Sunday, 12 September 2010
It was a lovely concert this afternoon, and my two youngsters acquitted themselves beautifully. Many of my past and present pupils have had their moments of glory at 'Prize Winners Concerts', and it is such a good experience to be part of that next exciting stage on from that of the initial taking part. I like to think that it moves them on into the catagory of 'I've done it!' confidence. They have proved themselves in the big world - even if in reality it is quite a little world still!
One of the great joys and value of this kind of event is the 'hero worship'. Strange thing to say, I hear you think!
Firstly being among other winners in itself is affirming, but being with much older winners who are far further along the line from ones self is just magical. I so remember being the smallest squib in the concert with my idol as the top of the bill, and sitting listening thinking, 'One day that will be me'. All children and young people need someone to worship, and in this field most often the 'worshipped' hero/heroine is hard working, very talented and generally an influence and force for the good.
Sometimes, just being spoken too by those 'idols', and if one is very lucky, being praised by one's idol, is earth shatteringly life changing when one is a gawky, awkward and gauche young thing who is just at the very beginning of the journey.
Today, there were performers from about 10 ish up to 20 ish. For the 'top of the heap' young 20 ish soprano who took all before her in awards at the festival, it was a small and relatively unimportant bit of performing - her venues are far more lofty these days ! But what she did to encourage the other aspirant younglings was priceless and precious. She gave hope, direction and the possibility of future excitement to a dozen babes and teens. We teachers simply cannot buy that sort of imput.
My idol, when I was about 16 was Dame Janet Baker. I was reminded by my curly haired soprano friend about the time we went to a recital given by her sometime around 1970. I was utterly enthralled, and watching her was like feeling everything I wanted in my own life encapsulated into a brief life changing moment. I don't think I moved, or breathed for the entire evening, such was the magnitude of the effect it had on me.
We went back stage to wait for her autograph, but were told to go away by an officious and 'jobsworth' stage door manager. At that moment Dame Janet's husband walked through the door and heard what was said to us, a group of wide eyed and impassioned singers desperate for just a glance at our 'Goddess of Song'. He spoke quite sharply to the guy and said his wife would be horrified to think he had shunned her fans, especially young ones. We trooped, in a mildly ebullient and triumphant way into her dressing room, and one by one we asked for her autograph and breathlessly asked her, what in retrospect seem trivial questions, about her singing. When it came to my turn to see her I put out my hand to shake hers and was struck deadly and consummately dumb. I stood in utter awe, mouth open to speak but unable to make a sound. I worshipped in trapped silence.
It was a momumental moment in my life and career, and thank God for it. She spoke to me, smiled and probably found it endearingly sweet. Much later in my life when I knew her a little better I told her of that moment, and how much it had meant to me. She is a quiet and supremely kind woman, and if she remembered the moment at all, was quick to say how important her admirers had been to her all her career, especially the raw youngsters. That they were the tomorrow, and tomorrow was more important than today.
We must never ever become too big, too good, too self important and full of ourselves to give a little time to, and most important of all, a little kindness to those younger and less experienced. A small word, or a simple smile can do more for them that a term of lessons.
Mostly, as we move on, we must never forget that we carry a wonderfully satisfying responsibility. The extraordinary power to kill dead or give marvelous life too an innocent and trusting youngster.
I have watched many of my past pupils deal with their younger vocal siblings over the years, and it has told me as much about their persona and generosity of spirit, as it has of their talent and gift for performance.
Remember - you are always important to someone, so spare them some time and kindness!
Be what the great Dame Janet was to me.