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Thoughts from Dr. Joe: The choir and its beautiful music

September 14, 2012|By Joe Puglia

“Mr. Brookey! I'm trying to understand your gift,” I said. “How do you inspire your students?”

He responded, “How can you not be positive and happy when you are singing?”

Jeff Brookey is a local treasure. He's the choral music director of the concert choir at La Cañada High School. I had a million questions for him as I hoped to intellectualize the alchemy of his work. I wanted to understand why his choir holds its audience breathless after a performance.

His responses were unpretentious; I realized that the success of the choir emanates from a humble nature. Philosopher Edmond Burke says, “Humility is the foundation of all virtue.”

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Brookey sang in his church choir; his father was the minister. He followed a path toward a bachelor's degree in music at Chapman College, and a master's in choral conducting at Fresno State.

While in college, he questioned his future, wondering if he was destined to be a teacher. “After introspection and prayer, I realized that true happiness comes from service to others,” he said. He decided to be a teacher and never looked back.

Currently he is completing his doctorate in choral music at USC.

The choir is classically based and focuses on a bel canto (beautiful singing) methodology.

“I'm inspired by the text. When the choir sings, they are telling a story. The best singers are great story tellers; the story makes the music come alive,” he said.

Brookey is a mechanic of the soul. His magic actualizes effort and talent as he prompts his students to produce work they are proud of. “I have my own sound I want to create; you work the sound till it is what you want. It's that musical moment that happens instantly where everything is perfect. Once you find it, you want another,” he said. “There's something unique about a choir. It's not about the self. Instead, it exists for the betterment of all.

His students learn to respect and support one another. “Everyone hears each other sing; this develops a sense of community,” he said. He provides experiences that make his students better people. “It is so important for me to know that when my students walk off the stage, they are feeling good,” he added.

We discussed the difficulties that young people face and the often-unwarranted reputation that they endure. “It's tough being a kid; I try to create a safe place for them,” he said.

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