Monday, April 24, 2017

Hits and Misses (April 17-23)

Here's a look back at the week that was.....    

  • What is more fun than getting new music in the mail? It's just so satisfying to know that I have new pieces to consider learning. It's like a first introduction to a new're not necessarily sure how the relationship will ultimately turn out, but it is kind of thrilling and terrifying at the same time.
  • This week has been marked by some really good food adventures. With the warmer weather, shaved ice vendors are popping up around Plainview....and boy, they are yummy! The week had been long, so I decided to treat myself this weekend. Headed to Lubbock on Saturday for dinner at Longhorn Steak and remembered how much I enjoy the tomato-basil soup there. After church on Sunday morning, I visited Tokyo Hibachi Grill and stuffed myself....and have some left for lunch on Monday! Good food with a good book in a quiet corner of the restaurant is the perfect recipe for an enjoyable meal to me.
  • Speaking of church, Pastor Jason preached one of the finest sermons I have heard on Christian Unity. College Heights Baptist is very blessed to have him as our senior pastor because of his commitment to the Word, his unyielding devotion to Christ, and his longing to see CHBC serve all areas of the Plainview community. I know that I have personally grown in my spiritual walk while sitting under his ministry. For that, I am very thankful.
  • As much as I enjoy getting new music in the mail, I despise when it is bent! For the first time since coming to Plainview, I received a package from Sheet Music Plus that was crammed into my small mailbox. Normally, I either receive a package notice in the box or the item is discreetly hidden just inside the screen door of my apartment. Not this time.......there was a hard crease down the center of the envelope in an effort to fit it inside the box. This does not make for a happy pianist!
  • Insects are arriving in Plainview along with the warmer weather. I hate mosquitos and other crawling creatures. I know it's only a matter of time before I begin to find them indoors as well. I already have my zapper and insect sprays at the ready!
  • On Sunday afternoon, I received a phone call from my older brother. That's never a good sign! O'Neal and I get along fine...we just don't "chat" on the phone.  He was calling to let me know that he was following an ambulance that was carrying Mom to Baptist East in Memphis. Mom is scheduled to have a heart cath on Wednesday because of the findings of a recent echocardiogram. On Sunday afternoon, she began to feel as though her heart was racing and could not be slowed. As O'Neal and Pop began to assist her to the car, she basically fainted in their arms. O'Neal suggested that an ambulance be called in case something should go wrong on the drive over.  To make a long story a little shorter, at the time of this writing on Sunday evening, Mom is stable and sounded like herself when she called me a few minutes ago. An X-ray of her kidneys revealed that she was severely dehydrated -- which would most likely account for the heart palpitations as well as the fainting and headaches she had experienced. Mom has been admitted to the hospital for the night for observation. She will see her cardiologist in the morning as well as have an additional EKG and blood work performed. I suppose the biggest "miss" about all of this is the reminder of just how far I am from home. Typically, I would be the one handling Mom and Dad's medical care. Now I can't do that...and the sense of helplessness in these situations is not easy on this hands-on Geriatric care giver. 

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Energy Sappers

I just got back from a much-needed getaway and I'm already writing about energy sappers?!? You have got to be kidding me! Like it or not, we all have certain things that completely wipe us out and drain us of all energy. Often it seems that these things are more pronounced for me immediately after returning from a season of rest....since I'm trying to get back into a normal routine, the things that wear me down suddenly seem more pronounced and impactful.

Here are a few of the things that I know sap my energy...

  • Bursts of busyness followed by absolute calm. I tend to function best when I have a steady stream of activity in my schedule. I can get myself moving and my mind functioning and keep going for most of the day. However, when I find myself with a packed morning that leads into an afternoon that has little activity, I can almost always hang it up. That afternoon is going to drag on forever and my productivity is going to screech to a halt.
  • Feeling under the weather. I'm not sick. I don't feel as though I need to stay in bed all day long, but there is something about my body that is just not quite right. Perhaps I didn't get quite enough rest the night before. Maybe I'm struggling with a slightly stuffy nose or some mild allergies. Whatever it is, I just don't feel 100%....and it takes all of my effort to just push through the day. Honestly, I would prefer a full-on sinus event over these "blah" days because then I actually know what's causing the "run-down" feeling instead of trying to figure out why I'm so tired.
  • Being hot and stuffy. Let's face it.....I have extra padding, so I tend to stay warm during the coldest of months. As Winter turns to Spring and Summer, there are many days where I'm just not sure whether I will need the thermostat set to "heat" or "cool." Then there is the added issue when the heat just become stuffy. It's not unbearably hot; it's just not comfortable. What can I say? I like my creature comforts....and when I get warm, I get drowsy as the afternoon wears on.
The good news is that I can always rest assured that none of the energy sappers will last for too long. Schedules will return to their usual hecticness without a doubt. I will begin to feel like my normal self sooner rather than later. Cooler days are sure to come -- and AC units will ultimately be returned to the School of Music. 😄 The most important factor in managing my energy sappers is managing my attitude. Maybe things are not ideal at the moment....but by choosing to look at those things that ARE right in my world, I begin to find new energy to move ahead and overcome my energy sappers.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Hits and Misses (April 10-16, 2017)

Here's a look back at the week that was......

