Journey to Ann Arbor

Journey to Ann Arbor

I just got back from my first Association for Unitarian Universalist Music Ministries (AUUMM) Conference in 3 years. This year it was in Ann Arbor, and we really lucked out with good weather plus a GIANT art festival happening in town last week. My cup has been filled up by SO. MUCH. SINGING and camaraderie with my wonderful colleagues. There were only about 100 attendees in per-son this year, much fewer than normal, and we didn't have a conference choir with a choral clinician like we usually do. They would've had to book the clinician months ago, when we didn't even know if the conference was feasible. But other than that, all the other elements were there.

I led two choral reading sessions, where a colleague and I chose a diverse assortment of new-ish music for everyone to read together. This is one of the primary ways we choir directors learn about new music. It's so much easier to get a feel for a piece after experiencing it sung live than just by glancing at the score visually. I also sang in two services with a small ad hoc group of singers. I taught a workshop about the AUUMM Music Database, which I created years ago, and which is starting to get some real traction with users. I attended several workshops including a conducting master class, a song leading master class, and a sound bath (which was AMAZING) that was billed as "Take a Nap And I'll Sing Lullabies To You." Brilliant!

I organized a group of 10 of us to venture downtown to the art festival and to one of only two vegan restaurants in the area. It's during these social times where stories are swapped, connections are deepened, and new friends are made. Plus we had fun at our Open Mic Night at the hotel one evening. We have some world class talent in our member-ship, including Jim Scott (Gather the Spirit, etc.) and many others.

The theme for the conference this year was Renewal, and the worship services every morning did just that - renewed my spirit. They had a UUA representative talking about how we as music directors can deal with our own and our congregants' trauma from the pandemic. She urged us to think about what we learned from having to shift our whole job around for the quarantine: Were there things that we'd like to keep from the shifts we've made? Were there things we realized we didn't need anymore? Were there things that we really missed from The Before Times and want to reincorporate, and were there things we used for a time during the quarantine but are ready to release now?

Thank you to the OCUUC Board and congregation for once again supporting my professional development by sending me to this conference every year. Just about every-thing I know about UU music comes from these conferences and from my connections with my AUUMM friends in between conferences.

With deep gratitude!

Beth Syverson

Beth Syverson is Orange Coast Unitarian Universalist Church's Director of Music Ministries. She plans and arranges the music for worship on Sunday mornings, provides piano music during services, and directs the Orange Coast Choir. She is also the artistic director of OCUUC’s concert series—Orange Coast Concerts—which features several eclectic concerts throughout the year.

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