Tonight was the first rehearsal for the Westminster Choir, 2012-2013. An eager group of 40 musicians descended upon the fabled WCC Playhouse at 4:30 (truth be told, we were all pretty excited and were early, all 40, seated with music, a pencil, and a tuning fork at about 4:18), ready to sing. So how did we get here?
The students on the WCC campus hail from all over the country, and all over the world. Singers, pianists, organists, composers, aspiring educators, and conductors form a student body that is entirely focused on beautiful music making and the scholarship that makes it possible. The start of every academic year begins, for us, with choral hearings.
Students in the school – undergraduate and graduate of all majors – sing a prepared solo and demonstrate musicianship skills for the panel of Westminster conductors. These hearings are a feat of organization, headed by the coordinators in the Westminster Performance Management office and executed with the help of the choral conducting graduate students (one of which is yours truly). The days are long (often over 12 hours) and fun – they set the tone of collaboration and care that underlies the next 9 months of academic life.
From the hearing, the faculty determine which students may be called back to audition for one of the extracurricular ensembles. Singing in one of these call-backs is a fascinating experience. Each person is invested in doing his or her personal best and is probably nervous. Each singer is also expected to demonstrate adaptability, creativity, excellent listening and strong sight-reading skills on demand. By the time they are singing in the call-backs, each person has what it takes to be a contributing member of the ensemble (and remember, every one of these people has decided to attend a choir college). People care deeply, and the faculty understand that while some wonderful musicians will celebrate and appreciate their spot in the ensemble, there will be an equally talented musician whose heart will be heavy from the loss.
Once the list is posted and immediate joy/grieving gives way to the imminent reality of on-coming classwork, the rehearsals begin. This bring us back to today, the Playhouse, 4:30 (4:18) pm. Dr. Miller spoke to us about the history of the Westminster Choir. Founded in 1920, it is actually older than the school (the college was founded in 1926). The legacy of the Westminster Choir, the history of music and strong community, is one of which we are now a part. It is a thrilling moment – sitting in a Quonset hut with 40 people who share a common purpose, each of whom knows that what we do together is so much greater than the sum of its parts.
We have a busy year ahead, and I look forward to sharing it with you!