Row Your Boat
Contributed by Adam Christie
We need to look at this choir like a rowing boat. You can talk and still row (within reason). You can laugh and still row. But if you’re looking at your phone, you aren’t rowing. If you’re laying down, you aren’t rowing. If you don’t wanna be on the risers or aren't in your spot, you may be rowing but it doesn’t help much because we aren’t rowing together. If you’re eating, you can’t be rowing. If you’re singing but nobody can hear you, that’s like dipping your oar in the water but not actually helping the boat move through the water.
Sometimes a boat needs one side to row forward and the other side to row backwards to make a turn to avoid trouble. But if all you’re doing is talking and you don’t hear the captain say something is changing in the rowing, you actually end up working against what the boat is trying to do.
You’re in the boat. That’s this class. That’s this group. That’s this ensemble.
Now what could happen if people don’t row?
It makes it harder for those that are rowing because they have to pick up the slack. It’s easier to row when everyone is rowing. If people don’t row, we don’t get to where we are going very fast. We may not even get to our destination.
Let’s say Maria's rowing and the rest of her section isn’t. Maria just may give up because it’s too hard or she thinks we’ll never make it. Then the boat sits there. And how fun is a boat that’s not moving in the middle of the deep water? People get cranky. Then people don’t talk to each other or they say hurtful things. Maybe people try to jump overboard. And some make it to other shores but most don't. It’s amazing that people are willing to swim on their own to reach somewhere, which is much more labor intensive, than row with everyone in a boat.
So how's your personal effort in rowing? And what are you doing that's stopping you from rowing? What could you do to make you a better member of the crew?
And remember that people in the boat have been to where you're going. But they don't quite remember how to get there. That's why you need the captain. He or she has been there once and it was so amazing, they spend the rest of their life taking other people there. Remember that when you're tired of rowing and start complaining about a place you've yet to visit: It must be worth it if this person would devote their whole life, giving up money, opportunities, comfortable living, and an easier life. If they would devote their whole life, then I would be willing to row for an hour a day to see what was so special.
We need to adopt a philosophy. Everyone rows with maximum effort.
Eventually, you realize that the destination was incredible, but that's not what the best part was. The best part was in the rowing and in the people you were rowing with and the obstacles you overcame together. Then you decide you wanna get on the boat again and visit that special place. Not only to see the destination, that's a byproduct, but because being apart of that crew gave your life purpose and eased the pain of loneliness.
Everyone rows with maximum effort and in order to row with maximum effort, we need everyone. Every. One. Now put your phone away.
This post is a guest contribution by Adam Christie, originally posted on Facebook in the “I’m A Choir Director” group. Do you have something to say? Have you seen something that has impacted you as a director? Please consider submitting it to be published on Choir Bites! Use the submission/contact form on this site.
Adam Christie is a conductor, composer, and speaker who currently teaches at-risk teenage youth on the Cheyenne Reservation in Montana.