There are days when I really really really love my work.
Life at the office this week has not been especially slow, nor especially uneventful, but the last two days have made it especially meaningful.
I tell prospective students and parents that we are like a family. Our Department of Music is housed in an old family home. Faculty are directly involved in the lives and work of students. Students care for each other, and support each other. Alumni are engaged, present, interested.
Friday evening’s student songwriter showcase was standing-room-only with students, family, friends, and faculty. And the energy was kinetic. Songs shared personal stories and informed outlooks. This Songwriting program has grown much over the last year, if the concert was any indication.
Then came this evening. Hunter Johnson, who came to Webster from Orlando, programmed a senior composition recital of vocal, choral, and instrumental chamber music. Some funny. Some totally abstract. And some powerful, reflective of his distinct voice and the events and attitudes that inform his very existence.
Hunter, who is much loved, needed large forces this evening. I counted ten Webster Department of Music alumni on stage with him this evening. They answered the call to be in the family. These folks are now doing things like writing and programming music for video games; winning Metropolitan Opera competitions; heading to graduate school in sound design; running a concert hall; teaching at a middle school four hours away. In short, these alumni are doing exactly the kaleidoscope of work that we expect in the 21st century. And they appear to be loving what they are doing.
Hunter also enlisted the aid of more than a score of current students. All totaled, his throng of performers came from at least seven different states. He called on friends and classmates in music education, musical direction for musical theatre, music composition, performance, and the BA in Music program. They too had his back, gathered forces, and acted like the extended family that they are becoming.
I don’t know many music programs that are closely-knit as the Webster University Department of Music. Something in the air . . . in the faculty . . . in the bones of Thompson House . . . in the type of student we attract — something helps makes this alchemy happen. I’ve witnessed the result the last two evenings.
I’m not writing tonight about the music. That will need to take some time process. I am writing, though, about the people who make up this music department. The remembered voice of a mentor often rings in my mind: “At the end of the day, it’s all about the people.”
And I’m one proud and happy department chair.