I grew up in a dually aligned family committed to both choral music and sports. It was essential that the everyone in Swanson family do both. I began piano lessons at the age of 8 which was the earliest any teacher would take a student in those days. At the same time I began baseball practice with my older brother. We didn’t have teams for girls then, so my best option was to practice with the guys during the week and take stats in the dugout at the games. My father taught us to bat left-handed so us scrawny kids would have a better chance at the plate. As I grew older, I insisted on being the quarterback on the neighborhood football team because I could almost always hit my receiver square on the numbers. Then, when I got cut from the basketball team in 8th grade, I began to devote all my time to music. I was too short to be a guard and too intimidated to fight my way to the goal.
What does this have to do with the Milwaukee Children’s Choir? For me, sports reinforced the important contributions of every member on the team. Every member has the thing they do best. It’s not just a matter of being on the team, but playing the right position. But, sometimes, it’s about where your team needs you to play, not where you want to play. It’s not just about how well you can hit or field. It’s how well you know your teammates’ strengths and weaknesses and how you play to those. How will you determine who’s gonna catch the fly ball when it’s hit between shortstop and third? Who’s gonna cover first on the sacrifice bunt up the line?
This teamwork analogy is the same for a choir. Obviously, it’s a team effort. Otherwise, I would be comparing us to a sport like golf.
Singing in a choir is a mysterious and magical experience. It can become more curiously complex when we begin to weave in and out of unison and part singing. It’s much more colorful when we utilize the different timbre each voice brings. It’s even more organic when we naturally crescendo together because the music somehow made us do it. It’s powerful when we are able to collectively express ourselves through poetry set to music. By our singing we are able to work through pain, sadness, and loneliness. We can also celebrate life and sing for joy together. It’s a beautiful experience when you realize everyone’s heart is beating at the same pulse because everyone is singing the same tune. Singing together can create a powerful moment when we realize that the most memorable music making is made in the rehearsal and not just in the performance.
Singing in a choir is one of the most enriching experiences our human souls can have. Our lives are enhanced whether we are hearing the innocent unaccompanied voice of a child or the rich bass section that provides the foundation for the choir’s beautiful melodic line and the sweet harmonies for our voices.
Milwaukee! I want you to Sing, Sing, Sing! And then Milwaukee, I want you to sing so the world can hear you! You are the voice of the future, the voice that can bring Milwaukee together, this country together and this entire world. That is what music can do. . . in more ways than any sports team could ever imagine!