My Response to Those Who Had Parkside Issues

Because some felt strong enough to take their kids out of choir over this I wrote this response.  It is fairly long so I ask that you reconsider and send your kids tomorrow for the combined rehearsal.  If they miss they will not be ready to perform and you may change your mind after you get all the facts.  Grab a cup of coffee and get relaxed and then read this:

I would like to clear up the UWP performance questions. I’ll address traveling with the choir another day.   Let’s start small.  Names in the program… This was a group failure.  I asked for parent help to assemble the lists for attendance, Caiman Chorus T-shirts and donations.  A few names did not make it onto the lists that were assembled. Why? I don’t know.  I must not have made it clear as to what was needed.   That list was put into Excel and emailed to me.  I took the list which had the non-auditioning kids listed separately and combined them back onto the list.  When I selected what I thought was the whole list in Excel I only grabbed what was on my screen and missed A-G.  When I put the non-auditioning kids onto the list we then had some from the early letters in the alphabet making it look like a whole list to me.   There were at least 13 children’s names left off, mostly kids who were part of the auditioning group.   Manipulating lists is one of my big cognitive issues.  That is why I asked for help in this area.   There was no attempt to exclude anyone, only pilot error on my part and for that I am sorry.

Repertoire:  What repertoire is performed at a concert is the director’s prerogative.   The pieces that I had planned to do for the May 2 concert were “Still Alive”  “Dona Nobis Pacem”  and “El Tiburón”   There was never any intention to perform the repertoire from January at this concert.  A piece of music has its time in the preparation process.  The Sollberger pieces were already way past their prime when we performed them at Case on March 25.  Compare the YouTube recordings and you will see the difference.  On top of that we already performed these pieces for Dr. Kinchen and the Voices of Parkside on the daytime concert we had at Gifford with them in January.  “El Tiburon” is a very difficult piece because it is in Spanish, with tricky rhythm and no repeating sections.  It is a piece written for our choir by a composer from Eau Claire.  It became apparent to me two weeks before the May 2 concert that it would not be ready.  I made the difficult contact to the composer to tell her to cancel her travel plans as we were going to hold off on that piece until May 25.  I then substituted the Rick Astley piece giving my student teacher the opportunity to teach, choreograph and accompany a piece in the concert.  Mr. Kroes and the choir did an excellent job of preparing that song in three 20 minute rehearsals.  Had there been no TV audition these would have been the only pieces on the program.

Then came the offer of the TV audition.   We were asked to prepare something new.   I knew we did not have the rehearsal time to spare for preparing another piece and still have the repertoire for Parkside ready.  The Fanshawe Dona Nobis Pacem was a stretch for the kids in a new direction.   We crammed like crazy to get that ready in time.   So I made the offer for extra rehearsals outside of the regular schedule so that we did not endanger the choir’s ability to perform at UWP.   I asked you to choose to participate or not and did not pressure or look down on anyone for their choice.  The commitment needed to pull off something as absolutely impossible as what we did had to be complete.  It is not at all an exaggeration to say that every minute counted.  I finished the arrangement of “Acapella” at 9 AM on the audition day when practice started at 10 AM.  If it hadn’t been for Miss McCormick running choreography I would not have gotten the sound system ready. It took 3 ½ hours to set up.   To choose the pieces, transcribe and arrange them for the choir, prepare instruments, assemble professional musicians, take care of lighting, choreography, video, uniform issues, the cake reception, Kringle fundraiser, water etc. and to do it in 14 days will probably never be topped. On top of that I was trying to promote the 1st Still Alive video to keep the numbers moving.  I was running on an average of 2 hours of sleep a night for two weeks in order to pull this off as there simply were not enough hours in the day.

