Monday, September 28, 2009

The Amazing Miss Wendy

I’ve been officially directing the children’s choir at St. Gabriel
for one year now.
It was at the end of September of 2008
that I first began.
And if there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years,
it’s that one must constantly evaluate.
Set the goals and make the objectives.
And, during the course of the year,
make any necessary adjustments needed
to reach that goal.

After the first few rehearsals with these amazing children
I knew well that I would having them singing in parts
within two years.

There were some other kinds of things we needed to work on first,
like attention span
and discipline.
And though most of them speak Spanish
they do not read Spanish,
which makes reading music
and singing in Spanish a bit of a challenge.

And while some weren’t quite singing on pitch at first,
it wasn’t because they couldn’t.
It was just that they needed to learn how to hear,
learn how to listen to a particular note or musical phrase.
So,
I had to and continue to
teach them how to listen.

But underneath it all,
I could see the diamond in the rough.
I knew from the beginning
that this group of children
was fully capable of singing in harmony,
of singing in parts.
I knew well that I would have them doing so
within two years.
But the fact is,
this is making itself manifest right now.
It’s messy,
but they get it.
They understand why
there is new special seating arrangement,
why we are now rehearsing
different groups of children on different days.

But one of the other goals I had
was one that I knew I would probably never see.
Not that it wouldn’t happen,
but that I probably wouldn’t be here
to see it happen.
That goal
is to have these children singing in the choir
as adults.

Since first coming to St. Gabriel
one of the things I have been saying to people
is that 80% of people who sing in a choir as an adult
sang in a choir as a child.
I heard that statistic quite some time ago
at a conference of
the National Association of Pastoral Musicians (NPM).
I can’t remember the source of the statistic
or who quoted it.
I only remember what was said.
I find it so hard to believe
that more churches,
Roman Catholic or otherwise
aren’t doing more with music and children.

But,
as I said,
I didn’t think I would see this come to life.
I didn’t think I would be here
to see the movings of the Holy Spirit
once these children got older.

But you know,
I didn’t have to wait.
One child in particular,
is showing me
that she has no intention
of ever leaving the music ministry.
Apart from her commitment to the choir,
this child truly understands
what is meant
by co-responsibility.
She understands stewardship better than most.

That child is Wendy.

Wendy and her family
attend the Spanish mass at St. Gabriel.
And there is an adult choir for that mass.

They also attend the Thursday evening mass,
where Wendy and several other children
serve in the music ministry.

Wendy is in the third grade
and has perfect attendance at choir rehearsal.

This past weekend,
Wendy was at the noon mass in English.
I didn’t see her until mass was over.
She came up to the choir loft to say, “hello,”
and then asked me where all the people were.
“What people,” I asked.
“The people in the choir.”
“I lead the music for this mass, Wendy.
Robyn has started to help recently,
but that’s all there is for this mass.”

“You mean
you don’t have a choir?”
“No, Wendy,
there is no choir for the noon mass.
I’ve asked some people.
I’ve invited several folks
to come to the music area
to help.
I’ve encouraged folks to come early
to come to choir loft
to rehearse a little before mass.
But so far,
it’s just me and Robyn.”

Wendy looked up at me
with eyes that told me she was serious
about what she was going to say
she put her hands on hips and said,
“What are we going to do about it?”

Wisdom from the mouth of babes.
It’s not just that she had this sense
of wanting and needing to see
a music ministry developed.
She included herself in the equation;
“What are WE going to do about it?”

Wendy gets it.
I have no doubt that she will continue in the music ministry
into her teen
and even into her adult years.
I have no doubt that she will be
actively involved in parish life in the years to come.

80% of people who sing in a choir as an adult
sang as a child.
Keep your eyes on Wendy.
Because she will be a part of that group.
Her parents would do well
to get that child a guitar and/or keyboard
and send her to private lessons.
She will have my job one day.

The Amazing Miss Wendy
has question that remains unanswered.
Can you,
will you
include yourself in the equation?
There is not a choir for the noon mass.
What are we going to do about it?

And that’s not just a question
for the people of one Southwest Detroit parish to answer.
It’s a question to be answered
by any parish that does not have a choir
or active music ministry.

What are we going to do about it?

2 comments:

LA VIDA said...

What a beautiful child...what a beautiful you. I think that most of the children from the 12o'clock mass feel that the children's choir is for only the spanish-speakers. I know many of gone to practice and then quit but I think the feeling is...it's for the 9:30 mass. Maiya one of the altar servers sings...she takes private lessons...how do we share our talents? when there are so many needs?

Rubi said...

Actually, the children's choir has never led the music for the 9:30a.m. mass. . . I do have a tentative date where I would like them to sing at that mass, but, primarily, they sing at the Thursday evening mass at 7:00p.m.

And while most of the music they sing is in Spanish, I would say about 1/3 of the music is in English. And really, I teach more Spanish because the kids who participate, well, they either attend the 9:30am or 7:00pm mass with their families, both of which are in Spanish. I would open to teaching more songs in English if more kids stepped forward and were committed to the project.

We also do have a few refrains in Latin under our belt. I would like to teach them the Greek "Kyrie Eleison" for Advent.

Maiya could well be a cantor, leading the psalm from the ambo, as it is ideally meant to be done. Perhaps she could lead the psalm once a month for now. . . . Or commit to a season, for example, sing the psalm during Advent. . .or prepare something for Christmas. . . .

I guess it has to start somewhere. It's just so crazy how we adults can get stuck in a rut and then a child steps forward, without thinking twice, and asks, "What are we going to do about it?" . . .the thing is, I still haven't given Wendy an answer to the question that will satisfy her. . . or me, for that matter. . .