In Which I Give the C’s an A+

Music became a dominant force in my 8th grade year.

Some of it was by accident.  When I was scheduling for the year, I discovered that I could avoid gym class if I enrolled in choir as well as band in my last year of middle school.  Now don’t get me wrong, I loved music; I’d been playing my flute since 5th grade and I planned on continuing that indefinitely; I loved the feeling of creating music from silence, I loved the feel of the flute in my hands, I loved being a part of a disparate group of students from every walk of life coming together for the same thing.  We had a band teacher, Mr. Cardeccia,  who was on the young side but thoroughly devoted to what he did.   Plus, Mr. C.  was cool; even though he taught at our middle school, he was the director of the high school jazz band.  The high school jazz band was the coolest thing you could aspire to as a student musician.  I loved music.

But if I’m being honest, the reason I enrolled in choir during 8th grade was more about my fear of athletics than it was about any great love of singing.  I knew I wasn’t a great singer after my small part in the 5th grade musical, “Annie”.  My friend Kathleen had gone on to the middle school choir and sang solos at all of our concerts (normally the choir and band performed at the same shows, so I would see her).  I had a definite aversion to trying things I sensed I wouldn’t be good at, and it was coming into sharper focus by my thirteenth year.

I’d taken gym under total duress the previous year and hated it.  I never met any of the presidential benchmarks.  It might have been during my third attempt at serving in volleyball or the way the other students never passed me the ball during basketball, or the way neither of the gym teachers ever seemed to know who I was; regardless, it wasn’t my thing.  I was given a mortifying grade of B and lamented how it was killing my grade point average.

So I joined the choir.  The teacher was new that year, Mrs. Catanese.  She was youngish, and friendly.  Everyone seemed to like her.  I was ready to try and learn how to be a singer with her.  I knew I wasn’t naturally talented at this either, but I knew enough about music from playing it that I figured I could give it a shot.  My friend Dawn was employing the same strategy as me, so we were in class together.  This was unusual, because while Dawn was extremely bright, she hadn’t qualified for the gifted program I was in, so she was never in any of my core academic classes.

In Mrs. C I found a teacher eager to take a student who wanted to learn to sing, even though she didn’t have a lot of natural talent, and move her forward.  This was the exact opposite feeling I got from my previous gym teachers.  With them, I’d felt as if once they realized that I wasn’t naturally athletic, they were not interested in showing me that with hard work, anyone could gain a certain level of fitness.  I worked harder in choir because I sensed Mrs. C wanted me to do well and thought I could do it.   I didn’t notice the stark contrast at the time, but I knew that I’d definitely made the right choice in electives that year.

It is amazing what one person’s faith in you can motivate you to do.


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