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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Audition

The timeline was to have worked as follows:


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 play hooky from leave work early and sneak into the auditorium to watch her sing "Defying Gravity" solo.  Emma had hitherto refused (not unkindly) to allow us to listen, and the way we figured it, if she didn't make the cut, we'd never get the chance.  It had been explained to us, possibly in error (the jury is still deliberating on this) that only about 20 acts would make it.  We found out at the tryouts that 45 4th grade acts were auditioning.  That still left the fifth and sixth graders, and unless some sort of grade quota was employed, it would be pretty cutthroat.


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. 

46 comments:

  1. Such a sweet story! I have been going through this with my 6th grader auditioning for school plays. I can't ever watch her audition, but she'll practice with us at home, so there's that. I also LOVE the idea of having auditions for a talent show - at our elementary school they let any kid who auditions into the show, and some of those acts are pretty painful to listen to. And to Emma: good job, and good luck!!!

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  2. I am so insanely proud of Emma! This was great, Jim. Just like being there. Thank you so much!

    Whether she makes it or not - she got up there, she auditioned, she did it beautifully, and she has a great attitude about it! That's one amazing kid you've got there!

    (And - just to add something for you to think about - you live in a major city, so there must be community theaters. They're always looking for talented, well-behaved kids for roles. If she ever wants to act, check into that. She'd have a great time, and she'd learn so much!)

    YAY EMMA!

    Also, at this point, does it go without saying that I totally cried? Probably. But also I laughed at the kata pool-cue sweat-towel kid. THAT is a skill that's going to take him places. WHOO!

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    1. that kid'll be in jail in five years.

      We've considered enrolling her in something like that, Amy. She does a two week CLO camp every year (Civic Light Opera, which is the performance company here that does the major musicals). Last year she got the lead. . . she was Cruella, and performed a little solo. I have it on DVD.

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    2. Just keep an eye on local audition lists - we have one that you can subscribe to via email here. Sends out all the calls for auditions. I'm all for encouraging a kid's acting bug. It's brought me nothing but joy in my life. Only thing is, you'll end up being her drivers until she's old enough to drive herself. Used to drive my parents insane.

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  3. I love your sappiness lol What a brave girl she is!!!! I can't wait to find out when she makes it. Maybe.. she'll let you attend the actual performance!?

    **fingers crossed**

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  4. That's awesome Jim. Your daughters school must be huge because in my son's school, I don't think there's 45 kids in all of grade 3. I hope that Emma makes the cut and I'm sure she will. Make sure you share the results either way on Friday.

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    1. It's pretty big. the way they work it in our district, kids attend one of five primary schools. The third grade that Emma left probably had 60 kids in it, but Emma was in a group of 20 or so (they divided it into 3A, 3B, and 3C), but there are five primary schools in the district, and I think Emma's was one of the smaller ones. There are a bunch of the little rascals.

      Thanks!

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  5. How awesome! My daughter did a county-wide talent show (played cello). It was nerve wracking to be sure. Love that you were able to spy and catch her great performance. Keep us posted! ;)

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    1. Emma plays the violin. . . she's a little rough on that right now. There was a flute tryout yesterday though. I shall keep you posted.

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  6. I love how your love for your family is so evident in every post. I'm positive Emma was the best one there. Fingers crossed the judges had sense enough to hear it, too. I'm as excited to hear if she made it as if she were mine!

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    1. thanks flapper. I hope she makes it. She really practiced for it. She probably sang up in her room every night for at least three weeks prior.

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  7. I love how excited Emma was to see you and Leslie...that makes this story. I hope her name is posted on Friday!

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  8. I had anxiety just reading about the audition! I was in a couple talent shows in elementary school. One particular audition I remember was a group of boys, with actual instruments, lip (instrument) syncing to You Give Love a Bad Name. In like 4th grade.

    They didn't make the cut.

    I hope Emma makes it. That is awesome she is so into singing. Have you gotten her voice lessons or anything yet? If she does make it, I expect video of the show!!!

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    1. Ack! Anxiety! Us too. . . I was nervous just waiting for her to sing her little minute twenty. . .

      I was GOING to video the audition, but they wouldn't let me in. If I can do it, i WILL do it.

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  9. Whether she gets the part or not, good job, Emma!

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  10. This is so awesome! I bet she's on the list. (why am I always betting on things over here?!?) I'm glad you were able to sneak in and her her. There is nothing better than watching your kids accomplish things, yay!

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    1. it was more like LISTENING to her accomplish things, but I get your meaning.

