CURIOUS THING, THIS RECURRING DREAM...
Howard Meharg, nw acda historian
Curious thing, this recurring dream that a good many choral directors admit to having. Yep, it’s that one where you’re standing in front of your choir clad in nothing but your underwear…or less.
I’ve had that dream. So, in my curiosity I asked a psychologist about it. He said, “Dad, I have to tell you that what it means is that you think you’ve been ‘faking it’ all these years.” (Yes, my son is a psychologist in private practice.)
Hmm, I thought. “Faking it.” It does make sense, I thought. In fact, I thought… it’s true that virtually every time I handle a rehearsal, I run the risk of being exposed…if not as a charlatan, always with the possibility that my techniques and tricks to get the choir sounding better will fail. That the singers will see such attempts as inept and a waste of time.
Here's the odd part. In my dream no one in the choir seemed to notice my lack of clothing.
I feel certain there are a good many interpretations for such a dream, but very often the underlying truth is a simple fear we’re inadequate to the task. So, yes…a certain “faking it” happens.
I’m choosing to believe this is not only a good thing but holds the possibility of being a great thing.
Turn a skilled jazz musician loose with a familiar tune or a twelve-bar blues sequence and most often wonderful things happen. He or she may have little more than a clue where it will lead as they “fake it” and improvise. Sometimes it’s glorious, exhilarating. Sometimes it’s out there on the cutting edge in excitement and invention. Interacting with percussion, bass, piano, and other players, it becomes a kind of conversation and a virtual unfolding of new and imaginative music, never to be repeated music, for this is true improvisation. I’m betting there are times when it thrills. Yeah, and times it may even seem a bit trite. So, yep, there is risk.
No great jazz artist gets to these heights without practice, training, tips, lessons, reading, and listening to others. And, it goes without saying…it’s the same for anyone aspiring to be a great choral director or who wants to continue growing in skills. Trust me, age has nothing to do with it for there is plenty to learn!
It’s a good idea to remember that every rehearsal, no matter how planned it might be, offers a considerable bit of opportunity to “fake it.” I don’t mean in the charlatan sense, but rather trusting yourself to respond to what you hear, see, and sense with creative ideas, conducting gestures, descriptive and imaginative words.
Sure, the more you “practice,” the better your chances for great things happening. The odds are good that those rehearsals and performances WILL be glorious and exhilarating!
Embrace the risk!
P. S. I read once where two of the world’s greatest in choral music, Paul Salamunovich and Robert Shaw discovered during a conversation that they both had had this same dream. Others have called it the “imposter” dream. Can you imagine? Those two masters of the art having a dream where they worried, subconsciously, that they were “inadequate” to the role!
This idea for this article was published in about 2001. I’ve revised it considerably.
Hope you enjoy it.