Happy New Year! I greet you with warmth and wishes for fortitude as we weather the Minnesota winter together. As I reflect on the ideas of stewardship and service, my mind is stuck on one battle like a tongue to a metal pole in January. We battle the weather. We battle influenza outbreaks. We battle staying afloat amid a growing mental health crisis in the singers we lead. Yet the battle I keep sticking to is at the very core of our existence: Can music survive registration season?
This battle is not new. As history shows, music has not always been treated kindly. Yet somehow it survived. We know why. The power of music is hard to put into words, but you have a story about a time it changed you. That’s probably one reason why you’re a member of ACDA and reading this article right now. If we started to ask the people around us when they were changed by music, they could probably tell you a story too.
To be a steward means to supervise or take care of something. I don’t believe we can supervise music- it’s as unruly as a class of 7th grade tenors and basses after eating donuts. But we can take care of it. We can advocate for students to have access. We can advocate for congregations to be served. We can advocate for communities to be elevated through supporting creative organizations. We can! But how?
This is why I wish you fortitude. The search for the right “advocacy tool” is exhausting. Public perception that schools are only supposed to exercise the left hemisphere of the brain suffocates creative subjects. Test scores trump the importance of communal creation. Profit supersedes purpose.
But you still have a story.
And so does that person over there.
And that other person.
And it’s about the power of music.
We Tell Each Other Stories (excerpt)
By Craig Hella Johnson
We tell each other stories so that we will remember
Try and find the meaning in the living of our days
Always telling stories, wanting to remember
Where and whom we came from
Who we are
Share your story. Allow space for the people who sing with you to share theirs. Your voice matters and your story is central to being a steward of choral music. The stories in your ensembles matter. The stories in your sister schools and churches matter. The stories in the school and church you don’t even know exist matter.
Choral music has the power to change people. Stories have the power to change people. So in a moment when choral music relies on your stewardship, share your story. You, and your story, are important. You, and your story, are enough. You are not alone. Carry on, valiant steward!
Amy B. Johnson
I really resonated with this TED talk. Many thanks to my dear colleague Michelle for forwarding it my way.
“We Tell Each Other Stories” from Considering Matthew Shepard by Craig Hella Johnson