This is Tuesday, September the 29th. Just a few weeks ago, I was waxing poetic about the "feeling of fall in the air." Well, so much for that! It must have been 90 degrees in our rehearsal today!! The AC is cranked up at good old FHUMC, but it's no match for the sauna-like temperature of the building this late in the day.
Our singers (and our staff) "parachute in" on Tuesday afternoons (as one of our staff members observed last year) after an already-long day at school, on their way to and from countless other activities and obligations. They are juggling football, volleyball, cheerleading, tennis, dancing, band practice, dentist appointments, homework, not to mention the all-important social agenda, and maybe a little family time thrown in along the way. (The car-pool logistics alone rival a NASA launch in complexity!) We're trying to fend off the swine flu, and we're already missing kids absent from rehearsal or musicianship class for one reason or another.
It's hot, they're tired, and in week three, almost every piece of music is still new, difficult, and in some language that isn't English. ("Folders up; let's read it in solfa . . . handsigns, please! Boys, posture! Sing it in canon; now let's sing it in German. Girls, more singing, less talking, please! Now in canon, with the text, in German. . .") It's a little early to get excited about Christmas music, especially in weather that's more suited for flip-flops and shorts than sweaters!
Meanwhile, our younger singers are working on the basics: how to sit, how to stand, how to make a nice vowel, how to find their places in a choral score. There's so much to learn besides singing!
Somehow, though, everyone settles in at the end of this hot, chaotic day, and we focus on the intonation of the half-step, or the rhythm patterns we are reading or writing. There are moments of beauty, artistry and sensitivity in these fundamental steps, and with every note they sing, I'm more aware of the amazing potential of these young people, musical and otherwise. I'm inspired by their curiosity, energy and talent.
By next Tuesday, it will be October, and we will be one week closer to the Carol Concert and the Ranching Heritage Candlelight tour. It's time to break out the Christmas music. And (we hope) the sweaters. I can't wait. :)
Long weekends are a rare treat, and I hope all of you enjoyed time with your family and friends this Labor Day. For me, it's a reminder of exceptionally fine times in my hometown of Morgan City, Louisiana . . . the annual Shrimp and Petroleum Festival is still celebrated every Labor Day weekend, and has been since about 1936. Like most other local events of its kind, the Shrimp Festival has its own traditions: there's a street fair, and festival royalty reigns over a street parade, while beautifully decorated shrimp boats are gather in the Atchafalaya River for the Blessing of the Fleet and a parade of their own. The food . . . amazing, and the music, well, every kind of Louisiana music you can imagine.
My sisters and I viewed the Shrimp Festival weekend as an excuse to invite every possible out-of-town friend we had to spend the weekend in South Louisiana (at our house, of course!) Most of our friends were kids we had met through music activities around the state; between summer band camps, choir auditions and music festivals, we Louisiana kids managed to do quite a bit of social networking, even before the advent of Facebook! We had lots of adventures and more than a couple of scrapes, but those weekends were the highlight of the year for us. We all loved music, and our lives revolved around making music in one form or another. As teenagers, it was great to have a feeling of "belonging" and knowing that there were other kids who felt the same way.
It's been interesting to reconnect with many of those kids we grew up with, and to catch up on the adult chapters of their lives. More than a few have had very distinguished careers as professional musicians, and many of the others still perform all kinds of music in their churches and communities. As we listened to the terrific new singers at our placement auditions, I found myself thinking of our returning singers, and really looking forward to having everyone back together next week. I hope that all of our young singers will find life-long friends and a place to "belong" here, and make their own memories of rehearsing, performing and traveling together. I hope that as adults, they will recall their experiences with the WTCC as some of their finest, and that music will still be a part of their lives.
Today was a beautiful day in West Texas. There's a hint of fall in the air, and everyone is busy with new classes and activities. It's definitely time for "back to school" mode, and for us that means "back to singing!"
I spent most of the summer working with music teachers from all over the country, including many from Lubbock and our surrounding West Texas communities. As always, I was inspired by the dedication of these amazing musician/educators. The teachers I met spent their "time off" in rigorous, challenging and intense two-week courses of study; classes and rehearsals by day, homework and practice by night! All this, while juggling their families and busy schedules at the same time! Why do they do it?
Because as hard as it may be, it's the challenge of becoming the very best they can be: the best musicians, the best teachers, and best role models for the kids they will see this year in the classroom. From Kindergarten through High School, whether it's classroom music, choir, band, orchestra, piano, mariachi, guitar . . . you name it and there are music teachers out there trying to find ways to make music available and meaningful for kids.
Teaching can be a tough job, it's true. But there are certain people who, despite lunch duty, test monitoring, limited conference periods or double classes with 65 kindergarteners in a portable classroom, still look forward to this time of year. There are new songs and games to learn, and old favorites to share with this year's kids. And there is an incomparable feeling of pride and delight in knowing that for some kids, music will be the best thing about their day. That's the goal of the music teachers I know, anyway, and I'm grateful for the opportunity to know them, to learn from them and to be inspired in my own teaching.
So, if you have a moment one day, stop by and say hello to the music teacher at your kids' school. Maybe bring a cupcake. :) And . . .
Have a great week!