Sunday, October 30, 2011

The "Sweet" Sounds of Broadway

The Set-Up

With the help of many, we transformed the cafeteria for our night of music and desserts.

I regret not getting more pictures of the table decorations, but above is an example of one of them. One of the Moms made beautiful playbills and had the wood shop teacher make wooden stands for them to go on each table. All of the musicals we performed from were represented on all the various tables.

One of the dads made signs to hang over the tables indicating which kind of dessert was at which table and the cute moms wore matching aprons from one of the mother's daughter's wedding. They planned ALL of that. I had hardly anything to do with the execution of serving the desserts that were purchased by the audience members.

The Desserts

Two of the mothers were responsible for the dessert donations we received. One mom called all over and got donations from The Do-Do in SLC, Costco, Sam's Club, Village Inn, and The Cheesecake Factory. Two days before the concert, another mother secured 150 desserts from Leslie's Bakery because of connections her family has with the owner. We lucked out!! We were able to keep almost 100% of the proceeds from the dessert sales.

The moms came armed with whipped cream and toppings to make the store bough cheesecake fancy (see above). These ladies were so impressive.

The Performers

What I would most love is to fill this blog post with pictures of my sweet students. They are the best part and this whole concert was about them. They looked beautiful and did so well. But, it's against my personal blogging policy to post pics of my kids so you'll have to just come to my next concert to see them :-).

The kids sang their music in three different sets: Rodgers and Hammerstein (including "Oklahoma" and "I Enjoy Being a Girl"); Disney (including "You'll Be in My Heart" from Tarzan and "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" from Lion King); and "Classic Favorites" (including "The Impossible Dream" from Man of La Mancha and "If I Were a Rich Man," from Fiddler on the Roof, featuring one of my students on the violin). The kids ended with "For Good" from Wicked, which they dedicated to their former teacher who retired before they could say goodbye.

One of my special guest performers at the concert was the father of one of my students. He sang, "Return to Pooh Corner." I loved watching the faces of all the audiences members as they smiled reminiscently and mouth along the words. He is incredibly talented and sounded fabulous.

Above is our show-stopper, Phaidra, the drama teacher at Highland and a good friend of mine. She was the featured performer of the night and completely stole the show. Everyone loved her! She performed a song called, "Gone to Nashville" from the musical Nunsense. It was hilarious and her vocals were killer.

A special thanks to Tessa Hendrickson for the bridesmaid dress we bought for her wedding but never used (we switched plans before the wedding). It has served me on several occasions, like tonight's concert.

I am so lucky to be friends with Emily. She is so talented and it has been so fun to collaborate over the years. I pre-student taught with her at Dixon and now she has been my accompanist twice both at Dixon and at Highland. We joked that once her cute kids are grown and she's back in the classroom, I will accompany for her while I raise mine :-).

I wasn't planning on talking at all at the concert, but at the very end I knew I wouldn't forgive myself if I didn't take a second to thank all the parents and teachers who made this night possible. I have written about 20 thank you notes so far and am still not finished. They blew me away with their unfailing support.

The Audience:

The kids did an amazing job of spreading the word. The place was packed! We probably had about about 400 guests. We sold about that many dessert tickets at $5 each, bringing in about $2,000. Our expenses were around $500 (accompanist, dress hemming, decorations, extra desserts, fundraiser incentives, etc.), so we walked away with $1500. While this couldn't take us on a trip to New York by any means, the concert definitely served it's purpose for this year. Our principal asked us to fundraise without going door to door and using the talents of the kids in the choir and that's what we tried to do. We couldn't charge for the singing (due to copyright laws) so we sold donated desserts.

I hit the jackpot when Heavenly Father assigned families. My mom came all the way from California just because she knew how much I needed her there for my very first high school concert. Christina and Jer broke away from their extremely busy lives to come to SLC and be there for me. It meant so much!

My dear friends from my ward came to support me. It was these friends who lovingly told me after the concert that two of the songs I included in my Disney set weren't actually Disney (Somewhere Over the Rainbow and Shrek). I was mortified. That's quite a glaring error.

Speaking of amazing families, my grandma and aunt came! Having them there meant the world.

Jer took some profile shots when we were unaware. Can you tell my sister and I are related?

If you look closely, you can see Sister Payne behind me! She and Caytlin surprised me. I had no idea they were coming! It was so fun.

