December is the month of pageants and solos and chorus concerts, of orchestral evenings and dance recitals, of A Christmas Carol and Nutcracker and Messiah. It’s the month we pull out the velvet and the sparkles, shine the shoes, and show up to present what was merely a glimmer and an offering back in the warm golden light of a dusty Indian summer. We have spent the last few months unearthing and harvesting, and now we polish, prepare, and present the fruits of that labor. We step up, we realize our exploits and projects have become bigger than us alone, and the momentum of our growing commitment to completion propels us quickly past any power our vulnerability might have to stop us.
Young artists, who dart between Madrigal dinners, and voice Recitals, and debate finals, and band concerts, and auditions for the winter musical, and rigorous performance schedules at ACT or SF Ballet or 42nd Street Moon, are swept up in this excitement—this special time where they come together to celebrate art and the human condition while learning how to fashion the perfect fly-away-free bun. They drink tea and nurse blisters; they sleep very few hours and eat dinner in the minivan; they get excuse notes for homework, and they complain about their fatigue while adoring every moment of living the life. For this is the understood sacrifice that accompanies the greatest payoff of all—Taking flight.
Taking flight is that moment of fear, trust, exhilaration, and hungry ambition that is ageless and timeless. It is experienced by every speaker, inventor, adventurer, athlete, teacher, politician, or leader who dares to present themselves to be seen. Yet being able to say, “What I am doing is important, so please watch,” also leaves one vulnerable to the “Am I prepared?” and “What if they laugh at me?” inner voices. Moving past these disempowering doubts and into the joyous sharing of the self and ensemble is heroic and epic; it builds strength of character, confidence, and an active base of self-worth that is an invaluable foundation for an emotionally grounded, goal-oriented, life that is rich in meaning.
In the last couple weeks I have auditioned hundreds of students for upcoming shows, coached dozens more for recitals, concerts, and off-Broadway show auditions, and directed 50 middle school students performing monologues of their own composition. In the staging area of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade I saw hundreds of young dancers in full impeccable costume, piled up like sleeping puppies under silver thermal blankets, braving the 6am, 36 degree New York November, knowing the discomfort would be forgotten when they were dancing down Broadway a few hours later. In all these instances, I have been impressed by the courage, the (mostly) willing vulnerability, and the joy of engagement. Here at San Francisco Opera Guild, students in one hundred schools bravely stepped up to perform alongside seasoned professional artists in Daughter of the Regiment with Opera a la Carte. Three classes of Book to Bravo students boldly jumped into performance of their original music theater pieces, and our Opera Scouts, in the program’s pilot season, prepared and presented their long-term artistic projects. Right now three young sopranos are bustling, honing repertoire, designing production elements, to get ready for their debut in their first classical recital. We hope you will consider joining them as they take this big step along their artistic journey (more info. can be found at the bottom of the page here.)
As the days grow short and we turn towards those we love, remember to celebrate the courageous leaps of faith that set the musical and artistic tone for this season of grace, joy and gratitude.
“Fortune sides with him who dares.”