Thank You, Mr. Platt!

¡Gracias, Señor Platt!

By Mary Hunt Webb

Posted Saturday, October 22, 2011

When I transferred to a new high school as a teenager, I knew that the music program there had the reputation of being the best in the state. The school choir met at 7:30 each morning, an hour before school started. To qualify for this "zero hour class", one had to audition before the music director, Mr. John Platt.

A photo of John Platt with his finger pointing in instruction.

Most photos of John Platt were blurred because he was in continual motion. [Photographer: Bill White.]

I had little doubt that he would accept me for the honors choir because I had been involved in music programs, choirs, and choruses in schools and churches since I was a small child. Already an experienced alto, I had always been welcomed in every program to which I had applied.

Accordingly, I scheduled an audition with Mr. Platt. Imagine my surprise and disappointment when he did not accept me for the elite choir!

A photo of a disappointed doll.

No matter how they arrive, disappointments are difficult to disguise. [Photo courtesy of]

When I talked to my school counselor, she suggested that I enroll for the girls' chorus that Mr. Platt taught. The counselor said that after he became acquainted with my voice, he might accept me for the school choir.

On that advice, I enrolled for the girls' chorus. The only other contact I ever had with Mr. Platt was when he assigned me to the second soprano section. That also surprised me because I had always sung with the altos in previous choral groups. Perhaps he had enough altos but too few second sopranos.

One of the things that Mr. Platt told us was that most of us sang in the front of our mouths. Consequently, we sounded like little girls instead of young women.

He instructed us, "Throw your voice into the back of your throat."

He demonstrated the difference between the soft sound that comes when the voice is at the front of the mouth and the deeper, more mature sound that resonates from the back of the throat. Since ventriloquists can 'throw' their voices outside their bodies, he reasoned that singers are able to move theirs around inside their mouths. He taught us many other things, but I remember that one because it has influenced my speaking voice that I use today.

As the school year progressed, I became acquainted with students that were in the honors choir that met before school. I heard them complain about the difficulty in getting up early every morning and traveling to school just as the sun was rising during the winter morning hours when there was frost on the ground.

A photo of a dawn silhouette.

Walking to the bus stop in the pre-dawn hours was not a good idea. [Photo courtesy of]

Since my family did not own a car, I rode the city transit to school. I realized that I if I were in that class, I would have to walk to the bus stop in the dark and wait for the bus on a busy street in freezing temperatures before the sun rose.

I also learned more about people that pursued musical careers. Compared to other careers, theirs didn't last long. Voices aged, cracked, and were subject to illnesses and other difficulties.

With the end of the school year, I decided not to audition for the honors choir for the coming year. Nor did I enroll for the girls' chorus again. Instead, I turned to my writing and speaking skills.

During the next school year, I became a student assistant for the debate coach so that I timed debates for her. Although I was not a member of the debate team, I acquired many useful tips from listening to the instructions of the coach and watching the team in action. I even timed a debate contest between our school and a rival one. The experience with the debate team taught me that speaking voices last longer than musical ones do. I had heard several orators, including a commencement address by then-Senator Lyndon B. Johnson before he became President of the United States. Those experiences helped me to understand that a sore throat or other malady did not prevent the performances of speakers, as it would for vocalists.

In my senior year, I became president of a Christian group, Youth of the Kingdom, that scheduled a speaker once a week before school. Part of my job was to arrange for the speaker and then to be there to welcome him. I had to get up early to wait in the early morning hours for the bus to take me to school where I would introduce the speaker to the students that had gathered. Since it was an honor to be president of the group, I didn't mind doing it.

During the years that have passed, I have come to understand that I owe Mr. Platt a debt of gratitude for not accepting me into that choir. Had his response been positive instead of negative, my life might have taken a different path. I might not have pursued the study of languages and education.

If I had not been a Spanish major so many years ago, I would not have met my husband. (Go to "Previous Posts" and look for "God Loves You", from September 18, 2011, for the details of how I met my husband.) If that had been the case, I might not have married at all. If that had happened, I would have missed out on more than four decades of marital happiness as well as on the joys of being a mother and grandmother. I might not have gotten to travel as extensively as we have done because of my husband's career. Yes, I want to thank Mr. Platt although he has undoubtedly passed away by now.

Have you experienced disappointment? Have you had your hopes dashed? If you have, you are normal. You may not have understood at the time why things happened as they did. That may have caused anger and resentment that you may still harbor. However, I want you to consider this: Perhaps God has better plans for you than the ones that you designed. God may have foreseen obstacles that you could not have envisioned. He may have prevented you from disaster, disability, or even death.

Temporary disappointments can lead to bigger and better plans than you could have imagined. What you may have regarded as a setback may actually have been a step forward. Trust God to lead you in the path that He has planned for you. As you do so, you may one day thank God for your disappointment - as I do now for mine.

Psalm 3:3-5 "3) But you, O LORD, are a shield around me; you are my glory, the one who holds my head high. 4) I cried out to the LORD, and he answered me from his holy mountain. 5) I lay down and slept, yet I woke up in safety, for the LORD was watching over me." (New King James Version)

Salmos 3:3-5 "3) Mas tú, Jehová, eres escudo alrededor de mí; Mi gloria, y el que levanta mi cabeza. 4) Con mi voz clamé a Jehová, Y él me respondió desde su monte santo. 5) Yo me acosté y dormí, Y desperté, porque Jehová me sustentaba." (Reina-Valera 1960)

A photo of Mary speaking in El Paso, Texas.

Mary Hunt Webb speaks to a group in El Paso, Texas. [Photographer: Morris Webb, Jr.]

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