A couple of weeks ago the Biola String Orchestra was asked to perform at the Fresno Office of Education’s “Sparks” event. I’m not sure they knew what they were getting themselves into – but we were glad to oblige. We were asked to play as the background music for the appetizers and then to play on the stage at the Fresno Art Museum.
Using my better judgement – I asked a few of the kids to play with me for the appetizers and tried to keep the other 55 in a holding room. It didn’t take long before I saw that they’d been moved outside – they were just a little loud and excited.
The time came that the guests of the event were moved into the auditorium to begin the ceremony and I headed out to get the kids to practice walking in “professionally”. Many years ago I had a choir student that told me that I have “a look that freezes troublemakers in their path” – I used that gift to the extreme that day. So many children – so many violin bows – so many millions of dollars of art on the walls!
Every time I heard a sound, I pivoted around with the “freezing” look and saw the biggest eyes ever looking up at me. I have to admit that they were trying so hard and were so cute in their “Dream Big, Biola” t-shirts, that I had to turn away quickly so as to not let them catch me smile – not yet.
It was our turn to walk in. We received a beautiful introduction by County Superintendent, Jim Yovino. I remember that he pronounced my name correctly, which rarely happens, and hardly remember anything else because I was so concerned that the children would find each of their place markers, which were laminated name tags with 2 metal washers taped to the back with duct tape.
They did find their places and kept their instruments down until I lifted mine. Even though the quarters were close on the stage – I didn’t hear one collision as they lifted their instruments in unison.
The 6th graders in the orchestra were all on a field trip that day and two of them were supposed to “rap” during our version of “I’ve Got a Feeling” – so we had pinch hitters who shouted out what they could remember while the rest of the orchestra leaned from left to right. Bows went up in the air after the last note and there was BIG applause as we walked off the stage and back down the aisle – still with shoulders back, instruments held in front, and mouths closed.
The event coordinator had cookies for us, but they were down the art-lined hall, and there was no area large enough in the building for us to sit down and eat them – so we took our cookie of choice and turned right back down the hall from which we’d come. I led them with mincing steps – hoping that with instrument in one hand and cookie in the other that they’d miss the one picture whose subject was without clothing.
Silently they savored their cookies all the way to the bus. When all 60 of us got to the bus door, I turned around and looked into those big eyes and said, “You guys… I am so proud of you! You were fantastic! You did such a great job! You’ve made Biola Elementary proud! Actually, you’ve made the whole city of Biola proud! All of Fresno would be proud of the performance you just gave!…. Alright, get on the bus.”
There was palpable pleasure on their faces as they paraded by me, one at a time, saying things like, “This is the best cookie I’ve ever had!” “Please tell the people “thank you” for these cookies!” One girl held up the piece of white chocolate that she’s nibbled all the dough off of. She said,”Mrs. Clark, this whole piece is chocolate!” Each comment sounded to me like, “I feel valued.”
And that was the day that the whole world was proud of the Biola String Orchestra!