“Folks are usually about as happy as they make their minds up to be.” Abraham Lincoln
Are you happy? For the rest of the month of September, Choral Ethics will be exploring the idea of happiness and what it takes to BE happy in our profession. But today, let’s hear what a couple of ChoralNetters think about happiness and why they are happy.
In the past, I’ve asked you to think about what YOU need to have a good concert. Some ChoralNetters have done just that; and have shared with me what works for them during concert week and more. This “and more” is the happiness element I’d like to concentrate on for September.
Victor* often got overwhelmed as the academic year began. He eventually realized the more organized he was before, the more relaxed and the easier it was to make music. Now all he has to do when school starts each year is to show up. He admits, since he’s been at the same private high school position for ten years, it’s easy to prepare during the summer. He loves his school, loves his students, loves his community and he is happy. How does he do it? Planning. It wasn’t until he had been in this position for a couple of years that he discovered how much easier (and happier) his life was if he planned far ahead. It all became clear when his choir room was renovated one summer due to a leaking roof.
Up until that summer, Victor planned by the seat of his pants. He planned one concert ahead but that was all. It left him scrambling all the time and he was always crabby. All that changed when he had to be around for two weeks one summer during his choir room’s renovation. Victor was expected to be there, and was paid to be there but there really wasn’t anything for him to do. He thought he should do something productive while hanging out. At first, he filed music, and told me there was PLENTY to file. But after two days, he was finished.
He conducts four choral groups; Freshmen Girls, Freshman Boys, Mixed Chorus and Master Singers. He was always scrambling with no real direction, other than trying to choose music that would be appropriate for each of the four concerts they did every school year. Victor decided to plan the coming fall’s concert eventho school had only been out for a few weeks. Then he planned the holiday concert and the March concert. Finally, he planned the last concert of the year. He got a bit carried away, he tells me, because he plotted out themes and concerts for four years. He came upon the idea while he watched the carpenters work; they would rotate themes and music every four years so those entering as freshmen would never sing the same music during their high school experience. He’s almost through the second go-through and tells me the whole concept has worked extremely well.
The theme/music/concert four year rotation is not stagnant or boring because he vowed to refresh or update or go with something in the news or the community if appropriate. He is always on the lookout for new music to add. Since he knows when it will fit, he is not purchasing music just to purchase new music. And he files music after every concert. His life is easier and much, much happier.
Serena* is happier in her present situation than she ever was in her past positions. She’s beginning her third year and knows it was pure luck to find this job. She is an elementary school music specialist and works with great people in her district. That’s it, that’s why she’s happy; she works with good people. There are five music teachers in a medium sized district with five schools. Each person is based at one school and teaches general music, and also is a district specialist for band or orchestra or choir. There are two band directors and two orchestra directors and Serena is the choir director. Her colleagues share information about their shared students and generally support each other. It’s different from past positions where territory was fought over daily. They make it a point to collaborate at least once a year and do so happily.