Every year, the graduating class at my school sings a class song at their graduation ceremony. We spend time considering possible songs, and after two classes, vote on which song will be sung. There are always some among the the minority that are unhappy about the selection, and there are always some who insist they will not sing no matter what song is chosen. The beauty of it all is that it never works out that way. Let me explain.
There are two 8th grades in my school, and each class practices the chosen song separately for several weeks prior to the first graduation rehearsal. This is when the resistors make their position known. In spite of their best efforts, after these practices, they have at least a working knowledge of the song, and can be “caught” quietly singing along with their class mates.
Then the first graduation rehearsal is held. This is when both 8th grade classes sing together for the first time. At first, some sing, and a few don’t. Their other teachers usually lecture them on the importance of singing, but I prefer to let this play out. I’ve seen it all before. When the other teachers have had their say, I simply tell them that the best thing to do is to just decide to alright with singing. Whether they feel like singing or not, just come to terms with the situation, and decide that from that moment on, they are in. I tell them to relax and have fun with it. Do it together with their whole class and enjoy the moment for which they are preparing. I then look at the boys and tell them that I want them to carry the song. I want to hear their voices surge from the back and make the whole thing sound incredible. Then I start the accompaniment, given them a big smile, and start conducting.
I might even do something a little goofy to make them smile, and then they start to sing. It’s quiet at first, the reluctant singers still not sure, but starting to look around. A few of them start to smile, and look around to see what their fellow reluctant singer-friends are going to do. I give all my attention to them, and with a friendly smile and an inviting gesture, wait for them to start. And then they do. Their voices do surge, and soon the teachers standing in the back of the hall can hear everyone, clear as a bell. We all know we’re going to be okay with this. If they’re singing like this now, when their parents are in the house, they’ll shine.
Often at these graduations, the audience starts singing or clapping along. What started out as a mild stand of resistance is once again going to be one of the musical highlights of these graduating 8th graders school careers. I love graduations. I love the way my 8th graders sing for the last time at our school, and perhaps for the first of many times in a school choir. Once they sing that song, they never forget the joy that was in their singing. For some, it will be the start of choir singing in high school, while for others it will linger as a sweet memory of an encounter with music. Either way, it’s a moment worth celebrating. Congratulations to graduating students everywhere, and to the music teachers that have touched their lives over the years.