Special thanks to Daniel, who I didn't get a picture with, for taking half of these pictures (my mom and Jer got the other half). He has been such a rock for me the past two years. I can count on his support and help for anything.

While I can come up with a million and two things I wish I had done differently as a director, I can't complain. Thanks to the support of so many, we pulled it off and began a new tradition at Highland that I look forward to continuing in the years to come!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


Did anyone else realize a group from my alma mater, BYU, is competing on the Sing-Off? GO VOCAL POINT! Do I need to remind everyone that I took pictures with them this summer in Nauvoo?! Be still, my heart! I guess not being able to sleep in the wee hours of the morning has some advantages! Thank you, Hulu.

Midnight Musings

Well, it's technically not midnight. It's 2 in the morning. I can't sleep. I made the mistake of falling asleep at 9 p.m. after an amazing dinner with Mommy (in which I led us all over the city of West Valley trying to find a restaurant I could have sworn I saw that one time next to that one place...). I woke up about 45 minutes ago and started thinking about all the little things that are worrying me about my concert tomorrow (which is actually today).

1. Am I going to remember to put my camera in my bag? I can't forget to put my camera in my bag.

2. Am I going to remember to give my accompanist the gift basket that will be presented to the top ticket seller half way through the program so she can keep track of it and give it to the narrator at the appropriate time?

3. Are black nylons going to look stupid with my dress? Why, oh why did I go to bed before Celeste came home from work so I could try on my whole outfit for her? I'm REALLY going to need a second opinion on this one.

4. Will the audience be able to hear my choirs? We're going into uncharted territory by having this performance in the cafeteria. What if they get uncomfortable in their stools at the tables that don't have backs for support?

5. Will the P.A. system, on loan from a parent, actually play a CD/Ipod like I've been promised it will? Who the heck is going to press play the two times we have to use it? I didn't assign anyone to do that! Oh, shoot!

6. Will my sophomore boys pull through on, "Kiss the Girl" a capella, now that we've added some senior boys in to help them at the last minute?

7. Am I going to go into freaky-psycho-stressed-out-don't-mess-with-me mode on my students, which I have a habit of defaulting to on concert days? Or am I going to be able to keep myself calm, cool, collected, mature, and responsible in front of 400 audience members, 80 students, and countless parent volunteers?

8. Will I remember to get the cash box from the treasurer before he leaves for the day?

9. Am I being unrealistic by thinking I'll have time to run home, curl my hair, and change before the concert begins?

10. Will I pass the test? After 15 years, I've waltzed in (or so it seems to some very die-hard devoted teacher-before-me fans) with my own style and way of doing things. Will I be able to show these parents and kids that change doesn't always have to be bad? Will they see in me potential to make choir a good experience for their children this year?

The only thing that brings me comfort in this moment is knowing that 24 hours from now, it will all be over. Until next time, of course!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Widow's Might

For our stake conference this year, the Taylorsville YSA stake organized a day of service in response to President Eyring's challenge in the April 2011 general conference:

"To commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Church welfare program, members worldwide will be invited to participate in a day of service. Leaders and members will seek revelation as they design whatever the projects will be.
I will make three suggestions as you plan your service project.
First, prepare yourself and those you lead spiritually. Only if hearts are softened by the Savior’s Atonement can you see clearly the goal of the project as blessing both spiritually and temporally the lives of the children of Heavenly Father.
My second suggestion is to choose as recipients of your service people within the kingdom or in the community whose needs will touch the hearts of those who will give the service. The people they serve will feel their love. That may do more to make them feel glad, as the song promised, than will meeting only their temporal needs.
My last suggestion is to plan to draw on the power of the bonds of families, of quorums, of auxiliary organizations, and of people you know in your communities. The feelings of unity will multiply the good effects of the service you give. And those feelings of unity in families, in the Church, and in communities will grow and become a lasting legacy long after the project ends."
Our day of service was called, "The Widow's Might" Around 1,000 young single adults from our stake teamed up and visited between 500-700 widows from surrounding stakes in the Salt Lake area. It was an incredible experience.

We split up in to teams of three and each got 2-3 "widows" (some were divorced single women or older couples) to serve on Saturday morning. Prior to the service, we called and set up an appointment with them. In our ward, we were short on people to meet the needs of all the widows on our list. Daniel generously offered his time to serve these sweet people with Michelle and me.

