Natsumi Hara・XinYee Tee
§ Before the interview §
§ Message from Sarah to Showa Students §
Enjoy where you are and every step in your life!
§ Opening §
Xin: Before starting the interview, I just want to say that even though all of us are busy for classes, every time when we come to chorus practice, we always enjoy spending time here a lot. It’s really refreshing!
Sarah: I’m glad to hear that! I want to make good music but I want it to be fun. When you are an adult, it’s hard to find time to make music with whatever else. With your job, family, it’s hard. But it gives you so much, right!
Xin: Right! Every time after the practice, I always feel like doing my accounting homework. (LOL)
Sarah: That’s awesome, you have energy! (LOL)
Xin: Do you feel the same way, Natsumi?
Natsumi: No, not accounting. (LOL)
§ About Showa Chorus §
Sarah: I’m glad that you all joined. We have a good group, you can tell that everybody cares, which is nice! I love that this is not a class and you don’t have to do it if you don’t want to.
§ Profession §
Natsumi: Can you tell us about your schedule in a day? We know that you come to Showa for Chorus at Thursday night, but what do you do in the day?
Sarah: Sure. I work as a speech language pathologist. That’s a speech therapist and I do that in an elementary school, five days a week from 9:00am to 3:30pm with about 45 children. I work in a team with teachers and also students who need to practice some of the social language. I really enjoy working on that and then I do Showa Chorus just on Thursday night.
Natsumi: Are chorus director and speech therapist very alike?
Sarah: Yes, in some ways. It was because I’ve taught a lot of voice lessons that I went into speech therapy instead of teaching English or Math (I could never teach Math, that could never happen. LOL) But the way the voice works, the way you pronounce different sounds, is very similar to what I work on with my students. There’s definitely a connection.
Xin: So, basically you’re working with children, instead of adults?
Xin: Is that the reason why you are always in a good mood?
Sarah: Yes, I think children put you in a good mood. Sometimes of course they make you want to scream.
Speech pathologists also work with adults of all ages, and some of them work with the elderly. That’s not only about speaking, it’s also about swallowing and eating. Sometimes after an adult has a stroke, they have difficulty with their speech, swallowing and memory.
Some speech therapists work in hospitals and residential care facilities with elderly people. But I think that’s not for me, I enjoy working with children more.
Xin: It seems like a special job, because you don’t work in an office.
Sarah: I never work in an office, I always taught. I used to teach music for 10 years, taught piano and voice, I also taught in school. I always have some students who love my class, and I’ve had other kids who just don’t care. That’s fine, but when you love something, it’s hard to make people do that. Do you know what I mean? Speech, they’ll need to do it because it would make a different in their life; music makes a difference in my life, but you don’t have to do it if you don’t really love it. You can do a lot of things that can make your life better, right?
After teaching music, I went to graduate school, about 5 years ago, and I’ve been working as a speech therapist only for 3 years.
Xin: Where did you went for graduate school? In Boston?
Sarah: In Boston, it’s call the MGH (Massachusetts General Hospital) Institute of Health Professions. My undergraduate degree was in music and that was from the University of California.
§ What’s leadership §
Natsumi: I understand that it’s very difficult to make people interested in music if they don’t really enjoy it. But what’s the most difficult thing in teaching students?
Sarah: Emm…it’s a hard question. Well, with music, sometimes you’re teaching 20 kids at the same time, so trying to get everyone to pay attention is difficult. They call it classroom management. It is difficult. Because there’s a lot of them and they are children.
I love with you guys, I never have to say, “Can you please stop talking, can you please look at me?” I don’t have to do that. So, I think classroom management is the hardest part for teaching. For speech, I have two or three students and I can usually have them pretty involved in what’s going on. I think the hardest thing is how many people you are trying to teach.
Xin: What does leadership mean to you?
Sarah: I was thinking, a leader is a person who has a vision of what needs to happen, and can help everybody get there. And when you have 20 individuals with different ideas and you’re trying to steer the ship, it can be really difficult. When you only have a few, or you have students in college who agree what needs to happen. It is a lot easier. It is frustrating to have a vision that is difficult to realize.
Xin: I think sometimes it’s also hard to lead someone who is not interested in a project.
Sarah: Absolutely. I think that’s one of the hardest thing and I try not to do it anymore.
Xin: Yeah, that’s the problem we’re now having in the class. We’ve to do some project with different people and some of them are not interested in it at all.
Natsumi: Do you have any advice for us…?
Sarah: It’s helpful if you decide what needs to happen and then you say who is doing what, that can be helpful. Because I sometimes try to do everything (I don’t know if you do that too), but that’ll be too much work and it’s not really respectful to your group. You have to give them the space to do their work too, right! So, it’s nice to agree at the beginning who is going to do what. And hopefully everyone will do their part.
Xin: So…good luck to us! (LOL) It’s really hard because not everyone enjoys every class and has different preferences.
Sarah: Sure, in college sometimes you have to take some classes that you don’t love, just to get a grade. It’s true.
But if you love it, even in a group you will show up and do a good job.
§ About Songs §
Xin: Another thing that I really wanted to tell you is that I admire how you explain and interpret a song. For example, when we were singing Let It Go and Hey Jude in the chorus, you explained to us about the background stories and your feelings about the songs. I like how you explain them.
Sarah: Thank you! That’s really important and every song is about something. If you can’t tell from the words, then you’ve to make up your own story. Because you’re part singer and part actor.
