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We Are More Than Music Teachers

by Henry Leck, ICC Founder and Conductor Laureate

Henry Leck talks about his experience as a conductor with the Indianapolis Children’s Choir and how it has impacted his life and the lives of others.

This story is from the late 80’s, a couple years after the choir started. And it still really sticks with me and astonishes me to this day.

It was at the end of a rehearsal toward the end of the season when I thought, I wonder what these kids think, like, or dislike about the choir. I handed out blank sheets of paper to students in the room and asked questions like the following: What does music mean to youWhat does ICC mean to you? What has this experience been like? What did you think was most enjoyable? What did you dislike and what would your recommendations be for the future? Etc.

I remember there was a girl who was a good student and always came to rehearsals happy. She was always singing every note, attending every performance. She appeared to be a jolly student with a supportive family who you’d think would be absolutely normal in every way. But in response to my questions, she wrote this:

I’ve come close to committing suicide three times this year and the only thing that has allowed me to stay alive and to survive has been my love for the choir.

I was reading all of these papers and when I got to hers, I couldn’t believe my eyes. That was an astonishing experience for a choir director. I thought up until that time that my role was to teach vocal techniques and repertoire and give kids confidence and performance experience. I had no idea that the choir could become a lifeline for survival.

That girl went on to college; she became a writer and she currently lives on the East Coast. I hear from her probably three times a month, even to this day. She’s now 40 years old or close to that, and I still know that she considers the choir to be perhaps one of the most pivotal anchors in her adolescence. I look back and know that the ICC has taught me that we are doing things that are so much more important than choir, far beyond singing pieces of music or learning how to perform.

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