The last of the students performed today, 33 in all, and over 90 for the week. Quite an array of talent. The highlight for me was an impromptu break at the end of period two. With time remaining after all six students presented, they were given a prompt and had two minutes to write something brilliant in response: “Write about an unanswerable question.” The results were witty and rich in sound—I think there’s a valuable lesson in the exercise. This was a day of chances for students: several had music playing while they read, one sang an original a capella composition, three others presented original songs, two rapped. Favorite line: “I have been an aspiring senior since freshman year...but this is home...this school has raised me.
Our first visiting presenter, Mark Buenning, a Fremd HS grad, echoed this sentiment: “This is the most encouraging environment I’ve ever been in artistically.” I suppose this comes as no surprise, as Mark works now in Los Angeles. But he mentioned many times how well our school, particularly the speech team and drama department, prepared him. Teachers crave hearing this because our “achievements” are largely intangible. (Though test scores are certainly tangible, there’s little joy in that murk. Disclaimer: I have nothing to do with speech or drama...I’m happy to hear of any student who gained from what teachers do. Again, I’m not talking about test scores. Can you imagine a former student looking back fondly on...high test scores? Sorry for the digression.) Buenning described the difficulties in becoming successful in the entertainment business, how you have to begin at the bottom, make contacts, work hard, and scratch your way up. Mark shared some of his hilarious stand-up bits, and when Q & A began, students requested more bits. Selfish, yes, but I was glad for the request! Best question and answer: “What do you do about writers block?” Mark: “That’s like asking, what do you do all the time?” In other words, writing is a job, and you have to work at it.
Student favorite Daphne Willis capped off the day. She’s another former student and another person who said she appreciated the support she got in high school, especially from her experience with Writers Week. Daphne is a singer-songwriter, who is on the verge of stardom. She has a recording contract, she moved to Nashville, and she has a new CD coming out soon. Check her out at daphnewillis.com. Students who heard Daphne today won’t score higher on their ACT scores, but they saw the joy that results from following your dream. When she was a student, Daphne would walk around with her guitar strapped over her shoulder and be asked to play all the time. She made the school a happier place, and she’s spreading that joy of hers everywhere. I know I’m sounding corny as all hell here, but check out the music and you can’t help but smile.
I love my job.