Dear People

Robert Shaw was famous for his letters.

His first biography was named after his familiar opening – Dear People – and Robert Blocker has edited an entire volume, The Robert Shaw Reader, to Shaw’s written words.

Why did Shaw feel it was so important to communicate textually with his singers?

  1. It maintained connection between rehearsals – ensuring that everyone was thinking about the music between rehearsals.
  2. It allowed him to elaborate, defend, strengthen, and clarify points made in rehearsal.
  3. In an efficiently run rehearsal, there’s not much time for chatter. The letter gave him the chance to philosophize at length.
  4. It was a chance to wrangle with bigger issues.
  5. It was the perfect place to say, “Hey, practice this!”

Convinced of the value? Good!

Now think about what he had to do.

  1. Sit down at a typewriter and type the letters.
  2. Use a mimeograph machine (remember those?) to make copies for all the singers.
  3. Fold into an envelope, stamp, address, and send.
  4. Wait 1-2 days for your singers to receive them and read them.

Guess what? Technology has evolved to give us the perfect method of delivering “Dear People” letters to our singers. Whether it’s on a private or public blog, in a Facebook group, a Blackboard Announcement, email, or even a Text communication via Remind101, it’s easy to stay completely digital in your letters.

(I like to include a question of the week in my letters, to ensure that my singers are reading them. They can comment right on my post.)

Making this part of your weekly practice with your singers will make a tremendous difference. Letting them see your passion, your work, your diligence, and your commitment to the ensemble will propel them in the same direction.