As I sit here listening to a group of 150+ middle and high schoolers sing together, I am reminded of why I love my job. A couple of weeks ago, a friend of mine (Peter) and his high school concert choir, my 8th grade choir, and the chamber choir from Wingate University and their director Kenney Potter, did a joint choir concert. It was such an amazing thing. I absolutely loved it and I hope that, at least Peter and I, do it every year. It was good for many reasons. The parents got to see the kids work hard. The middle school parents got to see the next step up from middle school choir. The high school parents got to see the next step up from high school choir. They ALL got to see that music can be and should be a continuing thing from middle school all the way to college.
After the concert, I was so moved that I wrote a message to Kenney Potter and asked him to share it with his chamber choir. In the spirit of transparency and honesty, I’m going to share it with you now…
When you are presented with something in your life that touches your soul, you have to give thanks, so thank you. Thank you, not only for your performance last night, but thank you for the influence you had on me, the audience, and my students. When you’re a middle school teacher, hearing changed male voices becomes a spiritual experience, no joke. It’s like the sky has opened up and you can see heaven! There is an end to the squeaky voices and the boys who refuse to sing up the octave and the boys who are still altos who desperately WANT to sing down the octave because they are under the WRONG impression that singing low makes you more manly. You healed my soul alone, just by singing on pitch. And your diction… holy cow. I had forgotten how nice it sounds to hear a “K” sound all at the same time. Middle school is a different world. Okay, but seriously…
Dr. Potter doesn’t know this, but for a few years after I graduated from Wingate, I could not come back to choir concerts. I tried the one year after graduating because Taylor (my husband; also a graduate from wingate music) begged me to go. I went and sat sobbing for the entire hour that the choir sang. Yes, they sounded amazing and yes, my heart was moved, but I sobbed because I missed it. Like many of you, I’m sure, I’ve been singing in choir since 3rd grade. I had never been without it since then. So, to graduate, and suddenly be without my coping mechanism, I was lost.
I was teaching in a great middle school and loved my job, but felt like I didn’t have a purpose. For the longest time, I avoided any type of choir concert because I didn’t want to be the crying girl in the back row, but… like any good partner should… Taylor reminded me that the main reason I enjoyed choir so much was because of the leadership I had in those choirs and that now I had the opportunity to become that for someone else. I have had two…. count them, one. two. choir directors my whole life. I had the same choir director from 3rd grade to my senior year and then I had Kenney (yes, when you graduate; you get to call him Kenney). They had a huge impact on my life in a way that they will never know. Dr. Potter will teach you MUCH more than just how to sing. Please pay attention to him. ESPECIALLY if you are planning to go into education. He is the model of what a teacher should be. As is his wife, I swear to you, she’s Mary Poppins. Don’t take him for granted.
Lastly, I want to say thank you for my students. It is SO good for them to see the big picture. They get stuck in looking at choir as a class to get to the next concert. When they can see the next step (high school) and even the next step after that (college); it really changes their viewpoint on choir as an “elective.” I know that not all of them will continue to do choir in high school and very very few will do it in college, BUT even if just one of them goes on to do it in college, it is worth it. Even if NONE of them go on to do it, it will still be worth it because one day, they will look back and think … wow, last night was a really amazing experience and I was so lucky to be there.
Thank you for allowing my students to see a future in music. Thank you for showing parents how music really can change and lead their kids lives and that it IS a viable future. Thank you for healing my soul and reminding me of my purpose and revitalizing me as a teacher. You are so important to this world. Please, keep sharing your gift with the people around you. Whenever you are tired and worn down, please remind yourselves that there is a girl in the back row whose heart needs to hear you.
I am now sitting on the floor of a school auditorium listening to 150 kids sing and it’s amazing. These kids have been up since 6am, some earlier, at school, working their brains to death and now it’s 6pm and they are STILL willing to work their brains and voices and bodies. Singing is a full body activity and not only am I moved at how they sound (because it’s heavenly), but I am moved because they are HERE. They are spending their Friday night singing and working their butts off… and most of them still have smiles on their faces. Don’t you ever tell me that this generation is lost. They are found and they are making a difference. Some of us just choose not to see it. Some of us choose not to see HOW they choose to make a difference. Some of us choose not to recognize how amazing these kids are.
Those of you that are reading this… please, if you ever have the opportunity to support music in any way, even if it’s just attending a concert at church or school, please go. Music will move you, if you let it. Sometimes it will move you, even if you don’t want it to.