The past several months have been eventful! Life has been busy, but good. I ran two of my most successful children’s choir camps (Detroit and Coldwater, MI). Both of them were the best attended of any of the camps I’ve conducted in their areas. The kids responded in ways that I did not expect.
This year, I used a new theme: the African-American Spiritual. I have always loved spirituals, but I was initially at a loss as to how to teach about them. A couple months passed until the curriculum formed in my mind. In fact, the deadline to complete it was quickly approaching.
Thankfully, inspiration finally came knocking. I approached the four-day camp this way:
Day 1: What is a spiritual? (Roots of slavery and how spirituals are a fusion of African music and European hymnody/folk music)
Day 2: The Fisk Jubilee Singers (How they popularized the spiritual and used it to fund Fisk University)
Day 3: The Spiritual and the Civil Rights Movement (How spirituals were adapted to help end Jim Crow and encourage racial integration)
Day 4: The spirituals go mainstream (How choral groups all over America frequently sing the well-loved spirituals)
The kids really connected with the curriculum, but not like they did in years previous. They weren’t bubbly excited; they were seriously interested. They loved singing the spirituals. They understood the plight of slavery and the struggles of black Americans as they have worked to rise from it. I think the spirituals helped personalize this history in a way that only teaching about it can’t.
I had no idea when I came up with the idea for my theme that racial tensions would be this high in the USA. However, I’m thankful that I did it. It is only through understanding that we can truly empathize.
The rest of my summer was spent working. The Lord provided me with a job at a nearby hospital. I have been both blessed and extremely taxed by this job. I work with folks who need to be watched for various reasons (suicidal, homicidal, addiction, dementia, head trauma, etc.). It has definitely caused me to consider things about the world in a different, perhaps deeper, light.
I was also prepping for the upcoming school year at WMU. I will be starting a graduate assistantship in the vocal and choral departments in a few weeks. I am looking forward to the challenge. I love teaching voice lessons and conducting, so this seems right up my alley. I am also choosing repertoire for my graduate conducting recital (Spring 2017!) and my various and sundry choirs.
Lastly, I will be leaving in a few days for the Norfolk Chamber Choir and Choral Conducting Workshop. It is hosted by Yale University and directed by the inimitable Simon Carrington of King’s Singers fame. I’m very excited about it. I believe I will learn a lot about choral singing. Hopefully, it will lead to more choral singing gigs, which I am keen to be doing.
Anyway, that’s about it for now. I will keep you posted as new opportunities and the like happen in my life.