A LETTER TO THE SINGING PLAINSMEN

   Message From: RMoore@hub.ofthe.net (Rus Moore) Date: Sun, Jan 10, 1999, 2:12pm To: LenWebster@webtv.net (Len Webster) Subject: RE: David Wright - List of Arrangements (http://www.harmonize.com/DavidWright/arran I forgot yesterday to give you some books that might be useful to you -- the "HTML FOR DUMMIES", the MS Internet Explorer book, and the Netscape book. They are available if you want them. Oh, I've been wondering what the rationale is for the various iterations of the web-page. Enlighten me. Well, for better or worse (not sure which) I got wired late last night and wrote Roger an encyclopedic e-mail about the nitty-gritty truth of how much flexibility, responsiveness, and inventiveness he can expect from the music program. I basically said it's a full-growed beast, and that this year the program is probably going to stay intact and on course. I can't spend a lot of time to reinvent and develop a new consensus and form new operating habits, etc, and also spend the time I need to become an effective director. So, I apologized in advance for the possibility that I wouldn't always be receptive to what might be very good ideas. I hope the tone didn't come across as too negative. Perhaps I should send you a copy, just in case it needs moderating from "above". -- I'll attach it to this. Have a good day. Talk to you later. -- Rus ===============================================                I liked your thoughts and general approach in the meeting, Roger. I was feeling a little "down" and grumpy this afternoon, and it was only a few minutes ago that I realized that I was mildly sore all over because I'd started working out yesterday. I noticed that some things that were brought up just made me feel "tired". Sorry if I seemed less enthusiastic than I should have been. It really was a good meeting.

