Friday, March 15, 2013

ACDA Conferences

This is the first year since 1991 that I have not attended that bienniel conference.  That's 22 years and 11 conventions, and I performed or presented at 4 of those 11.  My reasons for not attending this year are financial (my younger daughter got married on the Big Island this year, and it all comes out of my own pocket now that I am unemployed) and not concerns about ambulation, just in case you wondered and I hope you did.

Anyway, I just got off the phone with my talented, gregarious wife, who made me feel really good about the number of my colleagues in Dallas who either asked about me or said nice things about me, including two of my absolute favorites, Ron Staheli and Simon Carrington (who enjoyed my latest book), neither of whom is a former student.  Speaking of the latter, it's great to hear of the number  of those who asked after me also, in addition to strangers who just know my name or my books or who heard CCC and USC perform from '91 to '05. I understand that some folks are going to invite me to do some clinical or conducting work in Korea and elsewhere now that I'm able to be up and about, in a manner of speaking.  I have missed that; my last engagements were in December of '10 (Taiwan) and February of '11 (PA) both of which I enjoyed tremendously and all seemed pleased with me, too.  I look forward to more.  And I hear that someone may be interested in an interview and an article about me.  Ah, jeez (shuffle, wince, avert eyes).


Someone once said that we only appreciate with absence.  I have found that to be true: When folks are around, we take them for granted or worse; when they're gone we wish they were back.  I feel that way this week, actually: I don't miss the performances at ACDA this year (I've done much of the music, including the Britten, and don't really care to hear much of a lot of the rest unless it's Bach) but I do miss seeing the people I know and meeting people I don't.  I have had an immensely rewarding career, but barely better than some and not nearly as good as many.  I don't have any illusions about my professional worth or my contributions to the profession.  And I'm really shy among strangers.  Really.  Also nervous.  Also insecure because I assume that most are better than I and I don't know how to blow my own horn; I don't even know the fingerings, truth be told.

But I still enjoy seeing folks I have known since my full-time collegiate career began back in 1970 (it was all church work and academic stuff before then, and many of those folks are now dead--I was a real whippersnapper).  I was a star in grad school: Hirt and Vail had me start a new chorus and asked me to teach conducting; I was asked to conduct the Concert Choir when Vail went on sabbatical in '68, which included preparing a chorus for an orchestral concert conducted by Ingolf Dahl that included Webern's Das Augenlicht, but those days are long gone.

The only thing left is guest work and ACDA conventions (and, of course, the great meetings of NCCO, with which I had a little bit to do). 

So I will do my utmost to not miss any more.

Deo gratias, say you.  Cheers, say I.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Choral Conductors Facebook Fishing?

I use the FoxNews technique of the question mark in the title because, like them, I have no specific evidence for my claims.  I could also use their 'some say' technique also, but again, have heard nothing at all from anyone about what I'm going to say here.  I may stick with question marks just for giggles.  And it is entirely possible, probably even likely, that I am way out on a limb with this one.


Is anyone besides me getting annoyed with the current trend of choral conductors throwing out lavish compliments onto Facebook after a gig or performance?  'Last night's performance of the Intergalactic Honor Choir was a thrill, thanks to the preparation of the directors involved, especially Karl Koral, who organized the event.  It was an honor to conduct them.'  This kind of post invariably elicits the return compliment of 'we couldn't have done it without your planetary genius.'  And how about announcing every pissant thing we do and then posting a picture of the plaque or certificate we received?  And how do you feel about the conductor who announces how grateful, honored, or, most gag-inducing of all, blessed they are to be standing in front of their charges and leading them, which is only what they were hired and are paid to do? 

And my favorite: I learn more than I teach.  I have learned a few things from the individual choruses I have conducted over the years, but there was never any doubt in my mind that I knew a helluva lot more than every one of them or I would have gotten out of the business.  And I always taught more than I may have learned. (This is not to deny the  insecurity that afflicts all of us).

These falsely modest devices seem to be simply subterfuges for bragging, first of all, but--more important--mere fishing for compliments: they are so lucky to have you; we couldn't have done it without you; working with you is an artistic revelation and more fun than sex.

Is this just sour grapes on my part?  Could be.  I never had FB to post my glories, coddle my students, be publicly grateful to all involved.  I had to use actual letters in the mail, or later, the occasional email.  Point is, no one saw it but them.  And I didn't thank them, I complimented them, which is what they really wanted.  I wrote these letters throughout my career, beginning with my last LA church choir, 1966-1969. 

Who would be hurt by foregoing FB and simply sending an email to the gig chair, the ensemble?  Why isn't this done more?  Why do we have to publicly demonstrate how diplomatic, Christian, grateful, honored and blessed we are?  Is there something wrong with keeping it private and in the family?  And qui bono by making it public?  Hmmmm?


I finish with questions, too: What the hell ever happened to self-effacement or--saints preserve us--genuine modesty?  Am I the only one left who was raised by Lutherans, who was taught to never have an exalted opinion of oneself or, if so, to at least have the decency to keep it to oneself?

PS: this post is dedicated to Miguel Felipe ('blog more') and Christian Campos ('where's the professional rant?)