Wednesday, December 30, 2009


I have to get my application in for my Masters.

This is a little overwhelming. But I think I'm just letting myself be overwhelmed...this is do-able.

Here's what I have to do:

- write a paper on my philosophy of music education and why music education is important to the public school system. (I'm actually really into this...just insecure about my writing style and trying to sound cohesive and intelligent.)

- videotape myself teaching a lesson. (this might be a little harder to pull off, but I'm going to try to enlist the help of some of my friends. Then there's the chance the taped lesson falls to pieces for any number of reasons...we'll see.)

- apply for financial grants/scholarships (doubt I'll get any, but it's worth trying)

- fill out application (I love this part. Something so thrilling about filling out a simple form. I know, I'm a dork. I love Staples too.)

- find some people who would be willing to recommend me, and see if they can write one up in a month. (That's not a lot of time for a recommendation.)

I know there are a few other things in there as well, but I have to get this done and in to the program by Feb 1. I'm not really freaking out yet, but starting to think about it. I actually really like deadlines, because it makes me get some things done, but man, is it stressful. I don't eat, I sleep less, I type more, I agonize more over every time anyone has every told me I'm not good at anything pertaining to anything I'm trying to accomplish.

Just do it. Who cares, right? What does it matter how others perceive me? I'm doing this because it is dream God has given me. I do like to teach. I do think it's important to educate young people how to be artsy and creative. And I think God has given me some tools to do it somewhat well. There's a lot to learn though. I have to find my grounding in Jesus, not in others' high and low opinions. They are just His creations too. Just like me. I guess I just need to do the work set before me.

So, on to philosophizing about music education...

Thursday, December 24, 2009

one of my favorite christmas songs.

tears are falling
hearts are breaking.

how we need to hear from God.

you've been promised -
...we've been waiting...!

welcome, holy child.

hope that you don't mind our manger
how I wish we would have known

but long-awaited holy stranger
make yourself at home

please, make yourself at home.

bring your peace into our violence
bid our hungry souls be filled

Word now breaking heaven's silence
welcome to our world
welcome to our world

fragile fingers sent to heal us
tender brow prepared for thorn
tiny heart whose blood will save us
unto us is born
unto us is born

so wrap our injured flesh around you
breathe our air and walk our sod
rob our sin and make us holy

perfect son of God
perfect son of God

welcome to (our) world.

Monday, December 21, 2009

holiday equality?

I have had a couple of really interesting discussions with colleagues in the music education field regarding holiday celebration in the public schools. There are so many differing views on this topic - it is impossible to please everyone.

The elementary school in which I work does not have a winter concert. There is opportunity for one, and I suspect one has been done in the past, maybe about 10 years ago. I would not mind putting one on every year, if only just during the school day, having various grades sing for the remainder of the student body, concluded with a sing-a-long of some sort. It has been a touchy subject with parents for years that the schools should not be advocating the "Jesus" part of Christmas...we have to sing about Chanukah, we have to make sure we include Kwanzaa, some districts are even making sure Winter Solstice is part of the celebration. While it is difficult enough to get even one holiday's songs in during the busy 40 minutes/week I get to see the students, it is near impossible to get one song per holiday before winter break. I am starting to think it would be best to just forgo having the kids do any sort of holiday music, which would be a crime to the history of our country, and is a shame to waste that opportunity in music class to teach the kids to sing and play these songs well.

However, I have already been talked to by my principal about a parent who mentioned I was "teaching Christmas songs about Jesus" in my classroom. I understand the sensitivity, as Jesus has always caused argument among people, but I took offense because the activity being complained about was not even a song they were learning to sing. And I was not even the one talking about Jesus. Another child asked me if that was the history about the song. I replied, "yes," and moved on. This is what the parent is complaining about.

Anyway, my problem with this whole scenario is, if there is supposed to be tolerance and equality in all things in our society, then why are the songs about Jesus during the holidays off-limits? Why is it ok to sing Chanukah songs, which are all religious in their language, but not ok to sing the traditional Christmas songs of our country? A music educator friend of mine was saying that she received an email from her administration, instructing them that they (the music team) could use any music for the holiday sing-a-long, as long as Jesus wasn't mentioned. I (and she) saw this as prejudiced and hypocritical, since their district is heavy on promoting equality.

This just is really getting to me. Although this is not that big a deal, I am pretty irritated that everyone who complains that their holiday doesn't get enough "air-time" is coddled and appeased while Christians just have to suck it up and bow to many others's ignorance and blatant disrespect of our holiday. I really try to be inclusive, and am not upset by wishing people "Happy Holidays" as opposed to "Merry Christmas." I do not want to disown people I know who don't celebrate Christmas...that's just stupid.

