Joselin* has been a friend of mine for many years. We first got to know each other at a choral conference and have corresponded (first by snail mail, then email) ever since. Occasionally, we’ll see each other in person at a conference, usually planned, or have lunch in downtown Chicago. I’ve shared variations of her Choral Ethics dilemmas in the Choral Ethics Blog from the very beginning. Today’s Choral Ethics dilemma is taken from an email conversation we’ve been having since the beginning of January.
Like me, Joselin directs a community chamber choir in a suburb of Chicago. Her suburb is quite well-to-do with many choral options for interested choral singers, including Rival Chorus, an organization which has been nasty to her from the very beginning of her tenure in the community. One of her present singers is a former member of Rival Chorus and auditioned for Joselin after she could no longer take their game playing.
Joselin is happy with her present singers but is always looking for other good avocational singers to add to her group. And she tries to cultivate singers for the future, especially parents of young children who long to sing the music they sang in their college choirs.
Mostly, she’s been successful with her cultivating process and two of her best singers have been young parents she’s befriended through other music organizations. When the time is right, such as their last child is beginning high school or college, she suggests they audition for her. Her friends are under no obligation to audition, and she enjoys their friendships, regardless.
Ronnie* was one such young parent. Joselin met Ronnie about eleven years ago when Ronnie was on the staff of another arts organization. Ronnie was technically a singer, with a degree in voice, but also had a graduate degree in music business. She was working part-time while her children were in elementary school but missed singing in a good choral group. She told Joselin she would love to sing with her when her children were older.
In the meantime, Ronnie and Joselin became friends in truth. They would occasionally meet for lunch or to celebrate their birthdays together since they were two days apart. Their spouses were in similar professions and also became friends. Joselin and her husband invited Ronnie and her husband to an arts fundraiser in the city and after that, they would go together. They often had dinner or would run into each other at concerts or other local arts events. It was a pleasant but casual friendship since they were at different places in their lives.
Toward the beginning of the Pandemic, Joselin reached out to a number of her young friends including Ronnie, inviting them to a Zoom rehearsal of her chamber choir. One or two did join them for their Zoom rehearsal and all responded except Ronnie. After, Joselin reached out to Ronnie personally and asked how she and her family were doing during the Lockdown. No response. She thought it odd but let it go for several months, and then AGAIN reached out. AGAIN, there was no response. Joselin was getting worried that something awful had happened to Ronnie or her husband or one of the children. She decided it best to let it go, for the time being. She sent out Christmas cards, as usual, but never received one from Ronnie last year, which worried her.
Joselin did get a holiday card from Ronnie this year, enumerating all the wonderful things happening with her family. Ronnie wrote she was singing in Rival Chorus and said she felt like a “true artist” for the first time in her life. What?
Joselin would have understood if Ronnie had TOLD her she was singing in Rival Chorus, but feels betrayed, since she thought they were friends. Ronnie knows about the nasty, hate filled things said about Joselin by the leadership of Rival Chorus; this is fact, not conjecture. Ronnie had always been sympathetic when the gossip about Joselin from Rival Chorus sprouted up.
What’s the dilemma? Joselin wants to confront Ronnie about joining Rival Chorus. I asked why. Does she want to continue the friendship? Joselin wants Ronnie to know how hurt and betrayed she feels. Perhaps the reason Joselin has heard nothing from Ronnie during most of the Pandemic is she feels guilty.
My advice to Joselin is this: Don’t go out of your way (no phone calls, no emails, or texts) to ask why she’s singing with Rival Chorus. In fact, don’t go out of your way to contact Ronnie AT ALL. If Joselin sees her at the grocery store or at a concert, smile and be pleasant but allow her to make the first move and BE NICE. Act like nothing is wrong but be vaguely distance. Sometimes not saying anything is more powerful than saying something. And one day, in the not-too-distant future when things are more normal, Ronnie may want to sing with Joselin because Rival Chorus has a history of ticking singers off. Count on it.
Until next week, be well and be safe.