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Andrew Birkhead
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What I learned as a Show-Choir Chaperon

Posted on March 21, 2010 in: Blogging as Therapy, Parenting by Andrew Birkhead

As I’ve previously noted, I learn a lot from my daughter, Sarah.  For me, the key is to keep my eyes open and pay attention to what she’s trying to teach me.  Her gentle instruction recently took me to Lawrence Central high school for a show choir competition.  My stated role that day was chaperon, my covert role was student.  My duties were primarily reminding the young adults what they already knew, and getting keys to lock, or unlock the doors of the changing rooms.  Since my duties were light, I had plenty of time to soak in the show choir culture.  What struck me immediately was the amount of joy and spirit the participants carried with them.  Even at the call time, 5:50 A.M., it was palpable. I observed the Pike High School choirs throughout that long day, all the while discerning what they might be trying to teach me.  Here’s what I came up with:

1.  Encourage others with abandon.

It’s the practice to support the school’s other choirs by making ‘the tunnel’ and cheering them as they leave the changing room for warm up and performance.  This is a wonderful show of encouragement that everyone is expected to take part of.  What struck me though, was the encouragement that was shown to other choirs, even the competition, as they walked by.  Everyone in the Pike area stopped what they were doing and applauded them and said good luck as they passed.

It takes so little effort for me to encourage the people around I’m around.  Friends, family and even strangers can benefit from a little encouragement.  All I need to do is pull my head out of my own little world and look around at the people I’m sharing my space with.  What are they doing?  How can I offer encouragement?  As I move around in this world, I want to look for opportunities to bless, affirm and encourage the people around me.

2.  Support means showing up.

During a competition, it’s the expectation that everyone shows up at every performance.  Every solo performance, every show choir performance, every concert choir performance.  The lesson here is that I can’t properly support someone if I’m not there.  Support means showing up.

It’s so very easy to say the words ‘I support you and your efforts,’ and as I’ve learned recently, those words are incredibly important for others to hear.  Even more important is the language of action.  Showing up and being present is a way for me to show my support, to show that I care about you, and that your interests are important to me.

3.  Success takes focus.

Before each performance, the choirs enter a period of focus time.  This is an intentional transitional period where the performers focus on their routine.  It’s a time to quiet down and receive final instructions for the performance.

I often forget that transitional time is important.  It allows me to focus on a task by intentionally transitioning into that space.  How many times have I rushed headlong into work or family time and been blindsided because I didn’t take the time to properly transition into the space?  Focus time is a preparation ritual that can be utilized by all of us.  Take the time to intentionally transition into the important areas of your life.  It can be as simple as a deep  breath before exiting your car or house and can make all the difference in the world.

4.  Everything worthwhile is difficult.

A show choir competition is an ordeal.  For the Lawrence Central show we arrived at the school at 5:50am and the busses returned to school at 12:30am.  And that’s just show day.  They practice 5 days a week during school and one weekly after school practice.  There’s also choreography to learn, physical conditioning, and an intense focus on constant improvement of the show.  I am totally impressed at the difficult work these young adults perform.

How many times have I gotten discouraged and given up because something was too hard?  How many times have I NOT EVEN STARTED something because it seemed too difficult?  Too many to count.  The members of the Pike choral department throw themselves into show choir season oblivious to the incredible difficulty of the task before them.  The lesson here is that everything worthwhile is difficult, and to not let that stop me from getting what I want.

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