Lancer Letter.. 04-26-11

We’ve Got Talent
by Richard Scaletta

If you were asked a question and could only conceive of two possible responses, your answer would be limited. Each possibility would have a 50% chance of being chosen.

Middle school is a time when children ask many questions of themselves: Who am I? Who will I be? What will I be? What do others think of me? Am I too fat, short, tall, small. . . ?

As I sat watching the middle school’s talent show last week, I thought about the psyche of the age. I saw students performing on stage in front of their peers, the most nerve-wracking type of audience for which to perform. Students sang, played instruments, danced, did gymnastics, and presented dramatic and comic routines.

Nancy VandenHonert, music instructor at the middle school, provides many opportunities for middle level students to perform throughout their four years at Parker Middle School. She offers opportunities for participation in musicals, chorus and talent shows. Many think she’s crazy. Others think her ambitious. She is absolutely committed and the children of this district are definitely fortunate to have her and the opportunities she provides.

The quality of the student performances not only reflected a strong talent pool, but also reflected Mrs. VandenHonert’s guidance and instruction. They weren’t just performing songs of unrealistically skinny, inappropriately dressed teen idols, but delved into some significant Broadway works. An eighth grader played a Chopin Nocturne, a significant work for a student this age. There was ample evidence that quality music education is alive and well at Parker middle school.

I was also moved by the introduction of one young man, read by the student master of ceremonies. After listing his many academic and athletic accomplishments, she said, “of course tonight, he will be singing.” “Of course he will be singing” is not a phrase typically associated with middle school boys. In many districts, it is not cool for a boy to sing because a boy at this age will ask the question, “what will my peers think of me if I sing.” They get an answer far different than the answer at McLane where musical self expression is encouraged and appreciated.

At the show, I also thought about the travesty it would be if Nancy VandenHonert did not provide these opportunities. Without exposure to the arts, students’ answer to the question “what will I become” would be very limited. How wonderful it is that so many of our students get the chance to let the arts speak to them and stir their souls. Without that opportunity, there would be limits on their life – limits they didn’t even know existed.

I am proud to be associated with the General McLane School District for many reasons, but one in particular is the vast array of opportunities for students to explore and excel in the arts. It is a richness that makes our district a very special place to raise children.

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The Lancer Letter is a weekly editorial by Richard Scaletta, Superintendent of Schools, General McLane School District. Opinions expressed are Mr. Scaletta’s views on the issues and subjects of discussion.

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