It’s finally February, we survived January! And what a January it was here in Edmonton. I think our temperatures ranged from 8 degrees celsius all the way down to minus 38…..and the snow!!!! I have never seen so much snow here in the 13 years we’ve lived here. Today I found myself motivated to get some organizing done and went downstairs to my music studio. We’re just finishing up compositions for this year, so I thought I’d better get things organized to send off to the festival. As I was pulling out papers and books, a mound of recital programs from this past Christmas recital fell onto the floor at my feet. I picked one up and flipped through it and began to laugh…..and laugh. In fact, I laughed so hard I had tears streaming down my face and could barely catch my breath.
You see, I like to put on a Spring and Christmas recital each year for my students and this year was the 10th Christmas recital since moving to Edmonton! I was determined that this recital, with all my years of experience and lessons learned from previous recitals, would be the best ever. It would be absolutely perfect! I started preparing pieces with the students in November and the beginning of December was a whirlwind of planning the program, assigning MC roles to the older students and constant email reminders of the date and time to parents. My husband asked if we could please start on time this year and not ten or fifteen minutes late as is the usual case. So, I added that to the email reminders…over and over again. I attached a map to the Evite invitation and the week before the recital I finalized the program, spell checking everything and adding a Christmas wordsearch to the back of the program so that any restless students might find something to do quietly during the recital (wasn’t that a clever idea! I thought so, too!) The day before the recital arrived, I picked up the freshly printed programs from Staples and with the help of my two little elves we folded all 100 and put together 35 treat bags one for each performing student. Then I gathered all the accompaniment CD’s I would need, rhythm instruments for the ensembles the little ones would play and the napkins and cups for the reception that always follows and had it bagged up and by the front door. I was on a roll! Normally, I would be doing this on the day of recital…in a blind panic…but not this year!
The day of recital dawned and I felt terrific. The only things left to do for the day were to go get my hair cut and styled and dress for the recital. I finally had it all mastered! After helping out at the school for a bit and puttering around double checking my list, I was off to get my hair done. It was a wonderful day and so relaxing. But, as I was getting my hair done, the weather (which had been extremely chilly to begin with) seemed to want to brew up some kind of storm! How dare it! I just tried to resume my relaxation and ignore it. It would probably blow over before the evening. It didn’t. As I put on my cute new tulip skirt, pale pink cashmere sweater and high-heeled boots, the snow just kept on blowing. We decided we had better leave extra early, it would not look good if everyone was lined up outside the church in blizzard conditions waiting for me.
It felt like a long and treacherous drive, but we made it to the church with a half hour to spare, exactly what I hoped for, and got the church opened up just as everyone began to arrive. My older students began directing everyone: refreshments to the fireside room, then into the auditorium where those recital programs were being handed out. We moved the grand piano to a precise location so the performers could be seen as they played, and I set out the music stands and instruments for the rhythm ensembles and had the treat bags ready to go. I was all set and with just over 5 minutes to spare, I grabbed a recital program and started checking off the students who were arriving so I would know when everyone was there. My husband tapped his watch as a gentle reminder to start on time, please!! I was just waiting for one more family to arrive. We would start on time, we absolutely would. And that’s when it happened!
I looked down at my program and realized that I had misspelled a student’s last name. It wasn’t a huge spelling mistake, just one letter, but darn it!! As I was frowning over this, another student leaned over to me and said, “Mrs. Miller, I am kind of shocked that you would put this word search on the program.” I dragged my eyes from the cursed typo and over to the back of his program to the clever little word search I had added and followed the words down to his finger: “jesus”, “manger”, “joseph”, “ox”, “ass“…my eyes did a double take back to the word by his finger but there was no mistaking it. I had printed that three letter word for donkey on the Christmas recital! The word that causes elementary students to gasp and call a “bad” word and junior high students to giggle over and point at. (That’s what I get for pasting a word search from a UK site on my program! I should have used Canadian content, they would certainly have used the word donkey instead!) But how did I miss it? My face began to heat up and I apologized profusely and looked around to see who else might have noticed it, thinking of all the 5, 6 and 7-year-old students with their newfound reading skills. Then there was tug on my arm. One of my little students had the recital program in his hand….oh no!!! But his finger was not pointing at the word search on the back, it was pointing at his name. His last name to be exact. Great, I had misspelled another last name, but as I looked closer it hit me, I had not misspelled his last name, I had given him the wrong last name altogether! He was horrified and rightfully so, I would be too if I were 8 years old and my teacher had assigned me a completely different last name on the program. I broke out into a sweat and my face got even hotter and I began apologizing again when there was yet another tug at my arm. I looked down and it was the youngest child of one of my families, they had arrived. Now everyone was here and we could begin the recital, but she looked up at me and said, “My sister couldn’t come she is really sick.” Her sister was one of my MC’s, in fact she was one of the first MC’s on the program. I quickly grabbed my daughter and told her that she was going to have to MC alone as her partner was sick. Horrified, she said, “No way!” so in a panic we began asking some of the older students if one of them would help her out. After several no’s, we finally got a yes! My head was spinning. Could I finally get this recital started?? Then I looked up at the clock: 6:40pm! I was ten minutes late…and after all those email reminders! Sigh…I couldn’t even look at my husband who was desperately trying to make eye contact with me to tap his watch again. Full of humility and with my new little cashmere sweater already drenched in sweat, I dragged my feet up to the front of the auditorium hoping the earth would swallow me up on my way down the aisle. It didn’t. Maybe if I just closed my eyes, I would be transported back to the hairdresser’s chair to find out this was just a dream. I wasn’t. So, instead, I welcomed everyone to the 10th annual Christmas recital and we began.
But you know, the recital actually went quite well. Sure, a couple of the MC’s missed their cues, but, after all, one of them was recruited only minutes before the recital, and the little 4 year olds from my Sunrise class did leave me hanging on the Reindeer Pokey so it was more of a vocal solo by yours truly. But they did the actions to perfection and darn it they were cute! Each student came up and did their performance to their very best and left to sit down glowing with pride. An hour later, it was finished. Final bows were taken, treat bags were handed out and everyone was dismissed to the fireside room for refreshments and celebration. I packed up the instruments and put away the music stands and the piano was returned to its former position, then I took a deep breath and went to join the celebration in the fireside room.
Without exception, everyone I encountered in the fireside room said what great recital it was, “the best ever” they said. And you know why? Because the recital is not about me and my organizational –or proof reading– skills, that much is very clear. The recital is about the wonderful students I have and the equally wonderful families who are so warm, friendly, loving and supportive! They make recital a safe place to be! In all the years that I have had recitals, not once have I ever had a student not get up and play. Even the most shy students march up to the platform and play their hearts out. They may feel nervous or scared but they just know that they are safe. And after each recital is over, I find families encouraging and complimenting all the students, not just their own children. When we gather in the fireside room it is like being surrounded by one big family. Each year new families and students are welcomed into the circle. I am so blessed to be surrounded by these people who know I am human, but love me anyway. I will still try and make each recital better than the last, that’s just my nature. I can’t promise that it will be or that it will go off without a hitch, but I do promise not to print ass on the next recital program! And if I do something else equally as silly…well, perfection’s over-rated anyway. Isn’t it?