My heart started beating a little faster when I saw the Facebook post last summer: an adult show choir would be forming that fall in Bloomington, Indiana, where I live. The group was created in response to requests from parents whose kids were in show choirs run by Bloomington Expressive Arts Training (BEAT — get it?). Apparently, the grownups were jealous of all the fun their offspring were having and asked for a group of their own. By popular demand, an adult show choir called Upbeat (or as I immediately dubbed it, “Glee for Grownups”) was born.
Show choir was right up my alley. I’m that person belting out pop songs in my car, pumping the brake to the beat at red lights (often to the irritation of my children). Sometimes I catch myself humming along to tunes in the supermarket a little louder than I intended. Singing and dancing make me happy, simple as that.
But my decision to join a show choir surprised my friends. “I didn’t know you could sing!” they said.
They had a point. Although I loved singing and performing as a kid, I’d all but forgotten about this passion as an adult. It got lost somewhere in the whirlwind of going to graduate school, getting married, and, of course, having kids. When I attended plays and concerts, I sometimes felt the faint stirrings of my inner performer — but then I came home and someone’s diaper needed to be changed or school lunch needed to be made, and I quickly forgot those feelings.
The show choir opportunity came about at the perfect time, as my kids have entered the realm of “school-age children.” Now that my kids aren’t literally clinging to me most of the time, or asking me for something 100 times a day — the frequency has dropped to about 50 — I have more physical and mental energy to devote to my own hobbies. And because my kids are a bit more independent, I don’t feel as guilty leaving my husband on bedtime duty so I can go out and do things in the evenings.
I was hooked on show choir from the very first practice. The group was exactly what I’d hoped it would be —an opportunity to revel in the simple joy of singing and dancing with others. Our teachers took their jobs seriously — they wanted us to look and sound good — but not too seriously. They joked around a lot and reminded us repeatedly to let loose and enjoy ourselves.
So we did. In between learning our singing parts and dance moves, we laughed. A lot. I found myself looking forward to Wednesday evening practices as a mid-week stress relief. I often arrived at practice harried, tired, and cranky, but I always left happy and energized.
The culmination of our efforts came with our winter concert, at which the show choirs for all the different age groups — from the adorable grade-schoolers in Mini-Sync to the intimidatingly talented high-schoolers in Amplitude to, well, us — had a chance to perform a few numbers. It was a low-key event, held in an elementary school gym, so I was surprised by how nervous I felt. Judging by the deer-in-the-headlights expressions on my fellow choir members’ faces as we waited to take the stage, I was not alone. It was probably the first time in years that many of us had performed for others.
Turns out we had nothing to fear — the crowd was completely behind us. As we crooned and strutted our way through songs by Michael Jackson and the Doobie Brothers, the audience clapped and cheered, louder than they had for any of the other groups. It wasn’t because we were better than the others — though we were pretty damn good, if I do say so. I think our friends and relatives were genuinely impressed that we were brave enough to put ourselves out there. Most of the members of our group are entering or having already arrived in middle age. Most of us are a little slower, a little clumsier, perhaps a little, er, chunkier than we were in our teens.
But that’s part of what made the experience so rewarding— that it wasn’t easy, that it took guts. As parents, we’re always telling our kids to try new things, to push themselves out of their comfort zones. In show choir, we walked the walk — or, in this case, sang the song and danced the dance.
Show choir is also something I do just for myself and just for the fun of it. Between work-work and parenting-work, many of us feel there’s no time left for “me-time.” I make a point of exercising, but that still feels more like a chore, an item to check off the to-do list. Show choir is pure fun.
It’s also refreshing to flip roles with my kids and have them watch me and cheer me on for a change, after all the dance recitals and soccer games where I’ve done the same for them. During our first number at the concert, I caught my 5-year-old daughter watching me wide-eyed from the front row. Later that day, my 8-year-old son told me, “You did a good job” — high praise coming from him. How often do parents get to be on the receiving end of such adulation?
Moms and dads, I urge you to go out and find your show choir — something you do for no one but yourself, something that brings you nothing but joy. If your new hobby allows you to shake your butt in front of your kids once in a while, well, so much the better.