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Photos 46-49/365 (series: ACDA Honor Choir weekend in Chicago)

Last fall Calvin auditioned into the American Choral Directors Association (ACDA) Honor Choir. This is a selective choir assembled annually of auditioners from all over either the region or the nation, in alternating years, to sing at the ACDA conference in February. This was a regional year, and Calvin, along with three other boys from his choir, were accepted into the Elementary Honor Choir. Music arrived in January and practice began in earnest—the performers were expected to arrive with their music learned and memorized because their time to rehearse together with the director is limited. Very limited. In fact, the elementary choir had just one and a half days, though long days they were. 

The weekend awakened something in Calvin. Beforehand he practiced with his usual ease—he learns music quickly, and tends to take its simplicity (to him) for granted—and he arrived well prepared and eager for the event. These were things I expected. What I had not expected was the way he took to the intensity of the weekend. He may have come out of each several-hour-long rehearsal glassy eyed and melting, but he basked in the weight and responsibility of it all.He loved feeling important, with both parents going to obvious lengths to make sure favorite meals were served up at his leisure, and whisking him to and from rehearsals and social gatherings (a pool break after dinner and a lunch date before the concert) with friends. His joy was especially visible in his drama—the back of a hand wiping an exhausted brow, or the sighing plea for a stress relief tea. That was when I realized that he enjoyed acting the part of the pressured singer as much as anything else. He ate it right up.

The trip was challenging, but also rewarding for Calvin on many levels. At nearly 100 kids strong this was a large group for him to work with, and the music was different from the usual Boychoir program. The director of the Elementary Honor Choir this year, Francisco Núñez, a MacArthur Fellow (recipient of the 2011 Genius Grant) and the founder of the Young People's Chorus of New York City, proved to be an energetic conductor who loves music and children. In the Friday afternoon rehearsal, he happened to pick Calvin out of a sea of hands to answer a simple question. Calvin answered so well that he was asked to answer all the rest of the afternoon's questions, no subsequent hand raising required.  

Jon and I also found much to enjoy over the weekend. Required to stay in the fancy conference hotel as chaperones but not required during rehearsals, we were free to fill that time as we pleased. We filled it with pastries, coffees, a walk out on Navy Pier, a dinner for two in the upscale hotel bar, and lots of rich together time. And our weekend didn't actually begin and end with choir, either. We love to travel as a family, from the car trip and stops along the way, to nights spent visiting after dark in a shared hotel room. Plus we actually started the weekend a day early with a delicious and entertaining Chinese New Year dinner at Duck Duck Goat with my brother and his wife, and then, following the Saturday concert, ended it with wine, sushi, and Olympics at their always relaxing West Loop loft. They know how to show visitors a good time. 

But the best thing about our weekend, aside from the coveted couple time alongside the chance to see our son blossom in a new environment, was the concert itself. It's amazing what a group of very talented kids can do with just a day and a half. 

A very foggy Chicago

A room with a view

Chinese New Year Pris fixe dinner at Duck Duck Goat

complete with Chinese New Year dragon visit

Bright bushy tailed for rehearsal

Relaxing during lunch break

While the kid was away, the parents at play...

Photo op with famous director at the end of afternoon rehearsal

pool party during dinner break

A little bleary eyed for the last rehearsal of the night...

Parent alone dinner time...

An autograph at the end of the full day of rehearsal

Rehearsal came early on Saturday morning

Lunch before the concert, kid version...

Lunch before the concert, adult version...

Beautiful snowflakes to end the weekend

One last stop on the way home...

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