A letter to my students...

Here is a note to my students, shared roughly a month before the end of the school year...

So I was thinking about rehearsal on Monday, today… Actually, I was thinking about the choir in general. We are at a point in the year now where it seems to become harder for us ALL to focus on the task at hand. School is about to let out, the weather is beautiful, and for many graduation is on the horizon; at this point, just getting out of bed is a challenge let alone ACTUALLY DOING SOMETHING. GAH. So why should you put forth any effort in third-hour choir? How and why does this class matter in the scope of your life beyond Valley High School? 

Time for a story….

When I was a freshman in highschool I was forced to be in this class, choir. My mother INSISTED that I be involved in music throughout my high school career. I resented her for it. How dare she make me sacrifice my social position (I had no social position) in order to be in music. This was stupid thinking on my behalf as I would later discover. You see, as a freshman in highschool, I experienced a long and difficult period of loneliness. I had no friends, no one to spend time with, no one to share thoughts with, no one to argue with about which Blink 182 album was better than the others nor talk about why ‘The Two Towers’ was the best Lord of the Rings movie. Perhaps you have experienced this before… perhaps you haven’t. Let me give you some insight; it was horrible. I felt alone at school even when I was surrounded by hundreds of other people. There was a knot in my stomach that in no way could become unwound. It felt as though I was doomed to be alone forever and no one could care less about it. 

Throughout many of these moments of existential loneliness, I turned to simple things to give me joy (or something LIKE it). One of these things was choir. Whenever I came into the choir room, I felt a weight lifted off of me. For some reason, singing felt different than anything else. It made me feel better. In Freshman Mixed Chorus, at Mason City High School, we sang a piece entitled ‘Omnia Sol’ by Z. Randall Stroope. At some point along our journey throughout the work arrived at a section that contained the following text…

“O stay your soul and leave my heart, its songs. O stay your hand, the journey may be long. And when we part and sorrow can’t be swayed, remember when, and let your heart be staid.”

Perhaps you have sung this piece before.

Upon reading this text, I was immediately struck with a sense of weight; like I was punched right in the stomach. You see, the poet mentions all of these little gestures we make throughout our lives and how they impact those around us. ‘O stay your soul’, ‘O stay your hand’, ‘Remember when’. As a Freshman boy who found himself friendless and alone in the Spring of 2006, these words meant a lot. Better yet, SINGING these words meant a lot. I had no one to talk to, no one to talk with, and no one to hear me. How could I leave an impression on those around me when they didn’t care to listen. 

I realized there, in that moment, that it didn’t matter if anyone wanted to listen or not. As long as I could sing, someone would hear it. Even if it were in the hallway at school or in the shower at my house or in a choir of 130 other Freshman voices, someone would hear me. The people who stood near me heard ME every day. This meant something. If something were to happen, I would be missed by someone if nowhere else EXCEPT for the choir room. Where my small but mighty contribution to our sound added just the right color or volume or diction to our section to make it what it was. This was a place where I could be heard; I had better make it count. That is why I sing….

So what does this mean for you in your final days as a part of the choir program at Valley?
Simply stated…. Embrace that you CAN sing, that you are physically able to be heard. 
It might be easy to take it for granted, I think many of you probably have at some point in the past school year. Consider the fact that we get the absolute luxury and honor to be able to use our voice to express ourselves.

USE your time. You have been given three and a half more weeks in this group. 

For many of you, this might mean the end of your time as a choir member. This is the end of your moment to add something special and unique to our group. This is the last time you will sit in this room and make a beautiful piece of expression with those around you. Only you can make this group what it is…. That applies to all of you. After this year, this group no longer exists. Cherish it. 

Make memories you wish to remember… and remember them positively
Think about the way in which you carry yourself and your behavior during rehearsal. Whether we believe it or not, we leave a legacy behind, especially in the choir room. What kind of legacy will you leave? Will you continue to uphold the tradition of those that came before you? Or will you choose to look back at our time together and regret it? I encourage you to leave a positive legacy. 

With all these things in mind, I ask you this one question….. Why do you sing?