The future of music, now.
“I can do this. I can do this.” I repeated my mantra as I walked, filled with nervous anticipation, through the doors of W.E. Greiner Middle School on that lovely cool October morning. As a founding member of the Verdigris Ensemble, one of the primary reasons I’d joined the choir was because of their commitment to outreach and their diligence in active community involvement for a purpose; the future of music, now.
This day marked the beginning of our second school year working with this choir; many of the kids would be the same ones we had sung with in our Faces of Dallas concert last spring. That was amazing, THEY were amazing. It was an honor to share the concert with their energy and potential.
But here’s a secret, I’ve always considered myself a performer of music, not a teacher. I was a vocal performance major in college, not music ed. True, I’ve been singing professionally in Dallas for over 20 years; that comes with some valuable lessons I can pass on. I have a 200-hour hatha yoga certification that I have successfully brought into many DFW schools under a “singer’s yoga” format. But we are committed to these young people for the school year. I wanted to do right by them, to truly help them musically and otherwise. And kids can smell fear...
Then I walked into the classroom. I saw their wonderful teacher masterfully guide four eager, exuberant classes through challenging music. I listened to their beautiful performances, smiling at their pride, they were already so strong this early in the year. I was welcomed by each class during introduction time. I saw all that they were, and I was already inspired. These students were fun, silly, kind, enthusiastic, smart, talented, invested, shy, eager and SUPPORTIVE. When it was time to list an “interesting fact” about themselves and someone couldn’t think of something, a comrade was there and willing to supply a positive word. When I mentioned that I had a daughter who was a recent college grad, I got applause. When Verdigris members joined their choir to sing with them on a new piece, they moved around to make room for us, to give us seats. Did I mention that these are Middle School children? Grades 6-8? They already know what it is to be a choir, to be a community. I caught a glimpse of a teacher’s world; why they continue to do their jobs day in and day out, regardless of pay.
Verdigris’ mission is to provide guidance in helping these young people reach a higher level of success with their music; to help fine tune skills that will see them into bright futures. I will gladly and humbly coach these kids, giving them the benefit of my experience. I will also share with them breathing techniques, yoga poses for singers, and some methods to silence that dreaded inner critic and stage fright. I will happily do all of this, and there will be success. These young men and women are poised for it. We will see them move on to future success to the benefit of us all.
But the immediate return? That was what we received that Tuesday morning; what we will continue to receive throughout the school year. The future is here in these students. They are teaching us.
Katrina Burggraf, Alto