So, I have pondered what being "just ordinary" really means. We live in a world where performances are recorded and ready to play back at any time ad infinitum. The people in the professional recording industry do their best to create recorded performances that can live on forever without embarrassing the performers and give the audiences something truly worthy to listen to. "In tune," "rhythmically tight," "understandable diction," "good balance," and "interpretation" are all buzz words that if followed create that cut above ordinary performance. But is there ever a time when "just ordinary" is "just right?"
For years, I led the choirs at church. Just recruiting enough singers to get a decent blend was an accomplishment in my book. Of course, we worked hard on good singing techniques such as breathing, vowel formation, diction, and singing in tune. Most of these people enjoyed singing, but had neither the time or inclination to put in much effort beyond the regular rehearsals. Occasionally, I created "learning tracks" for them to listen and learn from. But, most of the time, I had to adjust my expectations to fit what they could reasonably accomplish. In cases such as these, being "just ordinary" was "just right." My biggest job was choosing music that would help them sound good -- challenging enough to keep the singers interested, but not so challenging that the audience would cringe at their inadequacies.
I also work a lot with children. Young kids are just learning about their abilities, let alone their vocal ranges and tone quality. The biggest job for me is getting them to sing out loud enough without over singing or using bad techniques. They primarily need to learn to HEAR -- to get a sense of matching pitch and singing in tune. They also need to feel the rhythm and be able to join it and stay in step. My second biggest job is to help them learn to love music -- all different styles and varieties and learn to appreciate the unique qualities of this wonderful GIFT of MUSIC. When children GIVE THEIR ALL and try so hard to do as instructed, whatever the outcome is, is good enough. It may be "just ordinary" to the disinterested audience member, but in the moment, the children's performance is "just right."
This past week I spent editing the footage of three performances of a 70 minute musical into a keepsake video for the families of the cast of "Parizade's Quest." These kids came from all different experience and talent levels and joined forces to learn this show. A few of these students had stand-out talents, but many of them were "just ordinary" kids who thought it might be fun to get to do a show. Some of them worked hard and developed their singing, dancing and acting talents to quite a high level. Others continued to be "rough around the edges." Those students may look back and cringe at their performance and wonder why they ever even tried to go out for the school musical. The ones with natural talent, I think, will be pleased with their efforts. But the critical point is that, though they all brought different abilities to the project, they all gave their best effort. In my book, they were not "just ordinary," they were "just right!"