When Bryce was a tot, he used to sing songs a capella with emotion and projection and then afterwards say to me, “Mom, do I sound like a professional singer?”
I used to love to watch him from the audience in elementary school as he sang on stage with his class, his little clip-on tie and button down dress shirt, hair slicked back, standing so poker straight, hands stiff at his sides and singing his heart out, “I wanna ride my bicycle, I wanna ride my bicycle, seeing the world on these two wheels.” Little did he know his future would hold that exact activity.
He loved to sing and had an uncanny way of memorizing lyrics after hearing a song only one time. He also began writing poetry and his own song lyrics and when my girlfriend gave him her son’s old keyboard, Bryce’s life changed. Music had entered it. It was about this time that my girlfriend Nancy introduced him to hip-hop.
He took up break dancing and I purchased how-to videos by Mike Garcia. His father bought him a length of Masonite and he would practice windmills and hand spins with a glove on in front of the television. I took him to every dance performance I could find as well as spoken word performances and slam poetry. I enrolled him in piano classes and although his instructor encouraged him to memorize pieces as well as scales, he just wanted to write his own stuff- which he did, all the time. Before long, he had enough of his own material to cut a CD. I investigated recording studios and paid to have his first album cut. The first time we heard it playing over the sound system, we both got goose bumps and tears in our eyes. He really sounded like a professional singer!
All through the years, I was also enrolling him in every art class I could find at multiple art institutes- portrait painting, clay sculpture, illustration, life drawing. My goal was for him to train and practice his craft so he could acquire enough pieces to build a strong art portfolio and get into art school. At first he resisted. “Maybe I don’t even want to be an artist. Maybe I want to be actor (he took my comment about him being dramatic all his life to heart) or a break dancer or a rapper.”
“You are a natural genesis when it comes to art. Schools will give you scholarships for your art work. They won’t just because you are good at pop locking or rhyming. You will need to feed yourself while you are waiting to be discovered.”
He equated me with the father in the “October Sky” film who tries to make his son work in the coal mine just because he did. All the son wanted to do was build rockets and work at NASA someday, which he ended up doing, after he rejected his fathers’ dream for him.
Being compared to that belligerent, selfish father in the film who gave no regard to his son’s dreams, made me pause. I heard echoes of my own father wanting me to be an art teacher and I had to go work in an iron ore mine to get the money to follow my dream of being a professional artist.
No, I told myself, I support this child. I am just trying to give him the tools to make him independent of his parents someday. I have never squelched a dream nor uttered one discouraging word.
When he learned that in order to go to school to be a dancer, he would have needed to take years of ballet etc., as well as music school needed him to have taken music lessons all his life in order to be competitive, he calmed down a bit. And when his art teachers began coming to us one by one exclaiming that in all their years of teaching, they have never had a student this gifted, Bryce began to believe he had a gift, over and above what his mother proclaimed. He also began to admit how very much he loved to illustrate.
I knew that. That is who he has been all his life.
But it is still important to feed his music addiction because I have always taught my children to try to cultivate multiple talents, learn many skills and have more than one way to make a living.
We bought Bryce a more professional keyboard and I scoured the newspapers for open mikes and coffee-house opportunities where he could perform his original work.
As a homeschool facilitator, this is what I do: seek out learning opportunities; use my networking skills and make connections. I create opportunities where my children can learn, blossom and grow. Any parent could do this. Your child does not need to be a home-schooler. I just take my job as a home-schooled facilitator seriously and do it passionately.
One music event at a local health food store/chiropractor ended up billing him as the sole performer one evening, much to Bryce’s shock. He only learned this while he was setting up his equipment, thinking he was going to one on a long list of performers. He was worried as he was fighting a cold, cough and sore throat but there was plenty of hot herbal tea to get him through, that and a packed house.
But he pulled the night off famously. We knew he had come full circle when a family of small children planted themselves right on the floor in front of his keyboard, stared open-mouth and sat on every lyric that poured from his mouth. When he took a break they came up to him and said,
“Are you a real rock star?”
“Kind of,” he said, playing with them.
This may be the closest Bryce comes to being “a professional singer” and that is okay with me.
But Bryce, at age twenty-one, is not settling. He has a huge repertoire of more sophisticated rap songs under his belt. He is looking into performing around Temple University and Philadelphia and his goals of being a famous rapper are still set high. (He relinquished his dream of being a famous break dancer however, but still draws quite a circle of fans at wedding receptions or whenever he has the opportunity to bust out with some moves). I have exhausted my contacts and ability however, as a home-school facilitator, when helping to pursue his career as a rapper. I can only offer my support at this stage of the game. On the other hand, I am very happy that he is scoring straight A’s in his graphic design/illustration classes. As a mother, I find comfort in knowing my child will not be hungry in the future.