Sunday, March 16, 2008

Passing the Test

Ashari's dad, Benjamin, wanted Ashari to attend the symphony with me last night. He and his wife were thinking about going, too. As I've mentioned on the main MYO blog, Benjamin studied piano, cello, and violin with his aunt when he was young and is very musical himself. He asked me what Ashari should wear. I told him church clothes. He asked if he could wear shorts and a polo shirt. I told him that there would be some college students there in jeans. He decided he could do jeans and a polo shirt. He's a truck driver and lives in the housing project across from Cave9. He doesn't have a suit. But I would be proud to go to the symphony with him no matter his clothing.

I rushed home to Alabaster from Cave9, changed, and then rushed back to the Alys Stephens Center. As I stood outside the box office waiting for Ashari and her family, I looked around me with their eyes. As I paced between the pillars, a man in a suit kept checking on my whereabouts. The older couples and the volunteers arriving to work raked me up and down with an examination and evaluation. My clothes were nice, but my messenger bag doesn't match. However, I am confident in my place at the symphony, so I faced the trial without flinching. But, had Benjamin and Ashari arrived before me, I cannot imagine how they might have felt standing there, waiting to attend their first symphony concert and being scrutinized with critical eyes.

They never came. I was neither surprised nor disappointed. But I was disappointed in my new perception of the Alabama Symphony. I think the ASO needs people like Ashari and her family to be in the audience. Ashari is smart and musical. Her family is working hard to improve their economic situation. They value culture and someday someone in that family might not just attend the symphony but become a patron.

But even if I can get them to one performance, I doubt they would come back of their own accord. And I do not see how the ASO can easily change to make the concerts welcoming, the music accessible to people like Benjamin and his family. I think that is a sad loss on all sides.

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