by Brian Hathaway
Yes, Carpe Diem, which means seize the day! Quite a few years ago, Robin Williams played teacher John Keating in a movie called the Dead Poets Society, where he challenged his students to seize the day, that is, to channel their passion to an endeavor that is memorable and life changing.
As I think of our young people today, they still have that chance to find their passion and fulfill it in a positive, meaningful and memorable fashion. Our teachers have the opportunity to bring those passions into focus as they help young men and women develop physically, intellectually and emotionally. For our teaching professionals, this presents both an opportunity and a challenge in our media-saturated environment.
This is where the 2015 USF Festival of Voices comes in. On September 25-26, over 300 students from 26 high schools gathered with their music teachers at the USF School of Music for two days of music study, rehearsal, master classes, and concert preparation. Sharing the event with them were 93 singers from the Master Chorale of Tampa Bay and 54 singers from the USF Chamber Singers and the USF Collegiate Singers.
Arriving on Friday morning, the students received the music for their assigned ensembles; The Festival Women’s Chorus, directed by Dr. Beth Gibbs of Florida Southern College, and the Festival Mixed Chorus, directed by Dr. James K. Bass of the USF School of Music and The Master Chorale of Tampa Bay. In only 31 hours they would be presenting this music in the Festival of Voices Finale Concert in the USF School of Music Concert Hall.
There is also the benefit of fully utilizing the state of the art facilities at the School of Music, with acoustically tuned rehearsal, recital and concert halls and a Steinway piano in every room. These factors combined to offer huge benefits for the students. After all, the students are what this is all about. Ordinarily, high school students only get an opportunity to participate in an event like this if selected for All-County or All-State Honor Choruses. Festival of Voices reaches out to a wider population of students to experience preparing and performing artistically challenging music side by side with experienced singers from USF and The Master Chorale of Tampa Bay. This kind of partnership adds another important dimension to the Festival experience.
It is this kind of environment that yielded one memorable moment from our rehearsals. Dr. Jim Heck stood up and told the students that, at 85 years young, he had been singing all his life, and that he would continue to sing until his vocal cords no longer allowed him to do it. Speaking of their mutual love of singing, Jim remarked that “You will never lose this”. What a joyous statement of affirmation for his passion and love of music!
From my perspective as a Master Chorale singer, I look forward to this event every year. The chance to work with young people energizes me, and their sense of musicality always leaves a lasting impression on me. One of the changes to the Festival this year was involvement of the USF and Master Chorale singers at more rehearsals, giving us an opportunity to integrate ourselves more completely into the ensembles. By “sharing the journey”, so to speak, the ensembles benefit which only serves to bring the music to a higher artistic level.
I have been participating in the FOV ever since I joined the Master Chorale in 2007, and this is the best Festival I have been a part of. In an event of this magnitude, the contributions of the staff and volunteers who put this together cannot be overstated. When I stood on the risers with all those talented and dedicated young people, making memorable music to an appreciative audience, I was thankful to be able to contribute in some small way of making our world a little better. As Dr. Bass said to the audience on Saturday, “Think of how much better our world would be if there were more people in it like these”.
I absolutely agree…..Carpe Diem!!