Tonight was the quintessential small town event - the middle school and high school band concert. Patrick and I were there as observers since Noah, the high school boy who has been living with us, plays percussion in the band. And he did a great job, despite his nerves!
When Chris was in band, the concerts were still held in the gym, which could be a little trying on the body. There were folding chairs up front, but we tried to leave those for the older folks while we sat up in the bleachers. Nowadays, after the new addition, we get to enjoy an actual Performing Arts Center with padded seats, theater lighting, and a real stage!
We found seats in a row about halfway into the theater and realized that it was our soon to be daughter-in-law's family! It's a small town, but we don't actually know everyone, so it was nice to sit by someone comfortable.
We aren't a wealthy school district or a large school district. And, we aren't known for our fine arts department. If anything, we are probably known for our agriculture department; the FFA club wins lots of state awards every year. Having a PAC is a real luxury in this farming community.
But, we still only have one high school band and it's not auditioned. My large suburban high school 35 years ago had two bands, one of which required an audition. But, our music department does well with what they do have. There was a middle school jazz band (!), high school jazz band, 6th grade band, 7th and 8th grade band (what a difference from 6th grade!), and a high school band. Their pieces were all well-rehearsed and the performance was well put together. It was a classy show.
When Chris was still in band, I knew a lot of the kids. Now, I recognize the names as their younger siblings or as kids of people I know from the community. It kind of makes me feel old. But, not really in a bad way. Noah has only lived with us for 7 or 8 months, so I don't know his peers very well. It's kind of different.
Looking around the PAC, I could still tell that we were in rural Wisconsin. Lots of parents were clearly coming from work, usually blue-collar of some kind. But, lots of people knew each other; they had grown up together and many of them gone to that same school a generation earlier. There wasn't a lot of high fashion to be found. And the Wisconsin version of the Midwestern accent was heard everywhere; flat A's all around.
I realized that these are my people now. I've lived here for 20+ years. I knew many of the people at the concert by sight albeit far too few by name. I'm emotionally invested in this community. I was so excited for every kid who won an award, even when I didn't know them (and, surprisingly, I knew some connection with lots of them). My soon to be daughter-in-law's little sister even won one of the big middle school awards! Big congratulations there!!
I may talk a big game about my Southern roots and my love of sweet tea, but my heart is here in the Upper Midwest now. This community loves its kids, even when they are doing strange things like playing music. Probably only one kid up there tonight is going to make the arts his vocation, but they all are loved by their families and town. And I was glad to be part of it.