It’s been a week.
I get to make my great escape tomorrow, though. I’m headed to my hometown to sing in my high school chorus again. Should be fun, eh? I’m psyched.
Our chorus director, Mrs. P., was an amazing chorus director. I first got to know her when I was in 4th grade and she was the music teacher at my elementary school. I, along with some other lucky ducks, got to be in her “special afterschool choir” which meant we got to sing a song at her high school Christmas choir’s concert (I still remember the song, as I had a short solo in it). We also got to walk across the street to the gas station that also served ice cream because it was the end of the year, it was hot outside, and she wanted to celebrate. Mrs. P. has always been big on celebrating.
I went three years without singing with her until freshman year. Oh, boy, it was finally time for the big time. Freshman year choir was just about a million high school girls who all would have auditioned for American Idol if it had existed then. Sophomore through senior year, however, I was part of the prestigious concert choir. We were the snobs of the high school choirs. Not really. We just really liked choir. A whole lot.
Under Mrs. P.’s direction, we auditioned for All State, picked out new choir dresses, learned a ton of music, etc. She was always fun and let us do fun stuff. She always took pictures of our outfits during spirit week, the week leading up to Homecoming. She also had the mindset of a true public school, industrious teacher: she got a bus license so she could drive us places herself and not have to take that money out of her budget. The woman could drive that thing through the narrow lanes of Winthrop University with grace like nothing I’ve seen since.
I think even in my high school mind, I knew she gave her heart for her work and I appreciated all she did. I remember feeling badly for her when students would disrespect her in class. She was always so graceful and it is an honor to have been her student.
This weekend, she is taking a break from retirement and will be leading lots of her old students in a reunion concert. It should be pretty interesting! I wonder how many of these former students have been singing since they graduated from high school.
I already had my ten year high school reunion, back in October, but it feels like another high school reunion. Even though I wasn’t the most outgoing person back then, some of the happiest moments in my teen years happened in Mrs. P.’s chorus room during songs we sang. Whether it was making silly faces across the room at my friends who were altos (I was a soprano) or learning music theory or hearing about Mrs. P.’s experiences at the show choir conference she’d attended over the summer or getting a coveted solo (I didn’t get many solos back then, either), it was just a special experience. We went to sing in Carnegie Hall when I was a sophomore (and, duh, we practiced, practiced, practiced). We also sang at Carowinds and Six Flags. I know the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel’s Messiah because of Mrs. P. We sang it at the end of the Christmas concert every year, and back then, the alumni would come up and sing it with us.
That room is where I first learned how to breathe properly and fill my lungs quickly by sipping air like through a straw. I learned how to sit properly while I sang, a habit I still carry as I sit at my desk at work – people have commented on my posture at work. 🙂 I experienced the thrill of singing part of a beautiful chord.
I also learned that life wasn’t fair and that if I wanted something, I’d have to work at it. Wanting something wasn’t going to get me anywhere, so I applied the things she taught us. I also figured out around this time that I could learn any words if they were set to a tune. I remember a great deal of the songs we sang — some of which we’re singing this weekend — because I would sing them over and over again at home. I loved singing scales and trying to make my voice sound like the voices of the girls who did get solos. I also got to know my own voice for what it is, and I do love my own unique sound now. I’m not vain about my voice though. I know it’s not the best voice but it’s mine. I could use lots of voice lessons, but I am confident where I used to cower and I really love pulling my vocal weight in a group.
I am really excited to get to sing these songs again this weekend. I think it will feel more like a real Homecoming than any high school reunion could be. I’m looking forward to Mrs. P. leading us through warm ups and rehearsal, and then following her lead during the concert on Saturday. I feel like it’s going to be like the end of Mr. Holland’s Opus for her, looking back into these faces that she knew when they were in their teenage states, but I am sure we’ll somehow look the same to her.
And we’ll make beautiful music, all together. I can’t wait.