I’m not a resident of Norwich, nor do I have any kids that attend the school. But in the last year and a half of covering the district, I’ve gotten to know a number of students and faculty members. And it was because of them that at shortly after 7 p.m. last night, I was tucking myself into a seat in the High School Auditorium preparing to spend the next two hours watching students perform in the Talent Show.
I knew a handful of kids who were on the lineup – and certainly I planned on cheering them on – but mostly I was there to support the students who for the last three months or so have been pouring their blood, sweat and tears into making their dream of showcasing the talents of their fellow students a reality.
I was there, in the Adirondacks, when the student participants in The Leadership Project first started talking about such an event and what they hoped to accomplish by it. You see, what they wanted to do was bring their school together. They wanted to foster an environment in which each student, regardless of their interests and abilities, were valued for what they could contribute.
I was truly touched by the vision these kids had for their school, but I’ll admit that the Negative Nancy in me wanted to scoff at the idea and tell them their little pipe dream didn’t mesh with what I remembered high school being like.
Thankfully, I kept my doubt to myself. For if I hadn’t, I would have been eating my words last night. Because honestly, I was blown away by the Talent Show. On so many levels.
First, I was blown away by the kids who took the stage. Norwich has some incredibly talented students. This wasn’t one of those talent shows where kids creak away on violins they’ve only been playing for a month. I won’t name everyone who showed their souls before the rest of the student body, but I have to say I was particularly touched by both Erin McMahon’s vocal tribute to her friend, Elisha Eddy, and the song guitarist Matt Robinson dedicated to his family. The sheer brilliance of Breanna Guiffre and Ashlee Zammiello’s duet sent chills up my spine, as did the cool jazz Diamond Brown performed on the saxophone.
I almost laughed until I cried first at the hip hop dance routine, and then at MC Steve-O’s rendition of the theme song to the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. (Andrew, I’m sure your rap was funny, too. But unfortunately I missed it.)
The Incredible Winning Jump Shot Technique, who ultimately took home first place in the competition, were the perfect blend of actual musical talent and shock value to get the crowd off their seats dancing in the aisles. When they started belting out Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” I actually did laugh so hard I cried. They were amazing.
The audience was perfectly primed by the time While Cities Sleep took the stage to close the show. I couldn’t believe a group of high school kids could have that kind of stage presence. Michael McBride, you’re the man. (And your band is pretty darn awesome, too!)
Honestly, I’ve paid far more to see worse shows. But what touched me as much as the musical talent demonstrated by these kids, was the way their peers were 100 percent behind them every step of the way. Every act was cheered. More than one got standing ovations. It was phenomenal.
And did I mention the place was packed? I couldn’t believe how many students turned out for the event.
As I watched it all, my heart swelled with pride for the kids who made it happen. Because there before me was a living, cheering testament to their hard work and their commitment to changing their school. They not only wanted to make it happen, I think that last night was irrefutable proof that they are making it happen.
I can’t say enough about the student leaders who were involved with this effort from beginning to end, particularly Casey Edwards who lead the project team who organized the event itself. I congratulate all of them, along with all those who participated in the Talent Show itself.
You all have amazing talent. No matter what obstacles or challenges you face in life, never forget that.
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