12. 2018 (763) 432-9713 www.mnschoolofmusic.com
HOWA HOLIDAY MISSTEP TAUGHT ME TEAMWORK A TALE OF FORGOTTEN CHRISTMAS STOCKINGS THE MONTHLY MUSICIAN
H appy Holidays to all of our readers! I hope this newsletter finds you well and that this month is filled with comfort and joy for you and your loved ones. Now, this wouldn’t be an edition of “The Monthly Musician” if I didn’t share a parable from my own life. Thankfully, I have a seasonally appropriate story — one including nutcrackers, forgotten stockings, and a young Eric learning the meaning of teamwork. A lot of people have this perception that I’m a guitarist first and foremost. In reality, singing was my first great love in the music world, one I’ve stuck with throughout my life. I got my start in the church choir at age 5, where I honed my skills until I was eventually accepted into the prestigious Metropolitan Boys Choir (MBC). If you’re unfamiliar with the exciting world of choral singing, I can only describe getting into MBC as being akin to making a competitive sports team. We had a busy practice and travel schedule, and we were able to perform on some of the biggest stages in Minnesota and beyond. One of the most important of these performances was the Joffrey Ballet’s traveling production of Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker” at the University of Minnesota. At 13 years old, I was one of the few choir members cast in this Christmas production. To say I was ecstatic would be an understatement. I was going to get the chance to perform in front of thousands of people and join the “pit” with some of the finest musicians in the United States. To return to the sports metaphor, this was my Super Bowl. And I couldn’t have gotten there without a great coach. Much of the credit for my musical and personal development at MBC goes to the choir’s founder and director, Bea Hasselmann. Chances are you’ve already heard of Hasselmann, considering that her work bringing choir singing to the Minnesota Correctional Facility has made national headlines. But even back in the ‘90s, she was a giant in the music world,
orchestrating the pregame performance for Super Bowl XXVI and teaching students of all ages to be the best singers they could be. Ms. Hasselmann’s kind but firm approach to teaching had a lasting impact on how I approach music teaching today. Of course, it meant learning a harsh lesson about socks. As I mentioned, I was beyond ecstatic for my part in the Nutcracker performance, and in that excitement, I forgot to bring my black dress socks to opening night. “What’s the big deal?” I thought. “They’re just socks.” Director Hasselmann was having none of it. If I wasn’t matching my fellow singers, I wasn’t singing — end of story. As you could imagine, I was mortified that I couldn’t go on stage that night. It felt like being the player who fumbled the football on the opening kickoff. As a consequence of this embarrassing blunder, I spent the rest of the night alone in the green room. This was, however, a valuable lesson. I’d been so caught up in my performance that I forgot to consider the big picture. In music, as in life, every role is important, from the leading role to the triangle player. This humbling experience of my forgotten socks sticks with me to this day. No one person is bigger than the production. Teamwork is key. The spirit of this sock experience is carried into how we run things at the school. While other music institutions use private contractors to save on costs, our teachers are full employees, giving us the unique ability to standardize our operations. We have processes in place to ensure all of our instructors “bring their socks.”
As Director Hasselmann taught me all those years ago, no socks, no sing — the show must go on.
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