Sunday, May 23, 2010

Where He Belongs

As mothers, we know our children better than anyone.

And I knew, long before he did, that Tucker would love music and theater. But he wouldn't believe me.
When he was very young, Tucker loved to sing, but he had difficulty hearing pitch. He could sing a song alone, but if there was music playing, he could never follow along. When he was ten years old, I took him to audition for the Phoenix Boys' Choir. He had the highest clearest voice, and I knew that if he could be taught to hear pitch, he could be great. When we got to the audition, he refused to even open his mouth. I was humiliated and furious. Why wouldn't he do this thing that I KNEW he would love? But most kids can't be pushed. And he can't even be pushed to put on his shoes, let alone pushed to do something he really doesn't want to do.

In Beauty and the Beast

After this debacle, I made a few calls--Did anyone know of a good voice teacher?  In November of 2002, we met Allyson Van Patten.  He was ten-and-a-half and reluctant to accept direction from her(that's putting it nicely).  He would pace around the table, mumble under his breath, even flat-out refuse to sing.  Once I even resorted to videotaping him in the kitchen to prove to Allyson that he would sing and could sing very loudly--a phrase from Shrek, if I remember correctly.

As Jimmy in Thoroughly Modern Millie

Six months later, it was time for his first voice recital. And she hadn't made much progress with him. I know she was ready to give up--she's often told me he is the hardest student she's ever had.  But I wasn't ready to surrender.  I knew he could do this, and I knew he needed to learn to sing.

The turning point came when he was assigned "My Favorite Things" from The Sound of Music.  He complained and complained about that girly song, so we composed our own lyrics--Tucker style.  Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Algebra, video games.  He was proud of it, but he was a little afraid of what Allyson would think.  Their relationship up to this point hadn't been that chummy.  But when he sang that song, she laughed her magical laugh and finally the ice was broken.  Like Helen Keller, he was finally ready to learn.  And maybe even listen occasionally.

Since that time, he's been in numerous school choirs and played parts in High School Musical, Aida, Once on This Island, and Thoroughly Modern Millie. He's sung duets, quartets and solos. I've never deluded myself into thinking that he was the best.  But he is good.  Really good.  About the best he could be.

Like the song from Wicked, sometimes people come into our lives for reasons.  Reasons we may never fully understand.  But I know why Allyson was sent to us. She had the ability to teach a tone-deaf boy how to find the music inside him.  She had the patience and the humor to accept him for what he was.  She teased him and and counseled him and occasionally chastised him.

Above all, she's loved him.  And now he's where he belongs.

Saturday night was Tuck's final voice recital.  He sang, "This Is the Moment," from Jekyll and Hyde.  And as I played for him for what will most likely be the last time, I reflected on the words:

Now the time has come to prove to them I made it on my own.
This is the moment, the sweetest moment of them all!

I can't believe this stage of his life is over and a new one is about to begin.  You can never express to a teacher your gratitude when you know they've changed your child's life.
Thanks, Allyson. It was truly the sweetest moment of them all.   You will always hold a special place in my heart.
You can read Allyson's blog here.


  1. Well thanks so much for making me bawl like a wee babe here in my own kitchen. That was the kindest, sweetest post EVER! And I really loved all the pics. You forgot to mention that he ended up singing "Sieze the Day" and he was AWESOME!!

    I really had so many other things I was gonna say the other night, and just forgot. But one of them was this....I too know that people come into our lives for a reason, and I believe that Tucker came into mine not only to teach me how to teach, but also so I could meet you. YOU have been so good, so kind, so wonderful in every way. I truly consider you a dear and TRUE friend, and I'm grateful for that. I'm grateful every day! You have taught me so many things about how to parent and love your children, just by your example. Not the least of which was your determination that Tucker could and WOULD succeed in music.

    I'm gonna miss that little (tall) stinker so much, it's sort of ridiculous!

    I love you guys!

  2. You are after my own heart with this. I love theatre and this is such a good story! Sweet. :)

  3. PS: I mentioned you on my blog. Again. :)

  4. oh jen- you outa all my bloggy friends, need the least reminding to be in * the moment* *be present* with your kids....look at each & every post- your kids and you all as a family live a wonderful , giving life....i applaud you as a mother and as a new friend.....
    and at this special time i hope you get to make aome very special memories with Tucker...
    melissa x

  5. Left me with goosebumps again. I have one that can't be pushed...but yet doesn't know his potential. I nudge..don't push him (as much as I want to!) Great post Jen! Wish I could have seen Tucker on stage! He looks like a natural.

  6. Thanks for sharing this story...what an awesome teacher, and looks like he has found his voice! :) Great pics!!

  7. Oh, our sweet, persistent (not stubborn) Tucker. He is a darling young man and has so much to offer in so many ways. I remember taking him to singing lessons and never knew he would do so much with them. It's good you knew! Look out world, here comes Tucker Denton!

  8. Hooray for persistence.

  9. great story.

    we were just discussing the same thing with our 8yo and theatre last night. good to know what lies ahead

  10. I love this. I didn't know the story behind the talent. He was already loving to sing when we met him. Tucker really did shine in Millie and those are great pics to remember it by.

    Sigh... they graduate in 4 days...

  11. This story about Tucker really touched me. And I'm impressed with a teacher than can teach a tone deaf boy to sing!

    (And a mom who can keep believing in her inspiration about him...)


  12. We love to go the local high school musicals in the Spring. The talent is really amazing. So neat that he found his talent early...and stuck with it!

  13. What an amazing story of perseverance and love.

    ~ Tracy

  14. That's amazing- I don't think I'd ever be brave enough to even try out for a play, let alone sing and perform in front of an audience. That's pretty amazing that you helped him find a way to love learning- you're a great momma!

  15. Great story! Glad you hacked Allyson's blog so I could enjoy. Beautiful family, you are clearly an incredible mom! Tucker sounds very talented.

  16. Your post made me a little beautifully written.

    Thanks for visiting my blog and your kind comments. When I clicked on your blog...your header blew me away! Just gorgeous!

  17. This made me cry. You are a wonderful mother. More to say, but can't so much see through my tears.

  18. Good luck to your Tucker - what a wonderful story!

  19. How wonderful to have a boy who can sing and is great at it. I have a 10 year old son who can really sing. But he lacks the confidence. You have given me hope. What an inspiration you are to him!
    Point Mom!

  20. What a great story! I'm ever so grateful for those wonderful teachers who have that special something to be able to bring out the best in our kids. Congrats to you for finding and keeping her, and congrats to his amazing teacher. What a lovely tribute! And thanks for visiting @ Life is Good.

  21. Your persistence paid off. I love when you can find a teacher that is willing to find that inner talent in your child. Does she travel to Utah for lessons?

  22. After all these years of Allyson teaching him, I feel like I know Tucker so well too. Even if I only met him a few times. He's a sweetie, and you're amazing. And so is Allyson. And Tucker, congratulations on graduation and embarking on this next step of life! Thanks for posting such a sweet post.

  23. Isn't it great when you see someone's talent come to fruition? I'll never forget when my niece (who had been taking voice lessons for about a year) got up to sing "Oh Holy Night" one Christmas Eve for the family. Now mind you, she is about 90 pounds of nothing. The sound, the angelic sound, that came out of her mouth was nothing less than heavenly. We were all slack-jawed. It's amazing what hard work, practice, and oh yes, talent, can bring about. Kudos to your son for working so hard at something that will give himself and others joy his entire life.