      Also we're scheduling the gambling "intervention" but figured we'd let you start AFTER March Madness ends.

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  11. Dang you! You made me feel that human emotion thing again! You really are a great writer. Now I'm all nervous for Friday. Post as soon as you know.

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    1. Thanks, Lexi. I'm nervous too. I'm sort of just dreading the idea that she WON'T make it. I really thought she did a great job.

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    2. We could make signs and picket. Is that how you spell it? Why is it called PICKETING? Is that a thing at all?

      I have a vinyl machine for such a thing. Post a video of her signing. I want to see.

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  12. There is something really awful about that wait. However long it is. Abi was in the final of a prose reading competition last night. For every class the "wrong" person won. As we went home we were reflecting on how unpredictable and subjective those types of decisions are. I am sure Emma is over the moon that you and Lesley went to hear her and that you thought she was fantastic. I'm anxious about Friday now though.... It'll be my Saturday morning by the time you post it, I think! Good luck.

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    1. I probably won't post until my Monday. . . cause I rarely have time to blog on the weekends. But I'm anxious!!

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  13. Man, I think I still remember every audition I ever did. And especially that "high" afterward. I'm very happy for Emma, for her courage and confidence, and for you and Leslie for helping her to know that "making it" isn't what it's all about. Awesomeness.

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    1. I think she was totally wired on adrenaline.

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  14. Yay!!! I am so glad that you were able to hear Emma try out! It is difficult to be at work when I know something great is going on with my son--I don't want to miss a second. Now that I have you as my role model, however, I will try to play hooky more often!

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    1. See what a great influence I am???

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  15. WOW! GO Emma! It's so great that you both were there supporting her. I can't wait to find out - I'm crossing my fingers :)

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    1. Hopefully there'll be an update on Monday.

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  16. You really know how to put us right there at the audition with you and Leslie! I could see and feel the whole thing with the two of you, right down to that golf towel! Sounds like you have a little Simon Cowell in you as well...

    Friday's results? Yeah, I'm on pins and needles too but Daddy's results in this post, are the best results! Emma will cherish this when she is older. I hope you print it out or save it electronically so she can have a copy for when she's all grown up. Well done, parents!! (Why didn't you just record the audio and play it? I would've loved to hear her voice? Can we hear or see a bit of Cruella?!) Emma already has a whole fan base right here!

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    1. I was all set to record it, but with the door closed I wasn't sure what my iphone audio would pick up, so I just listened.

      I'll have to see whether I can capture some of the video from the DVD on my PC. I'm not sure I have the software to manage that.

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  17. Cannot. Wait. Till. Friday!

    I really hope she gets in (but from super-spy mommy & daddy's descriptions, it sounds like she's a sure thing!)

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    1. I really feel like only two things would prevent her. Either A) Lots of other extremely talented kids auditioned after her, or B) There's a quota from each grade and it's biased toward the older kids.

      I don't know whether EITHER is probable, but from were I a judge (and I know I've already recused myself) she'd be in.

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  18. Fingers and toes crossed for her. I hope she makes it. Our 7yo wants to audition for the school talent show with a dance. She doesn't have anything rehearsed, I think she just plans on improvising, but I still haven't signed the permission form. A little chat to explain the process first is called for.

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    1. I think Emma did one of those once too. Her and a bunch of friends had the idea that they'd all make up a routine and dance it. . . but then nobody wanted to actually PRACTICE the dance so nobody knew what the other thought the routine actually consisted of. . . they dropped out prior to the big show.

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  19. Yay for her!!! Can't wait to hear if she made it (but she probably did, right??). And way to be supportive!!

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    1. no idea. . . this is her first year in the "big kids school" and she's the littlest of the big kids. This is all uncharted waters for us.

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  20. Fingers crossed for Emma! I need to start carrying a little golf towel around to block doors and sneak around.

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    1. I thought I was so smooth, kicking that towel under the door. I mean. . . secret AGENT smooth. Until that little kid took it. Worst secret agent ever.

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  21. What a delightful post! There were so many great lines but somehow this one caught my eye and stuck with me--and makes me laugh:

    "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."

    :)

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  22. You so make me laugh - how you bounce from sweaty towel boy with pool cue to black dress with white polka dots and a white sweater with silver trim to keep her shoulders warm. Your disgust for kata boy comes through loud and clear (I have this mental picture in my head!) but so does your pride in awesome Emma. Can't wait to hear how the update!

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    1. i wasn't "disgusted" by him. But there were definite "things" going on in my mind. . . questions:

      1) why is he doing this
      2) why is his mother letting him do this

      those were really the biggies.

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