I've gotten to meet many of my heroes over the last few years, and most of those meetings have only inspired me more! But not all heroes are famous people, most are friends, family, and teachers... the good ones are all three!
by David Davila (choir nerd)
When I was 13 years old and singing in middle school choir, David Custer, the local high school conductor, heard me sing and offered me free voice lessons at my future high school. At ENHS (Edinburg North HS), the high school students were preparing for a production of YOU'RE A GOOD MAN CHARLIE BROWN and I was so intimidated, but David Custer somehow managed to build my self-confidence while picking apart every single measure of the Region Middle School choir music. It was simple music, but he still picked it apart. We would spend an entire hour working on just one measure. That's the kind of precision he demanded from his singers. First the precision then the artistry. We'd spend another hour making that same measure musical.
And so began my long relationship with the renowned choral conductor, David Custer, whose choirs sang all over the country including performances for President George W. Bush and performances at Carnegie Hall. Over the course of his career there wasn't a single year at UIL competition that he didn't get sweepstakes, or pack singers into the Texas All-State Choir, having a record number of students make it into the famous choir several of those years.
He was also particularly well known for having a highly unusual amount of students become music educators and professional performers. Especially considering he taught in a small town called Edinburg, TX on the border of Mexico. In his twelve years at ENHS he had 62 Texas All-State Choir members... and after some friends and I tried to count the amount of students who became music educators and professional performers we just gave up after a while. It was a lot, including award winning conductors, TMEA choir directors, composers, college professors, voice teachers, elementary music teachers, professional opera singers, and two Broadway performers.
I don't want to write this post just to give you David Custer's resume, but I do want to give you some context for what I'm about to do, which is explain how someone like David Custer can become so successful and inspire me as much as he did to change the course of my life... and the lives of countless other young people in South Texas and later Central Texas.
REASON 1: HE WAS A GOOD MUSICIAN
David Custer wasn't always a Choral God. He started as a band geek. In fact he only joined choir his senior year of high school at John Jay in San Antonio because the choir director promised him he could skip school to Christmas Carol. He immediately found out that he could sing VERY well, and soon he had a vocal scholarship to East Texas State University (currently Texas A&M Commerce) where he studied with another famous conductor, Dr. Gorham. Dr. Gorham got him a job in South Texas in his old school district and Custer quickly moved to Edinburg where the community welcomed him with open arms.
David Custer spent every waking moment building his choral program in Edinburg, but on weekends, and in the summers he would fly to New York City where he sang with the Robert Shaw Chorale. It was his time spent singing with Robert Shaw that made him the choral master that everyone in Texas had heard of. Every student that has studied with David Custer has a direct line to the teachings of Robert Shaw and they currently pass it on to their own students.
He was also a composer of middle school men's choir pieces, and supported new choral music, having commissioned many pieces for his choirs over the years including several high profile pieces by composer Paul Basler.
So you see, he had the training and respect for the practice of choral singing. He believed that to be a good performer you had to practice, practice, practice. He used to say "PRACTICE MAKES PREPARED!" He believed that practicing was important because every performance was like life, there were no redos.
There are no redos in life! And so David Custer was always prepared!
REASON 2: HE WAS A GOOD TEACHER