Dear Choir, Pastors, Church Leadership, and Fellow Christians of Roberts Park,
When I was given the opportunity to step into leadership of the Roberts Park Chancel choir I did not know how to contain the joy and excitement I felt inside.
As a former choir boy in the Episcopal Church and a student of music at Butler University, I had worked under the batons of many incredible musical leaders. I felt honored to know that Roberts Park believed that I could be that type of person leading the way for a program with a rich musical history.
For anyone stepping into a leadership role, you want to make your mentors proud. You honor the works that you have known are tried and true. You think that the path you have followed and been raised in is the right one.
By all accounts, I hold that the choir has grown in its capabilities not only musically, but also by the level of compassion and caring that we practice for one another. As the music became more challenging, the attitudes and work ethics of our singers rose with it.
After watching the events in our nation transpire following the murder of George Floyd in broad daylight, I was angry and saddened that people could not be kind to one another. Why in a world where we have the potential to achieve so much good together does bigotry and hatred still exist?
Feeling lost, I called Pastor Andrew and asked him how I could make a change. He stated that we must start first with the communities that we can make a direct impact.
I realized then that while I had pushed the choir to be stronger musically, perhaps my own upbringing led me to practice ignorance that I was unaware that I was practicing.
Unfortunately, much of the music that I grew up singing and I had the choir singing this past season was composed by deceased white men. There was little representation of living composers. There was little representation of female composers. There was little representation of black composers. This was not intentional. This was because this is what I knew.
When we make music together, we engage in something that is bigger than ourselves. We have to invest in the small details and be engaged as a whole. This is an act of educating ourselves.
If we are to truly change our hurt and sorrow for our black brothers and sisters into action, we must do a better job of representing their musical culture at our church. That falls on me. That falls on our choir and its willingness to learn with me. That falls on our ears, hearts, hands, and minds to be vulnerable and to do the work necessary to make change happen. That falls on our willingness to engage in dialogue with one another.
Moving forward for the rest of the choral season, the Roberts Park Chancel choir will be singing music by black composers. This will be a time for us to learn. This will be a chance for us to heal. This will be a chance for us to diversify how we look at music together as a church.
I hope to integrate their voices into our choral library so that future generations of singers may know and appreciate what they stand for in their communities and in their love of god.
We are called to be good Samaritans lifting each other up and bandaging one another’s wounds. We are stronger united because that is who we are called to be as the church.
Blessings to you and your loved ones. Let us walk with lighter hearts knowing that our god is one who welcomes all to his table and tells us to love one another as we would want to be loved.
Avery T. Schott
-Choral Director -Roberts Park United Methodist Church
June 13, 2020