I've been watching Glee since it first started airing on Fox. You can mock if you wish. But if you read this blog, you should know that I'm the kind of guy that likes music. I like to listen to it. I like to sing in the car. I'll even pick up the guitar and play a few chords if I really feel like doing something I'm not very good at.
So I've followed along with the adolescent lives of these kids at McKinley High in Lima, Ohio. And I usually think that the songs that the actors/singers cover on the show are very well done. I pretty much know what to expect when I tune into the show each week. Sure didn't know what to expect when I decided to go to a real life local glee club competition.
I kind of went on a whim. At some point last week, I heard the local radio station mention that there would be a glee competition at the Roanoke Civic Center on Saturday. I didn't really think much about it at the time. Though I have thought in the past that it would be interesting to see what real glee clubs were like. And it absolutely was interesting.
Obviously, there's no way of telling if our local high school show choirs deal with all the drama that the kids involved with New Directions have to live through. I would hope that taking a Slushee to the face is a complete fictionalization. I was really only able to judge based on their singing and choreography. Let me preface this by saying, it didn't make it too easy to judge the real life glee clubs based on their own merits when the guys in charge were playing the Glee soundtracks between sets.
Also, it should be known, it can't be easy for these kids to give up their Saturday to come out and sing in front of a live audience. Especially when that audience is so very small. I'll get to that rant later. That being said, some of the singing was really good. A lot of the choreography was decent. And some of the singing was pretty bad. But again, they deserve a lot of credit just for putting themselves out there and giving it a shot.
I was a little disappointed that the choir that I thought did the best did not win. The prize of $1,000 went to a school that I would have placed in 2nd. But what do I know, I wasn't one of the judges.
Now, a rant about the size of the audience. Over the years, there have been a lot of heated discussions regarding support for arts programs in our public schools. These programs include performing and visual arts. Budget makers tend to argue that when money is tight, it's better to continue funding standard curriculum like English and math than to throw money at choirs and ceramics. When inevitable budget cuts happen, there is a very vocal outcry demanding that money be found to fund the arts. And there's a good reason for it. Studies have shown again and again that involvement in the arts is linked to higher academic performance.
But it's really hard to convince educators to continue funding these programs when no one wants to support the kids that are participating. I looked around the auditorium on Saturday and saw a very sad sight. By my estimation, there were more kids performing than there were people in the audience. That means that there were a lot of kids' families that didn't even bother to show up for the event.
You watch Glee's competition episodes and see the choirs singing before packed houses in front of celebrity judges. In real life, these kids are dealing with half empty seats and serious technical problems. The emcee announced that they would be holding this local competition again next year. I plan to go back. I don't have a horse in this race, but I'd like to be one of those people who is willing to provide moral support for this kind of thing. It was a free event. It should have been better advertised. I think it would be nice to see the auditorium packed with people who are excited to see how hard these kids have worked to get to that stage. They may not necessarily be aiming for stardom in their adult lives, but they're doing something they enjoy doing here and now. By supporting them now, it may help the students that come after them to have the same opportunities to enjoy the same activities.