A Farewell from Greg Watkins

Greetings TMS-WYC Community,

It was author Rainer Maria Rilke who once said, “And now we welcome the new year. Full of things that have never been…”. This is such an exciting time for The MusicianShip Washington Youth Choir. I celebrate your new beginning as you welcome your next Artistic Director, the incomparable John Kenniebrew. You are in tremendous hands! 

I remember my first day with the students of Washington Youth Choir. I was an invited guest of the then Executive Director, Courtney Baker Oliver, who asked me to observe a rehearsal. It was his wish that I would become the choir’s next music director. Other than a choir rehearsal filled with wonderful music and singing, I had absolutely no idea what I was preparing to experience. But it was love at first sight. The synergy, camaraderie, personal stories, the way the students loved singing together, the adoration and respect they shared for the choir’s founder, Dr. Joyce Garrett – it was amazing to witness. A young community ensemble with scholars, singers, performers, leaders, visual artists, community activists, those young people embodied Dr. Garrett’s spirit and vision. Every moment they occupied the spaces of Calvary Baptist Church – our then organizational home – they always recalled “excellence without excuses”, an adopted mantra of Dr. Garrett. 

The students also knew the feeling of community. They were a modest-sized ensemble but a powerful presence of strength, love and cohesion. I simply made it my mission to build upon that, ensuring that through the music we performed and the opportunities we cultivated for the students, quality always superseded quantity, and for years, this was one of the greatest raves about Washington Youth Choir (WYC): “Wow! They are so small in number, but boy, are they a powerfully-sounding group that sings with endless heart and passion”. My goal was to always honor the legacy of our founder. Never did I imagine I would have remained for eleven years, but it was the students and the understanding of my purpose to educate, uplift and inspire that kept me returning year after year. These have been some of the best and brightest young people God could have ever blessed me with. 

When the time came for our doors to close under the auspices of The Eastern Choral Society, I knew this could not be the end. No, it was impossible. We had so many more lives to impact, more magical music to share, and more youth to inspire. So, with the blessing of our founder and the recommendation of our former Program Manager, Jessica Teachey, I knew The MusicianShip was the right place for our students. Under the executive leadership of Jeffery Tribble, Jr., what a tremendous partnership and home it has been. 

Thank you to our founder, parents, community partners, past and present board members, audience members, my predecessors and former colleagues of TMS-WYC. Buckle up for this bright future, ahead! The best is certainly yet to come! Journey onward and upward. Mr. Kenniebrew, congratulations on your appointment! You have my greatest endorsement. 

With love,
Greg Watkins
Former Artistic Director of The MusicianShip Washington Youth Choir