Earlier this week I had just finished practicing a few numbers for a choir concert, and as I was listening and singing along, I had so many memories of singing in the BYU choirs. One of the most influential musical experiences of my life was singing in BYU Singers with Dr. Staheli. I remember the first rehearsal. Actually, it was a nerve-wracking day. He had posted the final list of students who had made it into Singers for fall of 2009, and there were 3 sopranos who had an asterisk next to their name, including mine. He asked that we 3 ladies come 15 minutes before rehearsal because he hadn’t decided which of us he would be taking. Talk about PRESSURE! I was sweating it through all my classes that day, and had to make time beforehand to be sure and warm up really really well. I may have even skipped a class to do so. Well Britain, Lacey, and I showed up. He had each of us sing. He just went down the line over and over with us, back and forth. Finally, he chose Lacey and I, and apologized to Britain (who I think had actually been a Vocal Performance major unlike me and Lacey and I felt so bad for her.) It felt unreal that he chose little me. With my very bright tone… that he even pointed out to me in my audition and which I promised to “darken” haha! And right after that final audition we had our first rehearsal! Wow!!!
It. was. incredible. We just opened up the music and started singing. There was no plunking out parts, there was NO chit chat or wasted time. We moved fast and there was no going back once you jumped on the train. There was a certain expectation that he held, and we all rose to that level. And I learned so much from him musically and otherwise. I learned so much about blend, how you can have layer upon layer of expression and dynamics. He made music so much more multidimensional. And he always had a way of incorporating our hearts and souls into the music–it was not just a technical relay of notes on a page. And he is full of compassion and kindness. He is a truly wonderful man.
This year marks his 30th year conducting Singers, and it is also his last year since he will be retiring. Tonight was his last night conducting a Singers concert at BYU, and even more meaningful, they invited Singers alumni to come join for 3 of the songs. So I decided about a month ago that it was the kind of thing that would be kind of inconvenient, but that would be a great memory. We left late last night, hit a ton of traffic in San Bernadino while the children screamed and would not sleep, slept in Barstow, and raced to Provo today. I was supposed to rehearse at 6. We arrived at 6:40. I literally opened my suitcase in the parking lot, grabbed my clothes, ran to the HFAC, and got dressed backstage behind a small divider, and walked out to the stage for the last 10 minutes of rehearsal, then had the concert. This felt very reminiscent of my running from place to place while attending BYU with too much always on my plate. It was stressful. And so rewarding.