After the last entry, in true end-of-school-year fashion, work did indeed get crazy. That last month was jam-packed with teaching, rehearsals, choir shows, recitals, State Solo & Ensemble, church job...it was a lot. So needless to say, that whole “work-life balance” project got shelved for a bit. But now that summer is upon us, and I’m organizing the schedule for teaching, it is definitely a time to prioritize balance. But before that, I am taking some time this week to rest and recharge, and reflecting on this past school year.
Overall, it was a great year. There were so many highs, not least of which was returning to in-person teaching and performing. It certainly wasn’t easy, but just as I noticed at the beginning of the year, working with my students in-person was just so much better than virtual teaching. Virtual teaching is great for convenience, and it will certainly remain an option in my studio for those that really need it. I am so grateful that I was able to use it throughout the pandemic to keep my studio going. But now that I’ve been back in person with my kids, I never want to be so completely cut off from them again.
Speaking of my students, I am truly blessed to be working with such fantastic kids. My studio is full of tremendously talented students who are also really fun and interesting people. That’s not to say that every day isn’t a challenge, and as human beings everyone can have ups and downs. Those middle-school and high-school years are full of voice cracks, drama, hormones, stress, and any number of complications (as we all know from when WE were those ages). And full-disclosure: there are days when my own motivation or energy is low, and I will come to school not really looking forward to a full day of teaching. But then I get to the first lesson, and I talk to my students, and as we connect and begin to work, something clicks, and suddenly I’m not feeling so tired or unmotivated. It’s a different kind of energy than performing, but my students certainly help keep me going, and when we get those magic moments where a breakthrough happens, or I get to see them deliver a great performance–those are exciting for me as well.
The students joke about my regular “script”: “How’s it going? Anything new and exciting in your life?” It’s true, that’s how I start pretty much every lesson, but I really do want to know how things are going with them. It’s the human connection that is the foundation of all the vocal work we do. I am so proud of all of my kids for returning to school with such enthusiasm, and for going with me when I push them and don’t let them settle for mediocrity. We have had quite a year, and I really am excited for next year!
This year was also a fantastic one because I got to see my colleagues again. In the virtual times we might see each other once or twice a semester if we set up a meeting, and I really missed seeing my fellow voice teachers and the choir directors. Even if it’s just a quick “hello” in the morning, or a brief conversation at the end of the day, it was definitely a huge boost to my mood to see people in-person and know that we are all right here in the same place working together toward a shared mission. Just like the students were really excited to see each other and return to school, we teachers were excited to see our own friends at work again! And no matter how hard this year was, we kept each other going, and...WE MADE IT!!
The last big hurdle for the year for me is usually doing my spring voice recitals. The prep-work, the emails, the planning for the receptions, practicing the students’ music, doing programs, scheduling...there is a lot that goes into it. I am fortunate to have some great help, but I always feel like those two recitals are the final mountains to climb, and once I survive that, it’s all smooth(ish) sailing. This year was the return to live in-person recitals, and I could not have asked for a better end to the year. There were mistakes, little memory slips, some wrong notes...but being together in the same room, hearing the kids singing live...it was magic. It was the same supportive atmosphere as always–something I really want to continue to cultivate in my studio–and everyone had a good time.
So now, having survived a year back in the physical trenches, it is time to look ahead. We’ve got TMEA music, summer lessons, Solo & Ensemble, NATS, recitals, choir concerts, musicals, church job, opera...the grind returns. I welcome the work and the challenge, but I also know that I am going to try to make sure I stay present in each moment, enjoying each experience as it happens. You never know the things you can lose or miss, so always take that time to look around WHILE you are doing the thing (whatever that thing is).