The Importance of Glee (And Extracurriculars, For That Matter)

Jose Vilson Education, Jose

Glee Cast

Four years ago, My friends and I walked through 14th St. and 6th Ave. when we ran into my former choir leader from high school. I stopped in the middle of the sidewalk and gave her a warm hug, appreciative of the times we spent for a year and a half in high school. She asked me how I was doing, and I said great. She then asked me if I was using my “singing talent.”  I said, “Um, no, not really.” My friends laughed, and were probably a bit surprised. She was understandably upset to hear that. I said, “I don’t really get chances to use it anywhere.” Computer science majors don’t sing. She gave up and said, “Well, OK, but I’m glad to hear you’re doing well.” I said, “Thanks” and we went our separate ways.

While we kept in contact since then, I still look back to that moment and feel a little needle prick my side. Painfully shy back in the days she first knew me, I found my voice by the end of senior year. It was less about my talent or potential, but my self-confidence, a battle I had to fight on a consistent basis in my youth. She was critical in developing me as a person, whether it was choosing me as cantor and encouraging me to do both choir and the musical, or keeping me on as cantor while I struggled up at the pulpit, letting me find my way through songs. I can’t thank her enough.

When I picked up the habit of watching Glee, FOX Network’s popular geek show, I knew I’d love it from the start. It’s not so much that they do great remakes of popular songs, or have intriguing storylines, or even that it’s a school setting. It’s nostalgia in an hour-long episode. The choir I joined didn’t swing through as many moments of euphoria and turmoil as the Glee gang. Yet, I find myself in every character through their personal struggles for self-identity and voice.

For so many like me, Glee is that show.

I have no wish to go back to the time when I was 17 years old, facing a thousand classmates, hoping to hit that note. I’m definitely not that kid anymore either. I just see that Glee does the job that the music industry fails to do more often than not: promote genuine talent. Nevermind that the only singing I do these days is in the shower. And random poems. And in the streets with my iPod. My self-confidence is significantly improved, and much of that came from delving into extracurricular activities that explored the side of the brain current educrats would prefer our students not use. Whether they join the band, the art club, the drama club, or the hundreds of non-athletic possibilities, our students nationwide deserve that chance.

Glee shows a different type of schema, where what counts is your voice, more than anything else. The choir taught me that. She may not get the credit she fully deserves for the children whose lives changed after the club, but I’ll be first in that line when she does get that credit.

Mr. Vilson, who sees his students for the first time in a week …