Monday, October 29, 2012


Do you ever have moments where you have one or more of the following thoughts?

1) Did I choose the wrong career?
2) Do I have any idea what I'm doing at my job?
3) Am I qualified to do what I do?
4) Would the high school choral world be better off if I left it to someone else?

I am sitting in grad school in my "history and philosophy of music education" class and having all of these thoughts. At once. 

I'm out of my league here. Way out of my league. Do I even like music? Or teaching?  I don't understand any of my readings.  I can't remember anything I read after I read it. I therefore can't motivate myself to read. If I really loved this, wouldn't I eat up every word?

I know when I hear a poor tone quality that it needs to change. But do I know how to change it? I know when my students are singing flat. But how do I help them sing in tune? I have no idea.

I am panicking. What am I doing here in this classroom right now? At Highland?

Friday, October 26, 2012

The Sweet Sounds of Spirituals

This year, our now annual dessert night choir fundraiser was entitled, "The Sweet Sounds of Spirituals."  My students sang songs such as Amazing Grace, Wade in the Water, and more. I bought a new shirt for the event (which is an improvement from me trying to buy  whole new outfit every time. I'm exhibiting a tiny bit more self-control!).

I had some AMAZING parents handle the fundraiser side of the evening. A couple moms headed up the decorations and one mom headed up the desserts.  Then about 10-12 moms helped serve, sell tickets, and hand out programs. It was so neat.

 A group of my students played some jazz music and a couple tuba duets for people as they ate their desserts.

All the desserts were purchased from either Sam's Club or Costco. I was so impressed with how beautiful they looked. The mom in charge is a caterer and knows how to present things beautifully!

From 7-8, guests ate dessert and then moved in to the auditorium where we had a jazz CD playing until the program began.

I tried something new this year by putting all 101 kids up front in their different choirs.  I asked the tech crew to switch the lights to whichever choir was singing.  The kids who weren't singing sat on the steps.  It made things go a lot quicker, although there were some unanticipated issues with the lights and sound.  It also helped keep the audience interested.  Despite the hiccups, I want to try it again next year, with some modifications. 
On the back of the program, I had to thank my moral support, Michelle Miller...
...and David Wade!

Having a Ball in the Fall!

For my fall break, my sweet mama came up from California since I couldn't make the trip down due to previous commitments.  On Friday, we started the morning with a ray of sunshine! Little Rocky, Tina's dance partner's son, came to visit while Christina and Jer and Rocky's parents attended the sealing of Jared and Amy, two fellow ballroom dancers.  Jared has been like family to us and we are so happy for him.

Later that morning, we drove up through Provo Canyon with two specific purposes: 1) See the fall leaves and 2) Visit Dairy Keen! Their ice-cream shakes are unparalleled.  And, the owner was diagnosed with Celiac's disease and has now made her restaurant totally gluten friendly. It was thrilling!

On the way home, we went on the Alpine Loop to get a better view of the beauty of the earth!

I got in trouble for ruining a few shots due to bad behavior (see above).
But I gave them (one) normal one! Aren't I nice?

And what would a fall photo shoot be without exuberantly tossing leaves in the air?

We love our mommy!
 The next day, Ms. Paige and her mommy came to visit! It was so fun to get to know Paige's adorable little personality.

The thing I got the biggest kick out of was when Paige came and sat down beside me and placed her hands in her lap exactly like mine were.

Later, she laid down on her stomach by Christina and kept trying to do something with her arms. We finally realized she was trying to prop herself up like Christina was and couldn't quite figure out how to do it. We all died! She is SO cute.

It all went by too fast, but it was a wonderful few days.  Looking forward to the holidays!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Journey to the Land of the Tigers

I had the incredible opportunity yesterday to venture to the small town of Tabiona, Utah, home of the Tabiona Tigers (and my dear friend Celestial, of course!).

Celeste's mom teaches choir at THS. There are about 60 kids in the high school, and they have a choir of about 20. Pretty good percentage if you ask me! Each year, they have a regional performance with three other rural schools in the area: Duschene, Manilla, and Altamonte.  They always invite someone to guest conduct at the concert. Because of my friendship with Celeste, I was able to be part of it. It was an amazing growing experience for me.

I got to Tabby at 9:00 a.m. and rehearsal with the kids started at about 9:15 a.m. in the Tabiona gym/auditorium.  There were about 100 kids between the four schools, from 7th grade through 12th grade.  I chose 3 pieces over the summer for them to learn and the conductors chose three pieces (these were the 6 pieces I conducted).   Then, each school prepared one song to sing alone. 

These three boys had a whistling solo in "Mama Don't Allow." The middle one is Celeste's brother!
I was incredibly humbled by these amazing teachers and students.  They were SO well prepared. They knew every single word, entrance, dynamic, cut-off, etc.  These precious teachers, some of whom don't even get paid, worked so hard to get their students ready. I found out later that the kids did a ton of work on their own with practice CD's made by one of the teachers. All I had to do was come in and add additional artistic elements. I basically got to waltz in and just do the fun stuff without the burden of teaching notes and rhythms! The kids were attentive nearly 100% of the time. It was a conductor's dream.  I made sure to let my own students know when I returned today to my work what good examples these kids were!