What I do want, is for the hypocrisy to stop. This is just one example of many in the US where a wrong for one person doesn't translate into a wrong for someone else. If we are truly equal, we should be able to celebrate Chanukah, Kwanzaa, Winter, Christmas (commerically), and Christmas (religiously). Jesus is my reason for celebrating. I don't appreciate you pushing Him out. If we are being equal, let's be equal. I will acknowledge your holiday; you acknowledge mine.

As for the schools, the small vocal minority of parents in my district have made it clear in many ways that Christmas music in any form is equal to discrimination in their eyes. So, I think we should forgo any teaching of any holiday. We can't pick and choose if we can't include them all.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

for the soul.

I sang twice today - once paid, once unpaid. They were both worth it.

The first was a funeral for a man that I didn't know. I was asked to sing as a "fill-in" soloist...this is easier for me to do for a funeral since knowing the people involved brings emotions that are usually too hard for me to keep in check to sing well. The family had no preference of song, so I chose "It is well with my soul", the old traditional hymn. I LOVE this hymn. I had sang it before at my physics teacher's funeral when I was a freshman in college, and it was a pivotal moment in my performing career, another story for another time.

I have been thinking a lot about singing for the love of the music, the love of the poetry being sung, singing for love of singing. And today, I think I did. I mean, I know I did. That song has meaning for me in more ways than one, and I sang to my Savior today, and I sang to the people who don't know Him, pleading with them to hear the love in my song for this wonderful God, and I sang to give glory to the One who gave me my voice. And it was so much better than worrying about singing correctly.

The difference in this performance from others where I have let go like that is - I didn't let it get away from me. I was able to trust my technique was solid and focus on breath and tone and resonance when needed while simultaneously letting the performance just...flow. I think I am starting to make some progress.

The other singing gig I had was with my choir. This was our third Christmas concert of the year, and it was a major theater in Boston. We were not the feature of the evening, but we were the pre-show. People were walking in and finding their seats while we were providing background music/entertainment until the real show began. And it was a full house. And we made them stop in the aisles and forget about their seat and listen and stare. And we made them holler and applaud and love us. And it was wonderful to sing to people who appreciate, even if they don't always understand. And it was wonderful to sing with my choir-mates, my fellow choristers, my friends.

So often, becoming recognized as a "good" singer/performer/actress/showman of any sort becomes about connections and money and extreme availability...when really, there are talented singers in many places. Some of them don't have the time or the availability or the money to constantly be out there trying to be noticed. But when they sing, people are stunned. When they act, audiences are captivated. When they are on, people pay attention. The people watching wonder why this person is "hanging around here when they could be in New York!" (I heard this comment today about our choir)

I used to want to be famous. Words like these would go to my head and make me long for big city lights and large venues to sing in. Now, I am trying to sing because I want to sing. I don't care about being recognized. Sure, it's nice - everybody likes to be noticed and appreciated. But, I don't want it to go to my head like it used to. I don't want it to be as important as it used to be. A comment from an audience member would make or break a performance for me. Not anymore. I know I will fall into that trap at times again, but I hope that I will continue to learn what music is for. It is not for money, not for filler, and not for distraction. For me, it is for the soul...

...even if nobody listens.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Love then.

Here are a few inspiring words from my friend's blog (you can find the entire post here). To read about Mary Lou Churchill's passion for music and love of it was a much needed wake-up call for me-the-performer. I began singing as a teeny little girl, wailing away to Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, and anything else that my motown-loving dad would put on in the car. I would sing myself to sleep every night, just with any old song that struck my fancy. I would sing to God as a prayer, instead of speaking it. I would try for the high notes and be so excited at the thrill it would bring to hit them, and sometimes even hit them well! ;)

But somewhere along the line, I went into training as a singer. There, I was told that I had "potential" but needed to "clean the technique up a bit." I had always been told by listeners that they enjoyed the meaning I put into whatever song was being sung. But, lately, in the quest to better my singing - and present myself well at auditions - I have forgotten the first rule of performing: Love the music. If you are not performing with love, you are nothing but a clanging cymbal or a crashing gong.

"It appears that the greatest concern of the young musician seeking an orchestral position is the belief in stage-fright or nerves. Assuming proper preparation and a good attitude (I have nothing to lose, I don't have the job so I can't lose it), the manifestation of a loss of control is simply fear; fear of not doing as well as you can. There is a law of this universe which is so simple and so powerful and it literally wipes this fear out of your being, and it is this... "perfect love casts out fear." If you are actively engaged in loving your instrument, loving the music, loving the audience, loving the committee, loving your enemies, then there is simply no room for fear of any kind, and you will find yourself playing better than you expected. To love is to live, and breathe, and sing, and play. Love then." ~ Mary Lou Speaker Churchill

Monday, December 07, 2009

Feedback from Magic Flute Audition

So, I finally got some feedback from the Magic Flute audition that I posted about here.

