Dear Chamber Choir and Evolution Choir 2020-2021
Welcome back to another incredible year of music at Magee. This will be a year unlike any other before or any other again. It is a year that will challenge our resilience and our creativity and our resolve, but when we get through it, we will know what we are made of as people. Life has a way of putting challenges in front of us and we either thrive or we shut down and we need to choose what kind of person we want to be. This year will highlight the fact that we are truly in charge of our own destinies. Yes there are factors that are beyond our control, however if we can be flexible and aware of everything going on around us, we will be just fine, and even come out stronger than we even thought we could be. I know things are uncertain, and that can be daunting and even a little scary, but this is where we ban together and lean on each other for reassurance and strength and support. You are not alone. Your choir family is there for you, as am I. And this is what we must be for each other. Unwavering in our care for each other. Unabashed in our giving of our light to those who need it. This is what it means to be human and to share the human experience with one and other.
“Rise above the storm and you will find the sunshine” – Mario Fernandez, Cuban artist who was imprisoned for political dissent by the Castro regime and found his way to US to pursue his painting.
Know that what you do makes a difference in the lives of others. Even in this time. Many people will be thinking of themselves and how to get through this crazy time in history, but this is really the time that we must think beyond ourselves and how we can positively affect change in the lives of others to move forward. We have the unique position of being able to make music. Music that can soothe. Music that can heal. Music that can give hope. It will be different than what you are used to, but just think of it – when you watch a movie, how does the music change the experience of watching that film? When you are sad, what kind of music do you listen to – how does it make you feel when you do listen to it? When you hear a certain song that pumps you up and makes you want to dance crazily around your kitchen singing at the top of your voice, why is that? Music has that ability to bring us to a different place, to transport us to an alternate reality, and to change our mood or to dive deeper and give more meaning to what we are experiencing.
“We are the music makers, and we are the dreamers of dreams” – Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka
I don’t know if any of you watched the Netflix documentary about Michael Jordan and the Bulls entitled “the Last Dance”, but in it there were some very strong take aways. I have always been a huge MJ fan and whenever I need a boost of inspiration, I watch one of his videos – I’ve always done this because I so admire his work ethic and philosophy of excellence. But one of the most poignant things I got from this last documentary was that it is all about being present in the moment. At this time, more than any other, this statement really applies. We can not live in our past – what we used to do and what came before can not happen. We can not live for the future, for it is very uncertain at this moment. All we have is the present time. What we do with each moment, each second, shapes who we are. The present is all we have and we decide how we want to live it and thus, our character is formed by it. We can choose to live in fear. We can choose to quit and give up. We can choose to let everything happen to us. Or we can choose to face things and refuse to let the world stop us from getting what we want to achieve. We can choose to find a way, a safe way, of navigating these waters. We can choose to become better and stronger in the face of adversity and live an inspired life. We can choose to help others to achieve these things too and lead in such a way that inspires others to do so as well. Life is about choices and those choices define us and define our lives. We have control of NOTHING except ourselves. Just as no one has control over us except us. We choose our path and what we want to make of ourselves and how we use our time. Time. The most precious thing in the world is time. Time can not be bought. Can not be stopped. And once a minute is over, it is gone forever. No do overs. No rewind. What is said can not be taken back and what has been done can not be undone. For better or for worse, once a moment is gone it is gone and you have to ask yourself how did you use that moment – to better yourself and the people around you or was it wasted or did you make someone’s life worse?
“the Key to immortality is first to live a life worth living” – Bruce Lee
Know that most every situation is temporary – you will get through it eventually. The road may be long and wrought with challenges, but if you have someone to help you through it, to be your beacon, it will make the journey less difficult. There may be times that you may feel like things are hopeless or times when the weight of the world seems too great – those are the times to lean on the people who you know have your back, the people who truly love you, the people who you trust the most to get you through it. And you will get through it. Close your eyes. Take a breath. Find your center. Visualize a positive outcome. Then open your eyes and carry on. You can do it. You can take charge of your life. You can be the one who says, this is not how it’s going to end and then do something about it. The biggest questions are not why or what, the biggest question is how. How are we going to do this together? How are we going to find a way to succeed? How can we find a solution to our problem? How invites action and does not stall. You will find a way if you truly want to – in any situation. Sometimes you may need some help. Often you will need some patience. Most assuredly you will need to bolster your inner strength and find resilience from within. But if you can do those things, nothing can stop you from achieving your goals or getting through the most difficult times in your life. And through it all, if you look to the music, understand the phrase, delve deeper into the text, this too can bring you peace and a better understanding of yourself. Choir is not simply a place for you to sing and to learn how to sing – it is a place of self-discovery. It is a place for you to find out what you are truly made of and who you are as a person. The experience you have here is up to you. I will give you guidance and a framework, you must provide the rest and you will learn what kind of person you are and what kind of person you want to be. What your work ethic is. What your character is. What you will do when things get difficult and what you will do when faced with adversity. What kind of person do you want to be? What kind of friend do you want to be? What is the legacy that you want to leave? What do you want to be remembered for and as?
