“To laugh often and much; to win the respect of the intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the beauty in others; to leave the world a bit better whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to know that one life has breathed easier because you lived here. This is to have succeeded.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
Today I ran into a former singer of mine; a tenor from an old church job. Always a lovely man, he and his wife were two of my favorite singers and I was delighted to see him. He told me the choir still talks about me, always about something good he assured me, and they miss me. Still. I left in 2004.
I didn’t want to leave, not really, but all sorts of little things about my job and about the church had bothered me. I was crabby, I was stressed and those little things bothered me more and more. My boss (clergy) was married to another professional church musician and felt the need to explain (over and over)how HE numbered the cubbies in HIS choir room at HIS church and maybe I should try it that way. There was nothing wrong with the numbering system of the cubbies in our choir room—it worked just fine for my choir– so I paid no attention to her jabbering. But every time I saw her or talked to her, she pointed out that darn numbering. Of the cubbies. In the church choir room. Doing it her spouse’s way would have meant A LOT of busy work for me, to re-number everything and would have meant the choir would have had to be on board to make it happen; I wanted to work on music with them, not argue with them! This Clergy tended to “throw me under the bus” when it came to taking responsibility for unpopular decisions, so no way did I want to do this. This was not the reason I left, but it was part of a bigger reason.
I loved that job. I loved the people in my choirs; the bells, the children, the adults and my sacred dance troop. I loved their musical abilities and the music we made together, I loved their families, and I loved the rest of the staff (mostly) too. I worked with a total of three organists (not including interims and subs); one of whom I really liked, one who was a newbie and had to be taught everything –we got along okay for the most part—and one who was a total pain. If you saw me work with those three, you would have had a hard time knowing which was which—except for the newbie—because I tried to always be professional, no matter what.
When I spoke with that tenor today, he told me the people who have replaced me are perfectly nice people and the musical standard I had held them to has been upheld. But something is missing. He said I had a certain something they miss; and they miss me. I told him I hoped the choir didn’t bring me up to their new directors often because there is something obnoxious about THAT! He assured me, I was only mentioned occasionally and never to put anyone down. Our conversation made me feel good, as if I had made a difference in the life of that church. It was comforting to know I was still remembered fondly. I had often wondered if I was successful in what I set out to do, which was to rise above the ordinary. Maybe I did.