Ken Berg has been the music director for the Birmingham Boys Choir in Birmingham, Alabama since 1978. This choir consists of boy ages 8-18 from over 35 schools in the greater district, where they perform regularly for churches, schools and other organizations throughout the Birmingham area. Ken talks about some of his favorite experiences with Henry Leck and how they have impacted his life.
I first met Henry Leck when I attended a national choral director symposium in Princeton where Henry was the headliner. Several of the choral directors, myself included, stayed at a hotel near the event where a shuttle would pick us up and drop us off at the conference. Quickly after that first time being on that bus, I decided to get a rent-a-car. I knew Henry was riding that shuttle and I did not think someone of his caliber deserved to ride on that crowded bus every day, so I offered to give him a ride for the remainder of the conference. After a few car rides, we got in the habit of making normal conversation, where I asked if I could send him samples of my work. I found out later after the conference that they were used and recorded by the ICC. His work with the choir using my literature plucked me from obscurity. We have been close friends ever since.
One of my favorite memories with Henry was around 2001 when he was conducting at Carnegie Hall. I was there with my choir when I saw Henry and decided to go say hi. I was wearing a festive holiday tie, to which Henry said, “Oh Ken, I love your tie!” I instantly took it off and handed it to him. He just laughed – it was the type of moment that happens in movies or on TV, where one person says they like whatever the other has and then they immediately give it to them without hesitation. It goes to show that the bond Henry and I made is much deeper than simply teaching students how to read and perform music. This friendship transcended the boundaries of music and delved into my personal life, which remains to this day.
My experience with Henry has changed my life in ways that are beyond me. He was of the first companies to publish Ken Berg Music. He paved a way for my career, to which I would not be this successful without his leadership and guidance. Thanks to him, I started doing conferences myself, I have been published by other companies, and this is now my 40th season with the Birmingham Boys Choir where I try to incorporate the methods and lessons he has taught me as a friend and educator into my own teaching.
Henry Leck has impacted my life beyond measures, and that impact has inspired me to incorporate the methods and lessons he has taught me, both as a friend and educator, into my own teaching and overall lifestyle.