The church choir didn't come without a few sudden upheavals. Members left, and a few have died due to age related illnesses(most of them are parent/grandparent aged people), we lost two to cancer and others just drifted or moved away. As for directors--so far I have seen two come and go, and I'm currently on "my" third director. I don't know how many the older members of the choir have seen.
I hate it when directors go. It means starting all over again with somebody new. I have to explain that I have sensory issues and I do this, this and this to deal with them, and I'm not trying to be rude if I plug my ears with my fingers or show up wearing earplugs. I don't go up to them and be all "Hi, I have an ASD!" I wait awhile, until I can sit down with the new director and explain it a bit. I like to open it up for THEM to ask questions so it isn't such an info dump.
I'll tell you a little about the directors I've worked with.
Our first director, Hayden, had been there for years before he left. He was very traditional and understanding. He heard me singing with my section and called me one of his best sopranos because my voice is so light and clear. He was the one who told me voices like mine are rare and special, and that is how I learned to embrace my "weird" little voice. And then, right before Easter in 2005, Hayden quit because he was mad that he wasn't allowed choose the music for our Easter program. This was a problem that brewed in the background for a long time, and he got fed up. He left, suddenly without warning, and I was heartbroken.
Our second director, Pro, came to us many months after Hayden left. He was with us from 2005 until 2012. His style was a complete opposite to Hayden's! He was a very fast-paced in-your-face type of director with a wicked sense of humor and a REALLY bad habit of making changes to music two seconds before a performance after we learned it a different way for a week! (He says Filipinos are like that, and he could make that joke because he was Filipino himself!) If you got new music, you better hope you studied it or listened to somebody perform it on youtube, because Pro didn't spend much time "woodshedding" which is the process of cleaning out all the wrong notes. Yet, somehow, our performances always came together perfectly! He exposed us to various styles and languages. He turned the choir into a group who won competitions at festivals, and he taught us how to be open to all styles of music. We've been complimented many times by how compliant we are when guest directors worked with us. Working with Pro was easier to me than most, as I memorize music easily, but I also had a lot of frustration because I felt like he didn't notice those with the weaker, quieter voices like me. He hired section leaders to speed up the process of learning music. I found him to be intimidating through no fault of his own--he was simply so busy all the time. But he was good at what he did and he could ROCK a piano. He told us he was leaving on his last night with us, and naturally I was heartbroken again.
Finally, in October of 2012, we got John, our newest director. He's that type of person you can tell is nice right away, like Hayden was. All the fears I had about "the next guy" were unfounded. John is fun, talented and he gets into the music as he's directing. He gives feedback as he directs and he makes warming up before practice or a performance a lot of fun. I like that he's a little slower paced about teaching us than Pro was. He focuses a lot more on blending and diction.
John is the first director to whom I told the full extent of what happened to me in high school. The other ones, I just made a vague mention of it, but I told John in an email with all the details. I wrote it after going through a difficult rehearsal where all my negative vocal quirks were coming up. One of them is being so afraid to stick out too much that if others sing wrong notes around me, my voice will follow the wrong notes against my will just so I don't stick out. It's frustrating. I started out writing to tell him I KNEW the song and in explaining why I was messing up, the whole experience from high school ended up coming out. I told him I have crippling stage fright and my musical dream is to sing Silent Night as a solo at Midnight Mass. John wrote back and thanked me for expressing my fears to him and told how sorry he was that something so cruel happened to me, and that, most importantly, he wants to help me heal. The Sunday morning after that email, he gave me a big hug and said he is glad to know me and he'll walk with me through the healing process.
I don't normally trust people immediately, but John won me over with that. I don't feel intimidated by him and I don't feel like I'm in his way. I feel like he's an ally who wants me to succeed. At my choir's recent Christmas party, I had a little too much to drink(I love wine and I'm a lightweight, lol) and ended up telling them what happened and what John said to me, and they were all over me, hugging me and telling me they will NEVER laugh at me like that.
It's given me the courage to ad-lib those high notes I know I can hit at the end of songs that allow for those kinds of shenanigans. I shocked the hell out of John with the note I hit at the end of "Sing Out, Earth and Skies" and I told him I felt brave that day. He gave me a big hug and told me he hopes to see more of that from me.
I hit the high notes again at the end of "Go Tell It On A Mountain" and John made a little joke by saying, "don't hurt yourself!" (I missed it was a joke the first time, till he told me. Now it's funny!)
Thanks to the support I have from my singing environment, I feel more desire to take musical risks. I remind myself that nobody will laugh at me if I fail. That is the hardest issue to get over--the fear of being mocked and laughed at if I make a mistake or hit a bum note. It happens to all singers!
But most importantly, I feel I'll take steps towards my dream of singing a Silent Night solo at Midnight Mass on Christmas eve. It may be this year or in another year, but now it feels like it's a goal within my reach. And it's all thanks to having my choir at my back and my director in front of me as a support team.