Community is Key

When I worked for KeyBank, they had a tagline for a marketing campaign that centered around the work they do in the area where they are based and their relationship with their customers and beneficiaries, called “community is Key” for KeyBank. But I always thought that tagline should really apply to all of us and mean “community (or connection, oneness) is key (or integral, important) to us developing as humans”. I know, deep, right? 🙂 Never was that more real to me than this past week when I performed with the Cleveland Orchestra and Chorus in Miami for their spring residency program.

We sang Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms and Orff’s Carmina Burana to a large audience and I found myself connecting with them in a new way. The hall and lighting were more conducive to me seeing their faces, and I started to seek out people who were visibly connecting with the music and sharing their feelings openly by bobbing their heads to the beat or smiling profusely or pointing out certain passages to their partner or standing the second the conductor’s baton came down and clapping furiously. Because I was one in a group of ~200 or so people on stage I knew it wasn’t directed specifically at me, but being part of the ensemble I accepted the communication. It made me want to sing better, it made me feel bound to the other musicians, and it deeply connected me with the audience. It made me feel a sense of community so profound I got emotional and had to reign in to keep the music beautiful.

One of my favorite movements of Carmina Burana is when the bass soloist expresses his feelings of loss and heartbreak:

The idea that by creating something (in this case, music), we can elicit unfettered joy and happiness from our consumers in the audience makes me in return feel unbelievably joyful and euphoric. Having pondered happiness in the past, I know that this was a moment – a moment I won’t forget, a moment that transcended time and space, a moment that will be replaced by others. And I have no idea who those audience members were, nor will I probably ever see them again. But I want them to know that I saw them, I saw the feelings they shared on their faces, I couldn’t stop looking at them. As they were drawn to us and our music, I was drawn to them and their experience and kept wanting to make it better.

Another favorite movement from Carmina – where the soprano finally surrenders to the chase:

And I realized that by sharing with each other, everyone in that hall became one. I often think with all the strife and trouble in the world, if we could just realize that we really are all the same – human – we could accomplish so many amazing things. Bernstein must have felt this, too, as he ended his Chichester Psalms with the Jewish prayer “Behold how good and pleasant it is, for brethren to dwell in unity.” And he used the music to communicate that by bringing everyone on stage together on a final unison note with the Hebrew word “Yahad” which means “together” or “as one”, love that! Our conductor, Giancarlo Guerrero, embodied that with his interpretation of the piece and with his respect for us musicians (in rehearsals often referring to us as “my dear chorus” 🙂 ).

So let me say thank you to my dear orchestra/chorus colleagues and the Miami audience for letting me share this experience with you in a new way, one that has bound me to you in a “community” I will not forget that is “key” to my growth as a human on this earth. I hope to pay it forward, and I hope you’ll do the same.


Listen to Bernstein conduct his Chichester Psalms:

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