I have been singing with the Dallas Millennial Choirs and Orchestras for several years now. Sometimes I forget how very fortunate I am to sing with this incredible organization. I’ve been thinking some time that I needed to write a letter of gratitude to my conductor and the choir’s founder, Brett Stewart.
Expressing gratitude does wonders for my mental wellness. I don’t do it enough, and today I’m committing to be better. An attitude of gratitude can change my day today. I choose gratitude. I choose to lift someone else who has blessed my life. He doesn’t know me, but he has blessed my life, and it’s time to say thank you. I plan to give this letter to him after rehearsal tomorrow:
Dear Brett Stewart,
You probably don’t know me by name, but most likely you would recognize my face. I’m an alto 2, and I’ve stood front and center, right in front of you since the first day of DMCO practice. I’m nobody important, just one of the many alto voices and I kind of like it that way. I don’t complain or kick up a fuss. I blend well. I just come and rehearse and perform every semester. Last week you mentioned that you get emails from people complaining about stuff pretty regularly, and I thought, that isn’t right. It’s not right I have been coming and benefiting from this program in such profound ways, and through my silence, I allow cynical complainers to speak for me. No more.
I’ve struggled with depression and anxiety for many years. When I became a Mom to my son, who is now a fourteen year old, I thought I would be happy, but I found that I lost myself in motherhood. The more children I had, the worse it seemed to get. At one point I became suicidal and was admitted to the hospital. Part of my treatment plan was to rediscover myself and cultivate my interests. I started looking for a choir. I had prided myself on my singing voice, and had even sung in an audition choir in junior college, but like so much about myself, my singing had been neglected. It is one of God’s tender mercies that I found out that MCO was coming to Dallas. My friend who had been supporting me through it all, took me to the audition. It has been a near perfect fit for me, even though I have to travel an hour to get to rehearsals.
Each rehearsal, each semester, each performance I think, “I can’t do this! It’s too much work,” but my husband pushes me out the door and once I reach the hall and I see you, it all changes. You have a rare gift to bring the best out in me musically. Sometimes I feel like that old church video and that I am that old dusty violin. You found me, dusted me off, took the time to tune and train me, and now I can sing the way God intended for me to sing.
It’s a small thing to the world, what you do. You gather a rabble of amateur church choir singers, complete with a horde of rowdy children, and you teach us to sing beautifully. In spite of your skill and training, Meyerson Concert Hall has closed its doors to you. We both know why. The world doesn’t value me, and those like me. They like to define talent narrowly and invest only in a small fraction of the world that they deem worthy of their time and training. That’s the world’s way. It isn’t the Stewart way. You give freely to everyone. You take the time for everyone, or nearly everyone, that’s willing to try. Like the sower, you sow musical knowledge to all of us, and we take it like the soil and multiply it. It’s beautiful!
This letter is already getting long winded, so I won’t go into great detail about the way DMCO has changed my life. It is a vital part of my mental wellness. My voice was always nice to listen to, but after years of MCO training I sound polished and professional. I read music much better, I control my vibrato, and sing with phrasing, dynamics, and diction. I always try to sing as though you or one of the other conductors were there in front of me reminding me to put “ih” in my Ai’s, lips around my vowels, and marshmallows in the back of my throat. I can imagine your angry eyes glaring at me under your eyebrows, hand stretched out, daring me to breathe in the wrong place. There are times in sacrament meeting when someone sitting in front of me will turn around to comment on my voice. Sometimes they are quite moved. To the world, a beautifully trained alto voice singing praises to God in a small chapel is nothing noteworthy; but I know that God hears me. I matter to him and what you do has more impact than you or I can possibly understand. I know that every week you give me what I don’t deserve and haven’t paid for; a treasure of musical knowledge and training. I am humbled and grateful for the incredible opportunity to sing in this choir.
More than anything, I am grateful for the energy you bring to choir each week. You must tire of repeating the same instructions over and over. It must be frustrating to have to whip us to MCO standard when we predictably fall short. Still, you seem to always come with a spring in your step, ready to sweat a bucket as your pour your heart into your work. I don’t know where you get your faith and tenacity, but thank you. A million times, thank you. Thank you for having the courage to start this organization. Thank you for believing in me and thousands like me. At first, I was quite cynical about the idea that we were going to be the choir that sings for the second coming of the Lord. Then I started doubting my cynicism. Now I don’t doubt anymore. We will sing for Him. We are preparing our voices for that great and dreadful day; the ultimate concert of praise and welcome for our God and Savior!