It was a typical morning here in my studio in early July when an incoming email caught my attention. It was from Middletown’s school superintendent, Dr. Lori Suski.
We were overdue to get together to discuss the Pathways Program the school district uses to help students identify their best possible career path as well as Fire Up Now, my presentations that encourage career-building and entrepreneurship. I knew that she was swamped with the final phase of building the new high school, so I was surprised that she had time to reach out to me.
She wanted to know if we could record a Middletown Area High School student singing the National Anthem so it could be used for the fall and winter indoor sports events. A few emails were exchanged and a studio date was set up for early August.
Zoey Bright entered the studio along with her grandparents, who drove her to the session. The grandparents were very proud of this moment while Zoey was just a bit nervous. After all, this was her first session in a full recording studio. I sat behind the keyboard and worked out that the key of F instead of Bb allowed Zoey to sing “The Star Bangled Banner” at her best.
The next step was to adjust the microphone to the best height to capture Zoey’s voice and to make sure her headphones level was set just right. The first take was decent. The second take was better. The third take was the absolute winner. The passion was there. The pitch was good. Pronunciations were great. We had the take that we needed.
It was about this time that Zoey’s mom, Karen, was able to leave work and attend the session in the studio. I saved the audio files that we captured and we began discussing Zoey’s love for music and her passion to go into theater or speech therapy.
It was during this discussion that I turned to Zoey and asked the question: “Why don’t you want to sing ‘The Star Spangled Banner’ live? You have performed in live shows? You have the talent.”
Zoey’s response was: “I want to make sure that our National Anthem is performed properly.”
I shook my head in agreement and did not give it much additional thought until the NFL season was about to get started. That is when and small hand full of players decided that they were going to use the occasion of honoring America to raise attention for police shootings that are questionable or at times downright wrong and criminal.
What needs to be understood is that in the rush to turn the National Anthem into a protest piece, you set aside the emotions that many others recall during its performance. When the National Anthem is sung, a widow is given a moment to recall the ultimate sacrifice of their husband or wife. The orphan recalls the sacrifice of their parent and the void of their absence in their life is broaden to encompass the bigger picture of freedom. Many other recall the desperate conditions that Gen. George Washington led in battle against the gigantic British Army, or brother vs. brother in Gettysburg. Some recall world wars, especially the second one, which had the intention to force Nazi domination worldwide. We recall Vietnam veterans who finally are treated with respect after decades of rejection. And we recall the veterans that we see from recent battles in the desert many who have lost limbs and suffer from post-traumatic stress.
Has every action of the United States military been perfect? By no means. Our nation has all sorts of problems. As Charlie Jones stated: “I could fill a book with what is wrong with America but I could fill a library with what is good about America!”
The contrast of these well-paid athletes who bounce from city to city within the United States vs. the simple small town life of Zoey Bright deserves recognition. The performance and its meaning were much bigger than an opportunity to stand in front of the crowd and belt out a tune. The NFL players have many other options to bring up their concerns about police actions with out insulting those of us who cherish our freedom and all who sacrificed for it.
So I invite you the citizens of 17057 and all other neighborhoods near by to make a trip up to the high school gymnasium. Take a look at your tax dollars at work in the magnificent new building. And rise to your feet, take off your caps and listen as your Zoey Bright’s voice fills the room with the words “and the home of the brave.”
A few days later take a moment to go watch some young kids playing at the old Main Street Gym and consider how far Middletown has come. TMI could have taken us out. 9/11 happened above us in New York City, below us in Washington, D.C., and to the west of us in Shanksville.
We so often hear about the trouble our kids are in. Lots of kids have an entitlement mentality. But I challenge you to keep your eyes open.
There are Zoeys out there bringing a bright spark to the future of Middletown and the the United States of America.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 08 November 2016 16:33