When the fifteen choirs from Texas, Arkansas, and Mississippi gathered in Waco February 21-23 for YouthCUE-Baylor Festival XV, we were all pretty oblivious of the coming reality of COVID-19. Sure, we had all heard about the virus, but little did we know at that time that it would mushroom into an epidemic and that, only four weeks later, we would all be in virtual lockdown. So much has happened in the past month, that it seems the festival occurred six months ago when, in fact, it was only one month ago!
The weekend in Waco was full of wonderful surprises and some blessings we have come to almost expect every year, although in the expecting of them, I hope and pray we will never take them for granted!
First, the repertoire was chosen from the previous fourteen Baylor festivals, so it was some of the best of the best in terms of anthems. Second, the students arrived unusually prepared, and the memory work came almost naturally without the conductor having to harp about it. Third, the students were amazingly focused and, for lack of a better terms, “so well-behaved.” I hesitate to use that language, because it sounds a bit condescending to these wonderful soon-to-be-adults. However, I hope you know what I mean in saying that these students had highly pleasant dispositions, they were unusually focused, and they were intent upon pursuing beauty and excellence in all we did! Between rehearsals, they were fun and engaging, and yet they remained respectful of others and sensitive to the larger group needs.
Students such as these are the results of good parenting and superb leadership on the parts of their directors. And just as important as the first two factors, these students are wonderful human beings!
As now a 65-year-old youth choir director, the students are looking younger and younger every year. Now that I am a new grandfather, many younger teens appear to me as children. And, I suppose some are older children, because some of the finest sopranos and altos we had that weekend were young men, standing tall and singing their parts with manly accuracy, energy, and accuracy. Others of the students looked more like college students and, of course, they very soon will be.
The gratitude and honor I feel being able to work with this students is beyond my ability to express. I am so grateful for the vocation of this particular work, because I never leave one of these events unchanged … and always changed for the better. Sometimes, I am thanked for “being so patient” with this age group, but I feel they are being patient with me. I think slower and move slower and talk slower than these students and, yet, for some reason, they have patience to wait me out. I love them, I am changed by them, and I am a better person because I get to work with them.
I only hope the benefit for them is somewhere near what it is for me.