The search for perfection is possibly one of the most uniquely human characteristics we possess. We are in a daily quest for it: the perfect job, home, recipe, vacation, cup of coffee. You get the picture.
Yet, attaining perfection is a much rarer occasion. Google’s definition of perfection is “the condition, state, or quality of being free or as free as possible from all flaws or defects.” I can’t think of a time in my life where I participated in or produced something that could be rated as perfect.
There’s always room for improvement: A different word choice. A game call worth reviewing. More practice. Or maybe less rehearsed.
Yet, this weekend I witnessed something that I can only call perfection.
Wife Hanna and I attended the Wichita Symphony Orchestra Saturday night. The evening’s program featured Dmitri Shostakovich’s “Cello Concerto No. 1, in E-flat Major.”
The soloist for the piece was 30-something cellist Julie Albers.
I’ve always been a fan of the resonant voice of the cello, but I wasn’t prepared for the brilliance of Saturday night’s performance.
The warm tones of the cello delicately enfolded the pining voices of the orchestra’s strings and horns. Watching Albers coax the notes out of the instrument was like watching an Olympic diver take command over gravity, or a glass blower create a delicate vase.
Sitting there, in Seat 5 of Row R, I had three sudden thoughts. Thought one, as I’ve mentioned, is that I was witnessing the creation of perfection. As a Wichita Eagle critic pointed out, the piece was challenging but performed with “great justice.” Not to mention Albers was soloing by memory.
Riding on the proverbial coattails of the first thought was the second: Perhaps music is the closest humans will ever come to reaching earthly perfection. But then came the disappointing thought:
How sad it is that we as a society are slowly retracting this gift from younger generations.
I have been bothered recently by the trend caused by economic stress to surreptitiously pull both financial and moral support from arts in the schools.
We can blame our state government if we want to. But it hits much closer to home than that. If arts in our schools are really important to us—if we really care about giving younger generations the same invaluable opportunity to explore the foundations of music as you and I—then we would do something.
As a student, elementary—and then middle and high school—music programs played a significant role in my life and future aspirations. (There are also, of course, those who place greater importance on other issues and experiences that positively impacted them, and that’s fine. We all find ourselves in different ways.)
I feel as if a lot of us of who value music, myself included, point fingers at the government and then lean back and let the melancholy of laissez-faire wash over us. That’s the easy road.
Unfortunately, it also shows both state representatives and school officials that there apparently is a lack of concern and support for the arts, which will only serve to deteriorate the situation further.
So here’s the call to action for both myself and to anyone else who values the arts in your hometown school: Let’s do something. Let’s all act together to show the next generation the endless possibilities of music and the doorway to artistic perfection.
This isn’t to say we need to dig out our wallets and start funding ourselves—although certain specifically targeted booster clubs seem to be quite successful.
What will speak loudest to our school and state representatives is a Christmas concert with standing room only. What will encourage enthusiastic participation is positive affirmation to a child after he or she steps down off of the risers. Clap after the high school pep band finishes a song. Write a letter of affirmation to the director to read to the musicians. Show up and show you care.
Our communities have been blessed with an incredible gift of young musicians for long enough that it’s easy to take it for granted. But it is something that can slip through our fingers if we let it.
One thing I didn’t mention about cellist Albers is that she was been playing the cello since she was 4 years old. I have no doubt she couldn’t have made it this far without encouragement and support, and a community that cared enough to give her that.
Who knows? Our towns may be fostering the next nationally renowned cellist. Or stadium-packing soprano. Or platinum-album rapper.
Perfection in this life will never be attainable. But it’s up to us to make sure that it’s not less perfect for the future.