This is Part One of a two-part series featuring interviews with Jeffrey Brillhart and Zebulon Highben, summer clinicians for the Augsburg Fortress 2013 Music Clinics. This week, enjoy some of Jeffrey Brillhart's thoughts on questions we posed.
How do you balance your work at Bryn Mawr Presbyterian church, Singing City and Yale?
To be sure, with three positions, some weeks can be positively insane! But, I try very hard to space concerts between Church and Singing City so that I'm not racing from one to another. With Yale, the stimulation of teaching brilliant students more than compensates for the extra work hours. Plus, the 7 hours spent on Amtrak on the round-trip commute actually is a blessing! It's a great time to catch up on reading fiction (especially works by John Sandford and Michael Connelly!)
Will you be introducing the new Presbyterian Hymnal to your congregation? If so, do you anticipate any problems in that process?
That's still a question mark for us. We are wrestling with the basic stewardship question of what to do with hundreds of hymnals that are still in basically great shape. With our copyright license, we can include new material without going to the great expense of replacing the hymnal.
What are you teaching your students about the organ that was never taught to you?
Improvisation, improvisation, and improvisation. Helping my students unlock their inner creative voice. And, happily, there's a fair amount of non-lesson interaction with some of the students, when we can discuss all the non-musical aspects of working in the church (how to defend your music budget, how to deal with difficult members, how to run a committee meeting, and so on).
Got any new cool warm-ups?
The biggest warm-up breakthrough for me in the last six months is having singers block one ear with their finger during several of the vocalizes I use. This is a variation of sorts of the old trick of cupping one's ear in order to hear others around you. I stumbled on this working with a young tenor voice student. It really helped free up his top!
Your key to working with clergy?
Working continually toward mutual respect and NEVER looking on the clergy as the enemy! I love our clergy ... and we have a blast working together.
What stirs your creativity?
Non-musical activities! I love gardening (and Philadelphia's a real gardener's paradise), cooking, and museums. Philadelphia's blessed with great museums (Barnes Collection - one of the great impressionist art collections in the world - and of the great Philadelphia Museum of Art). I have a subscription to The Philadelphia Orchestra that I cherish as well... so great to hear non-religious music!
Thank you to Jeffrey Brillhart for sharing his leadership insights and inspirations, and thanks again to all clinic participants!
Next week, part 2 of this article includes an interview with Zebulon Highben, one of our other clinic leaders.