“It is impossible, in our condition of Society, not to be sometimes a Snob.” William Makepeace Thackeray
Recently, I’ve become aware I am being referred to as Highfalutin, an Elitist, and a Snob. All those things are, apparently, bad things. In my own work, I suppose I am a bit highfalutin with my repertoire choices. My chamber choir is, I would allow, elitist since it is a highly auditioned ensemble. I don’t let my Potty Mouth out in public (in private, I curse like a merchant marine if the mood strikes me) and if that makes me a snob, I guess I am. But I was raised to be what used to be called A Lady and it tends to bleed over to my work. Being A Lady or to be more PC, Polite and Respectful, is not in fashion any longer. Being real is in fashion now, more’s the pity.
I guess I should be grateful being polite, respectful and kind is NOT the accepted norm any longer. The resulting unhappy people have given me a lot of material to write about. In fact, I was worried when I became a regular Blogger here on ChoralNet I wouldn’t have enough Choral Ethics material and why my Blog is called “Choral Potpourri.” I reasoned I would be able to write about anything choral related if I called it that. I should not have worried; there is plenty to write about. It is a rare week I don’t find one or two or three emails about my Choral Ethics Project in my Inbox. (Email me anytime with your problems: firstname.lastname@example.org I always try to respond in a timely fashion. ‘Choral Ethics Project’ should be the subject line.)
I do feel bad I am not able to write about everyone’s problems. I try to vary the ethics issues and sometimes folks have similar situations so I merge them. As is my wont to respect the privacy of those who trust me, I change details, names and even genders so my readers here will be able to understand the gist of the problem but not the particulars. Some details are no one else’s business and I respect that. It does take a bit of time to get to the kernel of the problem and cut out the rest but it is worth it to have the trust of those who confide in me.
But let’s get real. I will share something about my real life; the real UN-highfalutin, non-elitist, least snobby part: my eldest son has autism. In past Blogs, you might have read about Russell. When he was very young and we were beginning our autism journey, the school district arranged for an educational psychologist to come into our home three times a week and teach me the behavior management techniques used with him in his early childhood program so there would be consistency from school to home. If I am totally honest with myself and real about it, I learned much of what has become the basis for my Choral Ethics Project from the kind professionals who loved Russell almost as much as we did (and do). The behavior techniques have helped me with him over the years but also have had a huge impact on my own music teaching, choral conducting and running of my rehearsals.
Two of the main tenets of those behavior techniques are these: model the behavior you want from your students (singers) and it will be reflected back eventually. And for every one of your actions, there is often an equal (and many times) opposite reaction from your students. Pretty real and uncomplicated ideas but what do they mean in the real world? If you want respect, show respect and if you want loyalty show kindness. If you don’t want back-stabbing, don’t play favorites. Don’t teach down, teach up and always assume your students (singers) understand. Answer questions without impatience. Speak intelligently and chose your vocabulary with care, you are the teacher (director/conductor) not their friend. Don’t judge anyone unless you know what their situation is and if you don’t know, keep your mouth shut.
Does the Choral Ethics way of looking at our profession make me highfalutin, elitist and a snob? You tell me. Ya gotta problem with that? Get over it!