To expect us to not perform the audition pieces at UWP is less than realistic. All of the kids could have participated fully but some chose not to, plain and simple.  The kids who auditioned gave up playing in soccer and baseball games that were scheduled long before our audition came around.  They gave up birthday parties and a trip to a Broadway play.  They gave up swimming lessons and playtime with friends.   If it was my choice your children would have all been in the choir performing right along with the rest of us.  But because some of you made the choice that was best for your family, your child was left on the edge of the stage watching what they could have been a part of.   I don’t envy you the position you put yourself in by making that choice but it was your choice.  I’m sure as a parent you felt the loss for your child 10 times deeper than they did.   Kids are used to taking turns.  That some sit out while others do is normal in the life of a child.  If your kids were upset it was most likely because of the disappointment when they saw what they missed out on.  If they expressed a sense of “that’s not fair” remember that it was your choice and you chose as best you could with the needs of your family in mind.   You need to deal with your own sense of loss or guilt and not pass that responsibility onto me.   I made my own sacrifices to make this work for my child and yours.  I may not even have a job next year as I was unable to take the class I needed to get recertified. As for having the kids sit on the edge of the stage, what would you have had me do?  I kept them in the hall where I could see that they were safe and where they could get right back up for the combined number with UWP.  That anyone could see that as punitive just blows me away.

I also take issue with your assertion that the audition songs were the focus of the concert.  “Still Alive” was the focus of the concert.   It was for that song that I edited 6 videos on YouTube.  It was for that song that the kids have gotten international attention.  It is for that song that I have spent every waking hour since May 2 promoting. There were two audition pieces and three pieces for the whole choir.   That hardly makes the focus be on the auditioning group. All of the kids did an amazing job.  Don’t punish them because of your feelings about this.  They will miss out on the final concert and the party.  If they are at rehearsal in a few hours then all is ok. Otherwise don’t send them next week.

The one bit of humor I find in this is:  If I had any doubt that there would be enough drama for a TV show about our kids, I no longer doubt it.

Please accept these words in the loving cathartic way in which they were intended.

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9 Responses to My Response to Those Who Had Parkside Issues

  1. Debbie Crenshaw says:

    I do have to respond regarding the Parkside program. I was one of the parents that helped him with this and there were originally 75 children on the list. After a few minor adjustments, all the children were accounted for on the “seating” chart. This included all the GCC kids, not just the ones who are involved in the audition. I believe there were over 20 names that were missing on the program including my daughter who was part of the audition. I support what Mr. Senzig is stating that this was purely an error in transporting info from one area to another. Disappointing, but it was not intentional. Errors do occur when you have a dedicated director who is running on overdrive being pulled in a dozen different ways.

  2. Mary Bose says:

    Well put Mr. Senzig.

  3. Melissa Dixon says:

    Kudo’s-well said. And know that I am doing what I can to keep some of the tasks off your plate. If there is more I can do, just ask. Kringle Fundraiser-underway. T-shirts-done; will be there on Tuesday! What can we do to help you have time to take your class? We can’t afford to not have you next year!

  4. Christy Zeisler says:

    No doubt that Mr Senzig is a talented music teacher. The hard work and level of dedication he exhibits is impressive. But I am surprised that the amount of time/work put into this would be brought up as the reason for not being re-certified. I don’t think that’s quite fair.

    The main issue here is that some kids were excluded. You could see the dissappointment on their faces as they sat off to the side. If they were not going to be allowed to participate in part of the concert (for any reason), that should have been communicated to them, as well as their parents.

    Additionally, I would expect that Mr Senzig would discuss this personally with parents who have voiced their dissappointment- not just dismiss their concerns as “drama” over a web-blog. Just as you would expect to be able to discuss any acedemic issue with your child’s teacher in person.

  5. Keith says:

    WOW!! My daughter’s enthusiasm to participate in the choir this year has been great. So when the call to pacticpate in the auditions came we had to help her realize that she might have to give up some ranking points in the tennis program that she participates on Saturdays. She was still eager to participate. The Saturday rehersals were tough and she came home very tired after each of the rehersals yet she was still excited. I was disappointed when we did not see her name in the program mainly because of the effort she had put forth. I know mis takes can happen. My disappointment became pride in her response which was basically although she would have like to have seen her name in the program after all the hard work she was more excited that she had participated in a great performance.

    As a very busy parent I can’t Thank you. and those who assisted you, enough for help my child participate in the choir and for pulling this Herculean task off in such a short time.

  6. Gail Mattie says:

    With every bit of fame, along come the critics. Too bad ours, are parents of our own kids!!

  7. Joan Frickensmith says:

    My husband Jon and I are in full support of Mr. Senzig and Miss McCormick. We can’t even start to imagine all the stress and headaches and work that went into preparing for the Parkside concert and the audition tape. The quality of music and choreography performed at the concert and on the audition tape is a testament to the quality of teaching done by the two of you.

