We all know the past 15 months have been a slog. COVID-19. A summer of necessary protests after the deaths of several unarmed, African-Americans by police. Economic challenges for many. A difficult national election. Insurrection. But last Friday night – ah, a small, but absolutely wonderful celebration. Let me explain.
I was at Holland High School’s Vocals Dimensions 2021 concert called Vocal’s Still Standing. In case you are not aware, the Vocal Dimensions are a renowned show choir, started by a wonderful public school teacher, Kerry Daab, some 41 years ago and led today by Sarah Malone. On stage were 18 incredible students, singing and dancing, telling bad jokes and performing a silly skit or two. They were full of smiling eyes, in masks, enjoying themselves and making the large crowd grin from ear to ear.
As the choir members sang their last song – Elton John’s I’m Still Standing – tears of happiness started to flow. In front of me was everything that is right about our country. Exceptional students whose families came from all over the world. Cambodia. Mexico. The continent of Africa. The Netherlands and multiple other countries from around the world. All of them, living right here in Holland, Michigan.
Further, these students demonstrated the incredible resilience that Americans have shown for generations. They have thrived despite the pandemic, enduring multiple quarantines and changes in public policy about the dangers of singing and rehearsing during COVID to create and perform an amazing show at an incredibly high level. And they are going places too. Two students received prestigious scholarships to attend Hope and Kalamazoo Colleges. One is heading off to learn about auto mechanics, and engineering. Another to Grand Valley State University for physician assistant studies. Et cetera. Et cetera.
But the story gets even better. Due to the necessary COVID-19 restrictions in place regarding inside performances, the Vocals needed a place to perform outside. And who stepped forward – a church. Holland’s First Reformed Church hosted a week of evening rehearsals with nightly teenage dinners, sound equipment being moved in and out daily, multiple supply drop offs, and three weekend shows. Moreover, the church streamed all three shows so extended family members and others who could not travel were able to enjoy the show live.
And last there is the financial reality of making this all happen. It takes money to produce a show, and selling tickets typically offsets the upfront cost and makes this annual show profitable. In fact, the Vocal Dimension’s spring concert is the largest fundraiser for Holland Public Schools Vocal Music Department which helps to defray the cost of travel to music festivals, and the like. In 2020, the concert was canceled which required ticket refunds. And with the uncertainty of whether a concert could go forward in the ever changing environment, selling tickets did not seem like a prudent move. But local businesses stepped forward to sponsor the show so that it could be a donation only event. No tickets required. A community gift.
Back to my tears of joy. I think we all know that there are ways our community, state and country can improve. But in that one small moment, I saw the absolute best of our community, Holland, and frankly our country. Diverse students coming together in an exceptional manner to perform incredibly and provide pure fun for all. The performing arts acting as a gateway to further education, careers, and engaged citizens. The faith community stepping forward to assist local, public schools. And multiple local businesses investing in the community by providing necessary seed money to get the ball rolling.
This is what we are capable of when we decide to work together. A diverse, strong community flourishing, full of hope and opportunity for everyone.
I caught a glimpse of that reality on Friday night, at an outdoor concert, in a church parking lot. It was beautiful.