When Singing Ain’t It: An Open Letter

Joi Donaldson
3 min readMay 27, 2017


After three years, bruised egos and the death of some situationships, I found this letter I wrote to a front line of a choir. This letter was leaked before I got to deliver it the way I wanted: with petty disregard for feelings. In conclusion, I was blackballed, Monique Lite. But the tea was delicious.

Truth be told, I used to love being a part of you. Monday nights were off limits to any sort of social life - I had rehearsal; moments of alto during my week I gladly accepted. But now? Now it has become a clustercrap of dysfunction and organized phoniness. And I'm two feet past disgusted.

Maybe it's been this way all along and I was too naive to tell the difference. This is far from my passion, more of a hobby. And maybe all I wanted was a safe place to sing and instead myself and others not in the upper echelon of corded mics getting slighted. Side-eyed. Talked about. Shunned. All in a Holier Than Thou day's work.

Pick your poison: the tumultuous and inappropriate relationships, the in-fighting, frenemy mindsets and a history of "do as I say, not as I do." As I am now an outsider who once was in the fray, I wonder can this ever heal. I wonder what factors are really at play here. Who's really at fault. Can it be there's a sense of comfort in chaos? Perhaps that old mentality of reveling in another's issues to divert focus of one's own? The thing is, people in the past have tried to beat these beasts. Confront. Heal. Call out foolishness. When exposed, when it's time to speak up and admit fault, everyone's silent. The proverbial mouse running on cotton. Why is that?

What I learned in the midst of being on this:
Don’t ruffle well-placed feathers. Don’t dare to be different. Don’t sing stronger or better than your section leader. Don’t be a threat. In any sense. You better not have new ideas or step on overexposed toes. You will be kicked off the team emotionally. But there’s hope: as long as there’s an outing or a dinner this basterdized version of a happy family can still be sold every service.

So how do we rectify this? What can we do to air out the laundry effectively? We can start with truth. Truth hurts. Truth doesn't feel good going down. But truth is henceforth and whereto necessary. The core needs to be evaluated. The loose ends need to be burned. And that's just the tip of the iceberg. Sometimes you have to dismantle a thing to rebuild. Feelings will get hurt. Plans will be thrown out. Precious mics will be forfeited. But what matters more: the flesh or the spirit? Control or love? Honesty or "that's my homie though?"

All of us struggle. We each have our hangups that bring out the worst in us. Oftentimes we allow Satan that foothood. But when we see the destruction about to happen, the accident on the highway, will we continue to rubber neck or will we choose to help and understand those hurting. Understand there are as many damaged people on stage as there are in the congregation. Instead of asserting the ideas of "well, if it was me..."

We can help one another. When we sincerely speak pleasant words, healing words, we are not only diffusing our enemy’s power, but we are building up one another. We all need rebuilding. Each of us has been bruised. Why continue to bruise others to help our individual bruises heal? That's nonsense and borderline sadistic behavior. Honestly, there is no one answer. But to begin answering, the questions need to be asked. And this, I pass on to you. Begin with one step in another direction than where it's going now.

I used to love you. Now you make my heart and ears hurt.





Joi Donaldson

Author. Filmmaker. Creative.