I’m en route back to Indianapolis, via Delta rather than Northwest, thanks to flight delays.
The last three days have been spent in Tuscaloosa at the University of Alabama leading the Alabama All-State Show Choir. (Note: when one says “Roll Tide,” one is greeted with many others saying “Roll Tide” rather reverentially, very much like one “Amen” is echoed with others saying the same thing.)
This all-state event has been the single most satisfying clinic/workshop/special event I’ve ever led in my career. The kids were primed and ready. They sang well from the beginning, and better and better as the two days of rehearsal went on. They made laugh more than I made them laugh. They were gracious and warm and thoughtful and honest.
We’d reserved some extra time last night for rehearsal. By early afternoon we knew that we had the show in hand, so we gave them back that time. In fact, Shawn and I were able to spend about 20 minutes on Friday afternoon just talking with the kids about life, work, connections, synergy, community.
Without a purposed attempt to do so, we helped the kids to something more than a musical experience. These students–from all over Alabama–experienced something communal, something spiritual. I spoke to them yesterday about making life better for all concerned, about leaving the world a better place than they found it. Something in that seemed to resonate. They hugged more. They talked even more with students from other schools. Today, during our hour off between on-stage rehearsal and performance, they just laughed and made noise, and took pictures, and exchanged email addresses. These simple acts told us that we’d accomplished the real goal of an all-state choir: a group of musicians coming together in service of something outside of themselves.
And then there was the performance, a rousing, energetic, smile-filled set with energy to spare and some wonderfully nuanced singing. The music never did wear old, although I don’t think I’ll be doing any ABBA again soon. The other songs were classics that I’ll sing again any day:
- Blow, Gabriel, Blow (its arranger, Greg Gilpin, stopped in for a bit of rehearsal);
- Our Time by Stephen Sondheim, a perfect ballad that is just IT for this kind of event, and one that could be used for graduation or any kind of celebratory rite-of-passage moment;
- Little Boy Lost, a stunning, bittersweet ballad that was my personal favorite of the show.
I go home happy and satisfied, anxious to return to Alabama, grateful to Vivienne for calling on me, and more aware of the power of music to change lives.