You are all dear to my heart. I am deeply grateful that many of you have surpassed me.
Dear Philippine choir conductor friends, students, and former students,
As one of the more senior choral conductors in your midst, allow me these words for you to chew on. I do this because I have invested my life mentoring many of you even as I now live so very far away from you. You are all dear to my heart. I am deeply grateful that many of you have surpassed me. This is the best tribute you can give your professor.
I wish you could all invest and pursue long-term and lifelong learning opportunities to study deeply from other great choirs, conductors, and repertoires of those from the other side of the world, as they, too, must learn from you. It's not enough to win competitions, do adjudications, workshops, choir clinics, and gigs. They all serve a purpose, to be sure. But you need to replenish and refuel yourselves. Do regular and thoughtful score study of music your choir may not even perform. Get away from the hustle and bustle and retreat to your own mountain of solitude. Study with and learn from the masters. Be an apprentice to great conductors. Read books on choral music. Establish a roundtable of conductors that caucuses regularly and exchanges research on choral music. Reserve time to sharpen your saw--retool, re-imagine your life ministry/calling, reflect, re-assess, re-educate and re-dedicate yourselves to your life-callings.
There is nothing more important than time for your own soul. Your soul needs to breathe.
Developing over-competence in one area (e.g. performance, etc.) often results in an under-competence in another area. Doing too much leads to that dreaded burn-out, we so often bring upon ourselves. It also leads to ossification. There is nothing more important than time for your own soul. Your soul needs to breathe. I have learned that doing so many things all the time often leads to accomplishing very little. Is this the example we want to leave behind to those who follow us? If we live often inside our own bubble, we become comfortably ensconced in our world and think the world revolves around us. Never rest on your laurels. This doesn't mean pursuing more laurels. Step back. Go out of your bubble. Take time off. Request, even insist, on a sabbatical every 7th year of your work. Learn. Then, learn some more. There is a big world out there and it keeps renewing every day. Genius grows everywhere all the time. Learn from its fresh and awe-some ideas. When you keep learning, your choir will thank you for it, your audiences will grow with you, and you ensure an enduring legacy of continuous growth and renewal to your successors.
Remember that we're all servants of the music, and the Great Spirit who guides the music of the spheres. It's never about us.
Joel Navarro, DMA
Grand Rapids, Michigan
Used with permission from the author.