The Recital

My granddaughter recently performed in her first musical recital. She’s a first-grader, as were most of the other children who performed in the show. I was handed a program when I arrived at the school auditorium. I knew I was in for a long night when I saw my granddaughter’s name last on the list, with twenty-nine acts ahead of her. I thought they must be saving the best for last, the grand finale, my precious Disney princess.

My granddaughter’s song choice was a piano rendition of the classic “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” from the Wizard of Oz. Her music lessons have been going very well. My wife and I gave her an electronic keyboard last Christmas after seeing her express interest in the instrument during a visit to one of our friend’s houses who had a keyboard in their living room that once belonged to their children. Dreams of a musical superstar in the family began to take shape. Could a grandfather/granddaughter duo be just over the horizon? Maybe I’m jumping too far ahead.

I arrived at the recital anticipating a night of entertainment. What I experienced was much, much more. The front row was lined with thirty children who would be performing. My family and I snagged     coveted second row seats close to the stage. I glanced at the program to see the line-up of songs. They ranged from piano instrumentals, guitar selections and vocal interpretations. The student’s song choices were…interesting to say the least. 

From the opening act, the night was anything but ordinary. A flute interpretation of Radiohead’s “Creep” started the show as a young student poured her heart out to the surprise of all the parents and grandparents in the auditorium. Thanks to Lizzo flute playing has emerged from the shadows and entered the mainstream. Hearing an instrumental flute version of this anthem for outcasts played by this third grade performer was haunting.

The next song, “Heathens” by Twentyone Pilots, was another odd choice for a second-grade vocalist. With lyrics like “Just because we check the guns at the door, doesn’t mean our brains will change from hand grenades”, I was moved by his tiny voice singing these powerful words in light of society’s current circumstances. 

More jarring performances followed. I began to notice a trend. After listening to kids singing “Believer” by Imagine Dragons and “Counting Stars” by OneRepublic, a heavy sadness crept into the show. I realized these hollow-eyed children of the pandemic have been deeply affected from growing up in a world that’s different from the generations before them. They’ve dealt with so many things that weren’t even thought of when I was young. My own children grew up in a time that seems far removed from today’s reality. As I listened to the children sing songs like “Scars To Your Beautiful” and “Lost Boy” I realized they may be hurting more than their parents realize. 

I took a deep breath and continued to watch the show trying to shake off my feelings of hopelessness for this new generation. As I snapped out of my funk, a tiny second-grade girl sang “Good 4 U”, pop-star Olivia Rodrigo’s hit song full of lyrics like, “I’ve lost my mind, I’ve spent the night crying on the bathroom floor.” And this was the Kidz Bop version, thank God.

Just before I was completely emotionally drained, a beacon of light appeared on the stage. The final act. My granddaughter, a cute-as-a-bug little first-grader. She smiled and looked at the audience side-eyed as she walked on stage. She made her way to the keyboard and took her seat under the spotlight. After a nod from her teacher, she began her instrumental version of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”. This was no one-note-at-a-time rendition. She played the song softly, beautifully, from start to finish. A few times she would turn her head and try not to smile as she acknowledged her family in the second row.

My granddaughter basked in the applause and reveled in the cheers. She walked off the stage with a big smile on her face. I was filled with a renewed hope for the future. Maybe next year we’ll all be living somewhere over the rainbow, where troubles melt like lemon-drops and the nightmare of the past few years will be far behind us. 

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