On one of her first nights at the helm, our new director asked the choir, “Do you read music? Raise your hand if you do.”

Well, ability to read a score is not one of the requirements for joining and we have no auditions, so it was a fair question.

To my surprise, my hand stayed down. Just what did Megan Henderson mean by “read music”? Hear it in my head, the way a composer, conductor, or professional performer would? Not me!

Immediately identify a note on the staff? Well, I studied violin, but that was in the treble clef and I sing in the bass clef and that causes a delay when I have to translate what I see as G to a the B it really is before I pipe up.

Sight read? Well, sometimes yes. For many of the notes on the page, I know how they feel or fit in my throat and on my tongue.

And then there’s the matter of keeping time. Sometimes I’m a stickler for the beat, but sometimes I miss. Just saying.

It helps being in a good section, surrounded by strong musicians. But then it’s also fun when we sing mixed, surrounded by the other parts instead.

So do I read music? I really should have raised my hand – halfway.



  1. I am so with you! After more than 40 years singing in choirs, but with no formal training I know up from down, and value of a note,and at least in treble clef can name the note, (mostly), but I would not say I can sight read. My hand would be halfway up too!

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