A 13-year-old boy attempts the daring feat of solving three Rubik’s Cubes in under three minutes, as classic rock music blares in the background. A packed house of parents, teachers and students -- lots of students -- follow his adventure, first with bemused skepticism and then, as the silly-seeming feat approaches a nail-biting conclusion, with increasing rapture and enthusiasm.
When the countdown clock hits 2:50, the crowd begins counting down from 10, and you can literally feel the collective hope and fear of the audience: hope that he somehow pulls it off, and fear that the odds don’t look good. The sound of groans when it hits the 3-minute mark without his finishing that third Rubik's Cube is not one of mockery, but rather of genuine disappointment, especially for the young boy performer. The boy fights on and finishes exactly two seconds -- two seconds!! -- later, and the crowd erupts in applause. Three solved Cubes in 3:02.
The night was theirs. It belonged to students.
One of the biggest surprises of the past few years has been the instant and sustained popularity of the annual talent show, affectionately titled GPS/McCallie Got Talent. A joint effort between schools the event has become a mainstay of the winter calendar, performed before a capacity crowd of just under 800. The audience is an almost perfectly-proportional collection of middle and high school students, faculty members and parents, and the event takes on this community-wide water-cooler conversation level of significance.
In our 21st-Century American culture, much of a child’s or teenager’s life is dictated and directed by adults. When they play sports, their actions are coached, refereed and critiqued by adults. When they perform in choirs or orchestras, their songs are selected and their nuances directed by adults. The opportunities for a teenager to claim pure and literally unadulterated ownership of their talents are limited. The opportunity to do this in front of an actual crowd rather than for a limited circle of friends is restricted and rare.
Yet on a Saturday night in January, 16 different acts involving three dozen student performers -- not to mention two student emcees and more than a dozen student stage and program assistants -- took the stage to display their talents, their musical choices, their dance routines. The night was theirs. It belonged to students.
When reflecting on their experiences on the Ridge, McCallie alumni most often bring up three things about their experience: the values taught, the friendships made, and the faculty entrusted to shepherd and educate them along their path, and that last one is almost universally seen as the most vital.
Yet ultimately, the goal of great education is to unleash students on the world around them, to provide avenues and venues for kids to realize just how much is possible when passion and sweat and dedication are a part of their endeavors. To equip them for their own adulthood, to enable them to stand independently, and to thrive.
GPS/McCallie Got Talent is the SAT of that mission. It is a litmus test showing just how far these students have progressed, and also just how much talent they start with even in the 6th and 7th grades. It is a testament to the level of dedication, to the hours of practice beyond homework assignments and team sports, and to the sincere interests and passions maturing in the hearts of our students.