[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]I travel quite a lot as a conductor. I guest conduct choral festivals in various locations as a part of my musical life. Last month, I found myself working with the New Jersey Treble All-State Choir, an ensemble made up of high school sopranos and altos. These types of festivals are always exciting for me. There’s something special about conducting a group that will only exist for a very short period of time. After the performance is over, that ensemble will never exist again. For this choir, people come from high schools all over New Jersey to make music with strangers. One of the things I always focus on is building a community in the ensemble, even for the brief time they are together – because an ensemble that has a sense of community about it will always make more meaningful music. This is directly related to the emotional and social benefits found in a Kindermusik class[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]
To be bold, building that sense of community is actually more important to me than the music; particularly at first. The ensemble won’t trust me just because I was selected by a committee and have fancy letters after my name. I work hard to prove to them that I am there for them as people first, musicians second. I do my best to connect to each person – all 150 or them – in some meaningful way, even if it’s only for a second. This often takes the form of standing at the door and greeting each person with a handshake and asking their name. I might walk through the rows of singers and do the same.
As we move from piece to piece, I often ask the musicians to turn to their neighbor behind or in front of them (this will prevent students from the same school as the default interaction as they often sit next to each other) and share something about themselves that makes them proud or that makes them smile. This breaks down walls and starts to build simple, but powerful connections between the singers. [/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]
I admit, I talk a lot in rehearsal. I certainly talk less now than I did when I was younger, but I do still talk quite a bit. We talk about the text of the music and what it means for us and our audience. We talk about composer’s intent. We talk about what our job as musicians is…what our purpose is. Put plainly, I tell the students that it’s our job to change lives for the better. It’s our job to make people feel something. To give the audience a shared experience. That is difficult to do without a unified sense of the music we make. I ask questions. I encourage mistakes…bold mistakes…mistakes to be celebrated. I tell them that the person who makes no mistakes makes nothing. I do my level-headed best to create an environment of possibility in which we can learn from a mistake and not be embarrassed by it.
When the rehearsal starts, the very first thing we do is sing. That’s our practical task at hand. Our purpose is to enrich each other’s lives with the shared experience of music, thereby enriching the lives of our audience. [/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][blockquote cite=”Unknown”]”The person who makes no mistakes makes nothing.”[/blockquote][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]
I talk about this a great deal on this blog. There certainly is a ton of science that tells us, as best it can, why music affects us the way it does. We talk about that, too; it’s important to know that information. But, as silly as it might be, I fully embrace Albus Dumbledore’s take on music, so beautifully stated in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone:
“Ah, music,” he said, wiping his eyes. “A magic beyond all we do here!”
It is magic. A roomful of singers who have never made music together smile at the wonder of it all. They feel the connection, almost instantly. Kindred spirits from different communities, ethnic backgrounds, faith experiences, and socio-economic groups coming together to sing, one of the purest forms of musical expression. Each singer finds their place rather quickly as we understand our common goal…to change lives.
We work hard for three and a half hours. I sweat like crazy (I’m quite active in rehearsal). We practice extravagant gratitude. I ask them to thank each other and thank our collaborative pianist. I ask them to thank their choral directors at their high school. I ask them to thank their parents and guardians. I ask them to feel proud of their work. [/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]
When we are done after this initial meeting, this first rehearsal, a new family has been created. A new community full of connections and shared purpose and magic has been born. Hopefully, they are looking forward to the next rehearsal, this opportunity to be together as that community to change lives, even each other’s lives.
One of the most important aspects of the Kindermusik experience is making music with other kiddos. The social/emotional benefits of this activity can’t be overstated. As kids see others engaged in an activity that brings themselves joy, the spark of connection lights a fire within. Emotional sensitivity for others is increased. The very idea of cooperative society blossoms in a Kindermusik class.
Our educators approach what they do in the same way I approach all my rehearsals…with love. It’s an honor to change a life with music. And every day we wake up knowing that’s what we get to do, we friends, that is a good day. [/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]