I had a really amazing experience today. I had a concert with some kids. Now, these kids are from really tough backgrounds. They deal with enormous amounts of stuff – really horrible stuff – and that’s before they even get to school for the day. They shouldn’t have to deal with this, but it’s just their lot in life. These are the children I come home and weep for.
But this post is not about their sadness and rotten lives. This post is what they did today. We had a concert. The whole school was involved. Year six were ushers, and sound technicians (well, they manned the CD player and adjusted the volume!!), and gofers, and runners. Children drummed, and sang, and played and were proud. These are children who three years ago would not look me in the eye. They would not sing. They were shy and distrustful. Today they sang with their heads up, and their chests proud. They watched, they focused – every one of them was a superstar. I was so very proud of every one of them.
In the craziness of all these rehearsals over the last few weeks, something happened. I had a group of four little year four girls who were a group of soloists. They would sing a verse here and there, by themselves throughout this musical pageant. They sounded beautiful. Two weeks ago, one of these lovely little musicians had her world turned upside-down. Her mum died. I don’t know how she died. But I watched this little girl tell me a fortnight ago, and crumble. My heart broke for her. You see, when I was in year five, my dad died. He didn’t die suddenly, like this mum, but he was gone out of my life, and my world turned upside-down too. Like I was walking in a snow globe, and suddenly it all flipped. And got turned on its side over and over again. I remember what I felt. And my heart broke to see this little girl having to go through similar stuff. I talked to her about it. And I cuddled her when I saw her.
This school has fabulous pastoral care. Her class teacher is a wonderful, wonderful woman. And she is loved, and looked after when she is at school. And she loves music, and having this to work towards was really great for her.
On Monday I found out that her mum’s funeral was on the day of the concert. She said to me at the dress rehearsal that she would be there – ‘because I want to. And because mum would want me to.’ But I have to say, I didn’t believe her.
And half an hour before we were due to start, this little person walked into the hall. She smiled at me and said ‘I’m here!’. And she sang her solos. And she drummed. And she was an angel on stage. And I was conducting her with tears in my eyes.
I loved music all through school. I played the recorder, and the flute, and of course the cello. I sang in the choir. I rang handbells. And I remember when dad died I kept playing my cello, and really started to love music more. I was nurtured through this by some fabulous music teachers. I can remember my cello teacher gave me a record of Du Pre playing a ‘recital’ of all sorts of little cello pieces. I now have that record on CD, and I play it often. And it reminds me of that time in my life. Every time I play my cello I am reminded of my dad. And when I am really vulnerable, I remember being the little girl playing a cello duet with my cello teacher at his funeral.
And now, I was the music teacher, helping a little person who loved music come to terms with the punch that life had dealt her. I was the other side of same coin.
It has been a tremendous honour to work with this little girl, and conduct her today. And it has reminded me of me, and my dad, and all my music teachers, and other teachers who loved me and looked after me.
I wish her all the strength in the world.