Our first stop was at the home of an older couple who are both in their 80's and disabled. The husband is a world war II veteran. He is hunched over and has difficulty moving around. We were able to mow their lawn for them. I hate to admit the fact that I've never actually mowed a lawn before. I got the "lawn mowing 101" crash course from Michelle and Daniel. Over and over again, the sweet husband said, "I don't think you know just how much I appreciate this." It's clear that he has taken pride in his yard in the past and not being able to function like he used to must be extremely difficult.

Second, we visited a sweet widow who is a younger grandma and dedicates her life to service. She didn't have much for us to do, as she is quite capable on her own, but she did let us visit with her and asked us to get rid of a book shelf in her yard that she didn't have a truck to move. She sent us off with homemade wheat bread. It was fun to hear a little about her history and career in education. She had such a cute nine-year-old granddaughter with her who chose the song for us to sing before we left. She picked, "Book of Mormon Stories." That was a throw back!

I was probably most moved by our visit with the last sister. She was probably in her mid 50's and was completely debilitated by an illness that struck her a few years ago. During the worst part of her illness, her husband left her after thirty years of marriage. Seeing her as she was in her current circumstances was such a stark contrast from the person she described she was before these significant challenges overcame her. She got a bachelor's in English and a master's degree in chemistry and worked as a toxicologist. She loved dolphins and traveling. When we saw her, she seemed dragged down by the burdens of life, sad, lonely. We were overcome by a desire to visit her more often and become part of her life. Talking with her was a joy. She obviously had passion about certain topics and interesting insights to offer.

We made new friends yesterday and it was a beautiful thing to be a part of. I feel like our stake leaders did an amazing job fulfilling the goals that Elder Eyring set in his talk.

That evening, we had a session of stake conference with just our stake. They did a moving video presentation on the service project from that morning. The speakers that day, including one of the widows served, were powerful. It was an incredible meeting.

The next day, we had a regional stake conference in the conference center.

Elder Bednar was the presiding officer and concluding speaker of the meeting. He talked about the difference between testimony and conversion. Not surprisingly, it was a fabulous address.

After conference, a group of us got together at Michelle's for lunch. We made taco salads. Due to a lack of chairs, we had to move the table in the living room so a couple of us could sit on the couch. Very single adult-esque.

What a fulfilling weekend, in so many more ways than one!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Package from Mom

Today, I found a package on my door step! It was such a fun surprise and provided for a wonderful family home evening at my apartment. I wasn't feeling well tonight and I convinced my friend Michelle to have a girls night for FHE at my house.

I made a table centerpiece out of the place card holders I received in my package. My mom knows how much I love putting place cards on the table for special dinners. The cute ribbon I tied on the pumpkins (Michelle's idea) also came in my package.

Then Michelle and I went and got pumpkins and a sugar cookie mix from Walmart.

Using the apron from my package...

...and the festive sprinkles...

...we made Halloween cookies.

And no "girls night" is complete without painting nails.

I used the crackle nail polish Anna gave me for my birthday on my fingernails. I love it because it looks looks very Halloweeny.

Then, I attempted black and orange on my toes. The colors I have aren't exactly right, but this is as close as I came:

Thanks, Mom, for making Halloween fun!

Sunday, October 16, 2011


I experienced the word "thrill" in two very different ways yesterday.

The first is the kind of thrill where a dear friend is getting married and you couldn't be happier for her because there isn't a person out there who deserves it more than she does...congratulations, Kelly!

The second was the kind of thrill where you go see Thriller at the Covey Arts Center in Provo and squeal like a little girl because little pretend zombies half your age are creeping around you in the lobby and getting up in your face just to make you squirm because it's Halloween and they can.

Have I ever mentioned how much I don't like Halloween?

My roommates got a kick out of my obvious and real fear for kids pretending to be scary. I didn't even want to leave the theater at intermission because of those things.

At one point, I decided to face my fear head on. One of the zombie people was crawling around on the ground. I got down on her level and stared her down, inches from her face, and said, "Two can play at this game." She won.

Highlight of the evening was when Krista got called up on stage right before intermission. The three "murderers" pretended to cut off her foot to eat and then chased her around with a chain saw. Luckily, there was a random man near her in the front row for her to grab onto and hide behind. She had to apologize to him later for invading his personal space without permission. It was hilarious. She was such a good sport.

