Rhapsody in Blue

Six years ago, we vowed to move so that our son would not have to attend the local rural Montana high school. Montana didn’t fit us very well anymore, anyway. We’d outstayed our welcome. My husband had been there 35 years, 18 for me. Our son was born there, but it never quite felt like home. It isn’t the fault of anyone, really. That’s just the way it works out sometimes.

We sought out a public performing arts high school for Julian, and found an excellent one in Dayton, Ohio. He auditioned; they said yes, we moved. It’s a complicated thing to move literally lock, stock and barrel 1800 miles across the country. It took more than a year for the three of us to be living full time together in the same house again– no marital strife there, just logistics.

Julian started 8th grade at the Stivers School for the Arts in the fall of 2007. It is a place unlike no other. Julian has made friends from every walk of life there. Despite the fact (or perhaps because of it) that many of the kids are considered economically disadvantaged, and more than half of the students are “minorities,”  the school regularly makes the list of the Top High Schools in the U.S. It has produced more Gates Scholars than any school in the area. Last year, Stivers’ students carried off tens of millions of dollars in scholarships. The Jazz Band has won the National title three years out of the last five, they are always among the finalists.

The work the students produce in every discipline is breath-taking, far exceeding what anyone might think of when they think of “high school art.”

Tonight we sat and listened as our son, and 70 or so of his colleagues played their very last concert together. They played  Mozart and Ravel and Stravinsky. There were times when the violins were just a bit off. I’ve never figured out why the violins struggle so. During a brief pause when some musicians left and others arrived on stage, my husband leaned over and whispered about the violins. I shook my head.

“Think about Park High,” I whispered, and he laughed a little to himself. His older daughters went to Park High– one of them played in the high school band. Every performance was a trial of one’s doting parenthood. Stivers’ violin section on their worst day would play rings around them, well, it wouldn’t even be a contest. But then no ordinary high school could begin to compete with what the faculty and students of this school have wrought.

The school truly has given these kids wings. They’ve learned self-confidence, self-discipline, to hone the perfection that is in each one of them. I’m proud of my son, and I know he will go on along his own path, steeped in adventure and history and music. I am so grateful he found his artistic “home” at Stivers, it was perhaps the very best gift that we could have given him.

Tonight, after the Vivaldi, and John Williams, and Ravel and Stravinsky, the orchestra played Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue. They’ve played it before and I was quite amazed then at their remarkable rendition. It’s not an easy piece for professional musicians, let alone an enormous ensemble of teenagers. But tonight, tonight was bittersweet, so exquisite. This was their last performance together, the last one with the orchestra’s extraordinarily talented clarinetist, Matt Quinn and the last performance with their incredibly gifted pianist, Christine Hoy and the last for Devon Kloos and Erica Harvey and Brady Hangen and Christian Stargell and Erin Pennington, and Paige Stoermer. And it was the last performance with them for Julian.  All seniors now, sporting medals on black and orange ribbons around their necks– all bound for glory somewhere else tomorrow. Some of these kids will play together again, but not in that hall, not in that school and not as the group they were tonight. The ephemeral quality of those bright and shining moments– it’s just about enough to break your heart.

This is the nature of children. They grow up, they astound us, they far surpass us in their dreams and plans and abilities. And we, as their parents, stand back and watch them fly away.

Sorry, none of this is about weight loss or fitness, but occasionally you have to make room for real life.

Target today was 56. Steps 2463. Breakfast was yogurt with granola, a slice of toast. Later, a piece of baklava. (Honestly, someone get that stuff out of the house.) Took Julian out for a sandwich at Smashburger, I had a grilled chicken sandwich with a piece of avocado smaller than my thumb and a slice of bacon. Dinner was 4 oz of trimmed corned beef, and two cups of braised cabbage. We went out after the concert for an iced coffee, my husband and I split a cruller. Later, a cup of blueberries.


4 thoughts on “Rhapsody in Blue

  1. Thank you! I feel the same way Larkin – the fact I am not alone seems to make all the difference, in fact it is the only thing I have done differently…your inspire me so much…

  2. Your words are poetry. Every one of them. Thank you for writing what we parents were thinking at that wonderful concert, with those wonderful teachers and those gifted young adults. Bittersweet. I miss Stivers already.

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