(Skip to the bottom for the latest installment in my George Clooney Photoshop collection!)
I know some teachers who tend to speak in laudatory terms only of former students–those who have gone on to achieve greatness or renown. I too have found satisfaction and pride in seeing my former singers and actors carve out a place for themselves in the highly-competitive world of Fine Arts. Laura (Thomas) Matula, already an astounding vocalist when she was a student singing in the ensemble I directed, has become a headliner in various Nashville musicals and revues. One of my dreams is to be able to see her perform, her luminous stage-presence even brighter after years of experience.
And Brendon Zub, who first acted in a play I wrote and directed several years ago, has recently held roles in top-notch shows like “Human Target” and “Fringe.” Let me just say that watching a beloved former student die suffocated onscreen was a bit of a…disquieting experience! The second picture below is of Brendon (with a bleeding chest wound) on the upside-down-airplane set of the second episode of “Human Target.”
But pleased as I am to see students move forward in life and become honorable lawyers, physicians, stay-at-home moms and missionaries, my greatest joy is still getting to live alongside these teenagers while they learn and grow at BFA.
As most of you have heard by now, I’ll be leaving BFA for a year in June. And as any of you who know me have already gathered, being away from this place I love so dearly will be a bit of an amputation for me. Lest I haven’t made it clear enough before now…I love my students!
More and more, the thought of not being around them for a year is tinging everyday life with a sort of preemptive melancholy. Someone once said, “MKs live every moment as if it’s tomorrow’s wistful memory.” Well, color me MK!
Last weekend was the Candlelight Dinner, and my choir was honored to have a part in the outreach show. When I saw pictures of the performances, yesterday, I had to choke back tears and heave a gratified sigh…because the smiles on the pictures below move me in a way I can scarce describe. Seeing teenagers expressing such unbridled joy and knowing that their voices were equally animated and bright is truly a beautiful thing for me. And directing them–coaxing musicality and love-of-music out of a ragtag group of 58 mostly musically-illiterate young people–that is indeed one of the greatest challenges and satisfactions of what I do here.
Are these students “normal” teenagers? Absolutely. Do they struggle in similar ways as their North American peers? Without a doubt. Do they keep this aging director engaged in non-stop crowd-control and pep-rallying during our end-of-the-day rehearsals? That and more! But they also have a capacity for joy, for genuine, guileless celebration, that I’ve seldom seen in others their age. And standing a few feet from them on those performance evenings–hearing their joy and watching it crease their faces and brighten their eyes–I felt so alive, so thankful, so humbled and moved. I don’t have the sound track to share with you, but I do have pictures. I hope they’ll help you to understand what has kept me at BFA for so long…and how empty a life without these beloved delinquents will feel, if only for a year.
Please continue to pray for a transition that is honest and fully-lived–and for final weeks that are filled to the brim with the vitality and joy pictured below.
I have a friend whose name is Chris Bryan (aka. Mr. Teacher Man). He likes to play with Photoshop AND he knows of my affection for George Clooney. Imagine my surprise (and elation?) when he presented me with the following picture this morning. Look closely–there’s a slightly creepy, gray-haired charmer just to the right of me! =-)
Nashville is just up the road from Memphis—so come on down and we’ll catch one of Laura’s acts.
I’d love to see Laura perform too… I’ll go with you!! I didn’t know about her career (although I’d hoped she was doing something musically, with that incredible voice of hers!) and I’d heard a little about Brendan, but didn’t know he was already on film… he was a GREAT signer when he was in 7th grade!!! So expressive, people used to love to watch him and always remarked to me after a performance. Both he and Laura were my students as well, so I share in your joy at their success and echo your sentiments about ALL our former students! They are precious!