This was a first...
 We rehearsed until 10:40 with a cookie break until around 11:00 a.m. Then we rehearsed until lunch at 12:20 p.m.. After lunch, we did a technical run through of the show (walking on and off the stage without singing) and practiced all of our songs on the risers one last time until 2:00 p.m. when rehearsal ended.
Luci and me
 I was so lucky to spend the afternoon at the Van Tassell home.  I went up to Celeste's room, laid on the bed, and promptly fell asleep for 2 hours! I was wiped out. At 5:30 p.m., Luci served an incredible dinner that consisted almost entirely of vegetables from their garden: potatoes, broccoli, carrots, zuchinni, etc. with cheese sauce.  The main course was chicken. It was perfect.

The concert started at 7:00 p.m. and we all met in the library at 6:30. The kids were so cute because they all wore their best formals. I loved seeing all the pretty dresses.


  Duschene did a really cool piece that incorporated the haka.  The boys all ended the song with the pose you see below.

I have worked hard on not moving so much when I conduct so I'm not a distraction. I have come a long way but obviously still have a long way to go!

My cousin Elaine (my mom's niece) lives in Duschene with her family. I was so lucky to get to work with Emmy, my first cousin once removed (Elaine's daughter).  I have never had the chance to know her.  It was wonderful to see Elaine's beautiful family and catch up.  I hope to see them more often!

I drove back right after the concert since I had to teach this morning. I made sure to stop in at the Dairy Keen in Heber on the way home, home of the most amazing shakes in the universe. I am so grateful for everything I learned. I know better where my weaknesses are and am anxious to learn how to improve. I also learned, on a positive note, that I can do something hard and scary and make it through alive.  Oh, and I got to wear my pretty dress for a second time. Yessssss.

On an unrelated note, check out this hottie:
 He got his hairs cut!

Um...I like him.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Sunday Musings

Yesterday, I began work in the Salt Lake City temple. After one day, I can tell this will be one of the most beautiful and important experiences of my life.  By watching others come worship and serve in the temple, I am starting to catch a glimpse of its true purpose.

Case in point. One of my jobs yesterday was to help direct people where to go.  A small, elderly woman came walking towards me. She was also working in the temple. We exchanged hellos and smiles.  She stopped near where I was standing.  Shortly after, an elderly man came walking towards me.  We smiled and I asked how he was doing. He replied that he was well.  He then met the older woman near me and they joined hands He looked back at me over his shoulder and said, "Better." 

For some reason, this very brief exchange overwhelmed me. The temple is a place to form loving and eternal bonds. While the road isn't easy, the covenants we make in the temple help us remember to nurture the relationships we have made with our spouses, our children, and our Father in Heaven.

During my shift, I was also able to see many young couples about ready to be married, sealed for time and eternity. I had to chuckle at the difference in their demeanor from the elderly couple I met earlier. I saw terrified expressions, as if to say, "What did I get myself in to?!" I thought about the love for one another the older couple expressed. I imagined all of the trials they have overcome together. I imagine they probably felt similarly to these young people at one time.  But through the temple, they were able to develop an eternal, Christlike love.  Marriage is a risk, but it is one worth taking. 

This morning, my room was a total and complete disaster (not unusual).  I had a lot of work to do. I decided to clean and organize while listening to the priesthood session from conference, since I had not yet heard or read any of the talks.  I was not prepared for such a powerful meeting.  The priesthood session was an invaluable tribute to men.

Elder Todd Christofferson talked about how men are being portrayed in today's day as weak and incapable. Women are becoming more dominant.  As a result, the education and achievements of men are weakening.  They no longer feel like they have an important role or way to contribute to society. As a woman, I was sad for my gender's part in this. I have seen it happening and have done little to try to curb it's impact.  While we, as women, have sought for equality for so long, we have gone to the other extreme and begun to degrade those who should be our equal partners.  It was humbling and touching for me to hear Elder Christofferson talk about the importance of a man.  I think every woman needs to read this talk.  Can't we all strive to be excellent?

President Monson ended the session talking about the potential of every man. How often do we write people off because of their past experiences? How often do we deem someone incapable without looking to what they can become? I was so moved by this idea of seeing the best in every person. I would hate it if someone looked at all my mistakes in the classroom and said, "She will never be successful as a teacher."  But how often do I do that to others?  What do I do to help others reach their potential instead of writing them off?

The past couple days have given me a lot to think about. Now it's time to be better.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Goblins Running Down the Street...

Melissa, Drew, Dave and I had so much fun on double date round 1 that we decided to go for round 2. This time, Melissa's roommate Karissa and her boyfriend Mark joined us.  Dave had the idea to do something Halloweeny, so we had a Halloween inspired dinner at Many's house and watched a spooky movie.

I thought it would be a kick in the head to show up at the door in costume since Melissa and Drew would not be expecting it.  Dave and I, each on our very own, BOTH thought of cutting holes in old sheets and being ghosts. Aren't we an original pair??

Dave tried to position his sheet to actually look like the shape of a ghost for his photo shoot.
I wasn't quite so realistic (a ghost with monster claws?).
We certainly enjoyed the cleverness of us, whether or not anyone else did!
Here are the three teams of chefs and their handiwork:

Karissa and Mark

Fun fact: Mark and I discovered we served in the same mission. He left Porto Alegre in June 2005 and I got there in August of 2005. Small world!

 Melissa and Drew

 Katie and Dave

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 And here are the finished courses!

Dave and I were in charge of the salad and dessert. We buried surprise critters in the salad.

For dessert, we made "spooky shakes" (aka mint chocolate chip milkshakes).
 We finished off the evening with "The Illusionist." Thanks for hosting, Many! Looking forward to round 3!