Saturday, April 5, 2014

I Write This With Pride For My Niece, Nikki Isgar - A Northstar, 2014. #ElephantShoe @NikkiIsgar

In 1988, my older sister performed her final show as a Northstar under the direction of Dave LeBlanc. With her graduation came two years of championships in the MidYork Winterguard Circuit (and countless weekends performing in front of audiences all across New York State). Cynde performed to George M. Cohen in her junior year and Barry Manilow in her senior year, and my parents were tremendous supporters of the field band and the color guard movement. As a frumpy, nerdy, and dorky geek, I fell in love with watching my sister's performances and the odd 'sport of the arts' that winter guard actually is.

26 years later and my niece, Nikki Isgar, was a lead rifle in the 2014 Scholastic Open Class Northstar team - this is her senior year. Nikki introduced me to (and performed with) the music of C├ęcile McLorin Salvant during her last year on the team and I admit, next to Why?, this has been my favorite show out of the Central New York circuit. Although the Northstars won the MidYork circuit, their finale came yesterday at the semifinals in Dayton, Ohio during the WGI Championships. When my mother called to report the news, I quickly felt a tremendous pang in my soul. Their season came to an end. Our little, pretentious and precocious 'Nickerdoodle' is only months from graduating high school and will no longer be on the team of blue and green. It's sad, indeed. She's the latest generation of adolescents to earn a diploma just south of Oneida Lake.Those hallways of CNS are special to me (and a distant memory). Now, they are the hallways that my niece and her classmates have the right to own. A year from now, they too will have moved on and high school will be an experience of their past.

I remember vividly watching Cynde (Nikki's mother) perform for the last time at her state championship. I was a sophomore in high school and looked to the seniors on her team as goddesses (they seemed so much older). Knowing they were walking off the floor together for the last time, after so many years, brought all of us to tears (and hell, we in the audience didn't even perform). This is why I've been thinking about Nikki and her fellow seniors, knowing that today must be hard day - so many hours, so much frustration, so many practices, so many memories, so much drama, so much success, so much improvement, so much disappointment, and so much dedication all came to a close rather quickly....just like that.

I hope Nikki and her fellow seniors enjoy every second of today in Dayton while watching the World Class guards (I want them soak it all in for the energy and enthusiasm it provides). I hope, too, they embrace this moment as seniors, and leaders, who have had unforgettable shows, pride when they nailed it, and pleasure from entertaining the judges and audiences for many years. Their passion for the sport (and/or the art that it is) has been irreplaceable. 

You are loved Nikki Isgar. As your whacky and creative Uncle, I dedicate today's post to you and your teammates. For three years in Syracuse I was fortunate to be a "floor uncle," and a part of the legacy that is the CNS Northstars Winterguard movement. I suppose one of the saddest parts of leaving Syracuse has been not being able to see you perform each and every week as your team evolved and grew more confident this year. That is why I was so glad I made it to the NYS championships in Clifton Park last week to see you keeping the legacy alive and why I will never be able to have Starbucks coffee again without thinking of you, those pearls, and those purple shirts.

Do know you are loved and that you all have grown tremendously. Remember, those performers you looked up to when they were seniors (I am thinking the Why? year) are now the performers that you and your senior classmates have become. You are role models for the next generation. The younger girls want to be just like you.

Congratulations for all you've committed. I am proud of you and I know if I was in Dayton, I would have pulled a Papi Butch. I'd have tears in my eyes for you right now. That is the power of what you mean to your family.

Carpe Diem.

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