Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Proud Dad Moment

The giddy fool is back. And this time, it's not because I'm recognizing my son Max's creative talents. It's because lots of other people are.

As you know, Max wrote this little song called "Right Outside My Window." It is one catchy little tune! We recorded the song at his cousin Jeff's recording studio and we submitted the CD and lyric sheet to the PTA Reflections Arts competition in January.

A little background and to catch you up: PTA has been doing these national competitions for quite a long time. They break students up into four separate age levels: Grades K-2, 3-5, 6-8, and 9-12. And there are six arts categories: visual arts, literature, photography, dance, film, and music composition. Each PTA district across the entire country holds local competitions. Some submissions do not qualify, but they award a few submissions with either an Honorable Mention, an Award of Achievement, or an Award of Excellence. In California PTA District 10, in which Max's school is located, Max's song was the only submission at his grade level to win an Award of Excellence. So in early February we received this notification from the district PTA that he got this award and that a reception was being held late February at their district HQ where all the awarded submissions would be showcased.

So, one Sunday afternoon, the four of us drove to downtown Los Angeles and squeezed in with the other families and friends from all over the district to see and hear all the submissions. We found Max's blue ribbon and his lyric sheet, but no CD. The lyric sheet was affixed with a little sticker which indicated that his work was forwarded to the California State PTA "for further consideration." Basically, it meant that he was elevated to the state level competition. And as we read the little program that was handed out to everyone, we realized that only one work in each category at each grade level was selected for state consideration. That meant Max's was the only musical composition at level K-2 that qualified. It was quite the achievement! The superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District showed up, and PTA officials snapped Max's photograph with him.

Fast forward to today. I'm riding in my boss's car to an appointment in San Bernardino, when Lisa calls me on my cell phone. Apparently, last night we'd received a message on our home phone from some woman at the PTA. Lisa'd called her back and the woman gave us the news that Max's song had won the state competition in his grade level! Further, he was invited to attend the state PTA Reflections convention on May 1 in Sacramento to receive his award and, if he chose, to perform his song at the convention! The next step for Max is the national competition, and we should know in about a month. I have no real idea what that will mean if he wins.

I imagine that many parents, including me, feel extraordinary pride when their child gets good grades, or sings a song in his school play without completely losing his nerve, or gets the game-winning hit in a little league baseball game. But for this achievement -- words simply fail me.

I remember the morning he was born and the nurse laid him on the scale to measure his birth weight, and I cut the umbilical cord. I said to Lisa, "He's so beautiful!" I fell madly and completely in love with him as I watched him open his eyes when the nurse placed him on Lisa's chest for the first time. Lisa and I have watched him struggle with early feeding, with sensory integration, with proprioception, and with ADHD. But as early as birth, we noticed that music had a deep effect on him. During nursing and while he slept we would play classical music, having read that it would stimulate learning. Once in a shopping mall, Lisa was nursing Max and a Mozart piece came over the sound system that was one of the pieces we had played for him. The instrumentation was somewhat different and the sound was definitely not like what he'd been hearing in his bedroom. However, Max stopped feeding and turned toward the sound of the music. His ears and brain were already trained to detect melody. By the time he was 18 months old, we'd enrolled him in a music class with other young kids, singing songs, beating drums and other percussion instruments, and basically occupying time (or so we thought). The instructor noticed right away that Max had musical ability. While all the other kids were hitting their drums with both hands in unison, Max exhibited limb independence. She encouraged us to foster his growth as a musician, particularly as a drummer. And so we did.

Since age three Max has had a drum set and playing it is one of his favorite activities. He loves all kinds of music and hears music in everything. In fact, this very morning he was playing with a toy elephant that trumpeted when its head was moved. If one moved it a certain way, the elephant's trumpeting was a descending blues riff consisting of tonic/dominant 7th/5th. It was uncanny how he heard that, but once he'd pointed it out to me (without the musical terminology of course) I heard it too.

What all this means for a 7-1/2-year-old kid is beyond me. He plays baseball and basketball, loves to knock around with his kid brother, Eli, and still needs his back rubbed to get to sleep. I have no idea where, if anywhere, music will take him. I certainly never imagined him to be a State Champion in a songwriting competition. But, as long as he loves it, Lisa and I will encourage him and indulge his passion for music every chance we get.

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