Opera class bonfire, November 13, 2021: A community of singers (photo: Claude Wood)

I took a bit of a hiatus this past week, as my students were performing their two evenings of opera excerpts and I was right in the thick of it. It was our first performance in front of a live audience since early March of 2020, so it was quite an occasion. Hard on the heels of this was my studio class’s first live recital in two years. These felt like momentous times, so I wanted to live deep in these experiences.

A few things came to light during this period:

  1. An opera cast, a studio–both are communities. When we take the time to regularly check in with each other (as I do with my students each week), we begin to know one another and truly care about one another’s well being. And this shows in the outcomes. We feel supported by the community. It helps us be brave and willing to take risks, and ultimately, to fly.
  2. An audience is a community, made larger when joined together with the performers. When the audience responds and gives us feedback, it gives us wings. We soar with the energy they give us. And if they don’t give us a lot back (as happened on our Saturday performance, for no particular reason), we can give the energy to ourselves and our fellow performers. But in the ideal circumstance, audience and performers come together in a powerful exchange of energy, breath and vibration.

I also happen to believe, now all the more inspired because of reading Parker J. Palmer’s The Courage to Teach: Exploring the Inner Landscape of a Teacher’s Life, that teaching in community is the only way to go. I have seen my students rise to such incredible heights this past week, and I attribute it largely to the environment we have created together that inspires courage and creativity. Community is everything. And I am so grateful for the astonishing community of students that I work with. They make teaching a joy every single day.