The roots of that evening started way back in 1975. Yep. Back in the days of the BeeGees and disco dancing. I was in high school then and immersed in music. My teenage life at North Shore High School in West Palm Beach revolved around the choir and a smaller group called "The Choraleers."
It was in my sophomore year that a young man joined the choir. Normally, students had to spend a year in choir to be eligible to try out for Choraleers, a smaller group of more advanced singers who performed while dancing. We had to sight read the music, too. This kid went straight into Choraleers. He had so much talent bursting out of his 14-year old body that there was no stopping him. Our director, Sandy Connelly, liked to end our concerts with "I Believe in Music"--an appropriate song for students who breathed melody and talked in harmony. The newest member was invited out front to do the improvisation called for at the end. He'd dance and sing like his feet were on fire. Gives me goosebumps to remember even now, almost forty years later.
Flash forward to 2014. Now known as Kye Brackett, the remarkable kid we once knew has grown into a self-assured entertainer who has been performing professionally for decades. Who does he perform with these days? Barry Manilow. The man who wrote the musical score for our lives--a living legend. When a concert was scheduled in Sunrise in South Florida, the phone lines and facebook heated up. It was an opportunity to see Kye perform on stage with someone we all idolized.
On the 17th, we headed down to the BB&T center. There were seven of us sitting together, but we knew there were others spread out in the darkness throughout the huge audience.
The show was everything we could have hoped for, and more. Manilow's voice was just as we remembered. I closed my eyes from time to time and just listened to the beautiful words and even got tears in my eyes watching Kye perform. It's an odd feeling to see someone you performed with once upon a time succeed beyond teenage hopes and dreams. Every time Kye showed up on the jumbotrons set up on either side of the stage, we turned to each other and yelled (it was loud in there) "Look! It's Kye!" We jumped to our feet and sang along to those beautiful songs.
When the concert ended, we met with all of the other North Shore alumnae at the edge of the stage. When Kye came out from behind the curtains, there were hugs and teary eyes all around. He hurried all 17 of us around the corner. We thought we were getting out of the way of the stagehands, but Kye had a bigger surprise in store. He had arranged for us to meet and have our picture taken with Barry Manilow! The evening became surreal as we grouped together for the photo. It was a once in a lifetime moment.
In the days since, photos and postings have flown on facebook. One of the best posts I've seen was one by Allan Hendricks, a former Choraleer and now a successful landscape architect. Allan posted, "Take what you will from this but it's lifted me up. I had the chance to see some old high school friends Friday. They are still the rock star people I knew back then. Smart, funny, easy going, talented, happy, successful, generous, charming, handsome, beautiful people. Young people, choose your friends wisely. Feeling blessed."
Allan's right. The people you chose as friends all through your life are the people who define who you become. Choose the ones who push you to be bigger and better than you think you can be. The ones who give you no slack and demand that you live up to potential are the ones you want in your life. They're the ones you remember long after life scatters everyone in different directions.
And yes, amazing things happened on the 17th. We saw someone we first met as a very young man living his dream--and ours, too. I'm so glad we were there to encourage him way back in the 70s and so glad that we were there to celebrate with him as he danced among the stars.
(c) 2014, Ruth Hartman Berge