Like many of us in the field, my feelings have spanned the whole spectrum since “The Webinar” – the last time I’ll refer to it by name during this post. The discussion has become so polarizing in the choral and vocal worlds that I find myself both shocked and exhausted by the ripple effect it has created. There are two points of view: on one hand there are those who expound upon the dangers of community singing as laid out by scientists and doctors. On the other, there are those who vehemently reject it, or at least won’t accept it as the only way. I can understand both points of view, though the argument just feels toxic.
My brain tells me it’s not safe to sing, my heart tells me I can’t live like this, and so far, leaders in our field have told me nothing...except to stick it out for (maybe) two years. I’ve become lost in it all; stuck in a middle that doesn’t exist.
I wonder who else is stuck in the middle, not sure of the path ahead. It seems that a (no less) noble vocal lot go to our public forums day after day to be warriors for our art and debate the merits of their views, and the argument from either side; valid! We certainly can’t help how we feel, especially when we’re a feeling community to begin with. As long as the arguments are based in fact and aren’t unnecessarily alarmist, I welcome them. I’ve spent the better part of a week now trying to figure out why (ironically) I can’t find my voice in this debate.
When the news came down about the relative dangers of in-person rehearsals, I felt overwhelmingly sad – the “rug had been pulled out from under us” all so quickly, and now we have another [insert any number you want] months of NO COMMUNAL SINGING?! Then after hashing it out with one of my most trusted confidants, I started to become confused, then frustrated, and then angry. There is no consensus among authorities on the matter, nor do they know how long it will last. Equally reputable sources, day-after-day, will disagree on the exact same points.
I begin to think that it seems irresponsible, then, for organizations with such a large soap box to not take better control of the narrative, and follow-up with immediate resources, best practices, and proposed solutions (surely there are none that adequately address the situation now, given the circumstances) that would provide literally any guidance. At least that would help comfort people, instead of letting this information simply “hang in the air.” Surely hindsight is 20/20.
Then there are the micro-points that are raised: “I need this information for x and y, to give me cover from z;” “people are looking to me for decisions;” school administrators are asking for direction, and the more we propagate the worst case scenario, or worse yet, one side of the scenario, the more likely choral programs seem like they’re expendable. This is true enough in the age of STEM based education, and COVID-19 may just be more fuel on that fire. I’d argue that our art is more relevant than ever, but that’s the subject of a whole different post. Nonetheless, I’ve drifted squarely back into the center - literally 50-50. If that’s where we are, doesn’t caution dictate that we should take the safer route, when we simply don’t know?
I feel truly ridiculous being afraid of this. It’s all inconclusive. It’s scary. I should be an advocate – people are both loudly and quietly being advocates. It’s my job to be an advocate, and DAMMIT, WHERE IS MY VOICE?!? I'm in the middle. It’s not my job to speak until I have something to say.
I’ve found my voice, and I want to say that I care about YOU. I may know YOU, and I may not, but when I started considering the entire body of our community, that is when it made sense to be 50-50 – in the middle. I worry for YOU, whether it’s your health, your livelihood, your art, or your (actual) voice. I have no answers. I share your fears and frustrations. I worry about our art, our profession, and our community. I stay home for YOU; I sing for YOU; I fight for YOU; I long for YOU.
I’m in the middle, I’m grateful, and I CARE ABOUT YOU.