The music program is kind of a full-growed beast that may take a lot of explaining.   I'd say that the music committee met for an average of two hours/wk last year, and spent a lot more time on the phone and e-mail and getting together during the week. We grappled with, and made, lots of tough decisions. There are a few important issues about which we still don't agree. There are lots and lots of good ideas that we have struggled with, and often found impossible to get done in the current situation.                For you, though, these same ideas are often new and seem to need to be considered. It's as if you've just married a middle-aged bachelor who's real set in his ways. I'll try to be receptive to rethinking these things, so please don't let what may not always be an enthusiastic reception discourage you.                An example of what I'm talking about is my less than enthusiastic response when Ted made the very reasonable suggestion about recording the chorus. First of all, I know it's a very good idea, I would love to do it more and I feel a little guilty that I haven't done more. But as you know, it's a lot of work, and it's work I have to do personally, and the reason I haven't done it more often is because at any given time I thought it more important to get something else done instead. You just have to do what you can and keep your eye on the donut, not the hole.                   Over the past year I've worked my buns off trying various things and trying to get more done than I could possibly do. Now I'm also the assistant director and I really value efficiency. I need very much to capitalize on the philosophies and decisions and the teamwork of the music committee worked out during the past year, and spend less time re-inventing and administering the music program -- more time studying the music, refining interpretations, working in front of a mirror to improve my directing, learning and preparing to teach vocal techniques, listening to good recordings to enhance my feel for the music, rehearsing in my mind how best to teach and inspire the chorus, working with Fravin to improve our directing/coaching teamwork.                I particularly liked your comment about "planting a seed". That's exactly how I see it. We have many many hopes and dreams for the chorus -- we've seen it in full bloom, and would love to wish it back to that status -- we'd like to do the things that "real" choruses do. But the truth is that we damn-near died. We're down to a single seed. We can dream of blooming, but we're certainly not ready for a floral display.                On your question about what level we're at -- musically we are at the basic level, we understand what we need to do, but we haven't really mastered the basics or learned to be consistent in doing them. We made a mid-C score at our peak, on 2 songs -- not enough for a performance.                This last year, for the first time in a very long time, we reversed the direction of the chorus. We improved musically and we gained members. The seed is coming to life. It started on the music side last year. If we can add the energy and determination that you had this afternoon on the Membership/chapter development side and get new members in the door, and develop all those ancillary chapter activities and, as you said, really involve all the rest of the chorus, make every member feel valuable and every guest feel welcome, then we'll have a really good year. And just maybe, in a year or two, we'll once again have a 30-man chorus, and have the manpower and talent to do some of those neat things.                So, please understand that while I welcome your feedback on the music program and will always consider it very seriously, the music program is in it's second year. We sweat blood arriving working out the music program, and learning what we could and could not do given the talent and resources that we have available. If you remember, before the election I asked that I only be re-elected if everyone wanted to continue the music program I'd begun. If a new program is desired, then someone else will have to take over as Music and Performance VP. I cannot possibly re-invent, re-coordinate, and re-teach everyone to establish a new program and come close to doing all that I have tasked myself to do. The only program I can deliver is the one I gave birth to and raised for the past year. I'm in the habit of setting priorities and accepting that many good ideas will have to wait until another day.                I think that with the help of the music committee, I can deliver a good music program. I think that we can improve musically this year, just as we did last year, and that, if we can keep a healthy positive attitude, and all keep having fun, then at the end of the year we'll have a better chorus, and we'll have three guys who are better directors than they were a year ago -- and the seed will continue to grow. And every day that we stay on that course increases the chances that our talent pool will grow to that critical level needed for us to move up to the A-level.                So, what am I trying to say -- I really do need your input, and I really do apologize if I don't always seem enthusiastic. Some topics depress me -- those that get translated in my mind to mean "why don't you just work harder and do more." This includes things like making learning tapes and recordings. Some will get done, much won't.                Another depressing type of suggestion is anything that is philosophically hard to reconcile with the current program, e.g. more performances, performing choruses, etc. Any effective program, yours for example, can only work if it is internally consistent so that it doesn't self-destruct, and if every piece of it is something that you believe in passionately enough to enlist others to the effort. The only program that I personally am capable of delivering effectively is this "thing" that the music committee and I worked out over the past year. It needs constant tweaking and refreshing, and it must respond to the needs and desires of the chorus, but it cannot, and will not be significantly changed while I am M&P VP. If a fresh new approach is needed, and if the author of some new approach makes it known and volunteers for this job, then he will be welcome to it.                What you are looking at, Roger, is all I have to show for my life this past year. For a good many months it was a full-time effort, or more. It's been super rewarding in many, many ways -- I wouldn't trade a minute of it. But understand that I have a lot invested in this, and I believe strongly in what I'm doing, so I'm likely to resist any major change of course. So, sometimes, when contrary views are pressed upon me just a little too much I react like a bitch with a litter of puppies. I apologize for that. It's your job to say anything you think needs saying, and it's my job to listen -- if I growl sometimes, it's not because I don't love you, and, honest, I won't bite -- I just get bitchy sometimes when I'm tired. (I'm sure you'll feel the same when I offer some of my observations about the Chap Development program.)                And my advice to you is to do the same thing. Invent your program in a way you believe in, and then fight to make it happen. If it's your baby, you'll love it and the chapter will get an unimaginable amount of work out of you and from those members you recruit to help you. Otherwise, you'll probably just mark time for the year and get pissed off.   You can't please everyone, and everyone knows that, even if they don't always act like they do. You're the man -- you'll find that Len is super supportive, the ideal boss, but it's your baby to birth and raise.                By the way -- I like the "candy" idea, but I never quite understood exactly how you were planning to implement it.                About the mission statement -- My view is that we need to become actively engaged in the pursuit of a mission statement, but not really seek a conclusion. You must, of course, have a keen sense of what your own mission is as VP and you need to debate that with Len and your committee, but I believe the chorus will have great difficulty resisting the temptation to place goals which are not currently beyond our reach, and there's some danger in that. We simply aren't up to the bragging stage just yet, and unreachable goals breed frustration and discord. The notion of "planning for success" means setting a series of attainable goals, so that you will be able to have the satisfaction of accomplishment. Go up the stairs one step at a time.                My version of a chorus mission statement would be this: "The Singing Plainsmen Chorus: A group of friends with a shared passion for singing, who to seek to share that joy with others." The vision statement/motto for the 1999 Music Program is "More Musical Thrills through Better Music!" I want deliver a music program such that every member of the chorus to come to believe that both he and the chorus as a whole will be a little bit better every week. Every single time we sing "better than we've ever sung before" it will make our spines tingle with joy.                My personal goal is to EARN the respect and enthusiastic support of the chorus. On one level, I feel that now. But that's far from my goal. I want to become a truly accomplished and inspirational director, the sort of director whose mere presence in front of the chorus causes a hush and sense that something great is about to happen. Someone who brings quiet, smiling anticipation to the room in anticipation that something important is about to be said or done. I want to be Jim Clancy, Bill Biffle, or Greg Lyne.                To ask to be treated in that way is ridiculous. It only comes to those who truly deserve it. If I work very hard for 10 years or so... well, I can dream, anyway. One thing the AF taught me is that leaders always get exactly the amount of respect they deserve. If you want it, you've got to earn it. You'll never get more respect than you show to others. You'll never get more love than you give. You'll never get more effort from others than from yourself.                And there's no possible way to fake it. Leadership, like parenting, is tremendously rewarding, mainly because to succeed, you must strive every day to be the very best person you can be -- and pray a whole lot. Even a little bit of success feels wonderful, but failure hits real close to home.                Wow -- it's late, and I'm really rambling... Sorry. Glad to have you aboard as CDVP Roger. I wish you the best of luck. Let's keep talking. Rus -----Original Message----- From: Len Webster [mailto:LenWebster@webtv.net] Sent: Sunday, January 10, 1999 1:34 PM To: Rus Moore Subject: Re: David Wright - List of Arrangements (http://www.harmonize.com/DavidWright/arran Yes, It's a pretty good resource. I have been there a few times at it's old address that was on Carole Prietto's SWBell server in St Louis. The site itself has been up about 6 weeks. TALK TO YOU LATER.........LEN LenWebster@webtv.net VISIT THE SINGING PLAINSMEN HOME PAGE AT: http://www.harmonize.com/SingingPlainsmen/ OR AT: http://members.tripod.com/~lenre/ VISIT OUR SINGING VALENTINES PAGE AT: http://www.harmonize.com/SingingPlainsmen/Valentines.html OR AT: http://www.crescendo.com/~singingvalentines/






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