Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Problem of PS 22

Parshat Masei
25 Tammuz, 5771
July 27th, 2011

     PS 22 of Staten Island is the world’s newest celebrity chorus. Now a de rigueur stop for any musician on an album tour, P. S. 22 has performed at the Grammys, is an Internet sensation, and has achieved stardom’s holy grail: being on Oprah. But the members of the PS 22 chorus are not what you might expect: they are 10 and 11 years old.
     These kids are good. They sing multi-part harmony with no apparent effort. Unlike most of the kid-centered performances we attend, listening to them is more than just cute. Their talent is awe-inspiring.
     Now, it isn’t like prodigious feats in childhood are foreign to us. However, our stories about childhood stardom involve scenes of unrelenting, Soviet-esque training, megalomaniacal parents, and intense break–point pressure. What astonishes every celebrity and journalist (writing in The Christian Science Monitor, The Guardian, Rolling Stone, etc.) is how much fun these particular kids have when they sing. They are so relaxed, so into their groove that I find myself envious of the good time they’re having.
     Here is the problem of PS 22: their existence proves that extraordinary things are possible. Yes, children can create beauty while increasing their self-worth. Yes, to be both excellent and carefree is achievable. And when a group of underprivileged grade-schoolers breaks the boundaries of the possible while giggling, how can we deny that such things are in our grasp as well?
     “HaYipale meHaShem davar?” God says to Sara, “Is there anything too wondrous for God to do?” Would that we saw ourselves as a little more divine.

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