Over the middle weekends in April, over 1,000 NJ high school singers will gather to audition for a spot in the 90th New Jersey All-State Mixed and Treble Choruses. Most will not be accepted. That same cold fact has been true for the past 90 years. What does that tell us about those teenagers, their teachers and parents?
They hold a lottery addict’s grasp of statistics: “You gotta’ be in it to win it.” The only guarantee is that you absolutely won’t get a spot if you don’t audition, so auditioning is the only game in town.
They possess a requisite faith in their own talent. Whether it’s due to a teacher’s or parent’s encouragement, self-initiated comparison against their peers, or simply self-actualization, these teens have convinced themselves that, Darn it, I’m good enough!
If you’ve never auditioned as a soloist and stood in front the three impartial judges who:
- Don’t know you,
- Won’t remember you after you walk out,
- Are charged with judging you based on literally nothing more than what you produce in the next three minutes,
- Will reduce your hours or years of preparation into a set of three to ten numbers,
well, think about the last time you woke up in a cold sweat from some nightmare. Except these kids are awake and they’ve volunteered to experience this. If that doesn’t exemplify faith in yourself, I’m not prepared with a better example
Courage. The numbers are stacked against you, the judging is impartial, the product is ephemeral and unique to the moment. And you’re 15.
The students don’t know it, but if they can get through this, win or lose, and they’ve got a model of behavior to get through every interview, every getting-called-into-the-boss’s-office, every committee or conference presentation, every you’re-on-the-spot moment that will come in their life. What a great life-skill to acquire so early in one’s life!
There’s pride in trying, especially for those who aren’t selected. Different from team sports, being not-selected, losing, in this game is a solo event.
Amazingly, the overwhelming number of kids absorb this lesson, get back up, and return to the game. These teenagers get to learn in real-time and with real consequence that:
- The event is always less important than the process.
- The real reward for good hard work is the intrinsic growth it provides.
- Doing, regardless of result, is always better than avoiding.
Parents and Teachers: For anyone holding either of those titles: Thank you.
Thank you for producing young people who are willing to take this risk. Who are engaged in the arts at a competitive level. Who have the moxie to endure the pain required in this type of growth.
More so, thank you for willingly, knowingly engaging your kids and students in a process which is guaranteed to produce more tears than cheers, and which always produces better, tougher, stronger people and enlightened, empathetic citizens. Thank you for making them gracious winners when the line is drawn below their name, and ever-better competitors when not.
The Arts make all of us better. That our schools have arts programs is not a given, but a choice for every community and it is to our credit that most willingly bear that cost and appreciate the benefits. Please do what you can to support the Arts in your community.
If you know a student who is auditioning, take a moment to offer your encouragement!