One of the many joys of being a parent or grandparent is having the privilege of attending school concerts. Last night, Erin (age 9) had her first winter concert, along with over a hundred of her nearest and dearest fourth and fifth grade friends. (Yes. Erin rocked, he said unbiasedly. And she fully expected flowers from my wife at the end of the concert.) Erin played flute with the Beginning Band, all of whom had begun playing their instuments a bit over three months ago.
Since this was a public school, it was a "holiday" concert, not a Christmas concert. To ensure that it was a holiday concert, we were subjected to secular music mixed with Chanukah songs. (With so many better choices, why, o why do elementary school music teachers insist on "Dreidel, Dreidel"?) The concert started with the Beginning Strings Orchestra performing "Dreidel, Dreidel", "Jingle Bells", and "A Mozart Melody." Just in case there might be a quiz afterward, later on in the concert the Beginning Band played "A Mozart Melody", "Jingle Bells", and "My Dreidel", the last sure sounded a lot like "Dreidel, Dreidel" to me. I'm assuming no effort was spared to mix up the program.
Let me overcome my natural snarkiness to be emphatic about one thing: it was a great evening. The kids worked very hard and the entire program (including the Beginners sections) consisted of challenging arrangements. Every child who took part in the concert should justly be proud.
Of course, every child who participated had his or her name printed in the program. Reading the program reinforced to me how much of a geezer I am. I come from a generation and an environment where typical boy's names were Michael, John, David, Stephen, and James; girl's names gravitated to Patti and Cathy and Mary. Idiosyncricies in spelling or phonetic spellings or just plain made-up names did not greatly prosper when I was growing up on a small New-England farm.
In this year's fourth grade there is at least one Camryne, Cameron, Kamren, and Camron. There's a Chloee (yes, two Es), and the fourth grade also hosts a Cheyenne, a Shayann, and a Shyenne. There is a Sereniti, a Faithlin, a X'Zaveyon, a Ryleigh, a Draven, a Karly with a K, a Caitlyn with a Y, a Kaela, and a Morgen with an E. Also on stage that night were an Abigal, an Alivia, an Areli, a Selia, an Alysa (one L), an Alanna (also one L), an Ashleigh, and a Nyla. And there were (I hope) family names given as first names: Deangelo, Pfeiffer, and Dillon (as opposed to the two Dylans also on the stage). Not a single John (although one may have been hiding under the name JD), just one Michael, one David, one Stephen, and one James. On the distaff side, I couldn't find a single Patti, Cathy, or Mary, although there was one Kate.
(Full disclosure: although I have been called "Jerry" since I was born, my given name is Ralph. Ralph is a good solid name and I don't mind it, but it wasn't that common or popular when I was a kid; it didn't help that "ralphing" was a synonym for vomiting.)
So I'm a geezer. So what? My hope is that every one of the kids on that stage last night embrace his or her name with pride. I hope that each kid will nurture his or her talents and skills in a way that will bring honor to the name -- however it is spelled. I hope that each nervous child and each cocky child I saw will bring to the future a kind heart and a passion for good. I hope that music will always be with them, in good times and hard.
I wasn't the only person to give them a standing O. May they earn many more in the future.