Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Music In Your Heart

"Take a music bath once or twice a week... you will find it is to the soul what a water bath is to the body."                             --  Oliver Wendell Holmes

There are those that enjoy music, move to the rhythm when they feel it and smile when an old favorite comes on the radio and then there are those whose very sustenance is music.  It feeds their souls, melts their cares and moves them like nothing else.  Patrick would be in Group Two. Music has always moved him and been a great equalizer.  One of my favorite memories from Kindergarten was when Patrick's teacher unintentionally played Louis Armstrong's "What A Wonderful World".  Patrick, who was getting antsy on the rug, suddenly perked up.  He started doing the signs for the song and his teacher couldn't help but notice.  She stopped to ask: "Patrick are your signing this song?" His smile said it all.  

For the first time, Patrick had something to offer to the other students and the paradigm shifted ever so slightly.  Patrick could be the expert.  He could teach something.  Music was the bridge.

When he was filled with chemo and feeling extra crappy, music would actually be healing for Patrick.  At his lowest, I would hold him and show him a music video on the computer.  Sometimes he would find some energy and dance ever so slightly.  Mostly, he would just listen -- the warm, soothing notes wrapping him like a blanket.  For me, music has always been a nice part of my life but in those moments, I learned the soul nurturing, life affirming strength in music.

It was only natural that music and dancing would become Patrick's favorite after school activity.  His happiest time of the week is, without a doubt, his two hours with Miss Mindy.  Mindy has music overflowing out of her heart too. She formulates shows, choreographs dance routines, imagines whole productions for school-age kids that allow every single participant to shine.  She is creative, imaginative and kind.  She knows how to support the timid student who doesn't yet believe this whole performing thing is possible.  She knows how to challenge the truly gifted vocalists.  She knows how to include the outsiders and how to model the most important musical life lessons: pay attention, sing clearly, work together and be kind.  For Mindy, the students are center stage -- the actual performance comes together in a beautiful, subtle way  The costumes are casual and comfortable.  The background is exactly that, in the back decorating but not overpowering.  The music is not too loud or too's the kids that matter.  Everywhere, woven into every song, is this message: you matter.  You are important.  You sparkle.  It's your chance to show the music in your heart.  Go for it!

Mindy agreed to have Patrick in her summer session when he was just a little third grader-to-be.  I had no idea how Patrick would do but Mindy was ready.  It turned out that her scripts became a part of his body at home.  He wouldn't put them down: reading and re-reading them.  Singing the songs, all of the songs, everyday became a part of our household background noise. 

During the class, Patrick paid attention, received just enough support and was held to the same high standards as the rest of the cast. He thrived.  During the performance I was did he learn all of those dance moves?  How did he know all of the songs?  How could he remember when to come on and off the stage?  The short answer: Mindy.

For the rest of the school year, whenever Mindy offered a class, Patrick was all over it.  The next summer, the production was Camp Rock.  Because he had been doing it all year, I naturally thought this performance would be easy.  Of course, because I thought it would be easy, it became difficult.  Every single day of the camp, Mindy and I would brainstorm ways to help Patrick succeed, but every single day Patrick seemed to think of another behavior that would be interruptive and distracting. Day five, I was done.  I looked at Mindy and uttered the unthinkable: maybe Patrick should just quit.  I will never forget her resolve, her stamina and her unbelievable generosity.  She looked at me and said, "Beth, I don't think that's the answer.  What kind of message does that send to the other kids?  Let's just let him do his song, see how long he can last and then you can pick him up early if he needs it."  Patrick did indeed perform in Camp Rock.  He made it over the hump and onto the other side.  

This past Saturday was Patrick's eighth performance with Miss Mindy.  It was Popstar -- a series of pop songs and dances.  Patrick chose a Jonas Brothers song and practiced and practiced.  He was responsible for an entire song -- a first for him.  The lyrics went back and forth to Karen, the speech and language goddess.  Patrick memorized the whole song and at 6:30 am I was greeted by Patrick in full costume ready for his 7 pm performance! :) That night, he sang his entire song clearly.  In the back, you could hear Miss Mindy singing ever so softly, offering that support, guiding and teaching but Patrick, like the rest of the cast, took his moment to shine and enjoyed it.  In true Popstar fashion, he ended the song with a hair swish and bowed his way to his spot in the back row.  

How do you thank someone who opens up a world for your child that they never would have known?  How do you acknowledge that their passion has rippled so far out into the world it has ignited a passion in another?  How do you ever come close to thanking someone for a gift as profound as music? 

Miss Mindy, Breanne and Lindsay, together you have created a little bit of magic in the world and sprinkled it with your own personal sparkle.  I can't thank you enough for opening your hearts and letting the music spill out.  You are most certainly our bit of grace each week.  "Music speaks what cannot be expressed, soothes the mind and gives it rest, heals the heart and makes it whole, flows from heaven to the soul." It flows from heaven to the doubt.

Popstars among us!

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