A Sense of Community

I’m a “music mom.”

By my count, over the years I have watched my children perform in more than 14 school musicals, 52 school concerts, and four years worth of band cavalcades and marching band half-time shows. Add to that years of semi-annual voice, piano, and cello recitals and you’ll understand why I say I feel as if I’ve spent a quarter of my life sitting on unforgiving auditorium seats.

All of this is ending. My son, my youngest child, is graduating from high school. Now I’m in the season of “lasts” — last school concert, last marching band performance, last high school musical.

I was reminded of this two nights ago when I was at the high school for a music parents’ meeting. Arriving early, I passed the auditorium where a dress rehearsal for this year’s musical, Les Miserables, was in full swing. I stopped in the hallway and listened to the cast members singing and the pit musicians playing, the music escaping from beneath the closed doors. It was beautiful.

When my son applied to college this past fall, he wrote in an essay that, up to this point in his life, music has defined him. And it has – his musical activities have not only shaped him into the young man he’s become, but they have been one of the ways in which he has become part of our community.

I didn’t realize until I started writing this post how much music has shaped me, too. Not because I play an instrument or sing, but because it, too, has helped me to become part of this community.

A few years ago, one of my husband’s clients, a woman who lives and works in the city, visited our suburban home to deliver some documents. She looked around our yard and said, “It’s beautiful here. But I could never live in a place that didn’t have a sense of community.”

I thought of some not-very-nice things to say, but bit my tongue.

As a music mom, I know that all it takes to find a sense of community is to get involved. So, for the six years that my daughter sang in school musicals, I sewed buttons and basted hems on cast costumes. And for the past four years, almost every Friday in the fall you would’ve found me at one of my favorite places: the Dog Shack at the high school stadium. That’s the concession stand where music parents sell hot dogs, hamburgers, and the world’s best fries to fans who come out to watch the football game and marching band show. Those people in the Shack are part of my community, and now that my son is graduating, I’m sad to leave them behind.

When I was at the high school the other night, I saw parents helping with the musical: moving props, adding last-minute paint to the set, adjusting costumes. Here’s the thing: three of the parents I saw no longer have children at the high school — their kids have graduated, but the parents come back to help because this is one of the places where they feel a sense of community. They’re helping the students and spending time with old friends.

It’s that way in the Dog Shack, too. People return year-after-year because they want to help, and they feel welcome. So maybe next fall you’ll see me at the concession stand laughing with a friend and stirring a crock-pot full of meatballs.

This weekend, you’ll find me in the high school auditorium, waiting for Les Mis to begin, praying that a woman with very big hair does not plop down in the seat in front of me. At the end, when the performers come out for their final bow, I’ll applaud for everyone: for the marvelous actors who brought the show to life, and the stage crew who made those set changes happen, and the lighting and sound crew who made sure the spotlight was in the right place at the right time and that the microphones worked. I’ll be applauding the director and the teachers and parents who helped. But most of all, I’ll be applauding the musicians because I’m a music mom and without their amazing playing the musical would not have been a musical.

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