Wednesday, October 29, 2008

"I Dreamed A Dream"

Ever since I was in high school, I've dreamed of leading a musical group to arise from the ashes and become a formidable musical force in performance and possibly even competition. I focused this drive into my own milieu, concentrating on instrumental music - specifically high school band. For 14 years, I spent my falls running around like a madman between band and drum corps rehearsals and competitions, while I frantically juggled family, school, and work.

Then, about 6 1/2 years ago, I fulfilled a small part of my destiny by joining the SPEBSQSA (AKA: The Barbershop Harmony Society). Being a 3rd generation barbershopper, I had always enjoyed barbershop harmony, even dabbling in a few quartets in high school for singing valentines and a concert or 2. After 2 weeks, I was recruited into 2 quartets for an upcoming performance on a part I NEVER thought I'd sing - tenor.

Since then, I have been part of a district champion chorus, competed with my quartet on the contest stage, made a few bucks here and there doing gigs with my quartet, brought smiles and tears (the good kind) to people's faces, and made countless friends from around the world through the fellowship of this fraternity of music. Now, it seems, my dream and my new musical focus may be converging....and it's about damned time.

Last night I drove 1 1/2 hours to a "nearby" chorus to speak with their director search committee. Not having the background in conducting a barbershop chorus (which is dramatically different that conducting other vocal or instrumental groups), a district or international medal, or even a completed degree, I thought the chances rather slim, but worth an inquiry. I figured my background in teaching and personable nature might be at least enough to have them listen to me and get a polite "thank you, we'll let you know," at best. Well, I was wrong. Pleasantly, delightfully wrong.

I spent the better part of an hour after their rehearsal, talking with the members of the committee. They asked brilliant questions, each one of them I felt comfortable and prepared answering. They seemed impressed with my answers, smiling, nodding, and taking notes as I spoke. From what I gathered by their questions and occasional comments about previous directors, they seemed to want exactly what my strengths were: teaching, ability to handle a variety of talent levels, and an open and accepting attitude. I made it clear that I welcome contrary ideas, have no intention of being the sword wielding despot, and view the position of director as member of the chapter team. I make the chorus sound better. I don't decide the direction of the chorus, I don't have veto power, I am not the "decider" - the chapter and its leadership is. They liked that.

So as it is now, I feel I am a strong contender. This is a MUCH better position than I felt I would be in. They still have 6 other candidates to interview before they begin to whittle down their options. Within a couple of months, they will narrow it down to 2 or 3 and bring each one in to lead a rehearsal. By January or February, they will decide and allow their new director to ease into the job by assisting in rehearsals and conducting a song or 2 in preparation for their annual show, before taking the reigns.

I doubt the pay will be much more than just enough to justify the mileage and time, but beyond being something to add to my resume, it the realization of my dream. I would be directing a musical group and helping them to improve as musicians and maybe even win a few contests. A kicker of this is, it happens to be my dad's old chapter.

I'm not holding my breath for it, but DAMN if it isn't exciting!

1 comment:

Musical Daddy said...

Heavy is the head that wears the crown, my friend. The buck stops here, indeed.

Seriously - being a director has been one of the great joys of my life. It's frustrating as heck at times, but rewarding all of the time. Just last night, I was literally rolling on the floor laughing while we were all screwing around during "The 12 Days of Christmas."

Two pieces of advice:
1) establish a positive, welcoming culture in the room. That's the #1 most important thing a director can do - create a place where guys feel comfortable extending themselves.
2) spend LOTS of time working on singing fundamentals. If you don't know how to do this, invest in some of the society's learning materials. It's SO important to work on voice placement (forward or back), riser places, posture, breathing, etc. on a weekly basis.

Best of luck, amigo...