By Matt Harrison
In this season of change, how often have you taken the time to meaningfully meditate on why we do what we do? Perhaps, we must first examine exactly what it is that we do.
- We connect and engage with our singers. We cultivate powerful, lasting, and transformative relationships. As my good friend and choral rock star, Anne Guess (Texas MS educator), would say: “love the children.” This is the most important thing we can do. We must always lead with love.
- We advocate for our singers and our colleagues. We unabashedly care. We care that every person we encounter is validated, seen, heard, uplifted, and supported. Through our inherent empathy, we forge communities built on equality and compassion.
- We teach humanity through choral music. Or, choral music teaches us about our shared humanity. We cannot have these authentic experiences if we are not vulnerable in our classrooms. Asking that in return from our students requires tremendous trust, which is built over time in the safe havens that we provide for our students. We patiently create that meaningful and unique space.
- We struggle. In our binary society, reconciling our vision for an egalitarian choral community can be confusing and fraught with missteps along the way. We set an example for our students by engaging with past and present history responsibly and honestly. This work can be messy, but we must ask ourselves what we are doing if we are not willing to consistently stand against injustice – not by proselytizing, but through our actions.
- We give back. We invest our time, our treasure, and our emotional capital to help others to walk in love. We volunteer. As members of the American Choral Directors Association, we engage with a more global community that exists to support all of us as professional educators. Truly, our organization is made rich through the tireless, selfless, and generous emotional investments of our membership.
This is what we do. This is who we are. Sometimes it is difficult to appreciate the profound nature of what we do because we are focused on the mundane (yet tremendously vast) expectations of our vocation:
- Arm waver, voice coach, diction expert, linguist, ethnomusicologist, business manager, therapist, music historian, volunteer coordinator, music theorist, professional development participant, test proctor, accompanist, librarian, travel coordinator, equipment manager, paperwork gatherer, bank teller, cheerleader, chauffeur, chaperone, uniform curator, arranger, composer, video editor, music critic, audio engineer, curriculum builder, grade giver, etc.
This brings us back to my initial question. Why do we do what we do? I believe that we engage with all of these responsibilities because our love resonates most strongly through the power of music.
Choral music offers our communities intergenerational connections to celebrate the best of who we are, heal us when we are weary, and inspire us to put one foot in front of the other every day. We do this work because we know the world is a better place when we can find ways to love one another. In all of our endless activities, don’t forget to notice the people walking alongside you and say thank you. That spirit of gratitude will be that little voice that encourages you to persevere even in the most trying times. So my friends, thank you for walking with me on the path to make our music resound with love.
Matthew Harrison is the Connecticut ACDA chapter president. He is the Director of Choirs at Hamden Hall Country Day School, choirmaster and organist at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Cheshire, CT, and a graduate assistant (pursuing a doctorate in musical arts in choral conducting) at the University of Connecticut.