Pick just ONE thing

We were having one of THOSE rehearsals. Nothing was going as planned. We rehearse once a week and I had spent days determining what “kind” of rehearsal this was going to be - workhorse? Fun and laid back? Emotional? It was supposed to be a “workhorse” rehearsal. We had a substitute pianist, who really wasn’t all that prepared, a third of the chorus absent, but I still persisted - DAMNIT! THIS IS GOING TO BE A PRODUCTIVE REHEARSAL!

By the time we reached the end of the first hour, in a three-hour rehearsal, I had already lost my cool three times, told the chorus that “they didn’t care,” and if they really wanted a “crappy performance” then they should just keep doing what they were doing. 

Yeah, I said all that. TO THEM. And they stayed, which was a miracle in and of itself. 

Then I just gave up. And by giving up, I found some rehearsal freedom. 

I told the chorus, “OK. This is one of those rehearsals. I’m frustrated. Beaten down. Angry. Worried. Yeah, all those things. We don’t want to be here. I can sense you’re tired. I can sense you are not engaged in music tonight. I don’t really know what happened in your day, but this isn’t how you wanted to end it I know.” 

And I had an idea - probably not a novel idea to any of you - but it was to me and my singers. 

I decided, as an ensemble, for each piece of music, we would only focus on ONE thing. Of the myriad of things we could focus on, lets just pick ONE thing. We couldn’t do everything tonight, obviously, but maybe we could do ONE thing right. They laughed, but I was serious. 

So, for each piece of music, as a group (this is important - it wasn’t just my decision), we decided on what to focus on. For one it was rhythmic integrity. For another - vowels. For another - text. It wasn’t great singing by any measure.  I purposely ignored all the things that weren’t that ONE thing. (Yes, that took some patience!)

But, we felt successful! We didn’t feel like we were wasting time.  We felt like we were accomplishing something during an otherwise waste-of-time.  

And to my surprise, that ONE thing stuck through the remainder of rehearsals for this concert period. 

Lesson learned - we can’t make beautiful music all the time, and THAT’S PERFECTLY OK. 

However, we can make one thing better.  

I’ve also taken this lesson to my personal life. If I’m struggling through a day where nothing seems to go right, I just find one thing to make it better. And it usually does. 

So the next time you find yourself in that place - you know the place - try this - and feel the love flow back! 

Sean Baugh