Season after Pentecost, 2023
"I have no pre-choir memories."
So begins a marvelous college admissions essay by Annabel La Riva recently published by the New York Times.
We seem to live in an age when parents (and, yes, I'm a rookie parent myself, so I feel like I have a new, budding qualification to speak about this) over-program their children with multiple sports and other extracurricular activities. But at the same time, commitment to these same activities is not stressed, and when the going gets tough, the parents simply find "something else" for the child to do. Often commitment is not stressed, but busyness is.
Ms. Riva's tale sings the glories of sticking with something. In particular, sticking with something as good as a chorister training program. Many of these programs are associated with the Royal School of Church Music in America. St. James' Church on Madison Avenue in New York, where Ms. Riva is a chorister, is one such program.
I begged and pleaded with my mom to let me follow the path of my friends and retire my choir robe, but she persisted, always replying with a curt “no”. She believed that in the long run, going to choir would benefit me both educationally and socially.
One of Ms. Riva's discomfort with the ritzy St. James' Church in Manhattan was that her peers seemed to universally hold a higher socioeconomic status. But the beauty of music ministry of this type is that those kinds of differences really fade away with the work of singing and in finding meaning in things that are older, bigger, and deeper than yourself.
When I was younger, I had always followed the older, more experienced singers. I would wait for the right pitch, or follow the pros to figure out when to come in, but little by little, letting go of my reticence, I began to trust myself: starting the pitch and coming in when I knew we were supposed to sing. Eventually, other singers began to follow my lead. Parishioners started to acknowledge me for my voice rather than my address. I began to appreciate this music that I had heard throughout my youth, yet had always dismissed as boring and religious. Soon enough, my habitual complaints about choir completely stopped.
We commend the entire essay to your reading. Published here.
(h/t J.S. for alerting us to this story)
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