Why Do You Sing?


Dr. Boyle conducts the Middle Level All State Choir in Wisconsin. Scedra is right in the front row.
Dr. Boyle conducts the Middle Level All State Choir in Wisconsin. Scedra is right in the front row.

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]I teach my students that it’s the conductors job to make others musically powerful. This concept was crystalized for me by Ben Zander in his TED Talk. If you haven’t watched it, you should! As conductors, we develop a vision and inspire others to realize that vision.

When I work with choirs, I tell it like it is. I tell them what I expect – and to paraphrase my friend and fraternity brother, Karl Paulnack, from his Welcome Address to the parents of incoming Boston Conservatory students – I expect them to save lives with their music.

The Wisconsin Middle Level All State Choir was no different. They sang! They gave away their collective voice, honoring the composers, each other, and the audience. I told them – you never know whose life you might change with your music. I believe that. I believe that there could be someone in that audience whose life is at the crossroads – and honest and selfless art given freely by a group of emotionally connected middle schoolers has the power to pull them down the road that leads to life.

We sang! But we also talked about the music. We talked about the historical context of McCartney’s “Blackbird” – so relevant today. Not about a blackbird, friends. Sir Paul wrote this in response to the riots occurring in ’68 after Dr. King was assassinated. And the middle school musicians ate up this information. You could have heard a pin drop when I talked to them about this.

I have started taking a moment at festivals to ask students why they sing – particularly in choir. One young woman, Scedra (pronounced Say-dra – her name was a combination of the initials of grandmothers and great grandmothers) particularly touched me. Scedra was born 2 months premature. She fit in the palm of your hand. Her father’s wedding ring could slide up her arm to her shoulder with room to spare. Scedra is in a wheel chair. She put her hand up to share why she sang….[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][blockquote cite=””]“I sing because it makes me feel like flying. I don’t feel like I’m in my chair. It’s like I’m not disabled anymore.”[/blockquote][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]I wept. I’m weeping now typing this. 149 of her new friends instantly applauded her. The smile on her face eclipsed her chair. Scedra is often (at first sight) defined by her wheelchair, but in that moment, she was simply and beautifully a young woman overjoyed to be making music with her new friends.

Scedra and a host of her colleagues shared from their hearts in a room full of people they had just met. Music did this. Music created this place that allowed these people to be who they were (are!) without fear of judgment.

And that is music’s power.

These young men and women changed my life and for that I will be forever grateful.

Thank God, the universe, and all good things for music.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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