However, I have not been confused with the psychologist Timothy Sharp that runs the Happiness Institute, and frankly, that bothers me. I am a happy person, and I would like to be mistaken for someone that works professionally in the field of happiness. I do think I am qualified. To this point, every morning I listen to at least one movement from a Bach cantata (one cantata per week). Thanks to the Hanssler firm in Germany, I have the complete cantatas of Bach, and thanks to digital technology, those cantatas are with me all the time. Listening to a Bach cantata every morning makes me happy.
I eat breakfast with my family every morning and take my daughter to school. My daughter is old enough to drive, and although sleeping a little longer always seems to be a good thought when the morning alarm sounds (think of the Folger’s jingle, and substitute these words…”The best part of waking up…is going back to sleep.”) However, starting the day with my family and spending 15 minutes in the car with my daughter makes me happy.
Once, on a trans-Atlantic flight, our plane had to make an emergency medical landing in Goose Bay, Labrador. After providing us with a bus to see the sites of Goose Bay (a lovely place, but the tour only lasted about 45 minutes), everyone was stuck in a converted hanger for 24 hours. I decided to try to get everyone to sing, and it was partially successful. It still makes me happy to see that stamp in my passport.
On a typical day, I either work on pragmatic issues related to choral music (dealing with a contract for a conference venue), or a long-term issue related to advancing choral music (advocacy for school music programs), or an immediate task related to personal choral music making (my current performance in Tulsa of Carmina Burana). In every instance, my focus is on the “why” I do what I do, and that “why” always makes me happy.
The pursuit of happiness comes in many different ways, doesn’t it? For example, I’m no Bach scholar, but I am certain Bach did not watch TV. He spent his time with other pusuits. As a hack musicologist, I base my belief that Bach did not watch TV on my study of the Bach cantatas, and I find no fragments of themes from “I Dream of Jeannie” or “Gilligan’s Island” or any other highly syndicated classic show in any of his cantatas. To the contrary, Bach spent hours in the the pursuit of language study, theology, and music. Bach’s music is total happiness to me, whether it is delivered through a drop-dead gorgeous melody, a powerful double-choir chorus, an oboe obligato, a flute duet, a playful crafting of counterpoint, or an impossibly long-breathed line. At every turn, there is happiness.
According to several contemporary authors including Malcolm Gladwell (What the Dog Saw), Daniel Levitin (This is Your Brain on Music), and Geoff Colvin (Talent is Overrated), it takes 10,000 hours to become truly accomplished at something. I have determined that one block of my 10,000 hours will be dedicated to accomplishing something that brings happiness to me and to others, and that is choral music. While there are many ways to spend an hour, I am certain that choral music pursuits are a means of bringing happiness to life.