We all know that the last 15 months have been difficult. Covid-19[FEMININEUnétédeprotestationsnécessairesaprèslamortdeplusieursAfro-AméricainsnonarmésparlapoliceDesdéfiséconomiquespourbeaucoupUneélectionnationaledifficileInsurrectionMaisvendredisoirdernier-ahunepetitemaisabsolumentmerveilleusecélébrationLaisse-moiexpliquer
I was at Holland High School’s 2021 Vocals Dimensions concert called Vocal’s Still Standing. In case you didn’t know, Vocal Dimensions are a renowned performing choir, created by a wonderful public school teacher, Kerry Daab, 41 years ago and now led by Sarah Malone. On stage, 18 amazing students sang and danced, told bad jokes and performed a silly skit or two. They were full of smiling, masked eyes, having fun and making the crowd smile from ear to ear.
As the choir members sang their last song – “I’m Still Standing” by Elton John – tears of happiness began to flow. In front of me was everything that is right in our country. Exceptional students whose families came from all over the world. Cambodia. Mexico. The African continent. The Netherlands and several other countries around the world. All of them living here in Holland, Michigan.
In addition, these students have demonstrated the incredible resilience that Americans have shown for generations. They have thrived despite the pandemic, enduring multiple quarantines and public policy changes over the dangers of singing and rehearsing during COVID to create and perform an incredible spectacle at an incredibly high standard. And they also go to places. Two students received prestigious scholarships to attend Hope and Kalamazoo Colleges. The first is to learn about auto mechanics and engineering. Another at Grand Valley State University for medical assistant studies. Etc. Etc.
But the story gets better still. Due to necessary COVID-19 restrictions in place regarding indoor performance, the Vocals needed a place to perform outdoors. And who stepped forward – a church. Holland’s First Reformed Church hosted a week-long evening rehearsal with teenage dinners every night, sound equipment coming in and out every day, several supply deliveries and three weekend performances. Additionally, the church aired all three shows so that extended family members and others who could not travel could enjoy the show live.
And finally, there is the financial reality of it all. It takes money to produce a show, and ticket sales usually offsets the initial cost and makes that annual show profitable. In fact, the Vocal Dimension Spring Concert is the biggest fundraiser for the Vocal Music Department of Public Schools in Holland, which helps cover travel costs for music festivals etc. In 2020, the concert was canceled, necessitating reimbursement of tickets. And with the uncertainty of whether a concert could take place in an ever-changing environment, selling tickets didn’t seem like a prudent decision. But local businesses have pledged to sponsor the show so that it can be a donation-only event. No ticket required. A community gift.
Back to my tears of joy. I think we all know that our community, our state and our country can improve. But in that little moment, I saw the absolute best of our community, Holland, and frankly our country. Various students come together in an exceptional way to achieve incredible performances and provide pure pleasure for all. The performing arts act as a gateway to continuing education, careers and engaged citizens. The faith community is stepping forward to help local public schools. And many local businesses are investing in the community by providing the seed money needed to get the ball rolling.
This is what we are capable of when we decide to work together. A diverse, strong and thriving community, full of hope and opportunity for all. I got a glimpse of this reality on Friday night at an outdoor concert in a church parking lot. It was beautiful.
– Matthew VanZetten is retired after a 15-year career in the office of the Kent County Administrator. Read his other writings on IdeasToConsider.com.