I was struck a couple of weeks ago by what two people from very different traditions said: Joanie Madden of Cherish the Ladies and Roclan González Chavez of Kings of Salsa both talked about music being made in respectively, Irish and Cuban homes, and that everybody participated.
That’s often where art begins: with people expressing themselves in their own homes. Then, with encouragement, they are singing (or playing or dancing or performing) for neighbors and extended family. The circle grows and soon those who truly have a gift for music (or dance or theater) start to perform for strangers.
In our culture of pre-recorded music and pre-packaged entertainment, that may be a rarer pattern. Why entertain ourselves when we can turn on the iPod or the DVD player or YouTube and someone will do it for us? Why practice hours and hours on end to learn to play a cello or the accordion when our technicians can give us endlessly useful samples with which to create music?
And yet some of us persist.
Many families in the 1800s in this country had pianos in their homes. Songs only became popular through the sale of sheet music, so family and friends would gather around the piano, with someone taking a turn at the keyboard, and everybody would sing the song. There was no recording to guide them. They sang it as they felt it.
That doesn’t happen much anymore, yet some children still learn to sing. Some have learned well.
Wednesday and Thursday of this week, students from all over Albuquerque and beyond came to UNM to audition for All-State Chorus. High school-age singers and musicians who make All-State Chorus, Band or Orchestra perform in Popejoy Hall the first weekend in January.
So, our lobby was filled with singers, many practicing their individual auditions. Every now and then, a group cut through the mix, singing a whole song together. The cacophony was still somehow musical.
Thursday was reserved for private schools and students of private voice teachers. Jeanne Mouchet brought several of her private students. One, Sef Garcia, had performed the role of Tom Sawyer this past summer at Albuquerque Little Theater.
This is how artists develop. Someday, Sef (or one of the hundreds of students who filled our lobby for two days) could be singing solo on stages all over the world, or singing with others in duos, trios or mixed voice groups. These are the kinds of steps the artists we bring to Popejoy take to get to our stage and other stages around the globe.
Certainly there are many in the hundreds who filled our lobby these past couple of days who will never sing on the world’s stages. But that doesn’t matter. They still sing. For their friends, for their families, for themselves. I applaud them all. I hope you do, too.
Terry S. Davis
Caption: Voice teacher Jeanne Mouchet and her student Sef Garcia in the lobby outside Popejoy Hall while other vocal students await their turn to audition for All-State Choir