The year is 1996. I am a fifth-grade student at Fountaindale Elementary School. Fifth grade was the last year before the jump up to middle school, so I was pretty hot shit as one of the senior elite.
I was on the television in every classroom every single morning with the morning announcements. The Vice-Principal himself drove to my house to pick me up one snowy morning so I could make it on the air in time. I was a big deal.
So when Mrs. Music Teacher (whose name I have long since forgotten) told the fifth-graders that we would be able to vote on the song we sing at elementary school graduation, I was ecstatic. I’m Artie Sievers, I said to myself. I’m le grand fromage. I’ll pick out something and, of course, everyone will think it’s golden.
I began the search.
My taste in music as an eleven-year-old was not much different that it is today. That is to say, I was a sixty-year-old man. My cassette tape collection ranged from Elvis Presley to The Beach Boys to Tchaikovsky to Ray Stevens (yes, the comedian) to some choice musical soundtracks. One of my most prized possessions, however, was a tape that, if memory serves, was simply titled “Hits of the 50’s.” An auspicious album, to say the least. On it were my rock-out jams: El Paso by Marty Robbins, The Battle of New Orleans by Johnny Horton, Mambo Italiano sung by Rosemary Clooney, and other gems.
One piece from that album, though, stuck out as a prime candidate for our fifth-grade graduation song: Doris Day’s Que Sera Sera (Whatever will be, will be). This, I thought, is a masterpiece of tone. This is what we want to communicate to the world: we leave elementary school behind to venture into the unknown. We are scared and unsure, but whatever happens, happens. We can’t control it, so let us not try.
My eleven-year-old mind exploded with genius. I was so proud of myself for identifying this. And – I remember thinking – the parents in the audience will love it! It’s an old song, and all old people love old songs, right? Oh, I was going to score some big points with this choice.
We were instructed to cue up our cassette tapes and bring them in to Music Class. When the big day came, children filed into the room depositing their cassette tapes onto the table by the stereo in the front of the room. I hadn’t bragged about my choice beforehand to anyone. I thought I’d let it be a surprise. I placed my tape with the others and took my seat in the brown vomit-colored risers.
Mrs. Music Teacher (whose only feature I can remember is a mop of purple hair on top of a teardrop face) played each cassette, one by one. Some were good choices, I recall. Some were ridiculous, heavy metal anthems that I’m not sure you could even find a choral arrangement for. And some were flat-out bad. I remember one kid brought in a recording of an instrumental piece. All were contemporary music, though. These children basically just brought in their favorite songs. Anyway, finally the moment came when Mrs. MT placed my tape in the stereo. I held my breath, waiting for the inevitable unanimous approval.
As the song started, however, I heard sniggers. I heard mockery. I heard all-out guffaws. I heard “What the heck is this song?!” I heard “This sounds like something my grandpa listens to!” I heard “Turn it off!” I heard “Who brought that in? Who did it? Huh? Come one, who brought it?”
I opened my mouth to identify myself, but instead of doing so, I started laughing as well. “Yeah, this is horrible,” I said to the kid next to me. “Did you bring it in?” The kid shook his head no.
Mrs. MT politely shushed us all and allowed the song to finish. She betrayed no opinion on the material, but continued on with the next prospective selection.
When it was time to vote, nobody raised their hand for Que Sera Sera, including me. In fact, a couple of kids still laughed when Mrs. MT held it up.
At the end of class, everyone went up and took back their cassettes. I left the room without picking mine up. A few days later I was able to snag it back when nobody was looking.
I don’t have it anymore, but I’d love to find the album again. Still love those songs. 🙂
PS – The song we sang at our graduation was The Greatest Love of All. Gag.