S A YOUNG BOY growing up in Kansas, I remember when all the channels switched over to a Los Angeles white Bronco chase. Helicopters followed in the air as 95 million Americans watched. At the time, I had no clue what the big deal was; but it turns out the entire case was complicated and interesting from various points of view. What can a choirmaster possibly learn from the 1994 Simpson murder trial? Quite a lot, believe it or not. But today, I’ll focus on two areas only.
First of all, those who have watched the actual trial taking place (on YouTube) will notice most of the attorneys—on both sides—were remarkably unprepared and obscenely incompetent. They spent hours bickering and being held in contempt. Indeed, the audio frequently went dead (and the camera just pointed at the ceiling) as the lawyers did battle with the judge at the sidebar, usually for no serious reason. They often showed up late, with slides and props that were ill-prepared. If those attorneys tried to run a choir rehearsal like that, they’d be out of a job almost immediately. When the choirmaster conducts a rehearsal, every minute is precious and must not be squandered. That’s why we spend hours preparing; routinely an entire week. If the attorneys had prepared properly, the trial would have ended much sooner.
Secondly, there are hundreds of theories vis-à-vis why the jury ruled the way it did. Some say they made the right decision. Others claim they made the wrong decision. Some say they were enamored with O. J. Simpson because he was a star and developed a rapport with him each day. Others say they were so traumatized by being sequestered for 256 days—watched by armed guards, not allowed to watch television, and scarcely allowed to telephone their families to say goodnight—they just wanted to go home. Some say they shouldn’t have been sequestered. Some say Marcia Clark messed up the case. Some say jury selection was improper. Some say Simpson struggling with the glove was convincing, while others feel the opposite. In the end, however, guess what? You have the jury you have.
This is like our choirs. Each member is unique. Each has strengths and weaknesses. We can obsess over this, asking why that is the case. But in the final analysis, we have the choirs we have. Our job is to make beautiful music, not excuses! As Roger Wagner repeated constantly: Never apologize for your choir, because they’re as good as you are!