Back in the 1990s, I remember a coworker recommending a chorus in Berkeley that met in St. Ambrose church, near where I live. I did not follow up on that recommendation; starting a research career and starting a family were my priorities at the time. Who knew that, twenty years later, I would be fully immersed in the organization as a singer in both the large chorus and chamber group, a board member, and most recently and to my amazement, an apprentice conductor. To quote a song from a movie, “I must have done something good” in my life to deserve this wonderful, rare opportunity.
Music has always been part of my life, from kindergarten through elementary, middle, and high schools, and continuing through college. Making time for rehearsals and performances, however, was not something that I could juggle as a working mom with an aspiring research career and two small children. My music was limited to those times I could dust off the keys on my piano or play and sing Christmas carols with friends and family. I have been a “chorus mom” since my son, Gregory, joined the Pacific Boychoir Academy in 2003. My daughter, Margaret, followed suit by joining the San Francisco Girls Chorus in 2007. During the early part of this millennium, my musical life involved driving lots of carpools, sitting through rehearsals, helping my kids learn their music, occasionally coaching small groups of girls for repertoire evaluations, and, to reward all of that effort, attending concerts and watching my children grow into the excellent musicians they are today. I could not be more proud of them!
As the children grew older and more self-sufficient, I decided it was my turn to make music. My husband, George, had discovered and joined BCCO, and I heard the performances in the 2010-2011 season as an audience member. At that time, I was the only member of our family not in a chorus. I managed to make the appropriate logistical arrangements to take the plunge and join BCCO when Ming arrived in the fall of 2011. Joining BCCO was among the best decisions I have ever made. The sense of community, combined with the quality of the music, are enriching and inspiring. Now, I have trouble imagining my life without BCCO as part of it.
In late 2014, when an opening came up to fill the apprentice conductor position, bolstered by the adage, “if you don’t ask, the answer is always no,” I inquired as to whether I might be eligible. To my utter delight, the answer was “yes,” and the year since then has been one of great musical growth for me. I am inspired and encouraged by Ming Luke, Eric Choate, Derek Tam, my fellow chamber singers, my friends, and especially my family. I have bought and read books on conducting, watched DVDs of pieces from our BCCO repertoire being led by various conductors, audited a choral conducting course taught by Marika Kuzma at UC Berkeley, and spent hours “conducting” in my dining room, bathroom, car, office, and countless other places.
In my day job, I often speak in front of people, sometimes at large, international conferences. Taking the podium in front of BCCO, however, was remarkably nerve-wracking. The combination of the supportive BCCO community and Ming’s excellent and very patient tutelage has inspired me immensely. My first time conducting in front of an actual orchestra was absolutely thrilling (as was my second)! I do not for a moment take for granted this privilege I have been given, and my intent is to use my knowledge to give back to BCCO and to Ming as I am able, for example, by helping with warmups or sectionals.
I could not have anticipated this remarkable continuing musical journey, and I look forward with great anticipation to what the future will bring!