Two weeks ago I posted about the sad news of The Conservatory closing, ending Bryan’s long tenure of music therapy and lessons there. As I reminisced about the special experiences he had while a student there, my thoughts went to his two live performances held at the Kimmel Center. This is describing the second of those recital opportunities. The first one I will recount next week. The picture above is from the second performance, an image which scrolled across the screen for months upon entering The Conservatory’s doors.
There was a new director on board who asked if Bryan would sing, this time not as part of The Conservatory “Voices of Excellence” recital program, but as a featured performer at a fundraising event. This time he would perform at the coveted evening venue.
However, the $150 per plate dinner ticket was a little steep for us. $450 to hear our son? We finagled three free tickets but the rest of the our family was unable to afford to come at that price.
There was more pressure on Bryan to perform this time as opposed to last year’s program. Only three performers were scheduled at the event – he and two young girls playing a piano duet.
When we arrived at the Kimmel, the theater was transformed into a dinner venue. The seats had been covered with black plywood flooring upon which we now sat. Elegant table settings gleamed on top of fancy white linens. This was a black tie occasion.
Dinner was served before Bryan and the girls performed. As he stared to chow down on his steak, Bryan began to choke. He got up and his dad took him to the bathroom. The nerves and trying to eat caused him to throw up in the restroom.
The emcee was a famous Philadelphia newscaster whom Bryan had met at the beginning of the evening. As he delivered the introduction for Bryan to come on stage, father and son emerged from the blackness at the back of the auditorium. I had been holding my breath and said a silent prayer that he wouldn’t get sick on stage, let alone be able to sing.
As the pianist began, Teresa, the teacher, and we, the parents, sat bolt upright in our chairs. Could he hold it together in front of the hundreds of onlookers? The consummate performer raised his black folder, nodded to the accompanist and began to sing “I Can Go the Distance” from the Disney movie, Hercules . I suggest you look up the words for their full impact – you may shed a tear when thinking of Bryan and the uphill battles he has had to overcome while reading the text.
The tuxedo and gown-clad crowd jumped to their feet, giving Bryan a standing ovation. Many eyes of those who had never met Bryan were wet. And I cried unashamedly for two reasons: pride bursting in my chest at his accomplishment; tears of irony at how the words of this song were a perfect vehicle to express how Bryan must feel every day as he struggles to make sense of life and to keep persevering in the face of constant obstacles and adversity. Perhaps the audience understood that fact as well.
The highlight of the evening for Bryan, oddly enough, was not receiving his special award and accolades, but being followed on the same stage by the concertmaster of the Philadelphia Orchestra, David Kim. He enjoyed that performance so much that, after greedily gobbling down his cold steak dinner, he suggested we try to get tickets to see Mr. Kim in the concert that evening. And, so, the three of us were able to get good seats, cheap tickets, and enjoy a performance of Benjamin Britten’s “War Requiem” – just like the sophisticated musicians we were!