Yesterday I had the privilege of attending a special taping of the classical music show From the Top (aired on NPR). If you have never heard of this program, please visit their website, www.fromthetop.org. In short, they feature performances and interviews (and sometimes funny skits) of the most talented classical musicians in the U.S. between the ages of 8 and 18. I’ve attended two other tapings in the past when they came to town, but this one had a reason to be near and dear to my heart.
From the Top decided to honor our military by hosting a show dedicated solely to showcasing classical musicians who were also military children. This week, MCEC (Military Child Education Coalition) had their national conference in Grapevine, TX – and since From the Top stresses music education, this was the perfect opportunity for a show. Through a professional connection and just being in the right place at the right time, I was offered a free ticket to the event, which was closed to the public because of the small venue (The Palace Theatre in downtown Grapevine).
I was absolutely thrilled! Music has been part of my life since age three, and to have a military/classical music event sounded spectacular to me. When I arrived at the Theatre, I was greeted by kids in the Student 2 Student peer mentoring program of the MCEC, acting as ushers. I was led up to the balcony by one young man, and then I was greeted at the top of the stairs by a little middle school boy who said sweetly, “Would you like to be escorted to your seat?” I responded, “Sure, I’d love to!” He showed me to the second row, and I said, “Thank you, sir!” He was so cute.
I had arrived early, and as more people began sitting down, it was a great feeling to be surrounded by others who were all affiliated with the military in some fashion. I overheard an Air Force wife behind me talking about her husband who had just deployed, and we chatted for a few minutes. She was so nice! The Student 2 Student kids sitting behind me were from Joint Base Lewis-McCord (Washington state).
Finally the show began, which is always a wonderful experience both musically and entertainment-wise. But I was prepared to hear some heart-felt military stories as well and I was not disappointed. If you live in the Dallas area, this show will be airing the week of October 1st on WRR 101.1 FM…I want you all to listen to the broadcast, so I won’t give too many of the stories away. But I will tell you the highlights and my favorite parts.
The first boy who played was a 16-year-old pianist. His father is an Army Colonel who has deployed several times, his older brother is a West Point cadet, his younger brother aspires to attend West Point, his mom was an Army nurse, and both his grandfather and great-grandfather served in the Army. However, his dream is to be a pianist and attend a conservatory. (There is a lot of military pressure and history in his family though!!) His family members were there – his father and brother in their dress uniforms – and were interviewed as well.
A girl playing viola was next, followed by a girl playing the harp, who lives in Belgium currently because her Air Force Reserve father is stationed at the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe base (SHAPE). The last kid to perform was an 18-year-old clarinetist, Dominic. I say his name because his story touched me the most. His father just retired from the Navy, and his older brother is serving with the Marines in Afghanistan right now. On 9/11, his father was working in the Pentagon when the plane hit, and so he told his 9/11 story which was quite intriguing and different than most. He also delved into the emotions behind having a father and brother deploy to a war zone, and knowing as a young kid that this might be the very last time you see your dad. I found myself tearing up and feeling the emotion portrayed by Dominic, and I’m sure everyone else in the audience felt the same. Hearing stories from or seeing deployment homecoming videos with military kids always touches my heart (and makes me cry more easily than seeing the reunion of a husband and wife)…perhaps because I know that my future kids will have those exact same emotions and similar stories to tell. Yes, it’s hard sending your loved one off to war. But what I can imagine is even harder is watching your child, who doesn’t understand what’s going on, say goodbye to their daddy who they might not see again. I admire all the military wives who do this time and again with their children but manage to keep it together…that takes real strength and courage.
The final performance was an extra-special treat: the Woodwind Quintet of the U.S. Army Band “Pershing’s Own” gave a performance! The flutist was a From the Top alum, who they interviewed about how the discipline of being a professionally-trained musician helped her through the Army’s Basic Training. At the end, Dominic the clarinetist joined them for an encore (he aspires to be in the Marine Corps band).
These young adults were the cream of the crop, both as classical musicians and as military kids. You could tell that they had great parents, who not only served the nation but also knew how to raise their offspring in a fabulous way. These kids will go on to do great things, whether they follow in the footsteps of their military parent or pursue music professionally. They also gave me the hope that my future children will be able to have access to great music education, no matter where we go, and that if they want to pursue it at a high level, they can.
So to the military kids featured on From the Top last night: you may be younger than me, but you had to experience events that I never knew existed when I was a child. Thank you for inspiring me, and thank you for serving in the ways that you do.