An idea spawned.
How did I get myself into this? How did I get us into this? Bear with me: I'm scatter-brained. Since arriving in Oklahoma in 2013, I've been looking for a need in the Tulsa/Broken Arrow area that I could fill. I'm not good at a lot of things, but I can "do" choir. There are all kinds of choirs, though - children's choirs, community choirs, educational choirs, church choirs, barbershop choirs, men's choirs, women's choirs, new music choirs, masterworks choirs - you name it. There's a choir for that. So, I waited and watched to see where I could best plug into a need. Partially, my thought-process was self-serving. I have this seemingly unquenchable desire to be as busy as I can possibly be. I developed some relationships with local area music educators organically through my job at the university. I enjoy it and it's my bread & butter. It's how I recruit singers for my university choirs. I feel like I have developed a pretty good rapport with our area school choral directors.
I was at the 2017 annual conference for Oklahoma music educators and I noticed something that I have always known. Musicians work VERY hard. From the exhibitors in the music industry in the exhibit hall, to the tireless work that our music educators do teaching kids to sing or play an instrument - It's some of the hardest work out there. I was at one of the many evening concert sessions, listening to several middle school, high school, and university choirs. It's the ultimate stress to be a conductor preparing your students to sing for probably the most discerning audience you or they will ever perform for - an audience of professional musicians. I witnessed the students having wonderful, mountain-top musical moments. It's the kind of thing that nobody can tell you about if you haven't experienced it, so I won't try here. I have had those moments as a conductor and as a singer. I am blessed to work with great university students that "get it." The thing about teaching students to sing is that you always have to know more than them. You're always trying to get them to their mountain-top moment for their particular ability, age, skill-set. I do scan the choirs as I listen to live performance, but more often, I watch the conductors. It dawned on me. Many of these conductors had been in the trenches teaching their students, trying to pull them up. I scanned the audience made up of my choral colleagues and music industry professionals. They were all doing what they were doing likely because they have had those fleeting mountain-top moments and want to pass it on. What a gift! Me too! However, I can just as soon get my students to where they are singing at a very proficient level consistently and guess what? They graduate. Fleeting moments. Oh, if only I had the opportunity to work on music and with people at a proficient level consistently beyond the university setting. The crop was ripe. So many of us "in the trenches" no longer get the opportunity to sing at a high-level with a higher percentage chance to make excellent music excellently. I sing with the Ken Davis Chorale from time to time, headquartered in Dallas. Ken is a mentor of mine and my first undergraduate choral director when I was a student. I know how important it has been for me as a conductor to get back on the risers and sing as a chorister. I've also had conversations with some of my former students that have graduated and are either now working in music or some other field. Inevitably, as I knew they would, they miss singing at a high level.
Anyway, after the concert at this conference, I was talking with Justin Rosser. He has a good finger on the pulse of the Broken Arrow community as the BAHS choir director and his high school program is really top-notch. I also respect his musicianship, having worked with his kids several times before. I know that Tulsa has several varied arts organizations, but I hadn't seen much in Broken Arrow. (Paraphrasing) I said, "Do you think there's a need in Broken Arrow..." Then, something happened. He basically finished my thought for me. He said "...for a professional-level chamber choir." YAAAASS! The stars aligned, the earth shook, there was a beam of light connecting our foreheads...Well, okay. It wasn't that dramatic, but we were at least thinking on the same page. I said, "Let's do it together." Thus, the spawning of Vox Solaris. If I've grossly misrepresented the story, I hope Justin will jump in here on the comments. Now, we have former students, current students, concert promoters, music educators, and more coming from the immediate area and from as far as Florida and south Texas to sing with us. It's an amazing thing. I'll maybe get into some more details next time of how it has materialized since then, but there you go. Sometimes, it's just an idea through observation.
Conductor & Co-Founder
(Images from the Jan 2017 OkMEA conference. Credit to Oklahoma Music, a publication of the Oklahoma Music Educators Association)