The children love music. That’s why they’re here, not because someone makes them, or they got bored, or they need the arts credit or it’s required for their music minor. There aren’t any divas who have decided the choir is all about them, we all just enjoy singing with other singers (If it seems to me like there’s no divas in the choir, does that mean that I am the diva and I never noticed?). They are fun to be around, and it’s nice for me to interact with students outside of my “teacher” role. I get really excited when I discover that one of my English or Spanish students also sings with the choir.
The music is worth loving! It’s far less challenging than the Denison University Chamber Singers, for obvious reasons, but quite varied and very satisfying to sing. Our repertoire ranges from orthodox liturgy music in Olde Czech to a choral arrangement of the Beach Boys’ “Barbara Ann”. We’re also singing Carol of the Bells for our advent concert, in Ukrainian.
I pretend I’m a tenor. The tenor section is very small and mostly female, but quite enthusiastic. While I’m not converting to tenorism any time soon, I must admit I never felt as important as a soprano or alto. Though the bass and tenor sections are small, I’m pleasantly surprised at the confidence and skill that the choral men bring to the choir.
The dear children have mercy on their ignorant Anglophone comrade. Honestly, students here are so good at English that I feel no shame just grabbing whoever is closest and making them tell me what’s going on if I get confused. The students are quite generous with their efforts to help me, and for the most part English, Spanish, and charades are more than sufficient. As language goes, I’ve learned “stand up,” “sit down,” and “shut up,” as well as “and-a-one, two three–”. I also pretend that terms like forte and mezzopiano are Czech words I absorbed through my natural gift for the learning of languages.
THEY LET ME CONDUCT. Actually, they let me arrange music, teach the songs, AND conduct. I am indecently excited to share music I love with others who love music. It’s such a thrill to imagine just how I’ve always wanted a piece to sound, and then hear forty voices creating just that sound before my very eyes (ears?). Any feeble buds of conducting skills amassed in my semester-long course have abandoned me long ago, but I can’t wait to see how I improve as the year goes on. I try to coach myself by parroting the wisdom drilled into me for those three months—breathing, beat patterns, preparation, squares, triangles. I still can’t lift the proverbial piano, but I like to think I’ll have a shot at it by the end of the year.
Arranging music was never something I seriously considered as a student, but I’m LOVING it. There’s so much still to learn, and I can’t deny that I’m sometimes a diva about it (somehow the altos always end up with the melody) but it’s opening up for me a whole new way of thinking about music composition. By now I have far more ideas arranged than I will get a chance to explore with this choir, which is a shame because I couldn’t ask for a better group of guinea pigs!
We have a great director. I learn a lot from his approach to the music, the choir, the students, and his own role as director. It’s really good for me to see how choral “philosophies” differ from one director to another, and how results differ accordingly. He has succeeded in creating a process and product that everyone can feel proud of, which I quite admire. I’m also very grateful for the risk he took in handing me this opportunity/responsibility without really having a clue what he was getting himself into.
If you had asked me last May to be really honest about what I wanted to do with my music education, I would have said among other things that someday I want to work with a choir. I’d love to share great music with young people who enjoy the opportunity to sing together. I want to make the enthusiastic-yet-focused music community I got a taste of in Denison’s Music department and Gospel choir come to life for people who’ve never experienced so much freedom and fun in singing. I feel like the world is full of more qualified musicians than me, but I’d like to find some way or someplace where the music knowledge and experience I have is a gift worth giving.