  • I had a great time experiencing the UIL Choral Competition for the first time this week. Having worked in Texas for 2 years, I was familiar with the concept, but had never seen it first-hand. On Thursday, I accompanied 3 middle school choirs in the competition. I was amazed at the sounds I heard from the young people gathered there. I also got to shadow one of the choirs as they went into the sight reading room. The amount of teaching and preparation that had gone into this five-minute exam was obvious. I'm still learning all of the ins and outs of UIL, but what I've seen so far has been pretty impressive. Looking forward to learning and experiencing more in the years ahead.
  • This week has also seen a lot of recital planning for the 2017-2018 academic year. I've got some exciting music to learn in the months ahead.  I'll begin with a program in Memphis this summer with soprano Sabrina Warren that will include works by Copland, Bernstein, and Britten.  Then I'll shift gears and prepare the year's program for solo piano. If I don't lose my guts, I'm going to do a recital featuring works by American composer Ned Rorem. I'm hoping to take this program on the road throughout the year as well -- so keep an eye out to see if I'm coming to a recital venue near you.  Earlier this semester, two of my colleagues and I formed the Kikean Trio; it's an interesting ensemble with soprano, marimba, and piano. The sounds are really neat! We will use our fall program as a recruitment tool to reach high school students in west Texas and New Mexico; repertoire will include works by Dvorak, Schubert, and Mozart as well as the ensemble's arrangements of Sacred Harp songs. Also in the fall, I'll join forces with mezzo-soprano Hope Thacker to present a program of Rossini, Chaminade, and Elgar. Add to this the WBU production of Hansel and Gretel, a two-piano recital with Richard Fountain and student recitals and you will see that I have a very busy year ahead....and I wouldn't have it any other way.
  • To round out a busy week, I headed to Albuquerque, New Mexico for a few days of quiet and rest. I needed to get alone to clear my head a bit and prepare for the final few weeks of the semester. I was a bit of a hermit on this trip. I was surrounded by people as I went to the movies, dined at some favorite restaurant chains, and worshipped with the congregation of Albuquerque's First Baptist Church, but I intentionally avoided meeting up with friends in the area. (I hope that doesn't sound as horrible when you read it as it did when I wrote it!) It wasn't that I didn't want to catch up with friends that I haven't seen in quite some time.....I just needed some time with my thoughts and my God and to allow some healing to take place. As I'm coming to the end of this escape, I can say with confidence that this was just what I needed and I'm ready to face whatever lies ahead in the coming weeks.
  • While throwing together a bag to head out of town on Friday morning, I set aside clothes that I planned to wear to church on Sunday morning. Nothing extravagant, just something that would look appropriate for Easter Sunday. I decided to hang the garments in the back seat so they would be ready-to-wear when I arrived. Once I checked into my hotel, I went to the car to unload my things....and that's when I realized that my clothes weren't hanging in the back. Were they stolen? No...they were exactly where I hung them in my apartment so I wouldn't forget them! Oh well....that was just another excuse to head out and buy a few new pairs of pants.
  • Income tax season is the worst time of the year for me. I hate pulling together all of the required documents and marching into the tax professional's office. It always feels like I'm playing an unfair game of roulette that I don't want to lose. This year's game was definitely one that I lost.
  • While driving to Albuquerque, I telephoned Mom as you might expect. I talk to her quite frequently in order to stay informed about what is going on in the Geriatric Ward. You can imagine my surprise when Mom informed me that she had spent much of the previous evening in the emergency room with pain in her chest and upper stomach. The doctors checked her out thoroughly and found that her enzymes were not elevated and there was no indication that her heart was in distress. That's good news! However, she proceeded to tell me that she finally heard from her cardiologist a few days ago. A routine echocardiogram revealed that there is elevated pressure on the right side of her heart. The doctor is unsure what is causing the high pressure and has recommended that Mom have a heart cath on Wednesday, April 26. Now if anyone knows me, they know that I am a Momma's boy. My mother is my best friend and the light of my life. Needless to say, I'm not dealing with the thought of her going in for a procedure -- even though I know it is "routine", it doesn't feel that way when it's MY mom on the table -- when I'm 11 hours away in west Texas. The only upside of this is that the doctor does not seem to be terribly concerned about the issue since all of the other tests are coming back clear; our understanding is that he is trying to determine the culprit now in order to avoid future problems down the road. Right now I'm trying to keep a positive attitude and trust that God has got this all under control. We'll just have to see how I continue to do as we get closer to the day of the procedure.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Hits & Misses (April 2-8, 2017)


Here's a look back at the week that was......  

