“If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.” Henry David Thoreau
I’ve written about the “Creative Class” here on ChoralNet a few times and have said, more than once, I hate the term. I dislike the idea of a “class” of people because I think it creates divisions when perhaps there aren’t any or a feeling of “less than” or a sense of entitlement. Instead of a bringing together, being called a member of the Creative Class (or Creatives) often divides folks. But as time goes on, I understand the wisdom of singling out those with special talents. These people are the artists, the scientists and inventors, the ones who change the world and create beauty; our society needs them and we need to acknowledge them. Those who look at the world differently or have different solutions to a problem or have a slightly different set of values and talents or are just plain different are often bullied. They may have tried to “fit in” and have suffered by not following their own path. Wisdom comes with age and the most vulnerable of Creatives are the young ones.
It is difficult to be true to yourself, no matter what Polonius advised his son, Laertes, in Hamlet. Poise, self-confidence and self-acceptance come with experience but it is difficult to get to that place while we are young. We “Old Creatives” need to support and encourage those coming after us and tell them it’s Okay to be you and also Okay to surround yourself with people who understand you.
Jazmine*, a high school student who wrote me during her winter break, is a sophomore. She is a singer, a pianist and heavily involved in her school’s choral program. She studies piano privately and last fall began private voice lessons with someone from the local university music school. Her voice is unusual for someone so young; she is a true contralto. Her high school choral director gives her many solos, looking for ways to include her unique talents and is generally delighted to have her in his program. Her classmates and fellow choral singers are less than thrilled she gets those solos, can’t understand why she has to practice and make her life miserable. That’s why she contacted me; she wanted me to advise her on how to get her friends back and my heart just broke.
She explained she has been called all manner of nasty names and accused of being “stuck up.” She wants to get back to being not stuck up and doesn’t understand why her friends think she is. She is not included or “forgotten” to be told about non-music social events by friends she thought liked her. Her parents allow her limited social media access; she begged and complained about it before, but now she is grateful. Every day at school, there is a new way she is belittled or made to feel awful. Not exactly bullied, Jazmine feels left out and awkward and ugly by the way she is treated. Her parents have spoken to her choral director and the principal; they say there is nothing they can do because she is not, technically, being bullied. It seems to me, most of this is teenage angst flavored with jealousy about her musical talent. I feel for Jazmine; she feels like an ugly duckling and can’t believe one of these days, she will turn into a beautiful swan.
Her parents are very supportive. They have offered to make arrangements for her to attend another high school next year if she wishes. There is a high school for the performing arts several towns over and if she applied and was accepted, the family would have to move; her parents are willing. Jazmine felt going to a different school and moving would be giving up on her friends and I suppose that is correct. But her friends have already given up on her.
In late December, I asked if her parents could arrange for her to visit the performing arts high school for a day before she applied. Jazmine contacted me yesterday to tell me she visited the school last week; it was a revelation for her to be welcomed and treated like she belonged. She will audition sometime next month and her parents have started to look at houses. She now knows there are other kids like her. And no matter what else happens that has helped.