Obvious: All humans need to feel connected and have a sense of belonging. Less obvious: Teacher’s have less power to actually achieve this with all students than we think. We can WELCOME all students. But belonging has to be mutual and organic.
Hot take: not ALL students need this from their school or ALL of their teachers. It is our teacher ego that tells us that they do.
MANY kids do need this. But not all. Some have this need met at home, or at church or on a club sports team or community theater or music group. Sounds like the ideal system to me. We all need similar things, but the way we meet these needs must remain flexible and free.
The one thing ALL students need when they come to school is to learn the content to proficiency, or to their potential etc.
I think of “belonging at school,” or in my class as a buffet item. It is all you can eat and available to ALL. But if you want only a small portion, or none (in my case, if you ONLY want the music) then I respect that.
Edit/addendum: belonging cannot occur unidirectionally. It must be reciprocal. And in case anyone is picturing those cheap nasty buffets with no customer service, think instead of the bougie kind where the waiters are always walking around with sampler trays encouraging you to try things. This is no Pizza Street. This is Fogo de Chao. Also, I love my students, even the ones that take a small plate. I just offer more tomorrow.
On this episode you will get to listen in to a portion of an episode I recently recorded for the Contraband Wagon. Contraband is a podcast that hosts exclusively conversations about race and racism. Will Fullwood, the host of the show invited me on to share some the experiences that I have had in conversations with colleagues who may be “missing the point” when they try to connect certain types of music and certain musical practices to a skin color, or the social construct that is “race.” One of those topics of course, is music literacy. Is “centering literacy” akin to “centering whiteness? or “white supremacy.” I say no, but Will and I discuss what those terms mean. We also explore the examples of Opera and its history of exclusion and racism, while ALSO remembering that it is not a “white” art form. Will’s own background as a classical and jazz musician who ALSO spends hours a week discussing race and racism make this an interesting and insightful conversation.
This episode is a special first on the show. I have never gone ON LOCATION to meet an entire ensemble for a conversation before, and let me tell you… it was worth the gear haul to Lawrence, KS! GRAMMY Award winning ensemble, Chanticleer was at the Lied Center of Kansas for a performance and Master Class at KU, and was able to squeeze in some time for YOU the Choralosophy Audience. The twelve men of Chanticleer and I had a fast paced round table discussion about what it’s like to be at the Choral music mountaintop in the ensemble, about the vocal gymnastics of counter tenors, the unique space that the group occupies somewhere between “choir” and “chamber ensemble” as well as their thoughts about what it takes to create truly MAGICAL performances and moments in music making.
The GRAMMY® Award-winning vocal ensemble Chanticleer has been hailed as “the world’s reigning male chorus” by The New Yorker, and is known around the world as “an orchestra of voices” for its wide-ranging repertoire and dazzling virtuosity. Founded in San Francisco in 1978 by singer and musicologist Louis Botto, Chanticleer quickly took its place as one of the most prolific recording and touring ensembles in the world, selling over one million recordings and performing thousands of live concerts to audiences around the world.
Chanticleer’s repertoire is rooted in the renaissance, and has continued to expand to include a wide range of classical, gospel, jazz, popular music, and a deep commitment to the commissioning of new compositions and arrangements. The ensemble has committed much of its vast recording catalogue to these commissions, garnering GRAMMY® Awards for its recording of Sir John Tavener’s “Lamentations & Praises”, and the ambitious collection of commissioned works entitled “Colors of Love”. Chanticleer is the recipient of the Dale Warland/Chorus America Commissioning Award and the ASCAP/Chorus AmericaAward for Adventurous Programming, and its Music Director Emeritus Joseph H. Jennings received the Brazeal Wayne Dennard Award for his contribution to the African-American choral tradition during his tenure with Chanticleer.
Named for the “clear-singing” rooster in Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, Chanticleer continues to maintain ambitious programming in its hometown of San Francisco, including a large education and outreach program that recently reached over 8,000 people, and an annual concert series that includes its legendary holiday tradition “A Chanticleer Christmas”.
In this episode, filmed in front of a “live studio audience” in the form of my students, I have the opportunity to sit down with one of our generations finest compositional voices, Jake Runestad. With the help of my students, we have a spirited conversation about the value and genesis of creativity, the special nature of the human voice as an instrument, the central importance of text in choral music as well as Jake’s advice for the next generations of composers and performers. The kids even through some surprise questions in there! I have enjoyed getting to know Jake over the last few years, and I know you will be just as impressed with the PERSON behind the music as I am.
Jake Runestad is an award-winning and frequently-performed composer of “highly imaginative” (Baltimore Sun) and “stirring and uplifting” (Miami Herald) musical works. He has received commissions and performances from leading ensembles and organizations such as Washington National Opera, VOCES8, the Swedish Radio Symphony, the Netherlands Radio Choir, the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, the Santa Fe Desert Chorale, Seraphic Fire, the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra, the Philippine Madrigal Singers, and more. “The Hope of Loving,” the first album of Jake’s music, recorded by Craig Hella Johnson and Conspirare, received a 2020 GRAMMY® award nomination, and Jake’s ground-breaking choral symphony “Earth Symphony” garnered a 2022 EMMY® award nomination. Jake’s visceral music and charismatic personality have fostered a busy schedule of commissions, residencies, workshops, and speaking engagements, enabling him to be one of the youngest full-time composers in the world. Considered “one of the best of the younger American composers” (Chicago Tribune), Jake Runestad holds a Master’s degree in composition from the Peabody Conservatory of the Johns Hopkins University where he studied with Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Kevin Puts, in addition to formative mentoring from acclaimed composer Libby Larsen. A native of Rockford, IL, Mr. Runestad is currently based in Minneapolis, MN. Find out more at: JakeRunestad.com