    The Parkside concert was a good blend of full choir pieces and audition pieces. The children waiting for the full choir pieces didn’t seem to be visibly upset. It was their choice to participate in the audition or not.

    We agree with Debbie Crenshaw’s comments about the omission of names on the program. Our daughter’s name, Kaitlyn was also omitted from the program. While it was disappointing, we also understand that mistakes can happen.

    We are so proud of the Gifford Children’s Choir. They are an awesome group! It still is amazing to us that the children memorized the music and choreography in only one week.

    Mr. Senzig – Do whatever you can to get that recertification. You are a great asset to Gifford. Our younger child, Sarah comes home and tells us or sings to us what you have taught them. She not only sings us the songs but talks to us about what techniques you have taught them, like breath support from the diaphram, annuciation, opening their mouth and shaping their mouths in the proper position. We are really impressed!

    Thank you!

  8. Wendy Nelson says:

    I too, am impressed with the dedication that you, Mr. Senzig, have to our children. I was at the majority of the extra rehearsals and was truly amazed with what was accomplished in such a short time. The commitment made by you is above and beyond what any parent would expect.

    Regardless of what becomes of the audition tape and all of the attention brought by You Tube, my daughter has learned the importance of teamwork and commitment, and that working hard at something you love can be a very rewarding experience. I imagine these kids will remember this for a long time to come! You and all of our children should be very proud of all of the accomplishments achieved as a result of a year’s worth of hard work.

  9. joinchoir says:

    Correction: Some students were excluded by the choice of their families and that was their choice to make. The kids all knew whether or not they were going to sing on the audition pieces and so did you. As for speaking to parents privately, we live in a modern world where privacy is not as sacred as it once was. I am pleased that the parents that voiced their concerns chose to do so in this public forum. I had intended to hold off responding until more people had the chance to discus these issues but when Mrs. Nikolic stated her children were withdrawing from choir I felt the need to convince her otherwise. If the kids missed today’s combined rehearsal they couldn’t possibly be ready with the new material for May 25. You all have my email address and could have chosen a private forum.
    Yes I could have taken classes earlier that would have got me recertified. I was in negotiations with UWMilwaukee to allow me an extension on my master’s degree and that wasn’t settled until February. The extension was granted and I had hoped to use my missing classes toward certification to save money but the ones I needed were not offered. I still took a two credit class at Gifford the Friday before the first special rehearsal and Saturday morning before the rehearsal. I spoke to the big wigs in the district when we were given the opportunity to audition. I was hoping they would have some pull with DPI. They made it clear that if I didn’t finish my credits before the deadline that I would be fired. The other class I was going to take was on Native American Culture through UWP. Wow, thanks for getting me to respond here. I looked up the link to post here and they changed the end date for me. Notice in the description it says May 10, in the title it now says June 18: http://www.uwp.edu/departments/community.partnerships/Fall2008Courses.cfm Things are looking up.
    I do apologize for the mistake in the program. I discovered where I went wrong today. Several parents were helping to assemble the lists of kids who had turned in t-shirt money, family donations and an attendance roster. I thought they had sent it all to me in an Excel file. I grabbed the file I thought was the complete list but the complete list was done by a different person who printed rosters for me to use. I used the file I thought had been sent to me as the complete list. Again I am sorry. I had considered not including a roster at all as this sort of thing is not uncommon for me. Thanks to all who helped organize the data. I now have it in ready-to-go order for May 25 and by the way, all of the music we performed at UWP except the Dona Nobis will be performed again on May 25.
    I did not dismiss this conversation as drama. I identified it as such. And what a grand drama it is! Thank-you all for being a part of it! I value the opinions of those who disagree with me and regularly adjust my programs based on the critique of parents and staff. I may not take your opinion as offered, but it does influence my decisions. It took a community to pull off the audition because of the time frame. I would hope that this community could come together to continue to provide incredible events for our kids. Those that felt the need to voice their opinions here are most welcome to assist in making the choir a better organization. I have found it is those who care most about a certain aspect of an organization that will step up to the plate to make it better the next time. I would love to have someone who’s child was left out of the program help me make sure that doesn’t happen again. How about throwing out some nominations for the officers of the Friends of Gifford Vocal Music organization for 2010-2011? Comment here and I will transfer the names to a later post about the Friends.

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