How Do You Get to Carnegie Hall?

By: Glenda Lofton, Ph.D.

Jun 14, 2022

On Sunday, June 5, 2005, I sang in Carnegie Hall.  Yes, as part of a 250-voice choir, I sang there, in Latin, Verdi's Requiem accompanied by the Manhattan Philharmonic Orchestra.  In the audience, bearing witness to the fact, were two of my favorite supporters – my daughters-in-law, Cindy and Michelle Lofton.

Since its opening in 1891, performing in Carnegie Hall has become synonymous with success, and over 100 years later, it is still considered one of the most important stages in the world.  A joke that's now become classic tells of two men who meet on the street.  One asks, "How do you get to Carnegie Hall?"  The other answers, "Practice, practice, practice." I jokingly told Tommy, "Glenda singing in Carnegie Hall is an oxymoron. How did I get to Carnegie Hall?  Luck, luck, luck."  To this, Tommy in his wisdom reminded me that “luck is when preparation meets opportunity.”

In his book, The Eighth Habit: From Effectiveness to Greatness, written back in 2004, Stephen Covey noted that "Deep within each one of us there is an inner longing to live a life of greatness and contribution – to really matter, to really make a difference" (p.28).  As members of the human family, we share the universal need "to live, love, learn, and leave a legacy."  We all have the power to choose greatness over mediocrity, "to decide to live a great life, or even simpler to have not only a good day but a great day."  Greatness may be manifest in a variety of ways, coping with an incurable disease, making a difference in the life of a child by giving him or her a sense of worth and potential, becoming a change-catalyst in your workplace, or initiating a worthy cause in society.  (It may or may not involve singing in Carnegie Hall.)

Covey challenged us to pursue greatness by finding our voice, the voice of the human spirit, our unique personal significance, our calling, and then helping others find theirs.  What makes you unique? What helps you face and meet your greatest challenges?  What about you inspires others?  Covey identified four components:  “(1) talent – your natural gifts and strengths; (2) passion – those things that naturally energize, excite, motivate and inspire you; (3) need – including what the world needs enough to pay for; and (4) conscience – that still, small voice within that assures you of what is right and that prompts you to actually do it" (p.5).

Given Covey's criteria, performing in Carnegie Hall was a time of greatness for Robert McBain, the conductor, whose lifetime accomplishments reflected his musical talent and his passion for music, as well as for developing the potential within others.  The invitation to perform at Carnegie Hall grew out of a need he felt to honor those who died in the World Trade Center on 9/11.  His conscience motivated him to unite a diverse group of people to perform Verdi's Requiem, first at a memorial service in Mississippi which aired on ABC television September 11, 2002, and later at Carnegie Hall.  It was also a time of greatness for the tenor soloist and recording artist.  Robert McBain discovered him working in a paint store, and helped him get a musical scholarship that led to a successful career in classical music.

As for me, I will never sing a solo in Carnegie Hall, but as Tommy said, because of preparation and opportunity, I was lucky enough to experience for a brief moment what greatness feels like.  My passion for music far exceeds my musical talent, but I had prepared by learning to read music in my first piano lessons in the fifth grade.  Eventually, I was playing percussions just well enough to be in the Baton Rouge High and LSU Concert Bands. For those of us with limited talent in certain areas, it is important to note that the opportunity to sing in Carnegie Hall came not because of my success, but because of the Jefferson Baptist Choir. The choir was invited and that included me, but I did practice, practice, practice. Also lucky for me was the opportunity to practice with and learn from the outstanding and talented choir from Southern University who traveled with us to Carnegie Hall.

How do you get to Carnegie Hall?  How do you live a life of greatness and inspire others to do likewise?  To paraphrase Covey, find work or a project at home, church, or in the community that taps your talent, fuels your passion, and rises out of a need you feel drawn to meet.  Therein lies your voice, your calling, your soul's code (what I call God's will for your life) – a vision of what is possible and the discipline to make that vision a reality.


About Lofton: Founded in 1979, Lofton Services offers clients the best of all worlds. We provide the responsive, personal service and flexibility of a small local firm while having the technology, resources, and infrastructure to deliver the benefits of the biggest players in our industry. Lofton Staffing can deliver the right people, with the right skills, right when you need them. Contact us today

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