Can One Encounter with Art Change a Life?

When I was twelve, my mother took my brother and me to see a performance of Jesus Christ Superstar.  She’d escorted us to children’s theater productions before, but this was my first time seeing a truly “grown-up” play, and I was utterly transformed. I was a church-going kid, but until that night, I had never really thought of Jesus or Judas or Mary Magdalene as truly human.

The show also changed my view of the role of music and lyrics. Prior to that, songs were just something my friends and I listened to for fun.  This was the first time I understood the power of song to convey something deeper.  Within weeks, I had the soundtrack memorized.

That performance—staged in a high school auditorium using local actors in the somewhat backwards city of Boise, Idaho—made me a lifelong theater buff. Now, hardly a month goes by when I’m not paying money to see a show. I’ve saved every program from every play I’ve ever seen, but I lost count at 400. My children grew up going to the theater, and now two of them are actors, their lives transformed because I happened to see one musical all those years ago.

These days, I take kids from the Boys & Girls Clubs to watch performances at our local children’s theater. Nothing beats the sound of a small child gasping in wonder as actors make magic on a stage. There is one boy who has come to all four of the shows I’ve sponsored.  Will he be a lifelong theater lover?  Will the others?  I hope so.

That is why it’s so important to put artists in front of our children— in their schools, at their churches, through their Scouting troops, through free programs at libraries and colleges. That’s why we need to point out to our kids the murals on the sides of buildings and stop to watch the street performers and take them to the bookstore so they can choose a book of their own.

Because you never know which encounter with art will change your child forever.