A Youth Perspective
In the world of the children’s chorus, being on the main stage is a big deal. The first time my brother and I were on it, I was 11 and he was nine, and it was the annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Day concert. We wore our bright red, newly laundered Boston Children’s Chorus jackets for the first time—life couldn’t get better. But then our competition came along. During the early years of the chorus, we sang alongside not one, but two guest choruses: the renowned Chicago Children’s Chorus and The Young People’s Chorus of New York City. I will never forget seeing them walk through the door for the first time with their logo-ed garment bags as they exited packed-to-capacity coach buses. There were 20 of us, and 50 of them. They looked better than us, sounded better than us, danced better than us, and we definitely didn’t feel up to snuff.
As the weekend progressed, we played games, exchanged jokes, told stories, and even hosted them in our homes, but there was still some competition in the air. There was still a sense of divide amongst the choruses—until show time, that is. I’ll never forget the year we sang “We Need a Word.” The lyrics:
“. . . a word to lead us through our misery and strife. We need your hand to guide us through the night, and to be our shining light.”
That’s exactly what we needed! Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech was the whole reason we were united on that stage. Who cares about competition? Who wore their jacket better, who hit the highest note, who had better choreography, or who had the largest group—whatever. The reason we sang in unison was to celebrate the life of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a man who dedicated his life to civil rights and activism as a crescendo for equality in a world where nothing was in unison.
It was only after ending my first concert with all those talented young people that I realized there was no competition. I was no longer anxious or nervous about those other choruses. In fact, MLK Day became the highlight of my year each year until I graduated the chorus in 2012.
- “Don’t let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game.”—Sam Montgomery
There will always be someone bigger, better, stronger, and wiser but you must still contribute. Contribute; don’t compete.
- You find family in unlikely places—to this day, there are still connections among the choruses and it’s a beautiful thing.
- Differences don’t diminish the worth or greatness you naturally possess.