Reach for the Stars
Dreams Really Can Come True
Follow Your Dreams
If you've ever been a student at basically any school ever, chances are you've heard these particular cliches more than a few times in your life. This is an idea that is drilled into our inner psyche starting from the earliest days of our childhoods. We're often told that we can grow up and be whatever we'd like or we just have to have the "courage" to make our dreams come true. However, this teaching often shifts as one enters the transitions of both high school and (especially so) college life. Instead of having the capability to pursue our heart's wildest aspirations, we are told that we may continue to do so, so long as we observe our dreams through a lens of what is deemed "realistic."
The Arts are rubbed off as a pointless endeavor due to the risk and lack of compensation associated, there is constant controversy surrounding the pursuit of an English degree, and most energy is spent attempting to convince students to pursue a more "vital" profession such as that of a doctor, lawyer, or anything falling under the discipline of STEM. Today, however, I'm going to challenge this idea with the lessons I learned in the most unlikely of places: show choir.
You Wanna Be A Loser Like Me: The Glee Effect
It all began with a little show created by Ryan Murphy in 2009 known as Glee. The show follows the endeavors of a glee club in Lima, Ohio known as the "New Directions" and the music they are able to create as a group. The show also covers subject matter such as sexuality, race, bullying/abuse, gender identity, and relationships. At first, my reception to the show was that of complete obsession (a commonality for many shows that I frequent). However, it grew to be much greater than just another Netflix binge. It ultimately became an inspiration, thanks in part to a young Jewish rising starlet by the name of Rachel Berry.
Rachel is more or less the show's protagonist, as when the show is not focused on the rise and fall of McKinley high's controversial glee club or Rachel's relationship with quarterback Finn Hudson, it showcases her journey through the performing arts, from high school to the Broadway stage. Throughout the show's progression (and yes this is a slight spoiler), we as the audience watch Rachel transform into the unstoppable Broadway force she eventually becomes. This is first hinted at during one of her most iconic performances, Barbra Streisand's "Don't Rain On My Parade." Now while Rachel definitely has her flaws as a character, such as a growing diva complex and the tendency to come off as obnoxious at times, she still became my role model. I didn't know much about the summer of my junior year in high school, but I did know one thing: I was going to be the next Rachel Berry.
Show Choir Is My Sport
The summer I began watching Glee was the summer I decided I too wanted to be in show choir, and this led to one of the worst auditions I've ever had in my life. It was just very messy on my behalf, so needless to say I was shocked and a little confused to find out that I had, in fact, made it into show choir. I could barely contain my excitement as I basically shouted from the rooftops of my newest feat. I had just taken the first steps into achieving my Rachel Berry fantasy. However, as it is often pointed out, showbiz is not simply glitz and glamour.
Show choir was not something to be taken lightly. As of matter of fact, while it was my favorite class in high school, it often took the most work. Having come from a background of basically no music knowledge, there was much for me to learn. One of the most pertinent moments of my personal experience is when our director held me back after class one day with a simple question—"Can you sing any louder?" It was that day I learned that I could not be timid with whatever it was I had to offer, and my director saw it in me too. From that day on, I knew that the road I had chosen was driven by the necessity of work, but I knew the reward would be worth it.
In my two years of show choir, we, much like the New Directions, had our fair share of contrasting experiences. We felt the surge of triumph as well as the dirge of failure. Through constant hours of learning music and getting down choreography, we learned what it meant to unite as a team and what happened when our unity split (as all of the best groups do). However, all of the work and dedication would come to a head when I got to live the fantasy I had been dreaming of since my audition: to perform "Don't Rain On My Parade" in the style of Rachel Berry. That singular performance was my last at Overhills High School, but it was a finale that I'll never forget not only because it was a song I was able to channel every aspect of myself in, but it was the performance that had solidified by a desire for show choir and, even greater so, Broadway.
We May Not Be Perfect…
Now I know what you're probably thinking at this point: "There's an awful lot of talk about a fictional television show and show choir, but what's the point?" Well, it is here I take a moment to acknowledge why these anecdotes may not really suffice as evidence to "pursue one's dreams." Glee itself is heavily based in fantasy and there are a handful of pretty unrealistic events that occur, such as the nearly impossible attainment of a Broadway lead in Rachel's first year in college and the immediate follow up of a TV Pilot. These things rarely occur in the real world as the industry is much more heartless and unforgiving. However, there is something to be desired from this.
People in the Arts tend to have it the worst when it comes to receiving criticism from others as the arts typically doesn't pay well, isn't always a stable profession at times, and is overall very risky in terms of who makes it and who doesn't. Glee presents us with the best case scenario in which someone does, in fact, make it, and comes to be successful from it. It's what these kinds of shows do for people like me—they give us hope. We "starving artists" have a lot to prove to achieve what we desire, and when the world continues to attempt to berate and dissuade, it becomes overwhelming. Shows like Glee offer an escape and help us to keep the dream alive, which brings me to my final point.
But Our Intentions Are
We live in a society where the idea of "dreaming" is dying. Or, so it appears that way. With the things we view on the news or all the failure horror stories we often hear, it is no wonder why most students are pursuing degrees in law or engineering. A promise of job security and money is enough to persuade a majority. Except for the artists, that is. I feel that we have a duty to keep the concept of "dreaming" alive as the world continues to condemn it. Show choir taught me that while not everyone makes it and the work necessary to achieve such a status is grueling, people can make it. People can be Rachel Berry's and Mercedes Jones's. People do wanna be losers like us and we as a community of artists have to do what we can to support each other. So the next time someone tells you about their wildest dreams, let their imaginations run. Because as long as they believe,
You can't bring around a cloud to Rain on Their Parade.