Middle-school talent show

There's a woman who works at the same place I work, and she's not a friend, but she is someone I know and don’t actively dislike, which is a rarity. She’s one of those outgoing extroverts who tells everything whether you ask or care or whether you don’t, so I've been made aware that she has a son, and that he's performing in a middle school talent show.

The big event was last week, and because boundaries don't exist for this woman, she emailed everyone in the office a video of her son's talent show. It wasn't just her son's performance, but the entire talent show — run time: an hour and seventeen minutes. If Jesus could endure having nails driven through his hands, I figured I could handle a middle school talent show, so … I watched.

Most oxymorons are only two words, like jumbo shrimp or deafening silence; middle school talent show is four words, so it's twice as oxymoronic.

I am against cruelty to children, so I'm not going to share the video. I'm also not naming names. And to be fair, some of the kids possessed talent worth showing.

Some of them did not, and my co-worker's son was a crime against music. He played his flute off-key all the way through a number I didn't know and might not have recognized even if I had known it. Handled improperly, a flute emits sounds like a squeaky door hinge but much louder, and that's the only technique this kid has mastered. If you're familiar with concepts like notes, rhythm, and melody, you're acres ahead of that kid.

In shock and awe I watched and listened, and wondered — did this boy think he was ready to share his 'talent'? Did he want to be on that stage, performing miserably for a small crowd of masked and socially-distanced people and potentially millions more on the internet? Or had his parents threatened to beat him if he didn't go on stage? Perhaps he was pranking his music teacher and the audience and his parents? No, his face was so impassioned as he assassinated that instrument, I think it was completely sincere.

I had to play his part of the video a second time, and then a third.

What was his teacher thinking? Where were the other adults, and why did none of them protect this child? Why was he abandoned or allowed to play alone, instead of at least being accompanied by a piano or banjo or an oboe, anything that might have made his musical mistakes less obvious?

Someone invented photography, and later someone else devised the means to record sound, and eventually there came home video, and then the internet, all leading toward a 12-year-old boy mangling 200-year-old music into something gruesome, and now it's on-line forever.

My co-workers responded to the video with kind and false comments. I didn't respond at all. I wonder what his mother said, after the performance — probably "Great solo, son," or some similar lie.

I'm nobody's father because I always knew I'd be crappy at it, but I believe honesty can be a kindness. What his parents should say is simply, Give it up, kid. Donate that instrument to Goodwill or pound it with a hammer. The flute is not for you, and you are definitely not for the flute.

Then get him a hamburger and fries and tell him you love him and say good night. Problem solved, and the world will be a better place.



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