Working Wednesday 1

Putting the band back together after the unceremonious end to last year’s record-breaking 2019-2020 season has been exhilarating.

For the second time in a week, I had the opportunity to be around the youthful energy of a group of excited young musicians. 

 In spite of the fact that I’ve done this work for the last 16 years of my life. New rules, precautions, and a pervading sense of uncertainty have made the build-up to this year’s auditions, last Saturday’s organizational meeting, and last night’s first Working Wednesday seem especially anxiety-inducing.

But once we are in a room together, even with the temperature checks, masks, social distancing, etc. it feels right, and I get excited. Excited about all of the new possibilities that the pandemic has made necessary to explore. The creativity that’s going to be required to just put on a major event, whether it’s streaming a show done in an exciting new way, or organizing a drive-in show. As well as the hoops we will need to jump through just to rehearse and learn the music together. Yeah, I know I’ve got problems, but the challenge excites me.

It’s new-fallen snow that is undisturbed by precedent, and I find that inspiring. 

For the first part of our first Working Wednesday, which is a multi-purpose weekly group meeting, I pulled aside this year’s student leaders. This group includes seniors who will be directing this years’ shows, as well as the first chairs of each instrument. The first chairs are those students who scored the highest on their audition for their instrument and have earned the responsibility of leading their fellow players.

In this meeting we discussed leadership. The qualities of a good leader, as well as the central goal of UMC leadership. Which is to complete all given goals with a group feeling of “look what we’ve done”. We, not I.

Then a meeting with everyone reinforced the rehearsal rules, the most important of which is “on time is late”, everyone needs to be present for every meeting, rehearsal, or event 15 minutes before the scheduled start time.

I think the best part of the first Working Wednesday each year, is when we break up into instrument groups and review or learn the 10-minute group warm-up. The group \warm-up is a series of chop building exercises that gets students physically ready to play at a high level. It’s also a ritual that is a way that we flip their focus switch to on, while also building group comradery and calming their minds before a rehearsal or a show as they focus on familiar musical patterns.

Our concern with this year warms ups were finding a way to keep our singers safe while continuing to allow them to build their rapport. Going in to the evening I had not come up with a way to do this. — However, a moment of synergy between a few student leaders and myself sent us out into the stairwell where we spaced the singers from the first floor to the third floor with masks on. This gave them distance and also an awesome reverberation which made the warm up feel magical.

We ended with two quick meetings. One with marketing director Jared Mondell opened up what will be a continuing conversation about performance promotion and marketing for our shows, and how students are expected to help.

Finally, we concluded with a meeting of the leadership committee, and the directors for our first performance of the season, a tribute to Steely Dan and the Doobie Brothers. —The date of which will be announced soon.

It’s good to be back.

First Working Wednesday Group Shot