Whatever is going on inside you, will be transparently displayed on the outside. If you are passionate and dedicated to your art, that will come through your art. If you are open and vulnerable and humble, that will come through your art. If you are arrogant and think you’re superior, that will come through your art. If you are unsure of yourself and unprepared, it will come through your art. If you are unwilling to do what is necessary to create beauty, that will come through your art. You see, what we are, how we do, and what this choir will become is dependent on every single one of you. If one person succeeds, we share in that, learn from it, and we all succeed. If one person doesn’t know their part or their text or they don’t sing with their heart, then we all suffer. For yes, while each of you brings something unique to this group, and that is your story to tell, your experiences to share, and your thoughts and feelings to connect to each other with, we are unequivocally linked to each other – if one of us fails, we all fail, but when we succeed, when we change lives, when we create beauty unmatched, we do so together. For this is a place where you can not only create life long friends, but also a place where we can create a family, a choir family where we share a vision and we help each other, support each other, and achieve together.
And above all else, practice gratefulness. The more grateful we are, the happier we will be. There is no truer statement than that. Look around you. Be always humble. Find something to appreciate in every moment and situation, no matter how difficult it is. We are so lucky to be here doing what we love being surrounded by people who can support us and bring us to new heights. Show care and practice acceptance, even to those who may try to bring you down – for 9 times out of 10, when someone is mean to you, it’s not about you at all, its something going on inside of them. Do things with intention. Plan ahead. Be grateful and practice gratefulness everywhere you can. And choose to live an extraordinary life – it may take more work and effort to do so, but in the end, it will be a life worth living. These are all things we will explore throughout the year. Enjoy the process and believe in yourself and believe in this choir, for I believe in you. Let us together make this year extraordinary!
One Choir, One Sound.
Dear members of Chamber Choir 2017-2018
”Music is capable of being everything or nothing, depending on the transmitter;
music can exist as sound without meaning if we let it”
As we come into this new year, filled with new possibilities and new challenges, I really want us to think about the above quote. What does it really mean? To you? To us as a choir?
Every single day we have a choice, a choice on how we choose to see the world, a choice to live “as if nothing is a miracle, or as if everything is a miracle” (Albert Einstein). We have a choice to see things as an opportunity to grow and get better and succeed in ways we had not even dreamt about or we can see things as burden and as getting in our way to happiness. What we put into things has a direct correlation to what we get back out of it and if we truly put our hearts into it, if we are willing to go that extra step, to do things truly with passion and with putting in not only the time, but also your whole heart and giving your full effort, the rewards you will reap will be 100 times greater than you would have ever expected. For what we are doing here is not simply making sound, we are making music that has the ability to be anything and do anything and can change lives, not only yours, but those of the people around you and your audience. For this is not simply a choir. This is a place of self-discovery. This is a place where you can become greater than you had ever thought possible.
“In order for musicians to become great performers, they must know themselves intimately…it is the responsibility of the artist to see how the world at large is reflected in and through their art”
Whatever is going on inside you will be transparently displayed on the outside. If you are passionate and dedicated to your art, that will come through your art. If you are open and vulnerable and humble, that will come through your art. If you are arrogant and think you’re superior, that will come through your art. If you are unsure of yourself and unprepared, it will come through your art. If you are unwilling to do what is necessary to create beauty, that will come through your art. You see, what we are, how we do, and what this choir will become is dependent on every single one of you. If one person succeeds, we share in that, learn from it, and we all succeed. If one person doesn’t know their part or their text or they don’t sing with their heart, then we all suffer. For yes, while each of you brings something unique to this group, and that is your story to tell, your experiences to share, and your thoughts and feelings to connect to each other with, we are unequivocally linked to each other – if one of us fails, we all fail, but when we succeed, when we change lives, when we create beauty unmatched, we do so together. For this is a place where you can not only create life long friends, but also a place where we can create a family, a choir family where we share a vision and we help each other, support each other, and achieve together.
