Saturday, March 27, 2004

Amateur Musician Week

This is turning out to be Amateur Musician Week for me. Last night my daughter and I attended a production of "Guys and Dolls" at her middle school ("Guys and Dolls" would not have sprung to mind as a play to put kids in, but I hear there's a high school in our area putting on Sondheim's "Company," so I guess school plays have come a long way since my schoolmates and I dosey-doed through "Oklahoma"). The acting was passable, the singing good when not being drowned out by the blastingly loud taped orchestration. I noticed the kids all had those little black clip-on mikes, complete with units strapped to their backs, just like the pros use (well, probably a lot cheaper and lower-tech than the pros use, but still). Whoever used to make money teaching actors how to project is soon going to be out of business if even 8th-graders are being miked now.

I enjoyed the show a lot, but then, I'm a sucker for musical comedy, and had the advantage of having seen the show on Broadway with professional actors who could more often than not be heard over the orchestration. My daughter, who has trouble following stories when she can hear every word, had very little idea what was going on and wished the music was rock and roll. Nonetheless, I thought her wanting to go at all showed a certain amount of school spirit, and maybe next I can drag her to New York to see "Beauty and the Beast" with the girl from "Even Stevens" in it. My mom started making me go to musicals when I was 5 or 6, so I'm running behind.

Amateur Musician Week continues on Tuesday when my daughter makes her second appearance in our town's "All City Band" concert. She made the cut again this year and will be playing with the cream of the 6th-grade crop. Last year's concert was sort of an endurance test for doting parents, with more different permutations of inexperienced young musicians than you can possibly imagine taking the stage, playing somewhere between passably and painfully. At the very, very end, after we had given up most hope that our district's music program would ever produce anything uncringeworthy, the high school marching band stormed in and played a rousing, inspiring set. Now, those kids could play -- seemingly much better than the kids just a year or two behind them in school. I can think of only three explanations: a group of musical prodigies has just hit high-school age; the high school band leader has some sort of fantastical teaching power; or they're secretly using that same taped-in orchestration as the middle school uses for their musicals. This year, I'll have to see if those kids' lips are really blowing.

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