Sunday, May 1, 2016

On the Other Side of the Table

On Friday, I had the privilege once more of doing one of my favorite things to do all year long: I got to serve as an evaluator for the Fine Arts Festival here in Florida.  For those of you who don't know what Fine Arts is, it's basically a performing and visual arts competition for Assemblies of God youth.  Here in Florida, Fine Arts is really big.  Like 4,000 students running around and competing in difference categories like human video, choir, songwriting, and short sermon.

Every year since 2012, I've made it a priority to serve as an evaluator.  If I'm working, I take a day off work just so I can attend.  One of the reasons it's so important to me is that half my lifetime ago, I was standing on the other side of the judges' table, competing in Fine Arts myself as a young teen.

When I see a young lady step up in front of a small crowd, swallow nervously and grab the microphone to sing a solo, I get it.  That was me.

Oh, the joy, sweat, and tears it took to prepare for my solo every year!  I painstakingly took the time to choose the best song for my voice and practice it with the track (cassettes in my day; I know, I'm dating myself) and perform it in front of my family.  Oh, the nerves of performing it in front of strangers who had the power to "advance" me to nationals if they thought I was good enough.

I still remember the year I was a sophomore in high school and I wrote a song just for Fine Arts.  It was a good song and also very vocally challenging.  I had a track made and sang my little heart out.  My solo did not advance and I was devastated.

So I try to keep my personal experiences in my mind as I delicately write comments about the young girl in front of me singing her solo.  I try to remember the exhilaration of nailing a solo and the devastation of not quite hitting the mark.  I try to be the encourager I needed all those years ago from the evaluators.

In retrospect, I value Fine Arts for the yearly experience I got to express myself through my music.  It was great training for all of the writing and singing and performing I do most days of my life now.  What the evaluators said to me is now long-forgotten.  But the experience remains special to me.

I love what Christian recording artist Natalie Grant said once when she talked about competing in Fine Arts herself as a teen.  She said, "I never won anything, but I savored the experience and it's priceless to me."

For someone who never won anything at Fine Arts, Ms. Natalie seems to be doing pretty well for herself these days.  Oh, and I heard quite a few of her songs being sung on Friday.

I guess that means there's hope for me!