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by Amy Kenneley

The huge auditorium, filled to capacity the previous evening for a performance, echoed this morning with the smaller sounds of pre-recital tunings and directions.

This was my grandson's Senior recital, one that tested his four years of work at Belmont University's School of Music. He would be presenting five pieces, all reflecting the aspects of playing, composing and arranging music.

He is a cellist. But the family story we love to tell is that he is a cellist by default. Preparing to enter middle school, children were encouraged to join the orchestra. "What instrument would you like?" he was asked.

"The big Bass!" he responded.

"Do your parents own a station wagon or van?"

"uh, no sir"

"Well how would you transport it, then? Try a cello instead."

So he became a cellist. Somewhat reluctantly, but as many things in life, it grew on him. And he grew with it as well.

The Set-Up

Students help one another for these recitals. Aspects of stage managing, lighting, sound (and who knows what other details) go into this testing. If my grandson were an airplane, I could imagine mechanics and ground crew getting his plane into the air, to fly through his perfomance.

Proud mama took a short video of the setting up and run-through of a song. After that, no cameras, cell phones or recordings were allowed, except for the "official" one. So there wouldn't be any photos of family, girlfriend, or classmates to view later. This would have to be remembered the old fashioned way, for now.


Out he comes, seemingly nonchalent, with his Lola. Almost forgot: Lola is his cello's name. It was suggested by an early cello teacher that an instrument should be named, to make a bond between player and instrument. Sometimes that bond seemed tenuous. I can remember the early scratchings of "Ode to Joy" he sent to us via telephone recital many years ago when he was just beginning Middle School.

As he grew in height, so did his proficiency. But this was The Big One. Pass or Fail. Grace under Pressure. We all held our collective breath as he began. He was to present five pieces: original work, arrangements of known work, display of techniques including technology. His choice of accompanying musicians for several pieces showed teamwork, and he would help others for their recitals.

I sat a little apart from his mom and dad. The vibes coming from them could be almost seen. I have been there myself, watching a child, and hoping, believing, praying for a happy ending.


All went well until a technical problem arose. It repeated itself, and repeated itself. Some of the students laughed. I glanced at the parents. Their faces looked anxious, almost grim. This was where Grace Under Pressure came in, for after explaining the situation, he switched to another piece, and did so with a hint of humor. I wondered where the judges were seated, and what they would be checking off on their list after that little glitch.

When he later returned to the piece with the problem, all went well. Problem Solving 101 just had to rate an "A". His uncle later claimed, "I put on my lucky sunglasses and that was what did it." I still held to my uplifted prayer, though.


At last, the final piece, and he and Lola soar! Can't help but wonder can you? So grown-up, so confident, so much time and effort towards this moment. We clap wildly. We cheer. He grins.

The lights come up, the musicians scatter, equipment is packed and moved, chairs rearranged for the next Senior who would be presenting. Happy chatter as we surround him. He waits a little nervously for the judges' verdict: no problem with the glitch; in fact, good recovery. Passed!

I read a book, Boston Girl, where the author wrote something that struck me -- so much so that I wrote it down.

"There is nothing like the feeling when your child stands in front of a crowd and shines."

Today was such a day for him, for us. Shine on, Patrick Anthony Stephenson!

Now let's open that champagne!

Dedicated to families who are so proud when their children shine.

Amy Kenneley and grandson Patrick

Amy Kenneley and grandson Patrick

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