Inspiration can come in unlikely places, and at last night’s winter formal, billed as “Fly Me to the Moon” (though the DJ never played Sinatra), I had one of those moments that reminds me why I believe in the promise of the next generation.
We do things a little differently at San Dieguito High School Academy, so along with the dance floor and chocolate fountain, past the photo booth and caricature artists, an outdoor patio provided an intimate stage showcasing student singer songwriters.
With the San Diego skyline stretched out behind them, five ridiculously talented musicians performed, in turn, from the start of the dance to the end. The music our students remember from winter formal will be from them.
I’d heard these students perform before, and I’ll buy their music years from now when I can tell friends that I knew them when… Last night, I simply made a point to drift out to the patio as often as I could, and it was during one of these visits that I witnessed a moment sublime.
It was midway through the evening and the student performing moved from one of her own songs to a familiar tune she knew her audience would love. With confidence and grace, she played her guitar and began a rendition of Ben E. King’s Stand by Me.
Some of the students, in suits and dresses, began to sway. Couples formed, dancing against each other as their grandparents might have in 1961. A group next to me quietly sang along.
As I looked out over the scene, a quiet, confessedly sentimental principal seeing his students just being themselves, I wished that every parent could have been standing with me under the stars.
This is what we want for our kids. These are the moments of joy that sneak into the lives of those on the cusp of adulthood, unexpected and forever remembered.
Will their lives get more complicated? Of course. Will they face pressure, disappointment, and broken hearts? This was a high school dance; I’d be naive to imagine that everyone made it through the night without some tears.
But none of that filled the moment, the span of that song, as the students swayed to the beautiful voice of their friend and sang along:
If the sky, that we look upon
Should tumble and fall,
Or the mountains should crumble to the sea
I won’t cry, I won’t cry,
No I won’t shed a tear,
Just as long as you stand, stand by me…”
And then there was a thump. The microphone arced away from the singer. A student gasped.
Someone close to the stage had tripped on a cord and toppled the mic stand.
For an instant it looked like the microphone would hit the ground.
A teenager in a tuxedo caught it.
The singer laughed, her smile inspiring the crowd.
“That was close.”
The audience let their shoulders relax.
She began singing again.
“Stand by me.”
All was so very well with the world, at least this corner of it, and the future filled with promise.