My thoughts and out loud thoughts on composition, performance, and many things musical.

Musical Integrity

If you are going to do anything, say anything, be anything, why would you not uphold integrity to the highest standard? If you’re a creator, a musician, an artist, a performer, you should want to represent what you stand for, boldly and accurately, right?

You have your words, and you have your limbs.

Use them wisely.


Watch ‘at musical integrity:

In April, I traveled back from Texas to Indiana for a weekend. I went to see a musical performing group at my father and I’s alma mater. It was the 50th anniversary concert. This prestigious group, which has meant a lot of great things to a lot of great people, has a rich history in Indiana, and a very enjoyable, praiseworthy reputation.

My father was in the group the first few years of its formation. Some of his fondest memories include this ensemble in name and focus. Ever since I was little and could hold an instrument, my father took me to different events catered around this group’s yearly performance. I will always recall the joy he exudes when seeing old members and affiliates with whom he made music and memories.

Old records of the group sit next to me as I type. My father’s college ring that I wear (self-dubbed as my own) reminds me of everything he did that I would mirror. His friends that came over to the house to play music for fun, as I was a child, had the same mutual feelings of excitement and nostalgia towards their former ensemble.

This ensemble means something wonderful to a lot of people.

Attending different (this ensemble’s) performances since I was young, I can always remember the musical excitement, emotion, and integrity upheld in each song, each performance. This was a group that, if for nothing else, had something to say, something to stand for, something to represent. They always provided a wonderful performance and were musically sound.

I’ve always known that I was supposed to be a musician. My parents both are. My whole family is very musical. I can attribute my talents and creativity directly to mom and dad. When I started college, I knew that I was mirroring a lot of things my dad did. I was actively developing in that manner. It appeared very exciting and was one connection that I knew I could concretely implant between my father and I. I enjoy being like him.

I joined the same fraternity (the same chapter) as my father. We were the first father-son lineage in the chapter, and that meant a lot to me. I would go on to join the same aforementioned musical performing group. The hype I built up certainly was accurate once I became a member (whether I ever displayed those emotions or not).

When we made music, we made music. We had something to say. We knew that we were creating an experience for listeners, and for ourselves. The integrity and musical sincerity with which we treated creating was very high. I enjoyed performing with the group, and some of my fondest memories involve that set of people.

The ensemble means a lot to me, for many different reasons.

SO when I traveled back to Indiana, in April, to see this ensemble’s 50th anniversary performance, I expected something very grandiose, something proud and entertaining, and something with musical integrity. Mostly, I expected a solemn and heartfelt homage to the ensemble’s history and its members.

intermission: What is “musical integrity?” 

Reread, answer for yourself, and read on.


Watch ‘at breakdown:

There was no musical integrity. There was a poor scale of musicianship. They did not represent the history, the purpose, the meaning, or give its former members and audience something to go home proud of.

Now, people applauded. People cheered. There were even standing ovations for celebrity singers brought in to pitch-defiantly give renditions of great songs with the tagline, “See? Anybody can do it.” However, from a supportive fan, with a friendly-but-critical musical ear and mindset, there were few things that deserved applause.

With past non-50th-anniversary productions, I can recall “spectacular” staging, architecture, and theatrics. I’m not sure if they haphazardly planned this event or if they spent only the half the time they traditionally use to organize this.  Also, the person who was in charge of sound and mixing, was bad. I can’t even create a clever way to say that. They did not have the proper qualifications to produce a show that size with a grade higher than a “C+.”

At one point the director and other “celebrated” musicians sang a sort of quartet long-intro to full-choir song, and I thought perhaps they were experimenting singing in different temperaments.  Also when you are an ensemble whose aesthetic is part of the experience FACE THE AUDIENCE. Don’t stand at a quarter turn, or sideways, or with your back to the audience–especially if you’re singing. Maybe I wouldn’t mind that bit of theatrical leniency if the music was in tune.

Also, yelling isn’t singing. It’s yelling. The majority of the show was awkward and uncomfortable for reasons that constantly had me asking, “Did they have enough time to execute all things they wanted to execute? Is there some major barrier that I am unaware of that was a inhibitor to quality?”

I could go on and on about specific letdowns of the performance, but to be fair I do have a few compliments.


1. I’ll admit that roughly 80% (I don’t know how I formulated that number, but you get it by now…) of the a cappella pieces were very nice. There were some more-than-noticeable pitch issues, and some questionable diction approaches, but overall they were very nice. I could start to detect the fragments of musical integrity in those moments–the moments that former members and fans could truly be proud of.

2. With the number of disappointing attributes to the performance, the letdown as a fan, a former member, a son, I will pay the compliment that the group concretely implanted another connection between my father and I. The entire ride home, we analyzed every last second of the performance. Instead of viewing this father-son, musically consanguineous experience as a failure, we bonded just as much, if not more than had it been a smashing success.

Curtain call:

To the ensemble and everyone who put forth their X% into making the show what it was, thank you. You kept integrity and tradition at the forefront of your hypothalamus and showed great humiliation humility. It was obvious a great deal of planning went into making this show so special. For still finding a way for my father and I to cherish our memories of upholding integrity and having something meaningful to stand for, thank you.

If I’m available, I’ll attend the 51st, but please: have some musical integrity.

Please comment below: What does musical integrity mean to you?


One response

  1. Pingback: Musical Integrity | Hoosier Herald

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