The Music Man

Posted: Sunday, February 27, 2011

It was the fall semester of my senior year in high school and I was starting the day in my assigned homeroom. We had already said the Pledge of Allegiance, offered our moment of silent prayer and we were listening to the morning announcements. The principal came on the public address system to announce the title of the senior class musical. Mr. Taggart announced that the 1975 senior class play would be “The Music Man.”

As soon as he announced it, Lorie Foley, sitting directly behind me, said, “Are you serious? Are you serious? ‘The Music Man?’ What the heck is that? People aren’t going to come to this or maybe they will come just to see what it is!” I could not help but to laugh at her response to the announcement. So, with that announcement, the senior class of 1975 of Lincoln High School in Ellwood City, Penn., worked to put on the musical entitled “The Music Man.” While I was not a part of the play, I was a part of the socials and parties that surrounded the play’s production.

A number of days ago I received an e-mail from a teacher at Juneau-Douglas High School. The inbox title line read: “High School musical — Music Man — a must see!” As I opened the e-mail she wrote “It’s a fun play, well done. Singing and dancing are a joy! It will certainly lift your spirits!!! You really don’t want to miss this one!”

Well, the other night I had the opportunity to see “The Music Man” again — 36 years since the last time I had seen it. I joined Rev. Pat Travers, Rev. Pat Casey and John Amoratis, our youth minister, to experience this fabulous school production.

I looked on in amazement at how these young actors mastered the art of timing, with the music and with their lines. Their gifts of song and dance were incredible. The great design of stage and backdrops indicated an enormous investment of time and creativity. The orchestra played the entire score flawlessly and the energy on stage was contagious. It proved to be an impressive event. Through the talents of the cast and crew, the audience witnessed a group of young people broadening their own horizons while at the same time lifting the hearts of those who attended.

From my perspective, that is, from row ‘L’ seat 109, I had the opportunity to witness the passion and talent of a number of wonderful students engaged in a stunning musical. The e-mail was right, it did lift my spirits and I am glad I did not miss it. Before the play started I had the chance to talk to a number of people who were grandparents, parents, friends and fellow classmates. One mother after the play said that she was moved to tears in seeing her daughter on stage. I was moved by the maternal pride and joy. The audience rejoiced with the crew and cast for putting on such a brilliant performance — the standing ovation was the expression of gratitude for the entertainment and the gift.

Society needs the arts. Just as we need scientists, professionals, witnesses of faith and laborers, those who provide cultural creativity and the arts are serving the common good. We all need to be rejuvenated, renewed and refreshed by the giftedness and talents of artists, actors, writers, dancers, musicians and the rest. There is an obligation to support these talents and develop them for the good of the artists and humanity as a whole. I truly believe that every ounce of inspiration that comes through our own creativity should remind us that were made in the image of the Creator. With that realization, we should be able to step back and see that our world is good and acknowledge our responsibility to share such goodness with others.

Back in high school I learned that “The Music Man” told the story of the troubles in River City. For a couple glorious hours at Juneau-Douglas High School I was able to forget the real troubles that have been plaguing the news these past days. It was a great break and the play proved to be a magnificent production. To all those involved … Bravo!

• Burns is the Roman Catholic Bishop of the Diocese of Juneau and Southeast Alaska.

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