Comments from panelists:

* Could consider the possibility that soubrette soprano rep would be better than mezzo

*Not much in the way of acting – doesn’t move - needs specificity!!

*Vibrato occasionally fluttery (off breath)

*Posture could be much better

*Too harsh in chest voice

*Lots of potential, change is needed

Comments from Stage Director - General comments for everyone:

* EASE. Physically, with character, with voice. Be pleasant and fearless. Do not force anything... everything should seem to flow out of you. Many people at these auditions were "chained" to the floor. A lot of folks were singing from the waist up and seemed to be presenting as opposed to performing. Finally, be careful not to wander aimlessly.

* JOY. It should seem to "make your day" to get this chance to perform... try not to care whether it is an audition or a show. When you have fun it makes us want to watch you and listen to you.

* FOCUS. Do NOT look at the audition panel! Many folks were not in character at all... they would watch us to see what we were doing. Or wander aimlessly. Find specific focuses that make sense within your aria and relate to your character.

It's SO great to get feedback from real people in the business. I am privileged that they took the time to email this to me. It is a struggle to stay positive, especially when I have been feeling like I've been singing well for the last year or two. And, now come to find out the problems are more than I thought. But, there are good things, and I need to work with what I have and work to fix the things I don't have or are weaknesses.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

some God-rambles.

I have been too judgmental lately. I have been putting people in a neat little box. I have been writing actions off as "just plain cruel" or "totally selfish" or "unthinking stupidity."

But the unfortunate truth is, there are many facets to people. I should not write off the person who cut me off at the supermarket as a rude and self-focused boor...when they might have been thinking about a fight they just had at home with one of their family members and so were understandably distracted. I should not believe co-workers to be cruel based on the testimony of another co-worker who, admittedly, sees the world through grey-colored glasses.

Where is the person in me that used to look for the good in others? That girl who was disappointed more than once at those who didn't rise to my expectations, but who believed the friend/acquaintance/stranger had it in them to rise to it anyway? The girl who would cheer for humanity when other, more cynical friends would give others a second chance, even when they seemed like a lost cause?

Have I become that jaded? Do I see only the "there is none that are good, no not one" and not the "love your neighbor as yourself"? Who am I to call down judgment? Is it not left to God to judge? I am called to forgive. And forgive. And forgive. I am called to love God and my fellow man. I am not called to be justifiably angry when I am wrongly accused, or spitefully ignored, or even betrayed by another. Jesus had all these things happen, and he trusted that vengeance was God's. He trusted that there was a bigger plan. And he trusted that God made the creatures who hurt him. He trusted that God loved them. And he knew his place in God's plan.

I think that is an extremely hard concept for humans...dare I say, American swallow. Jesus knew his place. He accepted that there was a limit to what he was supposed to do. God wanted him to die on that cross to save you and I and all who would come to Him. Jesus certainly, as a human, didn't want to go through with it. He even prayed to ask that it wouldn't have to happen. But, God, in His wisdom and compassion and grace for you and I, said no to His son, and Jesus knew his place.

Do I know my place? I am constantly fed through the media and culture I live in that no one has to have a "place" anymore...we have all broken through the barriers of race, of culture, of authority, of age. But, with that has come broken relationship, egotistical minds, and unknown boundaries. Some barriers are certainly good to break through - like racial barriers. It's appalling to think it took us this long to treat all men equal, despite how they look. And we still have some ways to go. But others, like the barrier of age...there is little to no respect for age anymore. These people may be out of touch with technology (some of them), but they are a wealth of information about life and how best to live it. But young people are taught from very young that an aging person is a decrepit person who has nothing to offer because youth is everything. Unfortunately, we all get old, so this is an unwise direction for society to look.

God desires that we submit our wills to Him. It is not easy, quick, or pleasant, as so many things in society strive to be. But it is our place as Christ followers to submit. It is anti-American. It is ludicrous to try to explain to someone. But it is God's desire. And I have found it can be a daily activity, even hourly activity to submit. But it's better than the alternative of trying to live my own way. I've tried that. I ended up crying myself to sleep every night, wondering what was wrong with my life. I needed God to be in control, because I sure couldn't be. I screwed stuff up way too much.

I bet if a lot of you are still before God, you will hear that need echoing around in you somewhere. Talk to God about it.