Image by carljohnson via Flickr
In the era Before Kids, I used to feel sorry for people whose lives were completely and utterly tied to the school calendar, whose every day off or week’s vacation was set and dictated by the whims of a board of education somewhere. Not only was I right to feel sorry for them, I didn’t know the half of it. The relentless and highly productive Piling On Of The Homework has made it so that missing even a day of school is pretty much inadvisable (while doing nothing for the all-important test scores, the Piling On has taught kids early that their lives are not their own, a pretty important lesson!). And now May and June have been transformed from the most pleasant months of the upstate year into a forced march as we plod from one academic or dance-related event to the next. Our dietary focus is things that can be eaten cold, from a bag, while we employ a Big Board to ensure all our troops are where they need to be, when they need to be there.
This particular march started in earnest last week with a college visit, a National Honor Society induction, a NYSSMA evaluation, and a couple of SATs. This week, in addition to actually attending school, the girls have an orchestra concert, high school prep, an awards ceremony, a high honors dinner. The dance world offers them dress rehearsal, emergency rehearsal (yes, there are dance emergencies), and recital. Mixed in with this, we’re moving my father-in-law and getting decades of collected junk ready for a Saturday garage sale. Next thing you know, it’ll be solstice and I’ll be wondering, once again, how I missed out on the loveliness of spring.
Elder daughter says, without enthusiasm, that she feels like the Energizer bunny. Not in a good way. All I can say is, it’s just a few more days.
At Saturday night’s “Electrify Your Strings” performance with Mark Wood, the first lead violinist of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Hannah was featured on electric violin on “Eleanor Rigby” . . . and she was awesome.
For rights reasons we were asked not to post video of the concert (and video is the work of the devil anyway), but the local news covered it and captured her having an amazing great time — see it here.
The elementary music program is currently on the chopping block. Why music is always considered optional, when it’s an integral part of our everyday lives and one of the most important things to our culture, is just beyond me.
Or one weekend. Spent the whole day yesterday shooting the great kids in the East Greenbush Central School District strings program preparing for their massive concert tonight with Mark Wood, formerly of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra and now the driving force behind the Electrify Your Strings program. It was extraordinarily cool to get to watch them rehearse, see how brilliantly prepared they all are, and watch them have fun by stepping out of their classical training to get a little rock on. They’re doing “Eleanor Rigby,” “Born To Be Wild,” “Live and Let Die,” “Stairway to Heaven,” and a few other rock chestnuts that sound very very cool when played by an orchestra that is stomping on its strings, accompanied by a group of electric violins and cello, led by the guy who made the instruments. The concert is tonight, and it will be amazing. Plus also, Hannah’s rocking the Viper during “Eleanor Rigby.”
Best quote of the day yesterday? “Cellos! You only have one note!” “But it’s a really great note!”
Also, even as we speak, Rebekah is at NYSSMA, the big annual evaluation, rolling through a ridiculously complex piano piece and I’m sure doing very well. It kinda required a third hand, as far as I could see.
Things I’ve learned from our ongoing tours of the finest scientific and technical institutions of the Northeast:
- Classrooms no longer have wooden seats from before the Great War in which you desperately try to find a comfortable position after an hour’s recitation on the Finnish Resistance, only to find that an entire side of your body has gone to sleep and you are involuntarily groaning as you rearrange limbs.
- We’ve seen professors eating in the student center. As if they existed outside the classroom. (This may be a trick played on prospective students.)
- Pools and fitness centers at every campus are more beautiful than the Taj Mahal. (Ours was more like descending into the Grotto of Eternal Dank.)
- The curriculum is back! Some courses are actually required, Eurocentric or not! (So take that, dead-white-men-hating hippies!)
- At most schools, arts classes are no longer limited to arts majors. The technical schools even encourage that you use that other side of your brain now and then, and practice rooms are not reserved exclusively for music majors. (In fact, some dorms have rooms for schlep-free practicing).
- There is coffee everywhere. This is a major and welcome change. In my day, there were two places on the Quad to get coffee, and it wasn’t possible to get through either of them in the 10 minutes between classes.
- There is also food everywhere. Not sure if that’s good or not, but it’s certainly of a wider variety than we were offered. A bagel was considered exotic back then.
- Bicycles are everywhere. It warms my heart. (Helmets, not so much, but who needs a helmet in the city, right?)
- Colleges today actually care if you succeed. They even do things to make it happen. (So take that, student strike hippies!)
- They not only care if you succeed, they seem to want you to get out and get jobs.
- At the good schools, job fairs attract real companies, the kind you hear mentioned on the stock report. At journalism school, our job fair attracted The Weekly Reader and Ranger Rick. And those were the good jobs.
- Those stores are only selling bongs because of the student interest in materials science that makes heat-resistant glass. I’m so sure. And the hemp advocates are only looking out for the working farmer.
- Unlike in my day, students are no longer limited to 10 hours of computer time per semester. I think that’s probably a good thing.
Since I’m pretty sure I was taught to use a bottle opener as part of my general service as beer-fetcher and opener no later than the age of 6, I confess that it must be a major parental fail on my part that my 12-year-old is struggling with the very concept of getting a bottle cap off of a bottle of sparkling cider. She probably doesn’t even know how to empty and clean ashtrays the morning after a party, either.
So we’re sitting around of an afternoon listening to audio clips from The Onion Radio News, and one of the stories features an area man’s failure to buy bread for sandwiches for 62 consecutive weeks. I simply allow as how that’s not beyond the realm of believability, and opine that, domesticity-wise, men on their own is not a good idea. Beloved elder daughter, apple of my eye but, more critically, direct offshoot of my thought processes, and by now well aware of the semester or so during which I sustained myself almost entirely on peanut butter and marshmallow concoctions, flatly states, “No personal experience, Fluff boy.” I am hurt to the quick.