This past weekend I held my Annual Music Tea where my students get the opportunity to perform for one another. Moms, Dads and Grandparents (and the like) are allowed to come, but the event is really for the kids. Those who have been working with me for awhile inspire the beginners and the newbies (the youngest is 5) give the old-timers (the oldest being 20) a chance to see how far they’ve come.
It is always fun for me to see the kids stretch their wings (and fingers and voices) to try new things or to fine-tune material that they are already familiar with. Together, we work hard to highlight their strengths and build up the other areas that need help, always growing always stretching – never once losing sight of their love of music and/or performing. Each student is different, with their own unique playing style or voice… but what I love most about them, is that they get up and try -- doing something that many people will never be brave enough to attempt in their lifetimes: they bare their souls and present their passion for the world to see.
Music Tea 2010 is behind us now, the auditorium has been cleaned, cookie crumbs vacuumed away (thank you Dan, Janet and Jennifer) and all trash disposed of in appropriate containers – yet, there is some garbage left behind that I’d like to address.
For every performance, there will always be critics – folks that that feel the need to espouse their never-to-be-humble opinions about what these kids did or didn’t do. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of helpful, constructive criticism as long as it is dished appropriately and served warm. What I don’t care for, are the bitterly cold, hurtful remarks that get passed around in big piles by those whose only purpose is to tear down and destroy. To what end? Just to snuff the life out of one person’s joy of self-expression? To make their friends laugh at their clever ability to belittle others?
Back in the day, words were whispered peripherally or behind one’s back. Now the worst of the weasels get to use the internet to spew their emotional agent orange, where nothing good can grow again. Because of cyberbullying, I had the misfortune this morning to read some of the hateful comments made about local kids who regularly participate in the performing arts scene in my community (some, students of mine). It used to be that creative types (you know us as the band/theatre/choir kids) just had to bob and weave snotty comments from those outside of our peer group. It was okay, for the most part, because we were a family. There was an unspoken creative code that it was all for one and one for all – and we held up each other’s right to perform, no matter what size, color or level of talent we had. The anonymity of computers has opened up the floodgates for a bizarre new form of artist against artist cannibalization in the junior high and high schools. Digital slambooks give kids a big, fat forum to elevate hating to a whole new level.
I am saddened by the incredible hostility I’ve seen and heard and I am weakened by my inability to do anything to stop it. Because I have a special needs kid, I’ve spent many hours reading and attending symposiums on bullying. I see the neon posters at my son’s junior high screaming “No Bully Zone” and weekly read articles on how the school district has a zero tolerance policy for bullying. Then, with a click of my computer mouse I see pages and pages of venom displayed, conveniently posted, forwarded and tagged for all to see (and forward and post and tag). With a simple cut and paste, gentle souls are murdered with no visible trail to the assailants.
We teach our children to say please and thank you, sneeze into their elbows and wash their hands to prevent the spread of germs – am I foolish to believe that it would take only slightly more effort to instill in their hearts love and respect, not only for others but for themselves?
“Great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events and small minds discuss people.” Eleanor Roosevelt
“P.S. – Cowards with undersized hearts and oversized egos discuss people on formspring.” T. Katz