You’ve to tell the story to the audiences. In a chorus you can have different ideas about the songs, but it still can be powerful, the story. But you can’t have nothing going on your head except “I really want to get this note to sound good.” The audience will know that you don’t, and you’re not invested in what you’re saying.
Xin: I think that’s nice if you tell us more about the songs.
Sarah: Okay! But if you’re getting bored…(LOL)
Xin: Definitely not!
Natsumi: We’d love to hear the background stories!
Sarah: That’s good! I think once we get all the harmony and I can get away from the piano, then we can talk more about what’s going on in the songs. And at a certain amount you can make it up yourself too. Good to know!
§ About Life in New York §
Natsumi: I heard that you used to live in New York, can you tell us something about that?
Sarah: Sure. I grew up outside San Francisco, I was born there and lived there for a long time. I went to college but then I came back. I was teaching music, I was taking voice lessons, I was performing in community theater. And you know in the US, New York is the city of music and art. I wanted to go there and wanted to see what it was like.
My husband Carl and I met in California. We moved to New York and got married there after one year in 2008. I taught anywhere: preschooler, adult, I taught everywhere to try to earn money to stay in New York. After one year, I got a job in a school. And I was teaching school music. Every time when I got a vacation, I would go audition on Broadway. So, I went to the audition for The Phantom of the Opera and so on, but that’s extremely difficult.
That was such an interesting experience as an artist. For the audition, dozens of people were lined up outside the building early in the morning with hundreds of girls, hundreds of women, not that many men, mostly women. We were lining up and at a certain time we went in the building. We waited in this room with all these women. You’re all about the same age, kind of about the same height, and everyone is like the same, everyone has their best dress and makeup. And you go in to the room and sing for 30 seconds and then you leave. You can hear every single person sounds amazing! Every person, amazing. Hundreds of people, all kind of the same.
I also was taking dancing class in a studio where I met so many talented singers, people with huge voices, people who are just amazing dancers, and it just felt dehumanizing. And after a while I said, “This is awful! I’m not going to keep doing this.” You know, I had some great classes, I met some really nice people, I started to get cast in community theater which doesn’t pay.
I had the lead in Cinderella. I realized in community theater, some of it is not very good, some of it is very good, but you get parts that you could never get to play otherwise. When they’re casting Cinderella on Broadway, they can hire anybody they want to; but in community theater, if you put in the time and you have skill, you can play those parts that you wouldn’t get to play in a professional theater. So, that really affected me. Because I thought, “I want be making art, I want to be performing. I don’t want to sit in a room with 400 hundred women and wait to sing for 30 seconds.” Right!?
And it’s very expensive in New York. You work all the time just to pay your rent. We just felt we were working all the time and we weren’t really seeing that many Broadway shows because it is expensive too. So we moved to Boston. New York is so cool but it’s a hard place to live; so Boston still has theater, ballet, art and you can still see the skies. In Manhattan, you can’t see the skies unless you go to Central Park.
After a while we said, “This is not for us”.
Xin: Was it a hard decision for you to decide to leave New York? Or was it easy?
Sarah: Well, the theater company that I used to work with, I miss that. We miss it sometimes, but you just have to think about your quality of life. I don’t miss the quality of life there.
When you think about what you want in your life, you’ve to think about how many hours you want to be on work, are you going to get married, and if you decide to have children, do you want to see them? You know, your relationship takes time; if you want to exercise it takes time; if you want to cook it takes time. And life in New York is just working all the time.
As long as you love music, I think you can be an artistic person anywhere.
Natsumi: After you came to Boston, did you want to join a community theater here?
Sarah: Yes, I was in one show last year. There are many community theaters here. I really hope in the future, I’ll go to the speech therapy job in the day, and then at night I’ll be in the chorus, I’ll be in a show. That would be my dream life.
§ Message from Sarah to us §
Xin: What do you value the most in your life?
Sarah: What I value the most…I love music, it just makes me joyful. I think that art is one of the reasons why we live.
Natsumi: The reason why we ask this question is because we think you’re just too kind! So we wonder what is your secret!
Sarah: (LOL) I’m sure I’m not always happy, nobody is, right? Especially if I’m like doing grocery shopping. I love spending time with you guys, I like sharing music with those who care.
Xin: So, it’s really art.
Sarah: Right. It’s one highlight of life, even though it’s not the only highlight. It’s just a really special thing.
Xin: Here we come to the last question. Do you have any message to Showa students? As a student, a woman or a human being.
Sarah: I guess it’s important to enjoy where you are in your life. Enjoy that. Do you know what I mean? Because you spend so much time in college thinking about your career, the field you want to work in. After that, you get our first job, and you start thinking about a better job. If you have a boyfriend you start thinking about your wedding.
It’s difficult. But I think you could try to enjoy every step of where you are. I think that’s one of the keys to a good life.
Xin/ Natsumi: Thank you for spending time with us!
Sarah: Pleasure to speak with you guys! No wonder Carl had fun!
§ After the Interview §
Xin: Everyone in Showa Chorus loves Sarah! I think about the reason why we always get so much energy from her and the chorus practice. I think it is because of her enthusiasm towards music and her passion. People always says ‘no music, no life’, it could best represent Sarah and everyone who meets her could tell that.
Something she says in the interview that really inspired me, “You have to think about how much time you want to spend on the things you do; everything takes time”. We used to complain about not having enough time to do things we love. However, I think that is the best part of life: you always have to decide what it is that you really want to invest your limited time for.