I love the word ‘zeal’. It has such a strong dramatic ring to it. I would love to use it to describe one of my students as he or she rises out of poverty to attain amazing academic achievements, but it hasn’t quite happened yet, although I’m hopeful one day… There are quite a few stories of kids who have studied in the slums without proper electricity in abject poverty but with zeal, perseverance and determination and scored high enough marks to get into medical school or become engineers.
The zeal I’m looking at today is a musical zeal combined with incredible talent. I first heard of Sheku Kanneh-Mason when he played a cello solo at Prince Harry’s wedding. I watched the concentration and dedication on his face as he played and saw how deeply he was involved in his music and did some research. I discovered he had won the BBC award for Young Musician of the Year in 2016 at the age of 17. This guy is basically a genius, who is living with Type 1 diabetes that he has to treat before every performance. I am constantly struck by his humour and pleasant and unassuming attitude.
Not only does he play outstandingly well, but his WHOLE family does and he has SIX brothers and sisters! I was in awe, as I watched a documentary of a day in the life of his family, a Saturday when they camera followed them around as they all went off to music practice at the Royal Academy of Music in London. They play various instruments, three of them play cellos, a couple play the violin and three of them play the piano. Of course some of them play two instruments. In between, they act like any normal family, joking, arguing, but also doing a lot of practising.
When they play you can see all of them putting every fibre of their being into what they are doing and also getting so much pleasure out of the music and performing together when they can. They have now made several albums as a family. Sheku also spends some of his time encouraging other young musicians and giving performances to underprivileged children.
The dictionary suggests other synonyms for zeal, such as ‘ardour’, ‘enthusiasm’, ‘passion’ and ‘fervour’. I see all of those emotions crossing Sheku’s face as he performs, practises, or shares about his music. It’s exciting to know that he and his family members will be making music for many years to come!
Z is the final letter of the alphabet and needs a bit more stress than the ‘s’ to be sounded out, with a satisfying sound, just like a bee buzzing. Most kids love that sound and the slight tongue vibration it causes. It is not too difficult to write in small or capital form. There are several old faithful z words for young students to learn, like zoo, zebra, zip, zero and zig zag.