at least in My mind….
As high school kids are graduating into the next phase of their lives, many will carry life experiences that have transformed them so far in their young lives. Some are just happy to walk the stage or receive their diploma.
Yet there are others who have tried new things in their younger years and may not realize the impact it will have in their future careers, relationships, and thought processes. I feel excited for many of them as their journey is much different these days.
I share similar emotions as teachers of many of the graduating students. While I may not have been a full-time instructor (I commend those who have the tenacity to teach our next generation), I do reflect upon many of the special children that were in my care from a different type of background.
My journey began in 2004. We were attending a local church and there was a need for music. In particular, there was a gap for the elementary students who wanted to sing but due to their age, this was not possible.
I inquired about a children’s choir that we saw a couple of years earlier when we were first visiting this church. I was told that the music director decided to step down as their children were long gone from this program.
It was called Kidz Praise.
Yes, I felt the calling to restart this ministry so I volunteered for the task of coordinating children from 6-13 years old. Given my previous background, I wanted to teach them about musicals with acting, singing, makeup, costumes, and stage props. I also felt led to teach discipline during rehearsals, performances, and the legacy of leadership.
But first I had to recruit my team. My wife at the time was our choreographer. I was joined by several mothers who assumed other roles including administration, co-choreographer, and snack patrol. It was truly a team effort and the kids (and parent volunteers) had a lot of fun for the next 6+ years.
We performed twice a year and soon, we were touring local senior care homes. Each older choir member was paired with a younger one as they sat with residents to give away homemade Christmas cards or to simply chat with them. I was instilling young leadership skills in the older ones.
I still remember many of the faces of these young singers but as years passed, it grew more difficult for me to recognize them all. I will always remember their names, their contributions to the musicals, and how they grew from shyness into confident, respectful singers.
Some have since graduated from college with a focus in the music arena (theater or similar). Those students made me smile with pride as I would like to think that I played a very small part in their pursuit for the arts.
However, this year has become challenging for me. Why?
The original students who began my Kidz Praise experience are NOW graduating high school seniors!
Where has the time gone???
Some are still singing while others have pursued other interests. I still remember their names and faces (though many are taller now). Just like their parents who are very proud of their graduating seniors, I am very proud of these kids who are blossoming into young adults.
This is the end of an era for me with this year’s graduating seniors.
I recall one shy six-year old girl. I saw her sitting in the back of the room by herself. She looked at me yet something told me that she wanted to audition for the main solo part (many of the older girls really wanted that solo). I motioned for her to come up to the front.
Her head bowed down, she meandered through the 35 other children sitting in the room. There was something special about this one – I thought. The youngest in the room, she was confident enough to not only walk up to me but when she sang, her voice was soft. I encouraged her to try again but to focus only on me. She followed my instruction and just as I had suspected, a beautiful voice projected from this little body. She melted not only my heart but the pianist as well. Needless to say, she got the solo.
Each season thereafter, she was always in the room and ready to sing and dance. She learned that she could act as well. What a treasure but this is just one of many stories I have had the privilege of witnessing throughout those years.
She continued singing until the year my wife passed away. This shook her world and I did not realize the emotions she was going through. It saddened me that she had stopped performing but I understood her reason when she wrote me a letter. I prayed that she would one day return to the arts.
A few years later, she did return to the arts and I had the privilege of seeing her in the chamber choir singing her heart out. In fact, my proudest moment was when she was given a solo to sing. She did not know this but I was beaming with pride as I watched her perform once again.
And now, she is graduating high school (and still singing). She is confident, respectful, and has a wonderful attitude towards life and those around her. Did I have anything to do with this? Probably not but I will always remember her as that little six-year old girl in the back of the room.
My blog post would be way too long as I have many other stories of so many of the children throughout each season. The biggest blessing is that, for a brief moment in time, I had impacted these children’s lives and now, as they grow into adulthood (one is already married), I hope they will remember the lessons they have learned in Kidz Praise.
Most important of all, I hope they realize the joy they have all given me. I will never forget our time together.