Arts a saving grace for many

Published 10:07 pm Friday, September 23, 2016

I was that shy, awkward little boy in elementary school who lived for turning ordinary pinecones into colorful turkeys with just the help of Elmer’s glue, construction paper, and glitter.

My math skills and knowledge of history and physics still suffer today as much as back then, but boy, oh, boy, did I love carrying my big brother John’s hand-me-down trumpet to school for band practice.

The arts have always been my saving grace.

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My life was filled with insecurities. As the other kids found their way, I seemed lost in a world I made up for myself.

If it had not been for some amazing teachers, I might not have found my way. Mrs. Fairley, my social studies teacher, gave me a choice in sixth grade to make a native costume for Barbie like all the girls or a pioneer cabin along with the other boys. I loved her for that.

Mrs. Anderson called me outside of Mrs. Hill’s math class one day, and as I nervously stood there in the dimly lit hallway between the cafeteria and playground, I wondered what monstrous sin I had committed. Imagine my joy when I was given the role of Ten Lords a Leaping in the Christmas musical!

“God is good.” I said to myself all year long.

I wore green knickers, a giant pink feather in my straw hat, and the red vest my mama sewed for me was made from velvet.

I was famous — for about one day in tiny Richton, Mississippi, but somehow that was enough.

Music saved me. Art rescued me. In my college years, I fell more deeply in love with theater, but mostly as a spectator.

Today, I find it essential to support funding for those “little Davids” who need to find themselves somewhere other than the football field or science club, and who come alive with an instrument or paintbrush in their hands.

I see myself in my little great-niece, Arley, and my heart melts when she sings her kindergarten songs to me.

I also see myself in my niece, Hannah, as she takes the lead in the high school musical this year.

I find myself in Emily, who is a university music major playing in the Alpine Drummers when she is not practicing her flute, living her dreams with so much more confidence than I had at her age.

The trumpet and I did not endure over time, but Mama kept all my art projects in a big dresser drawer. It was in all of those musical, artistic, and theatrical moments that I found me somewhere along the way.

David Creel is a Mississippi native and a syndicated columnist. You may reach him at