Monday, 4th graders auditioning for the talent show were to show up at the auditorium to perform their acts in the order in which they registered. Emma, my ten year old daughter (see recent birthday blog here) signed up 10th. Tuesday and Thursday (Wednesday they had the day off from school) the 5th and 6th grade participants would try out.
I knew this because I called the woman who was in charge of the talent show told me so on the phone. Auditions started at 3:30, she told me, so expect to pick Emma up around 4:00.
My wife and I arranged to
Emma told us when we picked her up after her performance that a sheet would be posted on Friday showing who made it and giving a "practice schedule" to the lucky acts.
We arrived at the school at about 3:40. Outside the closed doors of the auditorium we were informed by an indignant parent that nobody was allowed in the auditorium for tryouts. We'd been worried about that, but we could hear enough of what was going on inside to know we'd at least hear her perform even if we couldn't see her.
We walked down the hall and found an open side door to the auditorium. Though we weren't allowed in, we had an obstructed view of the stage (obstructed by a huge chalk board, the sole purpose of which appeared to be "view obstruction of the stage by interested parents smart enough to find the open side door"). We parked ourselves by the door, glancing in occasionally to see if we recognized any of the faces auditioning. Other parents chatted outside the door and someone from inside the auditorium closed the side door wordlessly without acknowledging our presences there.
This made the indignant parent indignanter, and she escorted her son, who was inexplicably performing some sort of kata with what appeared to be a pool cue, to the front of the auditorium again.
We listened. Performances were limited to about a minute and twenty seconds each, and students opened the side door and shuffled past us, occasionally recognizing us as Emma's parents occasionally ignoring us entirely.
The singing acts varied widely in pitch and ability. Some of the kids had nice voices, some were a bit pitchy, some were just inconsistent, the beauty of their voices marred by their lack of mastery of 'singing' (either by virtue of failure to practice, or simply because they really haven't received any voice training at this point), pitch changes in the music produced wildly inconsistent responses from the young singers. Most imitated the artists whose songs they were singing, imperfectly performing "improvisational" runs and singing through their noses, imagining, I suppose, that singing that way made their voices sound more like, Adele, Taylor Swift, or other. On the whole it was like listening to bad karaoke without the benefit of a four beer buzz. There were some highlights though, and all of the music was filtered through my brain's knowledge that these kids are 10. Regardless, after listening to several acts, the clock pushed past four, then four fifteen, and still the muffled voice had not called Emma on stage.
A woman exited the front of the auditorium with a clipboard and addressed the parents gathered there. We could hear the conversation and joined the group to listen in. I was surprised how few parents came, though many perhaps knew that they'd not be allowed to see their child perform and were just waiting at home for the call from the school office that their child's performance had concluded and could they please come to the school to pick him/her up.
The woman informed us that they had modified the sequence to accommodate parents who were already there to pick up their children, and I chimed in that Emma's parents were their to pick her up, and that we'd been told she'd be done by 4:00 (had to dig that thumb in a little) and the woman nodded and repeated her name back to us. As she turned to walk away I said, "But do NOT tell her that we're here."
She looked blankly at me for a moment then gave a bit of a half smile and said, "Got it. Emma's performance needs to push up. . . for NO reason. NO REASON AT ALL." (emphasis hers). We smiled and she retreated to the auditorium, and we tiptoed back to the side of the auditorium.
The karate boy and his mother had left, but he'd forgotten what appeared to be a small golf towel (undoubtedly to mop his face after his exertions). When the next act completed a young girl emerged from the auditorium to collect her things, and I surreptitiously kicked the towel into the doorway, blocking it partially open. My wife met my eyes and I smiled and blinked innocently.
When the next act concluded, my wife recognized the girl leaving the auditorium and offered (unnecessarily it turned out), "do you know we're Emma's parents?"
The girl brightened and answered (in error, I believe), "Oh Emma is my best friend!"
"Well don't tell her we're here, okay?" The girl agreed happily and shuffled off to find her book bag.
After the fact my wife explained that she didn't know if the girl would recognize her or not so she was proactively making sure Emma wasn't informed of our presence.
The young ninja returned looking for his golf towel, and finding it jammed into the auditorium door, yanked it unceremoniously out before running back to find his mother. Leslie made as if to protest and I looked at her askance, "It's his!"
I think she wanted him to just leave it for a few more acts.
I heard the muffled voice announce Emma's name. I shushed my wife, who had been joined by one of the "dance moms" we know, and whose own daughter would be trying out with a baton act later. I motioned them both toward the door.
I heard the music start, and Emma began to sing. She has a pretty voice, I decided immediately. At the urging of one of the teachers, she'd changed the arrangement of "Defying Gravity" from the musical version to the "Glee" version, which I think was a good call. The Glee version is about two minutes shorter than the musical's arrangement, for starters. She stopped the performance. She'd gotten off and asked them to restart the song. I marveled at the easy sound of her voice, no waver, no quaver, no imploring whine. . . just, "Would you please start the song again, I got off?" The song began again, and this time, no mistake, she was on. Though there were moments of pitchy twang, those moments resolved and I listened with wonder at how beautifully she sang her part. It wasn't the version I was used to hearing, it was more up tempo, more pop, less pomp. Her high notes were falsetto, but her falsetto was pretty, and on the whole I judged that if nothing else, she was the best singer I'd heard in the 45 minutes of tryouts I'd listened in on.
I was so proud of her for getting up in front of the faculty and her peers and singing; singing without expectation of "making it" (as we had drilled into her since she'd decided to audition to help her soften the blow if it came to that), but just singing because she liked to sing and wanted to see if she could make it. And she has a pretty voice! At the conclusion of her minute twenty (not sure if the false start counted against her time or not) the applause that filtered out from the auditorium seemed louder than it had for the others, with an actual whoop or two thrown in for spice. I beamed proudly and probably welled up a little, truth be told.
Emma emerged from the bathroom and saw me in the hall looking for her. She brightened, yelling, "Daddy!" before scampering over and jumping into my arms. She was wearing a black dress with white polka dots and a white sweater with silver trim to keep her shoulders warm. She glowed without a trace of self consciousness when I told her how good she had sounded, and she thanked me genuinely and I put her down as we walked down the hall to find her mother (we'd split up to make sure she didn't make it past us. . . she had somehow done so anyway by getting into the bathroom). When she saw Leslie she repeated her performance, "Mommy!" before running to hug her.
I was so happy I'd decided to go. I guess I could have been bummed that we didn't actually see her perform (on the car ride home Leslie asked her if she'd used her hand gestures, sweeping her arm across her body dramatically as she said it, to Emma's eye-roll and nearly inaudible back-seat, "Yes, Mommy," reply), but she was just so happy we'd been there, it was all worth it. And we'd heard her, and I'd been impressed.
Emma told us that they were going to post the results for all three grades outside the activities office on Friday. She sounded excited. I think the adrenaline of the whole thing, along with finding us there to hear her had her amped up, and who can blame her. "I was so nervous I had to pee!" she confided, explaining why I'd found her in the hall.
I don't know. I'm just her dad, and must recuse myself as her talent judge, but I really expect her name to be on the list Friday when it's posted.