There are 5 minutes left in class...
I direct the University of Washington Singers, a non-auditioned group of singers that greatly vary in their ages and abilities. The class meets for an hour and a half twice a week.
We had just had a full rehearsal and accomplished every goal that we set for the day.
There are 5 minutes left in class. "Great. What to do?" I think. Have them sing it again just because, even though we just sang it about 5 times? My solution, "I think you have done a great job today. I'm going to let you out 5 minutes early!"
Immediately I'm greeted by choruses of "No! Let's sing something else! Let's keep singing!"
There is a power in singing that touches the soul. Once you start singing, it's almost easier to keep singing than to stop. Singing is personal. "We are the music makers, and we are the dreamers of dreams."
I love those "5 minutes left" moments where the soul takes over and says,
"No, let's keep singing!"
I had an interesting conversation yesterday...
At the University of Washington, the Choral Conducting graduate students are gathered in to what is affectionately referred to as "the Cohort." Yesterday we had our annual retreat at Dr. Boers home. We were asked to think about our strengths, or the thing about our artistic selves, that we are most excited about at the moment. We were also asked the think about our greatest challenges - what's holding us back from our progress, especially in regard to our artistic growth.
My greatest strength, I feel, is my ability as a teacher. When I am in front of a classroom, I feel that I come alive: I'm more empathetic, I listen, I adjust, I teach. I feel like that is a gift that I have been given and I'm working on cultivating that gift.
My struggle, though, comes from a deep desire for validation. I have been composing music for a long time now - long enough that I realize that I will never be a master composer. I won't been a Beethoven, or a Dvorak, or a Whitacre. I'm ok with that. What I long for is for someone to say, "Yes, what you've created is good." Though the course of the discussion yesterday, I realized that isn't quite true. I'm not waiting for just anyone to say it. I'm waiting for particular people to say it. People who, in my mind, know what good compositions should sound like. Whether that means certain other composers, certain college professors, or certain (or any) music publishers.
So through the course of the discussion, I started asking myself, when will it be enough? Will there come a point that I get the validation from all those people and then think, "I've made it. I can stop worrying about what other people think about my music"? I mean, what else do I really need? I've had church choirs, middle school choirs, high school choirs, college choirs, and a professional choir, perform my works. What more am I waiting for?
So my new goal, my new outlook, is to just let it be enough. When I compose, it's because I have something inside of me that needs to be said. I need to say it, make it available to others so I can share my story, and then let it be enough. I'm going to focus more on my strength and cultivate being a master teacher - a maestro. I won't stop composing. I won't stop posting to my site. But I won't let it eat me up anymore that I'm not published or that so-and-so's music is more popular, or that such-and-such choir hasn't performed my piece. What I've done so far is enough.
What happens next? I'll watch, work, and wait, but it will be enough.