Saturday was the kids’ music sharing day at The Cleveland Music School Settlement, where those receiving music therapy showcased their talents. It had been a very stressful week and the weekend was jammed full of things we needed to do. Todd was working, and I was feeling very overwhelmed. Music sharing day was one more thing to tick off my list.
Todd slipped in just as it was getting started, and Riley was one of the first to go. She showed a music video she’d worked on with her therapist Sarah. Riley played the music in the video. She planned the whole thing. Every scene. Every prop. The story line. She and her therapist introduced it together and the crowd loved it. She was so proud.
Seth, is the “typical” volunteer in Riley’s therapeutic dance class, and they included something of Seth’s in Music Sharing Day, so he would not feel left out. Seth’s video appeared right after Riley’s. In it, he danced full out…demonstrating his impressive MJ moves. The audience raved. It was so sweet. Both kids basked in all the positive attention.
Most of the other students played instruments with or without their music therapists. One student, when her name was called, came running up to the stage area, like a contestant on The Price is Right. She grabbed the microphone and jumped up and down repeatedly like Tom Cruise on Oprah’s couch, saying, “I’m so excited! I’m soooooo excited!” She was so excited, and her joy was infectious. I don’t know what her “disability” was. It wasn’t Down Syndrome, but perhaps something similar. I could not tell you if she was 15 or 50. All I saw was joy, just beautiful joy exuding from her.
“I’m sooooo excited!”
Every care I had coming in dropped off, and I was excited for her too. Her light was contagious. She already had me. Then for her second number, she sang, The Rose.
I sat there, tears welling in my eyes, thinking of all the hard work every one of the precious people with special needs in that room had put in. Not just in music therapy, but in life. How many therapies? How many treatments? How many misunderstandings? How many obstacles had each of them overcome? How much had they taught their families and communities about unconditional love, about joy?
A little later, it was Ronald’s turn. Ronald is a beautiful young adult. His dance class is right after Riley and Seth’s and I always enjoy talking with his mom. Ronald loves Jingle. Just last week they brought her a huge bone, which she devoured. Ronald is sweet, polite, and kind. And he likes rap music. He took the microphone, turned to the audience, and said, “I like to sing! I like to sing!”
Ronald went on to to performed Jay-Z’s New York, substituting “Cleveland, Cleveland, Cleveland!” for “New York.” The rest of the lyrics were also his own. He rapped about all the things he loves. His mom. His teachers. His sister. High school.
I seriously could not take it. I couldn’t look at Todd for fear of losing it completely. A huge lump sat there in my throat. I looked at the ceiling blinking away tears. It was the kind of thing where if let it go…I didn’t think I’d get it back.
My kids sat there rapt. Seth bopped in his seat. He wasn’t being polite. He was loving it, for real. They cheered enthusiastically for Ronald. We all did.
What a gift it was to have the opportunity to be right there in the moment with nothing but love in my heart. Love for every student, every therapist, every parent, every family. I felt such gratitude for those who do this work. Those who recognize music is for everyone.
Ronald’s mom gave me permission to share his performance with you. I hope it blesses you as much as it did us: