Friday was the NYCHEA Performance Meeting.
This annual gathering is an opportunity for kids to get up and show their stuff; to sing, dance, play an instrument, act or whatever else they want to perform and share.
It is awesome.
The best thing about this meeting is the utter lack of pressure. It is a celebration and everyone, no matter how accomplished or un-accomplished in their chosen art they may be, is received with cheers and wild applause from an audience of their peers. There is no jeering, no poking fun at mistakes, no derogatory comments or one-upmanship.
This years meeting included a 3 year old who got up and danced to One Direction’s “What Makes you Beautiful”, an 8 year old who did a one man show version of “The Phantom Tollbooth”, a group of teens – one of them playing the accordion -who got up and sang “Oom Pah Pah” from Oliver, as well as a Modern Dance group , an Improv group and many, many more; all were magnificent.
This does not mean each performance was flawless; far from it. For some kids, this was their first performance in front of any but their own family. Some piano pieces progressed in fits and starts and a couple of violin bows missed their notes. A few steps were mis-timed and a few lines dropped. But the great thing about kids who learn outside of school is that they do not judge others by their perfection or lack thereof, but by the courage and effort it takes to simply get up and try. By that measure, every person who performed was a champion, and received enthusiastic accolades from a truly appreciative audience.
Our school system, which spends far too much time emphasizing academic dominance as the only end result worth praising, should really sit up and take notice.