Recapturing Joy Through Music
Laura Wilson–Youngblood is an expert at work-life balance. She’s assistant counsel at Einstein, hammering out contracts and reviewing agreements. But she’s also a “soprano 1”—a singer tackling the highest range for the female voice—in the New York City Master Chorale, which features a wide range of New Yorkers, from professional singers to lawyers like Laura. She has happily sung with the chorale for seven seasons.
Growing up in a musical household, Laura started piano at age 5, but her true love was singing. A fifth-grade teacher encouraged Laura to join her high school choir, and she did.
At UCLA, she belonged to a chorale, a women’s chorus, and a chamber chorus. When heading to NYU Law School, she asked musicians for leads: “I have to keep singing. I’m moving to New York. What choir can I join?” She was lucky enough to find a home with the chorale.
The group rehearses a few hours a week from September through May; the members also study scores on their own. They usually offer three big concerts a year: one over the December holidays and two in the spring. Smaller subgroups perform specific commissions.
The group sings at many venues, from cabarets and concert halls (the latter, especially for collaboration with dance companies) to Symphony Space and St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Lately, they’ve appeared at Manhattan’s St. Jean Baptiste Catholic Church. (“Churches tend to have the best acoustics,” she said.)
“No Room for Timidity”
A recent favorite piece for Laura was Schoenberg’s Friede auf Erden. She described it as “incredibly difficult. The piece is all a capella—just you and the other 75 or so voices in the chorus for 20 minutes. And there are a lot of conflicting notes. You really have to hold your own and stay on pitch.” The challenge was irresistible; it was, she said, “just such a cool thing to try to accomplish. You have to commit to it and go for it. No room for second-guessing and no room for timidity.”
Choral singing is the ultimate exercise in collaboration. The trick, according to Laura, is blending the voices; the chorus must attain “the right color of sound and the right size of sound for the music that you’re singing. There’s a lot of listening involved. You’re working with other people in your section, singing the same vowel on the same note at the same time at the same volume, and hearing where your section fits in with all the others.”
Cooperation, concentration, and confidence—all needed for choral work—are also requisites for Laura’s job at Einstein. Her work in the office of the general counsel involves close interactions with faculty members and employees.
Earlier in her career, Laura worked for a large law firm. Then, realizing she’d prefer a nonprofit, she turned to higher-education law. “I really like the educational environment,” she said. “A college is unique, and I like the people who are attracted to it. It’s a creative, collaborative space.”
Whether in the office or preparing to perform, Laura is doing research. For a contract negotiation, she must investigate each party’s position. Similarly, with every new piece of music, she delves into the composer’s background and the period of composition, which affect her approach.
Recapturing a Childhood Passion
Laura feels lucky to have retained her childhood love of music. There are, she said, “certain moments when you’re singing, when the adrenaline is going and you’re in the groove and you become aware of the sound. And that sound is exactly what you want it to be in that moment. You’re conscious that it’s clicking.”
She loves Beethoven, Schoenberg, and Mozart. Contemporary composers Morten Lauridsen and Eric Whitacre are also favorites. But she doesn’t choose only classical music; she’s also a fan of ’90s boy bands and Christina Aguilera.
It’s easy to lose touch with childhood interests, Laura observed. Life gets hectic; finding time is difficult. But she believes one should seek “that outlet to match the passion you had when you were a kid. Find some way to continue it,” she said. The chorale has given her that joy.
View Laura singing in the chorus’s version of Jonathan Dove’s “See Him That Maketh the Seven Stars.”
Posted on: Thursday, July 18, 2019