This year is our story. And it is a story that has never been told before. And it is a story that will never be told again the same way. We, like every year in the Magee Chamber Choir, are unique, not like any other group that came before and not like any group that will come after. There is no comparison. This is our story to tell. It is this story that will connect us through the year, not only to each other, but to the people we sing to. It is a story that, if we work with passion and dedication and are willing to go that extra mile, will be talked about for years as something beyond great, beyond magical, beyond transcendent. It is in your hands how far we go this year, it is in your hands whether we create a legacy where people will think back to this year and remember how our music making changed them, how our music making made them feel something unexpected and wonderful, how our music making made them wonder how a high school group could possibly sound like that.
“You must build your life as if it were a work of art”
Especially this pertains to this year in choir. How do we create great art? How does an artist make a masterpiece? First they have to learn the correct skills and techniques and apply them to their craft. They must constantly be aware of how they are developing and they have to practice over and over and over again. Think of how many paintings an artist has to do before that one that makes them famous. Or how many songs an artist has to write before that one that makes them a star. Or think about how many bit parts, or commercials, or small roles an actor has to take before they get their break and become a household name. How many shots does a basketball player have to take before they make it into the NBA? We must constantly be honing our craft, thinking it, living it, breathing it. Not so much that we neglect other things in our lives, but when we are working on our craft we must be extremely focused and aware of how we are working and if we are using time wisely to progress our skills. The greater our skills, the more we will be able to allow our souls, hearts, and emotions to speak through our music. The frustrating thing is always wanting to do something, but being unable to do so because your skills are not at the level to allow you to do what you want to do. It’s like saying I want to design the next great renewable energy source or I want to cure a disease. Sure I would love to do those things, but I have neither the training nor the skills to be able to do it and no matter how much I want to do them, I can’t until I put the time and efforts into the preparation of it through a lot of extremely hard work and determination and dedication as well as good guidance and patience. And this goes for this year in Chamber as well. We have absolutely stunning pieces and I have some ideas that I want to put in place that changes the ideas of what people view as simply choral music, but we can do neither of those things well until we work to get our skills to a place in which we can execute with precision and ease. In the literal sense, that’s making sure you are always trying to know your parts better than the person beside you and doing so quicker and faster. It means making sure you use time wisely, and that includes making sure you are not only on time for everything, but in fact, early for them. Don’t wait until the last minute for anything!!! Plan ahead and things will seem much easier for you when the time comes to do them. That and you’re not stressed out and scrambling, nor are you wondering what’s going to happen. There will always be the unforeseen, but if you honestly do all that you can in preparation, then you will be able to deal with pretty much anything.
Remember too that everything is all about perspective. How you choose to view things will shape how your life will unfold. For example,
“you may start the day all aware and grateful seeing the miracle of life just happening around you. Then you stub your toe, and in that moment of pain, the whole world is reduced to our poor little toe. Which defines or day? The pinch we feel in walking on a bruised toe, or the miracle still happening? It is the smallness that opens us to misery… Misery is a moment of suffering allowed to become everything”
and as we go through this year we need to try to see the bigger picture, to be the bigger person, to see that there is more going on around us than just ourselves. We must always keep the practice of being humble, being honest with yourself, and being caring and kind. These are the things that being in this choir really teaches you. This is what the discipline of learning all this music and how we perform it together will teach you. Learn to trust yourself, learn to trust each other, believe in our choir family, and learn how to do everything with passion, for by putting your passionate energy into everything you do will allow you to experience things you never even thought possible. And each day try to make a positive difference in someone’s life. Don’t give into gossip or pettiness or negative energy that will bring you and the people around you down.
“To transform the world, we must begin with ourselves”.
I know this year will be an unforgettable journey with more highs than lows and more joy than frustration, if we work together, support each other, and practice love to ourselves and to others. You are all here because you are supposed to be here, so do not doubt yourself or why you are here. Be bold, be daring, take risks for the opportunities to grow as a person, to grow as a choir, to grow as a family. There will be times throughout the year that you might feel overwhelmed or stressed out – when that happens, don’t stop, don’t give up, don’t give in to apathy. Instead close your eyes, take a breath, count the things you are grateful for, emote through the music, and find solace and support in the members of your choir family. Become the music in your performance. Be humble. Do things with intention. Plan ahead. Be grateful and practice gratefulness everywhere you can. And choose to live an extraordinary life – it may take more work and effort to do so, but in the end, it will be a life worth living. These are all things we will explore throughout the year. Enjoy the process and believe in yourself and believe in this choir, for I believe in you. Let us together make this year extraordinary! One Choir, One Sound.