love letter 3: for WNE

Dear Student Singers,

You didn’t pick me.  I got hired over the summer by faculty and  administrators, and you had no say about it.  You just got stuck with me.   Because I’ve seen so many  transitions, and witnessed a wide array of challenges, I was ready for an uphill road.

I decided I would only change what was absolutely necessary in terms of logistics and infrastructure.  I also decided that I would be entirely myself, and give you my entire best from day 1, that I wouldn’t hide any of my flaws or fears, and that I would ask the same of you–your technical best and the investment of your hearts.  I took it as a risk because I suspected it might be worth it.

So I asked.

And you were like, “okay!”

You said yes to everything.  I kept asking, and kept discovering what more you were capable of.  It gave me the thrill of my life–the scariest, best feeling I’ve ever had as a conductor: the realization that I might hold you back, and that it will soon be my job to point you in the right direction and get out of your way.

How can I explain to you how little that’s to be taken for granted?  I’ve worked with so many groups; and the vast majority of the time, all they want is for me to keep the beat and tell them where the cutoff is.  They want a conductor to help them achieve Accuracy.  If I talk about “The F Word” (feelings), they start to squirm.

You didn’t squirm.  You were brave and open and warm.  You tried and tried and succeeded, then exceeded my expectations over and over.  You made me rethink my expectations, expand my vision to include the full richness of your character.  I said “the pool’s deeper than that!” and you swam for five seconds and were like, “actually, it’s an ocean.”

You’re going into finals week at WNE.  I want to wish you good luck on the end of your semester; and I want you to know how much I’ve enjoyed working with you, how much I’ve learned from you, how grateful I am for your generosity and patience, and how enthusiastically I’m looking forward to making more music with  you again in a few months.

Thank you, dearest student singers, for this year and for your magnificent selves.


Your Deferential Dictator


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