
Did you know that one of the top fears that people have is getting up and speaking (or singing) in front of people? Some list put this fear as the number one fear. But most will have this fear listed in the top five. That is major. It takes guts to get up and speak or sing in front of people. Allowing ourselves to be vulnerable and subject to praise or criticism, it could go either way, is a very courageous act to do. Add the fact that these kids are teenagers, which places another layer of apprehension.
I talk from experience. I too was a choir student. I joined my concert choir freshman year and perfected my choir voice for four years. I was at ease while standing on stage with my comrades as we sang our choir songs; but singing alone gave me great stage fright. During my senior year I sang a duet with a friend to help ease my fears. We sang Snow Bird. Even with her by my side, I still got nervous. It started off good but by mid song my throat slowly closed up which made it almost impossible to release a solid note.
And like me, I saw tonight those students who reminded me of myself, singing duets to help ease their fears. Some who were nervous but faced their fear and sang a solo on stage as their fellow choir members cheered them on from the crowd. Some who are learning to trust themselves and their talent so they held back a little. Then, there were the others, like my son, who appear confident, the ones who command the stage with a gracefulness, some bold and dazzling like they were born on the stage, some humble and secure with a pureness that flows effortlessly. And then there are the special needs students who add the special touch to this high school choir.
I’ve seen many special needs kids on stage over the years, some with Down syndrome, some in wheelchairs, and some with physical or learning disabilities-even some with hearing impediments. I love that our high school is not only diverse in ethnicity and culture but also in abilities. I especially love how our district and the choir teacher, Ms. Wright embraces all these differences. And as much as I love watching my son on stage, I never tire of seeing these kids perform.
This year, there was one choir student that stood out among them all. And the rest of the choir kids didn’t seem to mind sharing the spotlight. They all love to see him shine. His name is Zuri.
I remember Zuri from middle school. He went to a different middle school then my son but once a year the middle school choirs would join with the high school choir kids for a combined concert. It was a treat to see the high school students performing. What a difference a few more years makes. Seeing how the students had matured into their own style and expressing their unique talents gave us parents a sneak peak of what our kids might be doing in their near future. What parent doesn’t want to see their child performing? On a stage, on a field, academically, athletically, or creatively, we hope that our child will find his niche and show off his or her unique skill and talent. I am sure Zuri’s mom felt the same.
I met Zuri’s mom and his younger brother by chance at our local CiCi’s Buffet one evening. I recognized Zuri from the concert and had this urge to tell her how Zuri stood out to me from that concert. Not because he is special needs but because he allows his spirit to shine. His bright smile, his infectious presence and his child-like ways makes one feel as if they are staring into the face of God. He appears to have no stage freight, nor is he fearful to sing, in fact, he seems to not fear anything.
Tonight I was overcome with emotion as I watched Zuri sing Say Something on stage among his choir classmates, including my son Jaren. Zuri is front and center. He claps his hands and has memorized the song. I know this because I am pretty good at reading lips and I could see his lips were moving to match the words. I can’t help but think how blessed his family is and how special his mother is. She looks at him with possibilities and supports his achievements and she has done an amazing job. She makes parenting look easy.
Zuri smiles and brings this song to life with his hand gestures; I think some of it was sign language.
At the end of the evening, Ms. Wright begins to call each senior’s name. She skips over Zuri’s name purposefully. She leaves him for last. As she calls his name, the choir cheers. Zuri steps down from the choir stands, walks over to Ms. Wright and they hug. Then as Zuri walks back, he pauses mid-stage and turns to look out into the audience. We stand applauding. Zuri raises both arms, cheering, and beaming from ear to ear. As he steps back onto the bleachers and returns to his spot, he is overcome with emotions. His head drops and he begins to cry. His comrades all gather close to him.
Tears of joy begin to flow.
I can’t help but think how proud his mother must be.