The speech I didn’t give… (by Matthew Harrison)

(who says all they want to say off the cuff anyway?)

Location:  Guilford High School cafeteria

Time:  Post caffeine haze, sometime after lunch

Event:  Connecticut ACDA Fall Conference

(Scene begins as Amanda Hanzlik calls my name from the podium)

Amanda Hanzlik:  (whispered to me) Say something pretty…

Me:  Dear Colleagues:

I am so thankful, honored, and humbled to receive the 2018 Connecticut ACDA Choral Director of the Year Award.  No one can possibly understand how much of a needed adrenaline shot this recognition represents.  Though, I bet each and every one of you knows exactly what I mean (fueling our existence with tiny classroom victories and caffeine).  Our lives are seasonal… dictated by the ebbs and flows of our scholastic calendars.  Perspective is skewed in our daily lives, toiling in the choral trenches, because we often fail to anticipate how much we need a life of our own… something that is far less seasonal.  Yes - work hard… but don’t forget that you can not pour from an empty cup.  Dipping into the ephemeral waters of classroom/student success to fill your reservoirs is dangerous and unsustainable. 

As a thirty-something, who has spent the better part of a decade in the greatest vocation that I can imagine, I try my best to maintain a daily spirit of thankfulness, service, and gratitude.  The first part of my career was spent in an urban school in northern Virginia, where the most important thing was to simply show up.  Since this school was on probation with the state due to low graduation rates, getting students to show up was a major focus.  So often we hear that we are the only reason why some students show up… but we all know that showing up is not simply a box we check or a hoop that we jump through… showing up means EVERYTHING.  We know that phoning it in is never an option because our time with our kids is so finite that a waste of our most precious resource would diminish our purpose.  We teach people not music.

Our presence in the classroom can be the only source of light in the unimaginably dark worlds in which some of our students exist.  Our presence can spark the creativity that someone needs to dream bigger than they ever imagined that they could.  Our presence can help heal the wounds of a community that has seen horrific tragedy.  Music… my friends… is one of the fundamentally human languages that transcends all of our differences.  We program repertoire that expands and challenges our limited perspective of the world and injects it with the optimism inherent in the act of immersing ourselves in aesthetic beauty.  Never forget… we are marching towards a brighter future because of the work that we do every day.  This work matters!  Because of our collective convictions, our world is a more tolerant, harmonious, and empathetic place.  

I am thankful to be able to serve ACDA and CMEA in capacities that can influence positive change.  We must always strive to better serve our students by creating equitable and unique opportunities.  I helped to shape our vocal adjudications statewide to make our process more transparent.  In the southern region, choral educators were able to lobby for and create a new high school treble choir… which helped to generate the momentum necessary to push for our new All-State Treble Choir.  We wield such power when we all join together… next up, Middle School All-State!  We are only limited by the scale of our own dreams and ambitions. 

I was honored to be the first choral artist to be granted a residency at one of our national parks, and my suite for accompanied treble choir will be published by Pavane in 2019 (Glacier Suite, I. Glacier, II. Stag, III. Forest).  Amanda Hanzlik programmed one of my pieces from my time as Artist-In-Residence at Glacier National Park, Will You Go?, as part of her dynamic repertoire list for the Rhode Island Junior High School Mixed All-State Choir (how cool is it that Amanda was asked to conduct an All-State Choir!?  Totally deserved, btw…. She is an inspiration for us all as a wellspring of positivity and vision.  #choralrockstar).  As an organization, ACDA has been progressive, welcoming, and imaginative in the various connections and collaborations that we achieve together, and I am proud to be a part of this thriving, student-centric community.  Let us continue to grow, learn, and create together to benefit our students.  

Being in the presence of such choral giants, I am truly humbled to have been selected to receive this award.  We all stand on the shoulders of giants… who are yours?  I accept this award with deep gratitude.  

Matthew Harrison

Hamden Hall Country Day School, Middle/Upper School Vocal Music Specialist

St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, Director of Choirs, Organist

Connecticut Chapter of ACDA, Liaison Committee

Connecticut Music Educators Executive Board, Membership Chair

Member Login
Welcome, (First Name)!

Questions? Show
Log In
Enter Member Area
Log Out