There was not a whole lot of what my students would call entertainment when I grew up in Nebraska. No cell phones or IPODS, no laptops or MTV or Netflix. There was a small radio station, KAWL, in York, Nebraska with a typical small town fare; ball games, hospital and farm reports, on air swap meets, and some popular music at intervals. My parents filled in the culture gap. They were always playing records of classical music and musicals. (I think my dad, who played the harmonica as a young man, was a frustrated musician and both my parents had been part of their college chorus.) They really loved the musicals, like Mary Poppins and The Sound Of Music. They played them constantly. ( I should note here that Mom also had the quaint habit of playing Christmas music in the summer as well as the other three seasons.) They played these 33 1/3 LPs so much I had the soundtracks memorized as well as almost every song in our church songbook- we sang them quite a bit as well.
My favorite of the musicals my folks filled the Hawley home with was Oklahoma, the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic. It's ironic because as a kid, I had no love for the state two states south of us due to the intensity of the football rivalry of the Huskers and the Sooners. Still, the musical's songs became etched into my psyche after listening to them countless times. That brings me to this week. Our WCS Fine Arts Department put on Oklahoma in three performances, and I was honored to attend this afternoon's showing. Every actor/actress on stage was a student or former student of mine with the exception of three seventh graders will be in my class next year. The stage and lighting crews were also my students so I felt a real connection. Several of my eighth grade, fifth period Bible students, Kalani and Payton, had major speaking and singing roles. That leads me to Olivia, who is also in that same period. Olivia, who was born to be in front of an audience, was cast in the role of Ado Annie. Repeatedly in class, I made reference to the fact that I knew all the songs and graciously offered the opportunity to practice with her in front of her peers. Shockingly, Olivia, who played two basketball games for me as a sixth grader, rejected my bid to aid her musical development and prepare her for the bright lights. No worries- she hit a home run today and afterwards, I told her how proud I was of her and my disappointment dissipated. It's a good thing, too. No doubt, Olivia will make many crowds smile and clap and rejoice and I won't always there to pull her through. Someday, she'll have to launch out on her own and I guess this was a good place to start.
Of course, this really has nothing to do with musicals and singing or even Olivia... but then again, it does. You see, her mom, Dena, is the head of our Fine Arts Department and her dad, John, acts professionally. Olivia, along with having great entertainment DNA, has been exposed to the theatrical life since, I would guess, early childhood and it has shaped her into a wonderful performer. What my parents exposed to their children has stuck with me as well. It's easy to make a joke about knowing song lyrics because of a record player which seemingly never was shut off but it's really about how everything we see and hear and witness as little ones becomes part of who we are. We often hear Solomon's words quoted from Proverbs chapter 22 and verse 6:
Train up a child in the way he should go,
And when he is old he will not depart from it.
I thought of that today as I was sitting in the crowd and mentally singing along with Olivia and the rest of the cast. Even though I am no singer and no actor, I'm glad that my mom and dad gave me the chance to listen to timeless music which has become part of the American heritage. And while they were doing that, they also were modeling for me how to walk with the Lord, just as the parents of a certain young actress who doesn't really need my help are modeling for her and her two younger siblings. And undoubtedly, that's a show that will run for eternity.
To watch Ado Annie in the film version of Oklahoma in a scene with Laurie, who in the WCS production, was played by Taylor, one of my former players, click below!
Applicable quote of the day:
I see my upbringing as a great success story. By disciplining me, my parents inculcated self-discipline. And by restricting my choices as a child, they gave me so many choices in my life as an adult. Because of what they did then, I get to do the work I love now.
E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org