Looking Back at 2013

Looking Back at 2013
Anita and Jon, 1961

By Laura Jane Pittman
Resident Community News

At the fresh new start of each year, I often take a look back at the inspirational people I’ve profiled throughout the year. This January, however, I want to write about an individual who, though he was never profiled in the column, occupied my heart and mind over the last year.

Anita and Jon, 1961

Anita and Jon, 1961

I joined the Symphony Chorus in the fall of 2004, and Dr. Jon Carlson was our choral director. His job was to prepare us at weekly rehearsals for the concerts we sang every couple of months. Then, he would turn us over to the conductor and the orchestra for our performances. There were usually three – Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. And with a few exceptions, Dr. Carlson was present at every single performance, listening intently from a different place in Jacoby Hall each night.

It became a routine for me to find him in the audience and occasionally glance at him as we performed. He always (no matter how we thought we sounded) listened with a proud, rapt expression on his face. And when he was called out onto the stage for a round of applause at the end of each concert, he would turn around and give us a beaming smile and a thumbs-up. It was truly a moment I treasured.
Singing under Dr. Carlson’s direction was an immense pleasure. We laughed (he had a great sense of humor), smiled, groaned (sing counting, anyone?), and occasionally marched. But more than anything, we in the chorus knew, with certainty, that each week he was sharing his love of music and his gift of teaching with us. That was what Dr. Carlson did best.
When he was diagnosed with mesothelioma just before he was set to retire, our hearts were broken. We all followed his illness for the next two and half years as he wrote an amazing blog detailing all things medical, music, food and family. And Dr. Carlson continued to come to our concerts regularly, so we were blessed to see him often. I would still find him in the audience, watching with the same blissful expression. It is hard to think of anyone who was more proud of our chorus.

Dr. Carlson left our world in November, but the singing heavenly choirs have gained a most ardent supporter. At the Service of Celebration held in his memory, each person who spoke, from our chorus manager to his daughters to colleagues from church and university, had experienced Dr. Carlson in the same way that our chorus did, as he shared his love and passion for music and used his gift for imparting it to others through his teaching and his encouragement.

Family at World’s End, 1992

Family at World’s End, 1992

The stories of his influence are endless. A friend in my yoga class shared that when her young son was in the children’s choir at Southside United Methodist, Dr. Carlson approached her with his opinion that her son had musical talent. She was surprised but began to encourage her boy, and to this day, music is a huge part of his life. She credits Dr. Carlson as one of the most important factors.

Thank you, Dr. Carlson, for leaving us food for thought for this upcoming new year. Are we doing what we love? More importantly, are we taking the time to share these gifts with others? If so, there is no telling what a difference this might make.

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