Month: December 2017

Being a Musician at Christmas…The Santa “Clause”


I recently came across this picture on Facebook… It was posted to the Kansas City Symphony Chorus Facebook page and it brought a giggle to me!

Now most people that know me know that I’ve sung with the Kansas City Symphony Chorus for some 25 years. They also know that I’m pretty much “persona in absentia” from Thanksgiving until just a couple of days before Christmas between Symphony gigs, church jobs, and other performance-related things. My truth, the truth reflected in this picture, is that I usually end up cramming at the last minute to get my Christmas tree up and the various decorations we like to have out and around the house.

“So why bother?” someone might ask… Well, my truth is that it bothers me a lot that I don’t seem to have any “family time” for most of the month of December.

Again “WHY?!?!?!” Well, I was feeling pretty bad about that tonight. I was missing being home, missing watching a Chiefs game, and another weekend goes by without the Christmas stuff out! Then just before we went on stage for the Saturday night symphony concert one of our chorus leadership pointed out that tonight we would be bringing our music to over 1,100 people that had bought tickets to Christmas Festival and then quickly added that over the course of this crazy, insane week of daily round-trips to the city, teaching, and my other job that we would be touching over 8,000 people, most of whom bring their kids to this annual concert series.

I had a momentary flashback of something I once wrote in my band members handbook when I was teaching high school band. It said something to the effect that talent was a special gift, a blessing meant to be shared with others and that means that we, who are thusly blessed, have an obligation to give of our time and talents for the entertainment and enrichment of the lives of others. As I listened to the beautiful voices of the Allegro Children’s Chorus performing “Moment of Silence” I found myself pondering that these young ladies could be anywhere else tonight. They could be out with their friends, hanging out at a skating rink or meeting friends at a movie but they weren’t. They were giving up the entirety of their time outside of school to SING! As “Silent Night” came from them my usual tears started flowing (it’s a long story for another time, suffice it to say I’ve NEVER been able to sing this wonderful Christmas carol my entire life without choking up…)


As I sat in the darkened Helzberg Hall and heard those girls singing beautifully, I was reminded why I do this annual exercise in exhaustion and schedule juggling: I love to see the faces of the kids that come out to these shows and knowing that making music with 200+ musicians brings so much joy and pleasure to the lives of these people. When Santa shows up (and, amazingly enough, he ALWAYS seems to find a way to pop into Helzberg Hall for every concert!) those kids in the audience instantly pop up tall in their seats and the huge smiles break out! Man, is THAT something special, or WHAT? Even more, when 1,100 people stand up and sing along with Santa, the orchestra, Rezound Bell Choir, Allegro, and the Symphony Chorus it’s just pure magic!

For a couple hours out of the day, everyone can put aside their worries, their fears, and just experience the joy of the Christmas season. (BTW: We even had a menorah and gold foil-wrapped chocolate ‘coins’ back stage!) Man, in this crazy, screwed up world we can find a way to come together and it’s about music and that’s pretty amazing in my book!

Santa makes each of us feel a little better about ourselves, he makes us treat others a little better, and he can pull us all together in a spirit of hope, love, and giving of ourselves. That’s MY Santa “Clause” and it’s not even the fine print on the business card border!

I’ve been doing this stuff my entire life and, yes, sometimes I think I should take a Christmas off but no matter how tired I am or how much that two hours of driving seems to get more and more ponderous every year, when I get to Kauffman I pretty quickly forget how tired I am or how dreary that drive was…

Ya, it’s worth it!

I hope that our students all have a wonderful Christmas and that they find their own Santa “Clause”, too!

Why do we do it?

CAST OF A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS

So, the other day I was talking to the parent of one of our theatrical productions cast members and the conversation went something like this…

“So, I’ll bet you’re going to be glad when this is all over next week!” Now, I’ll admit this – I was, indeed, looking ahead to what’s next but not for the reason(s) the parent might have thought! Frankly, I’m ALWAYS looking ahead to the next big show and as I run a rehearsal I frequently see or hear a young actor or actress give a line a particular way or create an action or an ad lib and it reminds me of a character in another show. In fact, on more than occasion this past few months I’ve found myself penciling up mock cast lists and matching roles to specific kids. It’s just a part of the creative process.

Now, the conversation continued without the above “side bar” and once I said “No, I’ll be pretty sad when it’s done because while I may be looking forward to some down time, I’m going to miss my cast!

CAST OF A CHRISTMAS CAROL, 2018

Every cast is different and unique in it’s own way. Some casts are just real jewels, others aren’t but the one thing they all have in common is that they’re made up of kids that want to act and want to do so to the best of their ability.

That’s why we music and theatre educators do what we do. We live for the experience of making a differen

HANNAH TAYLOR AS MISS GROUCHSTICK

ce in the lives of a group of kids and watching them grow into those roles and develop their acting, singing, and dancing skills in the process. If we’re very lucky, we get to see some of those same faces show after show and they become like members of our own family.

For me, I look forward to those moments in a rehearsal when silly things happen and a comedy of errors takes place and we all laugh together while playing off the absurdity of the moment. There are very few days that I walk away from a rehearsal without something funny to remember or a special moment. Now, THAT’S why I do it!

TWILA BURSON AS RAGGEDY ANN