Lindsay thought it would be a terrific idea after the concert was over to tell one of the little zombie girls to follow me outside and down the sidewalk. Here is a picture sequence of that particular chain of events.

The dancing was incredible. It was a fun show to see with cool costumes and some very interesting ideas. A little dark at times for my taste (I really never have liked being scared or Halloween things in general), but hands down worth it to see the talent of the Odyssey dance company.

And I really hated those zombie creatures.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Nuts and Bolts

It's all starting to come together!

This may be the biggest scale production I've ever be in charge of, although I can take little to no credit for everything that has been going on behind the scenes.

One of the moms printed out beautiful pictures of each musical we are singing from and mounted them on gold and black card stock. We had them laminated and she asked the wood shop teacher to make little wooden blocks with slots to put the pictures in. She is going to spray paint them black. It's going to look so cute! She also ordered musical note ribbon online to go on the tables.

A different mom is gathering all 30+ tablecloths that we need for the round tables in the cafeteria and the dessert tables. Another mom on the decorations committee is bringing some beautiful candles and candlestick holders that we can't light but that will look fabulous on the tables.

Another mom made some very cool tickets for my students to sell in advance. The kids seem excited about it. I may have offered the kids a reward for every single male they sell to between the ages of 24 and 31. I think it has been a big motivator for some.

Yet another mother got dessert donations from Costco, Sam's Club, The Cheesecake Factory, and The Do Do restaurant in SLC. She and a crew of mothers are bringing serving dishes and utensils from home and manning the dessert stations.

One of my student's fathers is an incredible guitarist and singer. He is going to sing, "Back to Pooh Corner" at the end of our Disney set as a guest performer. The drama teacher at my school is also performing as a guest artist. She's incredible!

A mother came in today to confirm that her husband would be recording the entire thing and they would give it to me on a DVD so I could show my classes.

The mother of one of my freshman students came last week to measure all the girls who needed their dresses hemmed in the sophomore choir and she took them home to hem them.

I got an email today from the mom who is in charge of putting together a nice looking program for the concert. I am not good with formatting, so I gave her all the information and asked her to make it look pretty. She's going to send me a draft on Tuesday.

My dear friend Em came over last night for over an hour and a half so she and I could practice the music together (she is my accompanist). Aside from being SO good to see her, it was so nice to have a chance to practice conducting a little bit.

Can you see why I am so overwhelmed with gratitude right now for the families of my students? It really is crazy. I am so, so thankful for all the support. Because of them, we might be able to help this program grow!

Today, the madrigals' dresses arrived. We only needed to exchange three, which was a mini miracle in and of itself. I was SO worried we wouldn't be able to get the exchanged sizes in time for the concert. The style dress the girls chose is new and popular and took a long time to come in. I ordered them probably 4-6 weeks ago. The guy from the company who I called wasn't too optimistic either. He said he'd check, but he didn't think there would be any extras in stock. While on hold, I uttered a quick prayer for the dresses to come on time. It seems like a little thing, but for the three girls who don't get to wear their dresses at the concert, it's a huge deal. When he came back on the line, the first thing he said was, "Good news!" Wahoo! Apparently, his boss had ordered extras specifically for exchanges and they had the three sizes we needed. Blessings!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Festivities of Fall

I am soooo behind on blogging. That's probably a good thing, because it must mean I'm busy, right? Riiiiight. Or maybe just one episode too many of Law and Order...

Homecoming Assembly:

The madrigals have a tradition on the day of the homecoming assembly to invite alumni back for a potluck luncheon. This year, the choir wanted to honor the choir teacher who retired suddenly this summer (thus opening the position for me).

My student choir council organized the food and decorations. I feel like I'm in a parallel universe! (Please excuse the poor quality of the phone pics...wish I'd brought my real camera.)

We prepared the song, "For Good" to sing for her. One of my students spoke before they sang and he got choked up as he expressed his gratitude to her. Then, as they were singing, one of the soloists broke down bawling mid-solo. Pretty much most of the choir (and their former teacher!) was crying after that. The song was still so beautiful and I think it was really good for both the kids and their sweet teacher who had put in 15 wonderful years at my school. The kids also pooled money together and got her a $50 gift card to the Cheesecake Factory.

