I should probably start this off with a little bit of background information because you, people of the internet and Odyssey community, probably know very little about me: when I was a junior in high school I switched from playing oboe in the school band to singing alto in the school choir. I quickly found myself in an unnamed leadership role that year. I had no title but I was still tasked with directing rehearsal when our director wasn't in class. That year was a disaster. Thankfully, my senior year welcomed me with a bit more structure, the official title of "Choir President", and the unofficial title of "Choir Mom".
1. I could NEVER have a career in teaching. EVER.
Huge lesson learned here. My recommendation, if you think you might be interested in something -whether a field of study, career path, or extracurriculars- get your feet wet and try it. You really won't know how well you do until you experience it first hand. Give yourself some time to adjust and don't immediately decide you hate something from one bad experience. But let me just say, two years of helping lead rehearsals was enough for me, at least for a while.
2. Piano skills don't come back quite as quickly as you need them to.
Playing piano is not like riding a bike, at least for me. I had to spend countless hours practicing piano just so I effectively lead an one-hour rehearsal. Most of the time all of that work will inevitably go unnoticed by those around you, and that is OK. You know the effort and time that you put in. What is important is that you see your personal journey within that time spent.
3. Anyone can be bribed with cookies and/or a dance party.
Figure out the best ways to motivate yourself. For myself, I know I can always motivate myself with either cookies, gummy bears, or another cup of coffee. For my choir it was a five minute dance party or a rap battle right at the end of rehearsal. Use those motivation tricks to get through whatever the task ahead of you is. You'll get the job done and the reward will be that much sweeter.
4. Never underestimate the power of a hug.
That's all I need to say about this one. Hugs are great.
5. Find music that makes you cry.
There is a quote from Hans Christian Andersen that says "Where words fail, music speaks." I can't even tell you how many times I have seen this quote, but I can tell you that some things are just best put into music rather than in words. Find music, poetry, writing, or art that speaks to your soul. Yes, I know that sounds cheesy but it will impact your day to day life dramatically. Some of my personal favorites from choir are Daniel Elder's "Elegy", Stephen Paulus' "The Road Home", and Ola Gjeilo's "The Ground" and "Serenity". I have a personal connection to each of these songs, but that is a story for another post. Whatever you find, routinely revisit it.
6. Traveling in a large group always seems like a disaster, but it makes the best memories.
If you have the opportunity to travel with the people you love, take it. Making memories in new places with those that are close to you is such an unique experience. And plus, when you get lost in a big city together you will have things to laugh about later on. Some of my best traveling memories with choir are ditching the group with a few of my friends to run down 5th Avenue in New York City. Go and experience new things and new places!
7. You're going to get frustrated a lot, but it's OK.
You'll go to talk your frustrations out with your director and she will just give you a look that says "this is what I deal with everyday." Honestly, this is comforting because you realize you aren't a failure at leading rehearsals. This is a frustration that many people are dealing with. Know that you are frustrated because you care. You care about the work you are putting in and you care about the end goal.
8. People will always criticize your efforts, no matter what.
No matter what you do you will be criticized for it. One of my favorite quotes is from Eleanor Roosevelt, "Do what you feel in your heart to be right, for you'll be criticized for it anyway." This goes hand in hand with getting frustrated. The people you are trying to help will reject your help with no explanation. I can not tell you the number of times I walked down the hall of my small high school (yes, I said hall, as in one hall. My school was that small) hearing the people in my choir trash the rehearsals that I had just attempted to run. It hurt, but what was important in the moment was that we had gotten through the lesson plans for the day. By the time competitions or our concerts rolled around it didn't hurt and the effort I had put in was shown in our performance.
9. Your section becomes you family. They are your people.
Choir is basically a large family, but the other sections are like extended family. They are your aunts, uncles, and cousins. Your section is your immediate family, your brothers or sisters. When you all get together in rehearsal you will probably think that your section is doing the best because everyone is slightly partial to their own section. Just like in an extended family. Love on those people that are the closest to you. Yes, you will fight and there will be days you don't want to see their faces but love on them. Be that person you wish you had had when you were younger, supporting you.
10. You will never love a group of people more than those that were with you through your toughest days.
The people that are with you through the darkest and most challenging days of your life, and stick it through with you become the people that are the closest to your heart. My choir stuck with me and supported me through two very difficult years. They pushed me to keep going while my family was dealing with a medical crisis. They picked me up when I was abandoned by not only my boyfriend, but also my best friend. They held me when I mourned the loss of a very close family friend who passed away when we were on our choir tour. They never gave up on me. Find people like that. Be that person for someone else. Love and support your friends and family.
A group of my high school choir in New York City on our Spring 2017 Choir Tour.