For the last few years I have spent my Tuesday evenings becoming a better musician. Born a singer, my mom often tells stories of a four-year-old exploding with "The hills are alive with the sound of music..." To my older-sisters horror, I sang everywhere - at the mall, in the bath tub, around the neighborhood, over the hills and through the woods. To this day, I love to sing.. spontaneously and without warning.
College swept me away to Northfield where the Oles made me a better singer, a better musician, but NOT a music major. No, I was an IDFA major (insert head scratching and crickets chirping here.) Interdisciplinary Fine Arts, that is. I didn't just study music, but art and theater and dance as separate disciplines and as art forms that could be combined and complimented by the others... NOT a music major.
Now to those of you that know Northfield and the Oles and what it means to be a music major, I wink at you. To those of you that know Northfield and the Oles and perhaps you were a music major, I could likely ask you every Jeopardy question under the sun about music and you would know the answer. I greatly respect you for the discipline and knowledge our Alma mater has bestowed upon you.
Post College introduced me to the life of the "working girl" ... in a Melanie Griffith sort of way... not in a Julia Roberts sort of way... come on kids. Learning the hometown creative marketing business re-introduced me to old friends and organizations of my past. I coached volleyball at my old high school and shortly after volleyball season ended, I was approached about directing the local community children's chorus.
Now this opportunity, while thrilling had me seriously hesitate. I love to sing. I'm a singer, but I have never been a director. I know music from my gut, but many directors know the mathematical ins and outs of rests and rhythms. Did my skill set match that of a director? What do I have to offer a group of gifted kids? I am not mathematical. Likely my greatest weakness - if you ask my accompanist, rhythm is also not my strength. (Yet, I'm the one that is keeping rhythm. Ironic, isn't it?)
But after the encouragement of some dear friends and respected musicians I decided to take the opportunity and become a director. These last few years have flown. With the help of my accompanist, who I consider my partner in "director-ship" we have taught the kids great music. Even more, each year I watch a group of kids rise to the challenge of a piece of music and become storytellers and gift-givers. They claim ownership and responsibility for being a part of something greater than themselves. With rules like "be courageous" and "listen as much as you sing" they make the music move. It is incredible to see them grow and change before your eyes - with the courage to share a little bit of themselves with a room full of people.. and I get to watch them come out of their shells and be silly and try something new that they may or may not be a bit uncomfortable with. :)
My goal for this year was for the kids feel like they are "owners" of of the chorus- that it is "theirs." I decided to encourage them participate in some fundraising initiatives on the direct lines for our non-profit community chorus. With this in mind - a "sing-a-thon" was planned.
Over the last several weeks the kids have been telling friends and family, teachers, coaches and friends about their choir. Along with this they have been collecting donations - $5 for 5 minutes of singing with the chorus at a few local Elderly Centers and Nursing homes. Tonight they once again stepped up and surprised me...
A group of thirty something kids and a handful of adults we clustered in a more-than-comfortably-warm cafeteria-like space and performed two 35-ish minute Christmas-y flavored sets. Our two audiences consisted of a room full of those a little more wrinkled than the still growing little ones that were singing in front of me.
Occasionally unsure eyes flickered in my direction as Mrs. Capper Rose to dance and a few residents sang along a little louder and off key than I think the kids were used to, but we smiled and sang and soon they seemed as at ease as I was. Tonight my Grandma was in the audience, and there is nothing more natural to me then to sing for her. Out of bed for a rare and special treat for the occasion of a group of kids that came to sing for her. Typically our Sunday Grandma visits were kept to her room where she would lie in her bed - head propped up via pillow. All of us as her regular visitors had become accustomed to sporadic and incoherent babbling - my family joked that she had reverted to speaking Gaelic that we didn't understand - but tonight, it was not the case. Quiet and listening with a few open-eyed moments she sat in the corner of the blue overstuffed armchair - a tiny frail bit of the woman I remember - who was once boisterous and overflowing with life, who taught me how to bake, make great tea and sang to me every song in the book. These are the things I remember of her - even now.
So now as I end my day, the courage-filled voices of a group of kids in a new situation, gave me a gift to share with my Grandma - the music we have always shared...with a bushel and a peck, a bushel and a peck and a hug around the neck.