Okay, so I'd be lying if I said that part of me didn't feel a LITTLE, teensy, itsy bitsy bit bad by their obvious display of emotion over seeing their former teacher and bidding her farewell. But I had to remind myself how I felt leaving my choir teacher behind and give myself the, "This is normal" pep talk. I'm fine now. I promise.

If I Were a Rich Man

One of my favorite things to have the kids do is reflect on their pieces and apply them to their own lives. I try to have them do a written response on a prompt inspired by one of their songs every couple weeks. For my sophomores, I asked them to write about what they would buy if they were rich, just like Tevya describes in the famous song from Fiddler on the Roof. I told them to give specific details just like he does. Some of the responses absolutely did me in. I love how the personalities of each student come shining through in their ideas and writing. Here are my top ten favorite responses in random order (betcha can't tell which students are girls and which are boys...):

Student #1

1) I would by a house with 4 bathr0oms and 8 bedrooms
2) I would adopt children

Student #2

I would buy a big barn house 20 minutes from the city. The top floor would have a giant and quiet yoga studio. I would have a big white kitchen and a room for my paints, drawings, and pottery wheel. I would have a giant garden so all my food would be organic. I would travel the world on humanitarian trips.

Student #3

[...] I would also buy a one way ticket to Italy. In Italy I would buy a huge Italian villa with a personal gondolla driver and river.

Student #4

If I were a very rich woman, I'd buy a cannon 450d, with lenses of many varieties. I want a mountain with fresh water lakes, birds, meadows, creeks, and only me. Well, I might bring along my family (maybe) or just my friends.

I also want to tour all of Europe, and its ancient-ness, including, Greece and Rome and stuff.

And charity (50%).

Student #5

If I was a rich man I would buy a black camaro with black rims and a big bass! I would also buy a big house up on the mountain with a huge pool, a couple bowling lanes, a big golf cart with a stereo and basketball court in the basement.

Student #6

I would go shopping worldwide and get all there cool clothes. I would also get me a mantion; my living room would be pink zebra with hello kitty. My living room would be red black and cheetah with a huge plasma TV [...]

Student #7

I would donate half of it to orphanages. [...] I would spend the other half on my moms side of the family. Not my dads because they already have enough money. [...]

Student #8

I would buy my mom and dad new stuff and myself an Audi R8 Spyder. Then I would donate some to charity and put the rest away for college and for later in life for me and my family. Ski passes for all over the place and get new ski stuff. Invest in stock market to double or triple my money.

Student #9

I would sing the song "If I had a million dollars" but I would change the lyrics to "I have an x amount of dollars" because obviously I would have more than a million dollars. I would uy a home and my dream car. Which is an Aston Martin. Then I would probably invest the rest in a stock market and multiply my money to use it in the future.

Student #10

I would buy
  • the white house
  • a ranch
  • new T.V.
Somewhere Over the Rainbow

One of my choirs is singing, "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" and for one of their reflections, I asked them to write where their "somewhere over the rainbow" is. Here was my favorite answer, written by one of my quieter male students.

I don't have a specific place "over the rainbow," but I do, however, have someone that when I am with them, all places are "over the rainbow." She is my best friend, and I am always with her. I am closer to her than I am, or ever have been with anyone else. She is there for me when I need someone, and I am ALWAYS there for her, or at least I try to be. Anywhere I am with her is better because she is here.

Crazy Corn Maze

Below are Eric, Katie, Chad, Nathan, Michelle, recent corn maze survivors:

For FHE we went to a corn maze. I have never really caught the vision of a corn maze, as I spend enough time lost as it is. I don't feel like doing it on purpose is the text book definition of a good time. Last night, however, was a blast. We somehow formed this little group of five when we were all outside waiting to go in. Anyway, we just kind of traipsed around in there laughing and joking with no real rhyme or reason to what we were doing. But we all stuck together the entire time, even though we'd just met two of our group that night! It was a bonding experience for sure. We even shared a group hug inside the corn maze when one of our members got lost and the other went to go find him and then he got lost and we finally reunited.

(The other girl besides me is Michelle. We have become the best of friends since both moving in to the ward at the exact same time. I don't know what I would have done if I hadn't met her! We like to plan social events together.)

And now, for the most important of all...


Here is a math problem for you.

What does




More love than a heart can hold.

Happy Birthday tomorrow, Ella Bella.

I love you because you're a fighter.
I love you because you're curious.
I love you because you are an explorer.
I love how full of life you are.
To be honest, baby girl, I love everything about you.