Once upon a time, in the land of Brandeis, there were two students who loved to sing. After not getting into any a cappella groups, they decided to start an all-inclusive a cappella group. There was much deliberation on the group’s name. Eventually, the group decided to call itself No Singer Clef Behind, and pledged itself to creating a community where nobody would be told “you’re not good enough.” Over the ages, No Singer Clef Behind’s reputation for friendship, inclusion, and high-quality music-making grew, earning the respect and love of the people of Brandeis.
If that sounds like a fairy tale to you, it’s because that is what my journey with No Singer Clef Behind has been for me. Although my time with this group was shorter than I had originally intended, I know that this is just one chapter of a longer story. The story of a how a little boy who just wanted to be like his clarinet-playing, choir-singing brother found happiness and joy. The story of how a middle-schooler with poor self-esteem learned how to be proud of himself. The story of how a teenager responded to being told “you’re not good enough” by devoting himself to the study and mastery of every aspect of his craft. The story of how a young man learned to inspire his passion for music in his peers. The story of how that young man stopped lying to himself about his true purpose in life and decided to pursue it.
The story of how I became a music educator.
Before I go any further, I have to acknowledge that my pride for No Singer Clef Behind is two-fold. While I am incredibly proud of how I’ve grown in No Singer Clef Behind, I’m even more proud of all of you. Each of you joined this group with vastly different musical and personal backgrounds, and each of you has achieved notable progress since. Despite me being quite a hardass, you guys challenged yourselves and came at the music with a vengeance.
This chapter of my story has been marked by some incredibly humbling experiences. Last night was easily the biggest of those. We strapped ourselves in tight to the emotional rollercoaster of the night, and let it guide our performance. The result? Some of the most artistic performances I’ve ever seen out of this group. Every song was full of love and joy for each other, with each other. The end of And So It Goes had me in tears when I watched the video earlier today.
Leonard Bernstein, one of the most famous composers of 20th century classical music and musical theater, and founder of the Brandeis University Department of Music, once wrote, “To achieve great things, two things are needed; a plan, and not quite enough time.” I find myself wishing I had just one more rehearsal, just one more performance, just one more opportunity to share a moment with all of you. Just a little more time. Just one more chance to repay the massive debt I owe to you all. Just 1 month and 5 days instead of 1 month and 4 days.
Thank you all again. If there is anything I can do for any of you in the coming weeks—I beg of you—please do not hesitate to ask. You know how to find me.
Humbly, gratefully, wistfully, joyfully,
Steven Hoffman ’19
B.M. Music Education/Voice
Boyer College of Music and Dance