I attended a concert that my husband sang in with his Glee Club this past weekend, and included in the concert was a performance by a group of high school kids who are called the “Unaccompanied Minors”. It brought back memories of my days as a music teacher. The group was really excellent and performed acappella doing songs that had been arranged by students as well as their chorus director.
My memory was spurred by the fact that this concert was on a Saturday night that the young singers arrived at about 6:30 for a warm-up and pre-show rehearsal and left at about 10:30 after the performance. And of course the Director who looked to be in her 20’s was also there for the entire time. I remembered that this director who appeared to be an excellent musician and teacher had put in a full week of classes and rehearsals at her school (this was not the main choir, but a small group of about twenty singers) and that this time of year she was also involved in preparation for a Spring concert as well as most likely performing at graduation. There are also other small group performances and performances that require her attention outside of normal school hours. All of which is to say that I was reminded of the amount of time and energy that a position as choral director requires.
For those of you who have never imagined what it may be like to be a teacher in the performing arts, allow me to briefly fill you in. Choral directors band directors, music teachers, drama teachers do not have much “quiet time” during a typical school day. It is the nature of the subject that one is performing all day long, either at a piano or standing on a conducting podium or on a stage. The school hours are only the minimum required to be successful. One is always in preparation for the next concert or play or musical. The performing arts teacher also serves as the play/music selection committee, the producer, the arranger and the technical advisor for performances. Most of these teachers are excellent artists in their own right, and you might think that teaching would allow them to pursue their own performing achievements. That is usually not the case. No teacher worth their salt has any time for those outside activities except if they squeeze something in during the summer.
So, are my memories only of long, demanding days of rehearsal and nights and weekends working? Absolutely not. I remember all the wonderful performances, the accolades received for an entertaining event. But most of all I remember insecure kids who came to me with a flicker of talent and not much confidence who blossomed into self-confident and interesting as well as interested young adults. All the sacrifice was worth it but make no mistake, the performing arts teachers in our schools, such as the young director I observed this weekend, are all making sacrifices for the children they serve. Thank you to all of them.
Dr. Carolyn Koos