Singing —or more precisely music — isn’t one of my strong suits. I don’t sing in the shower as I don’t want to be accused of cruelty to my two Dalmatians that are within earshot of the bathroom window.
This column, however, isn’t about my natural ability to make Roseanne Barr sound good in comparison. It is about the strengths that strong arts, music, and performing arts programs bring to the table.
I was in seventh grade trying to find a niche. My one-year stint in Cub Scouts proved I lacked the mechanical aptitude to do simple tasks such as knot tying.
The brief season I spent in the minors of the Lincoln Little League proved that grown men do have patience even with a kid who couldn’t throw worth beans, connect with the ball if his life depended on it and proved without a doubt that coaches prayed when they sent me into right field for obligatory play time of two innings per game.
When I came up with the harebrained idea to join the Glen Edwards School Band, my mom simply told me the same thing that she did before I joined Cub Scouts and Little League: If I wanted to do it, I had to follow it through to the end for either the complete season or a year. It sounded fair. Besides, if I could survive the embarrassment of being probably the worse player in all of Lincoln in my age group in baseball, band would be a cinch.
Dan Baughman was the music teacher. I wanted to play the trumpet or saxophone. He was wise enough to know he had enough of those especially when he heard my first futile attempts at notes. That is how I ended up playing — or trying to play — the Sousaphone my seventh grade year.
Take my word. If you really want to torture someone don’t buy their kids drums. Buy them a Sousaphone. At least drums can sound like something. A kid rehearsing their part of a marching arrangement practicing solo on a Sousaphone isn’t a pretty sound unless, of course, you enjoy the reverberating sounds of plumbing. My music career lasted one year. I hit pay dirt in the eighth grade when I tried my hand at three things — the school newspaper, which was actually a mimeographed sheet, the eighth grade play and art. All three opened new vistas.
I know this may sound incredible to those who believe I was in the cattle call for the rapid talker in the FedEx commercial a few years back, but there was something about being on stage that made me talk much more distinctively and — surprise, surprise — slower. I even ended up with the lead in the biggest theatrical productions in Lincoln, the senior class play, as Walter in Woody Allen’s “Don’t Drink the Water.” As for art, I positively scared myself with what I could do free-hand with pencil and charcoal. I’m sure it scared Mrs. Martyr too since she was the first teacher ever to say I actually did something better than my two older brothers and actually mean it.
I’d be lying if I didn’t say English classes — especially the literature series of American, English and Greek — in high school didn’t have the biggest impact on me. But the enrichment classes went a long way even those such as band where I failed miserably but I was willing to do what it took in an attempt to belong. But in each instance — art, plays, music and even sports — I can tell you of hundreds of other kids just like me who grew and had doors of possibilities opened to them even though they may have only been marginally better with a musical instrument or playing organized games.
The importance of the arts in education can never be underestimated since the benefits far outweigh the obvious in terms of helping instill traits such as persistence, practice, team work and commitment. While a solid case can be made for a performing arts center as a means for enriching life through community productions, concerts and lectures, it is important to remember what a facility could mean to exposing young people to other possibilities and enrichments that can build upon the vibrant, yet low-profile programs in our schools.
The goal isn’t to create an elitist core of art students, performing or otherwise, although that will happen. The aim is to exposure as many young people as possible to the possibilities while at the same time enriching the quality of life of the entire community. It is parallel to arguments people in Manteca made 50 to 60 years ago when the first attempts were made to organize youth baseball leagues.
Establishing recreation facilities for such games in city parks took fledging sports programs for youths and adults to new levels. A performing arts center can do the same as well.
This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 209.249.3519.