Change is just uncomfortable, isn’t it? About four years ago, I ended a stretch of volunteering with my local public library system Saturday mornings before they opened. It wasn’t a “changing the world” kind of volunteer engagement, but I was educated by Franciscans, and I feel strange and indulgent if I’m not engaged as a volunteer. So I spent the summer feeling strange and indulgent, and toward the end of the summer, the youth choir at the church service I attend called for volunteers of all ages. Having heard them sounding something less than awesome, I assumed my skills would suffice, and I’ve been singing with them ever since.
It had every advantage over my library volunteering. There were kids in the choir who needed adults who believed in them. There were kids who needed someone confident enough to sing loud enough for them to follow. And I got involved and invested in these kids’ lives. And when something bad happened in my community and some of the kids were affected, I doubled down, and started volunteering with the youth group. That led to my teaching Confirmation classes last year, and again this year. And its led me to reading at the church service, too. And singing regularly makes me a happier person. I love to sing, and the singing has gone from singing melodies to singing some harmonies to taking up the guitar, singing for awhile in a jam band of old friends, singing at a family wedding— music begat more music, for me, and that’s added quite a bit to my life.
But the choir that I sang in officially disbanded a couple of weeks ago, and has been replaced by a Praise and Worship band. I like the Praise and Worship band— a bunch of talented musicians, fresh music— it’s good. But they’re not sure about me. And after a couple of rehearsals, I kind of feel the same way. Last week’s rehearsal went 105 minutes, this week’s went 120 before I walked out— historically, that’s the night for grocery shopping for Mom and I, and if I’d like to get out of the grocery store before sunrise, I can’t let it get too late before we walk in. I also have to be at church a full hour earlier than the other rehearsal required. And rehearsals are on the same night as the class I teach, this year, meaning I’ll have to leave work, skip dinner, teach my class, be late to choir, and not get out until 9 p.m., on the night before my earliest morning of the week. Partially my fault— I could have chosen to teach on the other night, but I was under the impression that rehearsals were going to be moved to another night, and my family obligations aligned best with this night.
I’m not sure if the rehearsals are only so long and involved because the band is coming together, and if they’re likely to be shorter after we’ve gelled. It might be worth riding it out a little, to find that out.
Some of the people from the old choir aren’t loving the new P&W band, and have suggested I join them in their choir at another service. Which would resolve some of these problems, but wouldn’t reduce my overall level of obligation. And my overall level of obligation is a little overwhelming.
Or maybe, like with the library, I’ve come to the end of this obligation. If so, I want to find a way to make sure that I keep music in my life in a regular way. Singing is muscular— if you don’t use it, to some degree, you lose it. And it brings me too much joy to lose the ground I’ve gained.
How do you keep music alive, if you’re not formally part of a performing group? How do you avoid overwhelm with volunteer obligations? If you’ve got wisdom, I’m chasing my tail on this one.