It’s an honor to be jointly commissioned by ACDA-MN and MMEA to craft a piece for the upcoming 2020/2021 All State Choir. For text inspiration I turned to my experience as a father and my decade-long experience teaching/coaching high school students. I was thinking about the various expectations the world throws at all of us–but particularly those expectations foisted upon young women. I thought about researcher/author Brene Brown’s timely and poignant writing on the idea of “enoughness” and reflected how badly we need young people who feel and believe that they are, indeed, enough–comfortable in their own skin, not dependent on others for their identity, confident in their own choices and abilities, willing to be vulnerable in sharing emotion and insecurities when they arise, and able to lean into strong, healthy friendships. The text explores these various themes through the lens of two young people, having a conversation about finding their way in a difficult world.
Does the world say that you don’t look the right way?
Does the world say that you’re just not enough?
Does the world say that this isn’t the right spot,
when it wants you there but not here
and tells you all the things you are not?
I’ve been there, too
It’s hard to shut my ears to the noise.
So, yes, I’ve been there, too
I don’t stand a chance if it’s me in the world all alone
Oh, the chatter is deafening, too overwhelming
hard to find my way home
So take my hand
don’t let go.
And I’m growing, loving, learning, becoming
Throughout the process of crafting the text, I was at the piano searching for just the right musical vibe/style. Though I tried several ideas, I continually came back to broadway. Dear Evan Hanson, Wicked, and others kept rattling around in my head. I wanted to create the feel of that sort of music–something immediately accessible and resonant for both choir and audience. I hope Does the World Say captures the essence of the Broadway power ballad–in the best sense of that genre–via a choral setting that takes advantage of the diversity, power, and possibilities that a full choir affords.
Structurally, the piece incorporates an optional alto solo, a fluid piano and violin accompaniment, and provides opportunities for all parts to sing both melody and countermelody. Guest conductor Andrea Ramsey has programmed a phenomenally diverse, engaging program–and I’m thrilled that this piece will be included in this memorable event.