Back in January, my singing partner Cindy Ballaro asked me if I’d ever heard of the Senior Games or the Silver Arts competition. Sadly, I could not recall having heard about either one of them. Not to be deterred, Cindy enthusiastically told me it was a big deal for hundreds of thousands of seniors nationwide, and that she had entered us in the local “Silver Arts competition” under the category of small group-singers.
The night of the local competition, I had no idea what to expect, including the number of categories of competition, number of and skill level of entries, or how many people would show up to watch the competition. I was in for a huge shock! Not only did it appear to be an extremely well-organized affair, the number of people there to simply view the competition filled up the entire auditorium. Back stage, there were more competitors than I could count, everything from singers to dancers to musicians to, yes, even a group of senior cheerleaders. They were all dressed in colorful costumes, causing me to look at my mostly drab all-black shirt and jeans, and silently wonder if I might be eliminated on fashion alone.
The costuming was simply amazing to me, but not as much as the level of talent that was on display. Act after act preceded me and Cindy, each seemingly getting a louder round of applause than the previous. I began to wonder if Cindy and I could even compete with these talented individuals, but here we were, about to get called to perform. As we anxiously awaited our turn, Cindy reminded me several times that we only had three minutes to perform; if we went longer than that, we would be disqualified. Finally, we were up.
Only seconds from singing our first note, I reminded myself that Cindy and I sing together a lot and that we had sung this particular song many, many times. After we started, the next several minutes seemed like a blur to me. Once backstage, I could hardly even remember singing, yet the other competitors were singing our praises, encouraging us and wishing us well in the voting. After all the acts were completed, all of us sat together backstage while the judges made their final decisions. I was informed that there would be a Gold, Silver and Bronze Medal winner in each category, and an overall Best-in-Show (who would represent Charlotte-Mecklenburg County in the State competition later in the year.)
Finally, they called all of us out onto the stage. In category after category, the medals were awarded. When the small group singers Gold Medal was announced, Cindy let out one of her patented contagious laughs, cluing me in that we had, in fact, won it in our category. Then came the Best-of-Show announcement, and to our surprise they called out “In-A-Chord!” As excited as we were, things were about to get even better as we started to prepare for the State competition.
Late September Cindy and I drove to Raleigh for the NC Statewide Silver Arts competition. On the drive there, we practiced our song several times and wondered aloud what the competition would be like at the State level. We had already been advised that there would be no ‘Best-in-Show’ at this competition there isn’t a national level for Silver Arts yet. So we set our sights on willing the Gold Medal in our category…but that wasn’t going to be easy.
My initial take on the State competition was that everything in Raleigh was just bigger and better. Real live dignitaries attended, some of whom would judge the competition. Groups warmed up backstage as we watched in amazement at how talented these seniors were. The costuming in Raleigh was even more colorful and elaborate than it had been locally, leaving me again to scan my pitiful (but so far lucky) black on black.
Cindy and I do sing together quite a bit, and we are usually pretty confident when we perform, but we needed to alter the beginning of song we were singing to fit the 3 minute time limit, and that was causing us some anxiety as we took the stage. Each of us started singing…and TOTALLY forgot about the edit we had made, realizing it mid-way through the intro. Cindy told me later that once she realized it she decided to speed us up so that we wouldn’t go over 3 minutes. At the end of the song, we honestly thought we were going to be disqualified for going over. As they were calling out the medalists, Cindy and I had NO idea what would happen…would we be disqualified?? When we were informed that we had won the Gold Medal in our category, we both let out a sigh of relief, followed by BIG smiles (and a little disbelief!).
What had started out as a venture into the unknown several months earlier in Charlotte was now like achieving a dream that you never really had. I remember telling Cindy that I wished I had known about this years ago. It was fun and we made some great friends. If you’re reading this, you can no longer claim you don’t know about Senior Games and the Silver Arts competition. We highly encourage you to get involved and just have fun. After all, getting involved and having fun are two of the key ingredients to a long life. Here’s wishing that yours’ is long in quality and quantity.