Back in the 70s hey day D.C.’s McKinley High School was the school the musician types went to. McKinley had music lessons and a decent marching band. The theater and dance folks enrolled in an after-school program called Workshops for Careers in the Arts. They met in the student union at GWU, and a garage-type building on Georgia Avenue. In those days McKinley could boast a rigorous academic program, a competitive football team, and a huge campus on a hill.
Over the years, those kudos would crumble away as arts funding was stripped, and a middle class black flight eloped to the suburbs as well as private schools etc. However, workshops re-emerged as a full-time high school – the Duke Ellington School of the Arts (1975) and McKinely Technical High School was rescued from the bulldozer and refurbished to become the McKinely Technology High School in 2004.
All that to say, that’s the difference between McKinley DC and McKinley Lima, OH. McKinley DC (and Ellington) you didn’t have to explain yourself to anybody.
But for those who went to “normal” high schools for “normal” people, Fox gave audiences a full episodic preview last night of their new fall series “Glee,” and I have to say (as a graduate of the Ellington School of the Arts who – yeah, did sing “You’re the One that I Want” in the classroom and cafeteria”), I’m hooked. Where Fox lost me with “American Idol,” they got me back with “Glee.” And yes, I did miss the final “American Idol” episode.
Part of the reason “Glee” works is that it isn’t “American Idol,” and it’s funny without poking fun at any of the “losers” and “wannabes” who are part of what appears to be a “failing” high school set in a midwest burb. “Glee” is also less dramatic than “Fame.” In the “Fame” world, all life’s problems could be solved with a big show. Well, “Glee” may not be any different except all life’s problems are being worked out for the big show. It’s also 2009 and high school students now have two dads, parents killed in the Iraq war, and first encounters with the arts –especially music–through digital devices.
I’d like to see how the “Glee” show choir and the Ellington show choir stack up against each other up. Meet in the auditorium at 3.
“Glee” is the creation of Ryan Murphy of Fox FX “Nip/Tuck” fame. Can you imagine what this show would look like had it emerged from the Disney camp? “Glee” some ways appears to be Murphy’s memory series; you can see his joie de vivre for the glee club and show choir experiences from his Indiana high school days.
All that to say, I’ll be signing up this fall.