Wednesday, January 14, 2009

HH had his audition

Yesterday morning HH got up as usual, a little slowly, dragging his raggedy bear behind him as he made his way into the kitchen, where he usually finds me, pecking away at the computer. “You need to be gentle with me today Papa” he said. When I asked him why, he didn’t have an answer but I was able to determine that it had something to do with kindergarten (what doesn’t?) and it seems he had some kind of run-in with one of the boys in his class. However, I think there was something else weighing on his mind.
For the last few weeks he’s been rehearsing a song. HH wants to attend the Domsingschule here in Cologne. From among its students come the boys and girls who sing in the choir at the Dom Cathedral. One of the boys in our neighborhood attended the school and one of HH’s kindergarten friends was admitted last year. HH loves to sing – as our neighbors with attest. He also likes to play the piano, beat on drums, wail on his harmonica and generally make a joyous noise during most of his waking hours.
The Domsingschule is a private school and part of the admission process is a two-part interview. Part one consists of a musical audition, part two consists of a math and language skills evaluation. I have no way of knowing which holds more weight but I suspect that the musical part of the evaluation goes a long way toward determining which children are admitted. Mama and I were a bit nervous about this whole process – HH doesn’t do well with “musts” and is inclined to clam up or shut down when faced with an option that isn’t of his own choosing. I don’t have any problem with that, I think it’s a good thing that he has a strong sense of what he likes and dislikes. Nevertheless, making a decision about which primary school to attend is a big deal – one that has long-term implications.
This wasn’t our first experience with school interviews. Earlier we had taken HH to another school in the area for a meeting with the principal. We introduced ourselves, chatted for a few minutes then left the room while HH and the principal had a little chat. We came back 15 minute later to find the two of them sitting quietly together, HH working his way through a package of Gummi Bears and the principal looking over some papers on her desk. When we asked how the meeting had gone the principal smiled and informed us that HH was a charming little boy but he had no desire to answer any questions or otherwise participate in the evaluation. So we bundled ourselves up, thanked the principal for her time and left.
On the way out we walked through the playground, the same path we had taken on our way in. HH stopped for a moment and watched the children interacting on the playground then tugged at my hand to move on. Later I asked him how things had gone in his meeting with the principal. “I don’t want to go to school there,” he told me. I didn’t press the point but I think he must have seen something or sensed something on that playground that didn’t suit him. He had made up his mind during that short walk through the playground and into the principal’s office, that this wasn’t the place for him. Now that I look back on it, I recall some of our earlier visits to the Domsingschule, HH sitting on my lap in the waiting area, watching the children as they passed by, looking at the teachers, soaking it all in. I could hear the children singing from the waiting room, I expect HH could hear them too.
Yesterday HH put on his white dress shirt, something he very rarely does, submitted to having his hair combed and his face washed without a struggle and generally made himself ready for the day. We had tried to find a balance between rehearsing the song he was going to sing and at the same time not piling up too much pressure on the little guy. But he knew something was up and that it was important and I think that was why he felt the need for a particularly “gentle” morning.
The meeting with the Choir Master of the Dom Choir was impressive. He’s a smart, gentle man who has obviously done this many, many times before. He was able to make HH comfortable in his first few questions and soon the two of them were over at the piano singing and discerning notes and rhythms. HH sang his prepared song and then he was asked to sing it a note higher, then a note higher, then a note higher. It was a friendly game-like session but this man was really testing the full range of HH’s musical predisposition and Mama and I knew just what was going on. She looked at me more than once with her eyes wide open and her mouth squinched up. HH, however, was in his element and at the end of the day, the Choir Master was all smiles and so was HH.
I don’t know how HH will do on the next part of his evaluation, he will either embrace of reject it – it’s out of my hands once I’ve done the flash cards and played and coached our way through the alphabet a few more times.
Deciding which school HH will attend isn’t something we’ve left entirely to his choosing. It was our decision after all about which schools were even up for consideration. After that initial selection, it was up to HH to decide. We can prep him, help him, and press his nice white shirt, but when he sits in that chair across the desk from his questioners, all we can do is wait it out. He’s on his own at that point and can’t turn to Mama or Papa for the answer.
This is all a part of the great letting go. Thankfully it’s a slow process, and you generally have a pretty good idea of when the big steps are about to take place – not always – but usually. When I say that “thankfully” the process of letting go is a slow one, I mean that days like yesterday are rare; they don’t come every day or every year. Yesterday was a long time coming and I am thankful I was there to witness it.

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Blogger Pippa said...

Been catching up after some absence, and wow, amazing how fast they grow, isn't it?

Whatever the next step is, HH has taken some giant strides. You can be so proud!

(My own son is starting today in his final year of primary school, and the day is ~ for me ~ tinged with that strange mixture of joy and sadness one can't quite explain.)

Pippa's Porch

6:14 AM  
Blogger vailian said...

Auditions can be quite an ordeal, and it is rare to have one as lovingly handled as the one you describe. I know the guy you mentioned, he is very competent and respected.

10:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Happy New Year...!

The school seems to be great, judging from what you wrote. Good luck with your (or HH's) application.

By the way, do you and vailian know each other? I sounds as if you live in the same neighborhood.

10:37 PM  
Blogger lou said...

Hi on this great day! I hope HH gets to sing to his heart's content! Singing is liberating and happy. Cheers from sunny Montreal.

9:21 PM  

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