As you may know, I am currently studying choral conducting at the University of Minnesota under the tutelage of Kathy Saltzman Romey and Matthew Mehaffey. In on of my classes this past fall we were asked to come up with a two to three sentence philosophy statement, and three “buzz words,” detailing why we do what we do as conductors. I thought this would be a rather simple exercise, but when I sat down to write my thoughts I became overwhelmed. How can I summarize my musical dharma into three sentences?! The process took several hours and some hard, honest introspection. My musings felt too utopian and not quite on par with my colleagues. Whereas many conducting students are consumed by music and all its beautiful sonorities, I find myself intrigued by the art we create, but not “all in,” so to speak. I felt ashamed for not feeling like a servant to the music. So what is it that called me here?
After innumerous crumbled up papers thrown into the metaphorical wastebasket, I came to the following conclusion: I like music, but I love people. When I think back to key musical moments in my life, it is very difficult for me to pinpoint a single performance or time that I worked with this or that conductor; sometimes I cannot even recall the pieces I sang. What I can recall immediately, however, is the feeling of community and acceptance I experienced singing with different ensembles. Prying further into my memory, I came to realize something else quite astonishing: almost every major relationship in my life began in a choir rehearsal. Friends, significant others, mentors… they all started in the same place. Aha! The light went on.
I care deeply about the people I work with. I enjoy acquainting myself with their personalities and narratives. Mary is not just a soprano, she is a person. She has her own story that she brings into rehearsal (call it “baggage” if you will), and I want to know about it. Music for me is a bonding agent, not the sculpture itself. With this breakthrough, my shame began to fade. This little exercise taught me a huge lesson: no two conductors are the same, nor should they be! We are each on different paths, and rather than feeling ashamed that my goals might not line up with my peers, I should wave my flag high and proud. Feeling I had stumbled onto the meaning of life, I turned in my homework assignment:
Meditate + Celebrate = Music
Choral music is a meditation on the human condition and the interconnectedness of all people. My aim as a choral director is to explore, challenge, affirm and honor the ensemble’s collective humanity through the music we perform. In this way, our humanness is celebrated as the ultimate masterwork, and truly great music making will reflect an awake and deeply connected community of people.
Serendipitously, ComMUSICation has offered me the opportunity to live more fully into this philosophy and I cannot begin to express how excited I am for this adventure! As an organization, we offer a truly unique experience for the young (and young at heart) in our community, and I feel incredibly honored to be a part of the founding team. At ComMUSICation high quality music making is central to our mission, but I also believe we are striving towards a larger civic goal. We have spent countless hours discussing organizational vision, mission and goals, and (perhaps miraculously so) we all seem to agree on what it is that we are hear to do: to foster a generation of conscious and sensitive citizens through meaningful musical experiences. Inspired by Dr. José Antonio Abreu’s Sistema, we are taking a holistic approach to raising our children and doing our part to empower young people at school, at home and in our community. I hope you will stay tuned throughout our first season to hear our many “tales from the road,” and to grow up with us. As the African proverb goes, “It takes a village to raise a child.”