  • What a fulfilling week of music making! Weeks like this remind me of why I have spent my life pursuing this career. On Tuesday, I performed with WBU's Symphonic Band. Earlier that afternoon and again on Wednesday morning, I had the good fortune to hear the choirs from Estacado Middle School here in Plainview under the direction of Chris Kirby. Those kids are making some really beautiful sounds! Thursday took me to Lubbock to hear four young pianists at the Talkington School for Young Women Leaders. These young ladies are preparing to compete in the state level of the UIL solo piano competition this summer and are quite gifted. I look forward to getting to make a return trip to Talkington in the near future to hear how they have continued to improve their pieces. To round out the week, on Saturday afternoon, I rehearsed with the ladies choir from Coronado Middle School in Plainview and played for the closing ceremonies of the local Relay for Life event. So much music in so many different venues with vastly different audiences. Have I mentioned how much I love being a pianist?
  • I also got to hear an incredible concert. On Saturday evening, WBU's choirs joined forces with students from Lubbock Christian University. I can say with certainty that this was one of the best performances I have ever attended in my life. The quality of sound and overall musicianship of all involved was astounding and comparable to the very best professional ensembles around. I was mesmerized throughout the entire concert. So proud of what our students accomplished.
  • In the midst of all the work, there was time for fun. Thursday night's doughnut night was especially needed this week -- by students and faculty alike. It was nice to just relax together for a little while and enjoy a slower pace. I spent Friday evening with some of my colleagues and their children. What was planned to be a night of cards turned into a much needed evening of conversation, laughter and relaxation. It's such a blessing to work in a place where my colleagues are like family to me....and that we all enjoy spending time together outside of the office when we can. I don't take that for granted at all because I've also witnessed what it's like when the opposite is true. 
  • The week was full of rehearsals! Voice students are preparing for preliminary juries this week. (Actually they are really late midterms, but that's a whole different story.) As a result, my calendar was filled with students who needed a little extra coaching as they prepared for the exam. Some were behind schedule because there had been cancelled lessons throughout the semester for various reasons beyond their control. Understandable! Some just needed a reminder that they are prepared. Super! Others have not applied themselves to personal practice on a regular basis and suddenly find themselves in crisis mode. Frustrating! I tried to be supportive throughout the week while also giving honest assessments of where each one was and what needed to happen in the days ahead. The next few days will tell the tale.
  • Nothing is worse than realizing you forgot to put an appointment in your calendar. I had scheduled something tentatively for late in the week, but failed to mark it on my calendar. I assumed it would be finalized quickly. As the crazy week continued, I forgot about the commitment and scheduled other things during that open slot. I had to do some quick shuffling of the schedule when the original appointment was finalized and I realized that I was double booked. Every thing worked out, but I had a few scary moments there as I tried to juggle things around.
  • Birds hate me! The longer I am in Plainview, the more I realize that we have been overrun with birds. I never remember what these "creatures" are actually called, but they are noisy and messy! To make matters worse, the tree outside my apartment is home to these annoying winged beasts, so they wake me with their call every they leave their "gifts" on the hood of my car. I washed the car on Friday afternoon and intentionally parked a little closer to the street than usual to try to keep my car out of the line of fire. These birdies decided to show me who was boss though. I went out later that evening to find one of them standing on the hood of my guessed it.....taking care of business! Really? I can't win!

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

That Was an Adventure

Tuesdays are typically pretty ordinary days. Mornings are spent teaching classes before spending the afternoon dashing between voice lessons and rehearsals. Yesterday was anything but normal.....and quite an adventure.

The morning began as usual with a small group of piano students preparing for the final portion of their piano proficiency. Now that we have passed the section that is arguably the most challenging, the students were relaxed and ready to work on the task at hand. The remainder of the morning's classes had been cancelled late last week, but the reasoning for the cancellation had changed significantly.

