Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Singing and Dancing

One thing that is taken very seriously here in Macedonia is the musical culture. For such a small, impoverished country, the amount of operas and ballets on offer is mind-blowing. It seems at least once a week, I receive invitations to performances at the Opera House or to foreign cinematic offerings. Just today I received an invitation to La Traviata, last week it was a ballet of Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs, which I'm sorry we missed. During my research on Skopje, I noticed a lot of references to the cultural climate here, but I am truly surprised by it's actual depth.

This phenomenon even extends into the children's schooling. We were very pleased to learn that Arianna would be able to continue her clarinet lessons here(after spending nearly $1000 on her clarinet), and that the school hired on a special instructor just for her, as there are no other clarinet students. Anastasia was recently "selected" for the special Children's Choir, consisting of Macedonian and QSI students, due to her "musical ability". All students are encouraged to participate in instrumental and vocal studies and the school even hosts an "open mike night" once a month. It is a nice twist, but does have it's downfall as well.

Earlier this month, the school hosted it's winter program (please don't refer to it as a holiday program in front of the director!) and it was quite an event. The kids practiced for several weeks, missing many routine classes such as art, gym, library, computers, and music to prepare for the spectacular event. It was a bit frustrating for me to see the kids come home so exhausted, particularly Anastasia who was staying after school for the choir practices. I was sincerely disappointed to learn later that she had not been "selected" to participate in two of the choir's performances after 8 hours of practicing!!! I spoke directly with her organizer and with the school director about this strange need to handle these shows so professionally. (Long, long story!) I have always enjoyed the performances at other schools, wobbly voices, and all. I can't understand why it is necessary to be so particular with the kids and I feel it is a blow to their confidence to exclude them or treat them like little divas.

Anastasia did get to perform with the "special" choir during last Friday's community time, along with the other "excluded" children. It was an absolutely magical performance, even with the kids who were deemed "unprepared and unable to perform at the necessary level". They performed along side a world class tenor (opera singer) and it was amazing. I cried my eyes out! It was so lovely and I can't understand why she had to miss the previous shows. Everyone was extremely proud of their efforts.

A professional opera singer also accompanied the vocal performances at the winter show, and the second portion of the show showcased a modern dance version of the "Rite of Spring" with a professional ballerina leading the children. What other school in the world offers such opportunities to their students?? The event was held in the Macedonian Opera House and Ballet Theater. As impressive as this is, it is also a bit disappointing in the sense that it was a bit too polished, and most of the kids did not enjoy it and saw it merely as work. Not only mine.... many complained that it was not fun, the choreography was too difficult, and they were thrilled that it was over. Although the evening was sincerely fabulous, I think they placed to much emphasis on making it so professional....just let the kids be kids and it will still be amazing to us parents! I honestly think I enjoyed just listening to the German, Spanish, and English carols performed at community time more, as they were fun and relaxed.
Don't get me wrong, I'm all for encouraging musical talent in the kids, I just want them to develop a love for these arts, not feel overwhelmed by them. For photos of the event, please visit http://www1.qsi.org/mcn/.

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