I asked my advanced students yesterday what skill (vocal music or otherwise) would they like to have that would be worth all the work it needed to achieve. Something that no matter what obstacles were thrown in your way you would want bad enough to keep trying and keep fighting for. I told them I would love to be performing again but, for me, it wouldn’t be worth all the hard work it would take to get that done.
My point in all of this was to highlight the fact that in order to be good at something, that you lack skills in, takes really hard work and focus. It is real easy to fall back on the skills you already have and simply say “well that’s enough I don’t need anymore”. I wanted them to verbalize what they really wanted to achieve so that they would keep their eyes on the prize when challenged with the tough stuff.
Yesterday I got a phone call from a former student, Andrew, who did just that. This kid, when he walked into my choir room 4 years ago, was an amazing musician and pianist already. In fact, what brought him in the door was the fact that he wanted to be the pianist in the jazz band but in order to do that he had to join a large ensemble and mine was the lesser of the three evils. He was the greatest kid, and he fit right in. For four years he brightened my day each time he walked into my room. He could have very easily have just phoned it in and stuck to his already massive musician skills but he decided that he really wanted to learn how to sing. Now being a high school boy he was already behind the 8 ball. He wasn’t singing when his voice was changing so he had a hard time getting his voice to do what his ear wanted it to. Something inside him kept him going. He joined more vocal groups, sang at coffee house, started the barbershop quartet club, and did honor choir. He just loved it and did what it took to acquire that skill.
I am always honored and thankful when I get a phone call, visit, text, or email from a former student. I know college is a super exciting time, and I know that reaching out to an old teacher, even one you really liked, might not be always on said student’s radar. So when I got his first message telling me to call him back I thought “wow that was really nice of him to call but I’ll just leave him alone tonight and call him later” but when he called a second time that evening I knew he really did want to talk. He told me that he auditioned for choir and got in. He told me that he was so excited because the director sent him recordings of the music and that all of it was so beautiful. He made my night. To think that this kid who was brand new to singing 4 years ago was now in a collegiate choir made me swell with pride. He is a cheerleader to all he is around, to me, and ultimately to himself.
I am so thankful to have been his teacher. Thanks for reminding me that hard work, determination, and perseverance really do pay off.
I might just have to go dust off my character shoes.