Secret Judges & Milestones
On July 3, I conducted CHARIS, the St. Louis Women's Chorus--a non-auditioned choir--in a beautiful performance at the International Gay and Lesbian Association (GALA) of Choruses Festival in Ellie Caulkins Opera House in Denver, Colorado. Our performance highlighted two pieces by St. Louis songwriter Melinda Ohlemiller (arranged by yours truly), a Holly Near song (also arranged by yours truly), and Chapo Pou Fanm by Sydney Guillaume (among other selections). In true GALA Choruses spirit, we received a standing ovation, but in our case, this standing ovation happened upon the cutoff of EVERY single piece we performed (not just the customary standing ovation at the end of the set)! We sang to a packed house, and in that moment, the women realized how worth the effort was to prepare for that moment! This experience is a big highlight in my life, and I will treasure it forever.
But there's more...A few days later I received a call from a GALA Board member who said that secret judges were planted in the audience of the festival's more than 130 performances that week. They had four slots for choirs to participate in the closing ceremony, and they chose to invite CHARIS to fill one of those slots!
In the end, I think we should all be winners, and these sorts of adjudications are very subjective. Nonetheless, I am grateful for this invitation for what it represents more than "bringing the house down." This inviation--this moment in time--is reflection of my own personal journey as a conductor-leader. I am learning how to adapt my leadership to reflect what each group needs, to be flexible (without sacrificing who I am or my own commitment to excellence). This experience represented a milestone for me--where creating a strong community was equally balanced with creating a strong artistic product and everyone benefitted. I mean EVERYONE! The energy of this experience is palpable, and it is an honor to be in the middle of an experience like this. Ten years ago I would not have been capable of or ready for that experience.
Not only were we selected, but our sense of community support, our passion for excellence, our love for the profound messages of which we sang, and the humanity of the art all blended together in a way that made me feel like I am growing up as a conductor. Now to 30 more years!