On a cold morning in January 2020 I, along with my amazing accompanist, colleague, and friend Chad Baker, set out on a three-hour journey to Fort Wayne, Indiana. I had the distinct pleasure of being chosen as the first conductor outside of the state of Indiana to conduct the Indiana All-State Elementary Honor Choir. Yikes!
My job began almost a year before I met the singers. One of the most daunting tasks for an all-state conductor is choosing music. My goal was to find pieces that exposed the singers to a variety of languages and musical styles. Trying to find pieces that were challenging, but not overwhelming was my primary goal.
Our first rehearsal began shortly after our arrival in Fort Wayne. I am not sure who had more butterflies, the singers or me. Such trepidation and doubt…my head was swimming. It has been more than twenty years since I taught elementary students. How would I keep all 150 of them engaged? Would they be well prepared? Did I pick appropriate literature? Am I well prepared? Will the teachers observing the rehearsals feel like their singers are learning from me? Do I have enough tricks up my sleeve to fix potential problems? Do I have the ability to create a community of singers where everyone feels important and empowered? Can I be both patient and encouraging, and of course, will they like me? If I cannot step in and build a positive relationship with all 150 singers, all bets are off and the weekend will be a total disaster.
I am happy to report that the first rehearsal was amazing! All the singers were well prepared by their respective teachers. The pieces were not perfect, but the note and rhythm corrections were few and far between. Because these singers were so well prepared, we were able to spend our two days together turning our music into beautiful and memorable works of art.
Over the next two days, we played games together, laughed together, rejoiced together when we did something well, and encouraged each other when things became challenging. Every day we worked hard to perfect every vowel and shape every phrase. It was an exciting time for everyone.
Our two days together culminated in a concert held at the historic Embassy Theatre in Fort Wayne. I am happy to report that their performance was flawless! The 150 singers that walked into the first rehearsal with a raw understanding of the repertoire are leaving the Embassy Theatre as young musicians. What began with much trepidation, ended with memories of great experiences, beautiful choral sounds, and many remarkable new friends. I am so thankful that I was given the opportunity to work with some of Indiana’s finest musicians. It is an experience that I will cherish for many years to come.
Inspired by what you read today? Just $25 buys a full year’s worth of sheet music for our youngest singers. Make your gift today.