When I was a senior in high school, I played the role of the wicked stepsister Joy in our school’s production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella.
Midway through the final performance of the show—my last high school musical performance ever—a thunderstorm set off the school’s emergency siren. The entire audience, cast, and crew started to evacuate the building.
Fortunately, we hadn’t gotten very far into the exit process before someone figured out the alarm was false and our production resumed.
The show, as they say, must go on—and ours did.
But the show is not going on for so many of our kids this year.
The curtain has closed before it even opened. Coronavirus has preempted an entire season’s worth of musicals, concerts, competitions, and performances. Lines were being learned, scales were being memorized, tickets were being sold, tours were being planned… and then, suddenly, everything went dark.
This is hard for all our band, orchestra, choir, and theater kids, many of whom are now settling in for the long wait until next year. But it’s a special kind of hard for our 2020 seniors, because there’s not always next year for them. Coveted roles, once-in-a-lifetime solos, sought-after scores, redemption from past disappointments—these are to our arts kids the equivalent of finally making the team or beating the archrival or being named MVP. They are notes of a symphony that will remain unfinished.
And so, to these singers and instrumentalists and actors and crew members, we give you this symbolic standing ovation.
We want you to know that everything you didn’t get a chance to do takes nothing away from all that you have already done.
We applaud you for the hours and hours of hard work you put into learning your art. We applaud you for the progress you made between the first squeaky notes of “Twinkle, Twinkle” to the gorgeous high notes you eventually mastered that took our breath away.
We applaud you for the Friday nights you spent in blazing sun or freezing rain, and almost nothing in between, waiting for ten minutes during halftime when you got to play on the marching band field.
We applaud you for the times you didn’t get the part you wanted but put your heart and soul into the part you did get.
We applaud you for the lessons you took and scales you ran and tricky bits you worked again and again so that, eventually, they looked easy.
We applaud you for the Saturdays you gave to building sets and learning how to run tech.
We applaud you for the dedication you put into making your own voice the best it could be and then blending it into a collective chorus.
We applaud you for making us laugh, cry, feel, and think.
We are standing and applauding for you even as our hearts are breaking for you. We are so sorry this is how something you have loved so much has ended.
And yet our hearts are also hoping for you, because we know your life show will go on.
It may continue on a different stage, but somewhere, somehow, you will make another entrance.
You will display the strength, grace, perseverance, and determination you are tuning right this minute. You will sing your songs, play your notes, dance your dances, and deliver your lines. You will take a bow, a curtain will close… and we will again rise to our feet and applaud.