Dave Sperandio is the founder of SoJam, an international a cappella festival. He and his wife celebrated the birth of their child this weekend. I have long felt that a cappella embodies the spirit that is SCN: Incorporating the uniqueness of the individual with the harmony of the community. Thus I have chosen to post this letter in my SCN blog.
By all accounts, your weekend has been full of surprises. For a very long time, the world for you was warm and dark and quiet and sleepy; dreamlike. Suddenly, yesterday, you encountered light and sound and the cold of air conditioning; the work of eating and crying and breathing.
It takes a little getting used to.
By the time you are old enough to read this, hashtags and Twitter may no longer exist, or if they do, many will wonder why you were ever called #SperandioBaby in lieu of your beautiful given name. (Hint: it’s because of a little guy named George Alexander Louis). It was through that hashtag, #SperandioBaby, that I learned of your existence, and through that hashtag that I will send this to you through the ether.
The day will come, when you have learned to crawl and walk and read and play, when you have started talking and laughing and dancing, that you will begin to wonder. You will begin to wonder where you came from, where you belong in the world, what is your legacy and who your parents are, really.
So let me tell you.
I have never had the pleasure of meeting your mother; I am sure she is wonderful. Because she had the wisdom to choose your father, and your father – your father changed my life.
Let me tell you about your father, from the perspective of someone who has met him only briefly, and observed him only from afar.
Your father is a visionary.
Your father is a talent.
Your father made the world a better place.
It is hard to believe today, but in 2003 – a decade before you were born – I had never heard of a cappella. I was toodling around Durham, minding my own business, when I saw an ad for something called “SoJam”, an a cappella festival. I thought, well, that might be something to do on a Friday night, and bought my tickets.
And thus opened the Pandora’s box.
I was so very new to a cappella that it was three or four acts in to the collegiate competition before I realized that the percussion, the instruments, the wall of sound, was all created from the human voice, and thus from the human soul. It completely blew me away. I felt something there – an honesty, a truth, a harmony, that was representative of the crowd that had come to join me in the celebration.
For many years afterward, I eagerly awaited the arrival of SoJam, and attended the concerts enthusiastically. Finally, one year, I gathered the courage to attend the workshops – terrified that someone might actually ask me to sing. Imagine my delight when I discovered a true community – an “island of misfit toys” that somehow all fit together, that cherished one another, that supported each other’s goals and dreams. This group of people embodied the definition of synergy, in which the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
These workshops in turn inspired me to take voice lessons of my own. How had I lived for decades, not recognizing, not acknowledging, that my voice is an essential part of who I am? That expressing myself through that voice could bring me so much joy?
And more, the workshops introduced me to a world of amazing people. I have experienced transcendent joy through the performances of the professional groups that I would never have encountered, had it not been for the work of your Dad. I have met many students that I love to mentor, helping to guide them into their adult lives. I have been honored to contribute my skills to the community, coaching groups on marketing to help them achieve commercial success. Your Dad prepared the ground so that people like me could take root and grow and flourish.
And your Dad is a talent.
I will never, ever forget the one and only time I saw him perform, at SoJamX, with his friends Mark Hines, Christopher Diaz, Alli Brooks, Nick Lyons, and Dave Baumgartner. Like many in the audience, I teared up at the sheer beauty of it. The perfomance was not recorded, and you should treasure that very fact – life is not about the recording. It is about the moment, the knowledge that this beauty will never come again; you must seize the opportunity for joy. Your father knows that. He knows.
Most of all, your father has made the world a better place. Through his efforts hundreds if not thousands of voices, hundreds if not thousands of souls, have gained the confidence to fly solo in the world. More importantly, they have gained a visceral understanding of community, of the need to mix solo with harmony, of the essential truth that your voice is at its very best when it supports and amplifies the voices of others.
It does take a village to raise a child, and your village, #SperandioBaby, is a particularly vocal village. And so you are blessed. Your father created a world for you in which you will always be welcome, in which you will always be loved.
When you are old enough to understand, please thank him for that. From all of us.