God bless the middle school choral directors among us – and for that matter, high school choral directors as well. I always feel that intense admiration (coupled with sheer exhaustion) once I have put myself in front of a bunch of young singers – and by that, I mean singers younger than the college students with whom I usually work. My latest escapade was for a choral festival at Union Grove High School, in which I was leading a workshop with the U.G. choir plus the three middle schools that feed the high school program. They came with three songs prepared (and they knew the notes pretty well) and it was my job to make them even better and to get the kids excited. And did I succeed? Well, I certainly succeeded in working up a sweat – I managed to unintentionally thrill the soprano section when I got overly excited at one point and nearly pitched off the edge of the auditorium stage and into the arms of the students in the front row – I managed to draw some attention to a sleeping high school baritone who was awakened by a poke in the ribs from the elbow of his nervous neighbor – I drew some laughs at several points, but especially when I complimented a young singer on their lips (meaning how nicely they were giving me the pucker I was asking for, but I think the compliment was taken the wrong way by a few of the youngsters) – I managed to screw up the cell phone lent to me by one of the students so I could keep track of the time (I pressed a wrong button and the phone started playing some top 40 song, right in the middle of rehearsal) – but mostly I managed to give the impression that I was thrilled to be there and not the least bit nervous…. when in fact I felt like, to quote Wayne Newton’s country bumpkin character in a Lucy Show episode, “like a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs.” I am SO out of my element when it comes to a large group of singers this age. One-on-one teaching voice lessons I’m fine. . . but when they outnumber me 150 to 1, it’s another story altogether. The good part of it is that it gives me a very healthy and beneficial dose of Humble Pie by wrenching me out of my comfort zone and thrusting me into a situation where I have to draw on every ounce of my ingenuity and energy- and even then, not fully succeed in the way I almost always do when teaching private voice or conducting my church choir. I walked out of that event in Union Grove with a sense of relief . . . that I had survived, that I gave the students a fairly worthwhile experience, and maybe most of all that I could walk out of that arena and into other arenas where I really know what I’m doing.