As I have done many times in the past, I recently visited a high school in southern Texas. Their school’s choir had been chosen to sing for 3,000-4,000 audience members at our most recent Houston Symphony Family concert, Aladdin & the Arabian Nights. The air was filled with energy and anticipation.
As I was being introduced, I could see on their faces that they were trying to process who I was. They were told that I was a conductor with the Houston Symphony and they wondered if I would be harsh, rude or downright mean. Hardly anyone ever guesses the opposite. They found out soon enough that I couldn’t have been happier to make music with them. I could tell as they warmed up their voices that they knew what they were doing. They were ready to jump in… no fear. They were impressive.
Once the full choir rehearsal was over, sixteen students decided that they wanted to audition for me to sing a duet with the Houston Symphony. They each had 60 seconds to sing their hearts out and earn a spot on stage with the orchestra. Their song was “A Whole New World” from Aladdin. You could tell their anxiety level had ratcheted up.
I’ve gone through this audition process many times, but I still have the same two thoughts go through my mind.
First, I’m thrilled because there is a rush that happens when you know you might hear the next great star. Will it be the young singer with all the confidence in the world? Will he/she grow from there and take the world by storm? Or will it be one of the shy ones that hadn’t found their voice yet? Could this opportunity change everything for them?
At the same time I empathize with those not chosen. I know that everyone can’t “win,” and sometimes the most talented artists in the world have been rejected. Regardless, that feeling you get when you aren’t sure if you will ever be good enough is hard… for all of us.
In this particular case a few things stood out. First of all, as I coached, laughed, jumped up and down and prodded them into singing out more and really expressing themselves, they started to change. They discovered that making a mistake wasn’t the worst thing that could happen. They discovered that when they were filled with the song the words were actually easier to remember.
Second, they discovered that it was easier to sing when you did it with total freedom. They were starting to experience the concept of being “generous of spirit.” The more they gave, the more they received. This is the basic tenant of being a performing artist, but it only happens when you completely and totally give in to it.
Finally, over the course of an hour they learned to trust. They placed a small part of their future success in my hands, and I embraced their trust. The more they came with me, the more I engaged. In fact, by the end I could hardly contain myself! I wish everyone could experience teenagers in this way. I am in awe of my new friends at Clear Creek High School. For them, a little tune called “A Whole New World,” may have given them just that.
PS… the entire choir at Clear Creek High School grew in this way. They made music that weekend with complete freedom and a generosity of spirit what was truly inspiring!
From Robert Franz’s blog Building Bridges with Music. CLICK HERE to read more of his posts.