Originally, I was scheduled to visit with the students at Estacado Middle School to help them prepare for an upcoming UIL choral competition. Over the weekend, I received the sad news that a member of the church's congregation had passed away and I was asked to play for the service on Tuesday morning. After rescheduling the middle school rehearsal, I was able to participate in this beautiful "home-going" service for Pat Allen. I have never been terribly comfortable playing for funerals. (Is anyone, really?) However, I thought this might be a different circumstance since I had not been acquainted with the family very long and had not built a strong connection. I was definitely wrong; I found myself sitting at the piano wiping away tears (Who moved the box of Kleenex at a time like this?!?!) as I listened to the stories of love, life, and faith shared by those who knew Mrs. Allen best. The family had asked that I play a prelude with hymns of my choice. That's a fairly standard request and something I can do without preparation quite easily. The other portion of their request caught me by surprise -- they asked that I perform Marilyn Ham's arrangement of "Great is Thy Faithfulness" in the middle of the service after a brief slideshow of family photographs. I'm happy to play the hymn at the drop of a hat. It's been in my repertoire since I was a teen and I can pull it up very easily. In my mind, the arrangement seemed so out of place though. I mean, it is lovely, but as it reaches the climax, it becomes so big and majestic. Was it appropriate for a funeral? Shouldn't the music be somber and reflective? I remained perplexed about the upcoming performance as the memorial service began, but my mind was quickly set at ease. It was obvious that this was to be a time of celebration of a life well-lived and of the faithfulness of Pat's Heavenly Father who had carried her through challenging times. So I played to express the confidence and hope the family had in the unchanging faithfulness of God.

After the funeral, I briefly returned to campus for a final rehearsal before the Symphonic Band's performance that evening. Rehearsal was uneventful. Now it was time to head to Estacado for the first portion of rehearsals. The afternoon's choir consisted entirely of pre-teen boys. This should be boisterous and interesting to say the least!

 How did I get involved with playing with the Middle School choir? Earlier this semester, I was contacted by two WBU alumni who needed an accompanist for competition. Since I wasn't busy at the moment, I agreed and thought it would be a great way to begin building personal relationships with these musicians I didn't know very well. When I entered Chris Kirby's classroom, my expectations were actually quite low. How much can a person really do with a bunch of 12-year-old boys? As the boys filed into the room, I knew I was definitely on an adventure. They were loud. There was activity everywhere and Chris initially struck me as such a meek man. How would he manage to gain control? Then he opened his mouth to begin his class....and wow, did these kids respond! Sure, there were the typical disruptions that you would expect from this age group when a visitor was in the room. But I was greeted with warm sounds and attention to musical details that brought the simple arrangements to life and was a highlight of the afternoon.

 As though the day had not been interesting enough, I had one final engagement. I performed with the WBU Symphonic Band. This was not my first experience in this setting. I had played in instrumental ensembles at Pepperdine and Union as well as playing with the WBU Band on tour earlier this semester. What made this performance different was the fact that I was not just an ensemble member -- for the first time in my career, I would appear on stage as a featured soloist. The piece was John Barnes Chance's Introduction and Capriccio for piano and 24 winds. I was experiencing so many emotions backstage as the concert began. Would my energy level hold up after the weekend's illness? Had I prepared well enough? Was the performance going to be well received? Would they like me? I found myself wishing my family members were in the audience -- that's becoming a recurring theme these days --  and suddenly found a calm mind as I recalled performances that they had experienced with me over the years -- the good, the bad, and the awful ones! The evening's performance went quite well. I was very pleased with how I played personally and received good comments from the audience. After the concert, students invited me to join them for dessert. How tired was I after this long, adventurous day? You be the judge.....I'll just give you this bit of information....I turned down an opportunity to satisfy my sweet tooth so I could go home and crawl in bed!

Monday, April 3, 2017

Hits and Misses - the return

It's been a while since I've stopped long enough to post to my blog. Life got busy. I lost inspiration for writing. Blogging became a chore rather than a release. I didn't need a job....I needed an outlet. Now I'm giving it a go once again. I make no promises about the frequency of posts or their quality. I'm simply trying to feel my way back into writing again. One thing that I consistently enjoyed (when I had time to write) were these weekly here's a look back at the week that was.... HITS
  • The week featured several performances. I was happy with my playing during the Music Achievement Awards early in the week, but as things went on, my playing went downhill. (More on that later....)
  • Got to spend the entire weekend lounging around my apartment. Enjoyed watching movies and getting some much needed rest. Didn't like the reason I had to stay around, but the end result was perfect.
  • I've been experiencing some arm pain this week. It's not uncommon when I do too much playing without allowing adequate time for rest. I do it to myself -- I know -- but sometimes there are responsibilities that cannot be avoided. Thankfully a few days of rest completely away from the piano combined with some anti-inflammatory drugs and arm braces have gotten me back to normal at the end of the weekend.
  • Since I've been pushing myself so hard for so long, I found myself horribly sick all weekend. That's the reason I didn't -- er, couldn't -- leave the apartment. I think it was a small bug that was exasperated by fatigue. Over the weekend, I spent nearly 35 hours in bed. I think it's clear that what was desperately needed was some sleep. Here's to trying to make sure I don't get in that situation again in the near future.
 And there you have first post after a long absence! Hope you have a good week and that we see each other again soon as we continue Livin' Life.