Recently, my a cappella group OneVoice was featured on the primetime NBC reality show America’s Got Talent. As their director, I am very proud of them and all of the hard work they’ve put in for this achievement. Many of my friends and colleagues keep asking the same question– “Why didn’t we see you at all?”.
The less salient answer is that the show does not feature coaches, it features performers. In the realm of a reality TV show, I’m a coach, and coaches don’t sell advertisements. Coaches don’t get people to tune in week after week or to share videos on social media. On a show called America’s Got Talent, it’s, well…about the talent!
Here’s the more important reason, though. You didn’t see me on the show for the same reason you wouldn’t see me at most of their concerts. It’s the same reason I sat in the audience and cheered for them this spring at Southern ACDA and The National A Cappella Convention. You don’t see me because I don’t WANT you to see me.
As choral conductors, we spend most of our professional lives standing in front of ensembles every day, waving our arms and using whatever rehearsal techniques we can to foster healthy singing and make powerful music. At concerts, we stand up in front of groups, talk to the audience, conduct pieces, then turn around and bow. Rinse and repeat. To the uninformed, it could appear as though the concert is actually about us (we know it is not– hopefully our singers do, too).
I love leading a contemporary a cappella group like OneVoice because it is all about empowerment. I can direct them in rehearsals as much as possible, but at some point I have to let them go perform. Once I do that, I literally have zero control. None…and it’s wonderfully terrifying.
The reality is that if I am doing my job, OneVoice can stand on their own. They can rehearse themselves if needed. They can solve musical problems without me. They are truly empowered as performers.
I hope you’ll tune in again to AGT. I hope you’ll check out their other live videos on YouTube. I hope you’ll pre-order their new album, produced by a cappella luminaries Dave Sperandio and Rob Dietz. I hope you’ll come to one of our concerts in person.
But I hope you don’t see me.