Wednesday, February 20, 2008

February photo 20

I'm going to spend many paragraphs waxing poetic about my job, but if you bear with me to the end, I'll make it worth your while.

I've mentioned here how much I like my job. What I probably haven't mentioned is how much I like the men (and it's all men) I work with. The choral group is comprised of 50+ college students (plus a couple of non-students) and the conductor. They sing Serious Music. In multiple languages. From different eras, most of which are not modern.

The group is student self-governed, which means they run themselves. That's pretty huge, especially when you consider that they get NO funding from the university and have to handle their fundraising. Harvard's glee club has the backing of their music department AND a full staff to support the group. My guys? They have me. And the conductor. And we're both part-time. In fact, the conductor lives up in D.C. and drives down for twice-weekly rehearsals and the concerts.

Our group is one of the oldest student organizations at the university and one of the oldest choral groups of its kind in the country. There's a lot of history and tradition behind my guys. In 1943, their conductor wrote "The Testament of Freedom" which is one of most famous pieces of choral music out there. My guys gave the inaugural performance, which was broadcast nationwide and to the troops overseas. During the 1970s, they traveled to the Soviet Union during the height of the Cold War to perform. And they did it twice. My guys have sung for presidents, including Bill Clinton during the 1993 festivities to celebrate the 250th anniversary of Thomas Jefferson's birth.

The funding issue is a huge one, and one of the reasons I was hired. The guys were barely making ends meet and one of my jobs is to increase their revenue through annual and capital fundraising.

I spent a great deal of time during the Christmas break working on a grant proposal, the timing of which did not thrill me. I cussed a lot -- I know that surprises you all -- and I ranted a great deal more. But the proposal was done on time. The proposal was for a CD project -- songs that are specific to our university, but that have been forgotten over the decades.

Last month, we were asked to give a presentation to the trustees of the funding organization. Since the proposal was for a CD project, I suggested that we bring in a small number of the guys to sing. Also, since the group is student-led, I suggested that the group's president, a very earnest pre-med student, give the presentation, as it seemed more appropriate.

It was a Friday afternoon. The trustees spent all afternoon listening to one presentation after the other. Lots of talk, not much action. My guys were last. They walked in -- 12 of them wearing their blue blazers and orange and blue ties -- and they sang. Just one song. And it was beautiful. There was a crowd in the hallway listening and we all had chills. Afterward, the group's president gave his speech, which was short and to the point. As I said, he's earnest and believes in what he's doing, which can really make an impression on a captive audience.

I don't have a recording of that performance, so I pulled the song off You Tube. The guys must have had one of their blow-out parties and, as they are wont to do, they sang. Someone recorded it and put it up on YouTube. In spite of all that, they sound amazing. Listen, if you're interested.

Yep, those are my guys. And that's how good they sound in the midst of a party, when most of them are not sober. Imagine what their concerts are like.

I have to tell you that, as I was writing the grant proposal, I really didn't think we had a chance. There were so many other competing groups and this seemed so small by comparison. Once my guys performed, however, I knew, I just knew they were contenders.

Yesterday, I got a phone call from the director of the trust. We've been awarded a very nice amount of money to record that CD, which will be ready in early 2010. There will be a concert, of course, to share the music with the community, and it will be wonderful.

So, I'm walking on clouds right now. We got a grant, a big one, and it was the first one I'd ever spearheaded and taken to completion.

In honor of all that, today's photo is of my guys:

This was taken last May, at the concert given during graduation weekend. The guy in white is the conductor. He's, as you can probably guess, a very dapper fellow. For the Christmas concert, he often wears a black velvet tuxedo jacket, a Christmas bow tie, and some sort of festive socks. When the guys perform during the day, they wear blue blazers, white shirts, khaki pants, and school ties. The conductor does too, only his blazer has brass school buttons, his khaki pants have the school logo embroidered all over, and his socks are school colors too. No, he's not an alumnus. Just very festive.

If you'd like to hear more of my guys' music, this and this are from their Christmas concert. Crappy picture quality and the sound is a little thin, but you get the idea. The green blurs are the Christmas tree and greenery.

If you made it all the way to this point I am amazed. If you're interested in my guys' music and want to hear more, email me. I'll send you a CD -- my gift to you for your patience today.


Family Adventure said...

That is AWESOME Jen! All that effort crowned with success. Good job - I remember you working hard hours on that proposal.


The Guider said...

Very interesting - and nice approach for the grant, well done!

I am going to watch the You Tube video.

Wish I loved my job. I have in the past. And I will again. But not this one! I nearly crossed a line the other day explaining to someone why he had mis-spelled principals/principles. "Mr X and Mrs Y are the principal members of the company. If I had any principles, I would not work here." The accountant was listening and burst out laughing for ages afterwards!

daysgoby said...


Lisa @ Take90West said...

Congratulations, Jen! Your post shows how very proud you are of your guys, and they are so lucky to have someone who is passionate about them, in their corner!

Happy Working Mom said...

Congrats!! What an awesome accomplishment! I bet you feel great!

Melissa said...

Congratulations! I'm so proud of you! And of them! That was a creative way to get the money--live performances KICK powerpoint's ASS any day!!!

Aims said...

Congratulations Jen - isn't it great when a team doing a whole lot of hard work gets rewarded. You must be very proud. I'd love a CD - I love choral music! Very soothing! xxx

Badness Jones said...

You make them seem wonderful, and I'm going to come back to this post to listen to your guys sing - once I'm on a computer with speakers that work. I think that it's great you have a job you love so much, I'm looking forward to that someday!

Josie said...

Congrats to you and your men!!!

Love the way you decided to habdle it in front of the board.

Oh, and they sound awesome. Really good - sober or not :)