Where Have All the Gargoyles Gone? An Open Letter to FHU Students about Makin’ Music

The following is a surprise guest post from an anonymous friend of mine on the subject of Makin’ Music at Freed-Hardeman University:

Where Have All the Gargoyles Gone? An Open Letter to FHU Students about Makin’ Music Spring of 2009 at Freed-Hardeman University was like any other. Makin’ Music had finished, students were buckling down to finish the semester strong, and summer plans were being made. For Xi Chi Delta, however, big changes were happening. The president of the club had instigated some internal housekeeping in order to better align the club’s culture with that of FHU at large. What resulted was a mass exodus from the Blue to the Black. Those who remained, about 35-40 members, were incredibly close and had a lot of fun together despite their small numbers. They attracted the disillusioned from other clubs on campus and took on service projects and mission trips that other clubs had turned down. What followed in the subsequent Fall was remarkable. The club had the largest recruited Freshman class in history and since then has remained at capacity. Xi Chi of 2010 was essentially an all Freshman club and could be whoever they wanted to be.

As Makin’ Music 2010 approached, some of the few upperclassmen left in the club realized something important about the Xi Chi show. What was coming together was not a winning show…not even close. Without any disrespect for the directors/costumers, what was unfolding before their eyes was a hot mess and people knew it. What else would be expected from an essentially all-freshmen club? They did the best they could with what they had, but it wouldn’t compete with the powerhouses of FHU. One particular character in the Xi Chi show emphasized this fact unlike any other: the gargoyle. Wearing swim caps, grey paint never intended for human faces, and what resembled sequined garbage bags, the manly men of Xi Chi Delta snuck down the back of the auditorium to jump on stage to terrorize the flamingos and garden gnomes. I still don’t get it. The climax of the show was the hokey Pokémon theme song being belted out as “Gar – goy – ullllllllls!” Everybody was laughing. The coordinators were laughing. The judges were laughing. The other clubs were laughing. And most importantly, the gargoyles were laughing. They laughed through Makin’ Music retreat weekend to the disgust of their directors, they laughed while they slathered gray fence paint on each others faces destroying facial pores for weeks, they laughed when their peers saw them in costume for the first time (and every other time), they laughed when the official judges scores were read. Honestly, they’re still laughing about it a decade later.

173517440_453822865823667_278390516301862118_nThe gargoyles reminded us that the whole thing is a facade. Behind the glitz and glamour of the makeup and flashy lights are the facts: MM is a helpful recruiting tool for FHU, there is some REAL musical talent among the student body, and it’s become an enjoyable fixture of student life every spring. When things got too heated or overly serious, the gargoyles swooped in to remind us to not take ourselves too seriously. It’s all just for fun, right? This is Henderson, Tennessee for goodness sakes, not Broadway. Unfortunately at 2021’s Makin’ Music 44, the smallest, least experienced club on campus weren’t able to get a show together. There wasn’t a group this year who knew that the points were irrelevant to why they were strutting their stuff on Saturday night. Everyone was in the hunt for the “gold.” No gargoyles this year…

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There will always be well-intentioned people who take silly things way too seriously. As always, there are people crying literal tears that their club didn’t take home the coveted plastic, faux-gold trophy. As always, 40-somethings alumni are still blathering on Facebook about how their former club was robbed from said plastic trophy. Despite the obvious realities of Covid and technological difficulties around the first time MM has been live streamed, there are people complaining about the quality of the livestream and wanting their dollarbucks back. Controversy! Hurt feelings! Outrage!

Maybe we need to call in the gargoyles? Obviously, Xi Chi Delta has come a long way as a Makin’ Music club (they clearly can’t stop winning the plastic), but the fact of the matter is this: Nobody outside the Freed-Hardeman bubble gives a flying flip about any of this. Even Harding, our closest sister school, who has Spring Sing every year couldn’t care less about blocking and staging points and supposed judiciary controversy. Point in fact: Do you know anything about any of the winners of Spring Sing? Yeah, that’s what I thought. Try finding a list of past winners of FHU’s Makin’ Music in a Google search. I tried, good luck.

Reminded of the fact that nobody besides us cares about a small private school’s conglomeration of choreographed choruses, what type of people ought we be? Petty little pests who squabble over imaginary points from faceless judges? (Do they even exist? I’ve never seen one.) Is that why we chose to come to FHU? I seem to remember wanting to make lifelong friends and grow in my faith. While I can’t formulate an equation where angst and stress over a silly show led to those goals, I certainly found a place for fun, some good laughs, and a stage set for learning how to prioritize what’s important in life. That’s why Makin’ Music is important.

Let’s not forget the catchphrase from Whose Line is it Anyway: “The show where everything is made up and the points don’t matter.” Maybe we could start a petition urging Tony Allen to channel Drew Carey behind a tiny desk to remind us of that reality before next year’s show.

Now it’s all over: The die is cast, the plastic is prominently displayed in a smelly 3rd floor Benson dorm room, the grumpy people avow never to do a show again (unlikely. you’ll do it again, you love it). Stop for a moment and ask, what can I learn from this experience? Here’s a couple things I’ve learned over the years:

1. Sometimes we work really hard for things that didn’t matter that much in the first place. The amount or intensity of our “work” doesn’t, in any way, justify what we’re working for or somehow sanctify it. I think your Bible classes at FHU might be a good reminder of what CAN be worked for and never taken away from you.

2. (I’m having trouble with this one) It’s important to ask, “How should I respond to the petty people who do, in fact, take silly things too seriously?” A sign of maturity is the recognition that I was in their shoes at one point. Laughing at them or belittling their current priorities will probably further entrench them in their ways, exactly what we don’t want. Be kind, share a smile, and do #3.

3. Learn to laugh at yourself. It’s the only way to make it through the inevitable times when others are laughing at you. It also provides a friendly example to those whose priorities might lean askew. It says, “Come join us over here, it’s a lot more fun.”

Affectionately, A Gargoyle

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