Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Bright Lights, Big City

First of all let me explain my absence the past few days - we haven't had internet service and it was just fixed today - something with the DSL thingee. Anyway, I don't understand all the technicalities. But I wanted to go back to my son's talent contest so no one is left hanging as to the outcome. I'll cut right to the chase and say he did not place at all out of the 45 competitors. But it is still a good story so bear with me.

We left last Friday evening, with my youngest opting to stay with a friend because he admitted that he could not endure "The Golden Boy" winning yet another contest/award. My sons had just finished finals week which was stressful. My oldest's last class on Friday was music technology and his band director told him that his composition being composed for the Senior Farewell Concert in May is the best piece ever done in the past 20 years. So we set off on the trip with my son pretty inflated with that praise.

Arriving at our destination around 9:00 we treated ourselves to a rare dinner out at Applebys and just staying in a hotel was pretty special. My son fell asleep right after dinner and I was trilled that the restaurant was next to the hotel because I got to have two house Margaritas for only $3.00 each. What an even better and rare treat!

In the morning, a very nice breakfast was included with our stay and nothing makes me feel more in heaven than free food and getting waited on a bit. The convention center where the competition was held was also across the street and we were lucky to snag a parking spot or we would have had to leave the van at the hotel and walk a short distance.

My son spent most of the afternoon in the practice rooms going over his song. I was a little concerned because he decided to perform a piece he had just written after his grandfather died. I felt he should stick with a more familiar song, not one just written. But in the end, after hearing it a number of times, I became sold on the song - its message is about living fully everyday and especially connecting with our loved ones. My son was totally into the song and I could see that he was feeling the lyrics. I figured it was a good tribute to his grandfather and his father.

In the practice room, my son got to meet and talk with a lot of kids already in college, some attending Southern Illinois Univ., which is my son's third college choice at this point. So it was nice for him to interact with these young people. And they were all very supportive of one another. My son performed relatively early in the contest but sat with me for the first five performances. We ended up looking at each other and shaking our heads with my son saying, "We should just leave now." The caliber of acts was outstanding. It was the first time my son was in a group of kids as talented or more talented than he and I think the first time that happens (usually when kids go away to college) it can be quite sobering. The same thing happened to me when I went from high school to college and was no longer the biggest music and theater star and was just another fish in a big pond of other talented fish!

But my son performed extremely well. And when I played back the video tape, there is nothing I could find fault with. The winners of the competition included a Barber Shop Group of Five males, two female tap dancing groups (very glitzy) and a free style female dancer. There were no vocal or instrumental winners and besides my son, no other performer sang their own composition. He was also one of the few performers singing and playing an instrument (guitar). This is what made me the most proud!

The other singers all told my son how good he is and to not be discouraged because it just wasn't the right venue. One, suggested that my son might want to consider going more toward Christian rock, as his pieces have a slight leaning in that direction already. I have always encouraged him toward that direction and it was good for him to hear it from another musician his age.

While the judges deliberated, they opened up the performing area and just let all the kids dance and converse with one another. To me, that was the most fun of the evening - to see such a nice bunch of kids all interacting together from across the state and all different walks of life and communities. My son couldn't believe the kids from Southern Illinois all had accents!

The ride home was tough for about the first 30 minutes - my son was clearly upset and didn't want to talk. But we stopped at a gas station for a drink and snack and he gradually opened up. I really enjoyed the time spent alone with my son and despite his loss, there were some gains. First of all, he has another excellent song in his repertoire. He performed in front of more people than he ever has before and that adds to his experience. He got $100.00 from our county which I think was supposed to cover our hotel, but I let him go ahead and keep it. Then there is all the good learning stuff about not always having to be a winner to come out a winner. I told him to let the tap dancing girls enjoy their glory and to be happy for them. His turn will come again, of that I am sure.

AND BEST OF ALL, now my youngest son can stop referring to his brother as The Golden Boy because he did indeed lose! In fact, my youngest was very surprised and kind to his brother when we got home.

My son performed the song for my family and some guests at my father's memorial which was the next day. My brother-in-law remarked that he could not believe an 18-year-old wrote the words and music - the words alone are so sophisticated and far more mature than what most 18-year-olds write about (love lost, finding love, being in love, etc.). My son's songs really have meaning. There was a friend of a friend at the contest too from another county, and I was told by him that he thought my son's voice was fantastic! More good feedback.

I came across another song of my son's on the computer a few days ago (it is an older song my son said). This one is about finding the good within the bad and again, I cried reading the lyrics. "That's it," I said to myself. These songs need to get out there so this summer I will endorse my son trying out for American Idol and seeing about getting him posted on YouTube. I think I might talk to his band director too for some ideas of where we go from here. And I want to check into copyrighting his material as well. As I've mentioned before, as tempted as I am to post his lyrics on this blog, I have resisted for fear of someone "stealing" them. I think they are that good and I am being as impartial as a loving mom can be when I say this.

So in the end, my son didn't win. But he gained a whole lot that will help carry him on his way. And I told him he will always have a good story to tell about not winning if ever he gets interviewed on a talk show when he is signed to a record label or wins American Idol!

And I should mention too, that in a way I dreaded taking this trip (dreaded it from the time my son won the local contest in July knowing I'd have to deal with the trip by myself, etc.). I am so tired of the doing everything as an only parent, but I tried to just go with the flow and enjoy the whole experience and be there for my son. And that attitude helped a lot. This time observing all the intact families around me was a little less painful. I chose to concentrate on what I have, two terrific sons, rather than what I don't have. Yes, I miss desperately having a husband by my side. But my son and I were standing beside one another and that counts for a whole lot! Maybe I've never let myself see or feel that before.


  1. As difficult as it was to prepare yourself to do another thing on your own -- YOU DID IT! Out of this you have learned, that you can, you have done a marvelous job raising your children and they depend on you, you do have strength and courage, and you can stand tall, knowing you are making it. I am proud of you!

  2. Beth - Thank you for your continued interest, recognition and support.