by Katherine Durant
As an attorney with my own law practice, I’m mostly busy and preoccupied with the “vicissitudes of this life.” But my heart’s desire is for music – listening to it and making it myself. I accept my dharma that I must be a lawyer-warrior in the dream-drama of this life, but without music, that dream drama is flat, gray, and dull.
I am trained as a classical voice performance artist. When I stumbled into the Vedanta Center of Atlanta many years ago, then Resident Minister Swami Yogeshananda enlisted me to sing for pujas and special services. Swami introduced me to the work of John Schlenck and asked me to sing several of his songs. I also purchased several of John’s CD’s. I appreciated his music, admired his enormous talent, and honored his obvious devotion to Vedanta.
But it was not until I heard John perform some of his compositions live that I fell in love with his music. On Saturday, October 6, 2012, John was at the Vedanta Center as part of an in-town retreat on “Worship of the Divine Mother.” That afternoon, he gave a concert of songs appearing on his new album “All That Exists Art Thou.” (I teased John that I met him while he was doing his album promotion tour.)
I was transfixed. I could not believe what I was experiencing. To hear John’s music in recording is one thing, but entirely another to experience his performance of that music. I was not the only one affected. The spiritual energy rose higher and higher in that room. It was visceral.
I told Brother Shankara, the now Resident Minister of the Vedanta Center of Atlanta, that John’s music had transformed me and that I longed to sing it myself in recital. Shankara enthusiastically supported the idea and told me to contact John to see about obtaining sheet music and recordings.
I emailed John, who immediately wrote back with much excitement. He not only sent me the sheet music for every piece on the new album, he made a “karaoke” version of the accompaniment so that I could practice.
I found a new voice teacher and threw myself into diligent study, practicing, rehearsing and getting my vocal apparatus back into trained condition.
And it was not easy: John’s music is notoriously difficult, unpredictable, even discordant at times, and generally bewildering to perform. I missed more tempo changes and entry cues than I care to recount. But what a payoff in the end! The entire experience was exhilarating.
But the most wonderful thing happened in the middle of all this work and practice. John moved here! Yes, John moved to Atlanta in September 2013. I joked with John that he chose Atlanta because he knew he had at least one “fan-girl” here.
My voice recital of John’s beautiful music was held November 3, 2013, at the Vedanta Center of Atlanta with John in the audience. It was a glorious experience for me and one of the highlights of my life made all the more so by John’s presence.
Many of us believed John was “retiring” to Atlanta, but we could not have been more wrong. John immediately assumed the role of Minister of Music at the Vedanta Center, and he dove into his new duties with relish. I was later told it was one of the most productive – and happy – periods of his life. He said to me (in typical John fashion), “You will, of course, be in the choir.” Yes, I will!
We had a very tiny choir, but it meant the world to me. It made my otherwise, flat, dull life vivid and rich. We performed some extremely difficult, hauntingly beautiful music. I cherish every moment of working with John on these projects.
We had our usual choir rehearsal after the Sunday service on January 25, 2015. John and I mulled the idea of doing another recital together. That would have been one of numerous projects he had his fingers in – I’ve never met anyone with that much energy. We joked and laughed. I explained to him why I always carried a miniature kazoo in my purse: you never know when you’ll have a kazoo emergency!
That was the last conversation I had with John. The loss of John broke my heart in two – he was closer than a brother to me. But I’m so grateful to Mother that I was graced with having John in my life even for a few short months. His music and friendship are treasures beyond gold. Thank you, John, for sharing these gifts with me.