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!

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