I love teaching music. There is something so intrinsically satisfying about coaxing the perfect sound from a group of young singers. It’s magical. Otherworldly. Eternal. Made all the better when their faces light up with the recognition that they are creating something beautiful and intensely personal with each other. A precious gift for anyone who is fortunate enough to be listening. A gift for themselves that will stay with them long after their tenure in choir is over.
I have sixty-two singers in my senior high choir this semester. By far the largest high school choir I’ve ever worked with. And they are an excellent group. Not perfect, but really good kids that I enjoy working with so much. Six of them will be auditioning for membership in the Arkansas All State Choir on February 6. What a joy if all of them make it!
Tonight I watched 13 Going on 30 which somehow seemed a wildly appropriate movie to view after spending most of my day on a choir trip with a busload of teenagers.
As you may or may not know, the movie features many hit songs from the 80’s one of which is Pat Benatar’s rendition of “Love Is A Battlefield.” I love the scene with Jenna Rink, the 13-year old with the 30-year old body, talking to her 13-year old neighbor. Jenna says, “Just remember love is a battlefield,” and the neighbor girl replies, “Wow! That’s deep.” Later in the movie, Jenna hosts a pajama party with a pack of 13-year olds in attendance and they sing most of Pat Benatar’s tune while jumping around on a bed. Which, in turn, reminded me of a scene from my life in the 80’s.
I was a newlywed. My husband was in the Navy stationed in Virginia Beach, Virginia. We lived in a townhouse about three blocks from the beach. Which sounds great, but the townhouses were very cheaply constructed with the thinnest walls imaginable and no carpet on the floors to help absorb sound. Our neighbors in the adjoining townhouse were Pat Benatar fans. In fact, the man’s wife thought she really was Pat Benatar. They had a band which rehearsed in their livingroom at all hours of the day and night.
My husband was on early watch for a month requiring him to get up at 3AM and be at his post on base at 4AM. After the second night of being awakened around midnight to Mrs. Pat Benatar Wannabe singing “Love Is A Battlefield” accompanied by electric guitars and drums, my husband decided to have a talk with the neighbors. His talk did absolutely no good whatsoever. We were awakened at 1AM the following morning by the rock band in full swing next door. So my husband did what any sleep-deprived, grouchy sailor would do; he called the cops.
The situation deteriorated even more from that point. An apartment at a better location became available so my husband and I just moved. My marriage didn’t last, but my aversion to Pat Benatar’s music survived for many years.
“We are young. Heartache to heartache we stand. No promises, no demands. Love is a battlefield.” Wow! That’s deep.
My all state choir student and I will be leaving bright and early Thursday morning for the all state conference and clinic in Hot Springs. I told my student I was sorry he had to spend Valentine’s Day with me instead of some hot chick. That dear boy told me he didn’t mind. How sweet is that?!! He will spend most of his time in choir rehearsals and I will
spend most of my time shopping attend the workshops that are offered to keep us directors busy. The conference ends on Saturday with the all state choir and band concerts which are held at the Hot Springs Convention Center.
This is the big bulletin board in the hall outside my elementary classroom. I put up a big ‘welcome back to school’ display on it one year and the next thing I knew I was taking care of it on a permanent basis. I don’t mind. I use it shamelessly to promote the music program.
I recently had my senior high and middle school choirs do a writing assignment. They had to write several paragraphs telling me what role music had in their lives and why they were in choir. Here are some of my favorite excerpts from their papers.
Choir helps us find our heart song or the song inside of me. 6th grade
The role that music plays in my life is making me feel good about myself. 6th grade
I want to learn all I can and pass it down to my children…. 12th grade
You get all these beautiful voices blended together and it sounds really good. 10th grade
I believe that if your life has no rhythm then you can never accomplish your goals in life. 9th grade
It (choir) makes me feel like I am needed, like I’m a part of something. 10th grade
I am in choir because I love to sing and it makes me feel good, it lets me be who I want to be! 8th grade
Music helps me be strong and gives me inspiration to make the grades I make and to be the person I want to be. 10th grade
The sound of our voices are completely cool especially how they blend. 9th grade
Music helps me express how I am feeling. I hate to talk to people about my feelings, but music helps me alot. 8th grade
Choir helps me feel more brave and confident. 6th grade
The tornado sirens went off as we were waiting for all state choir audition results. We had to move all the students to an interior hallway. The students were wonderful; no panic even though there were a few tears of fear. They all trouped into the hallway and immediately dropped into the crouched positions that we have to force them into during tornado drills. Let me just give a witness…..those drills are worth every bit of inconvenience they may cause during the course of a normal school day! I will never gripe about having to do them again. A tornado hit a small community about 6 miles from where the auditions were held. There were fatalities in that community. My students, our bus driver and I waited out the storm in a pizza place where we watched the weather action on TV. We did get pelted with some hail and heavy rain, but other than that we made it home safely.
My feverish student made the Arkansas All State Choir!!!!! I’m proud of all my kids and am thrilled to have an all stater, but most of all I thank the good Lord above for watching over us and getting us home safe and sound.
Well, here they are. The super heroes of my high school choir. The students who qualified to audtion for the Arkansas All State Choir. The auditions were scheduled for Friday, February 1, but they had to be postponed due to a winter storm that hit the northern part of the state on the Thursday before the audition date. The new audition date is tomorrow, February 5.
I am really uptight, nervous, stomach tied in knots which is very unusual for me. Normally, I’m very cool, calm and collected before a big performance or audition date. I can’t figure out if I’m nervous because of the auditions or because of the weather forecast. We have a large storm system moving across the state tomorrow with severe thunderstorms, hail, and tornadic winds all scheduled to appear. As if that weren’t enough, one of my students was diagnosed with the flu this morning and will be unable to audition and another of my super heroes ran a low-grade fever all day today and, depending on how he feels in the morning, may or may not be able to audition. So I’m dealing with nerves tonight.
The journey to all state auditions actually begins in August when my students receive and begin working on their all region audition music. All region auditions are held in October and only the top thirteen scores in each voice classification are eligible to move on to the all state level. These top students must learn five new pieces of advanced-level music in preparation for all state. That may not sound like too large of a musical hurdle to jump, but it is actually very difficult. The all state audition music is too advanced for my entire high school choir to master so my four super hero musicians have been working on their own and at after school rehearsals with me in preparation for audition day. It takes a lot of self-discipline, desire and dedication as well as musical skills and talent to become an all state choir member. And the competition is brutal because all the students who audition are the super heroes of their own school choirs.
So here I am dealing with nerves tonight. Hoping that the power of the storms in the forecast will recede and fade away while the power of my students’ young voices will gain strength and blow the judges away.
Every Monday I have after school bus duty which means I stand outside rain, sleet, snow or shine and monitor the elementary students who ride buses home from school. It takes about 45 minutes so in between cautioning students not to run and settling disputes over who is first in line, I get to hear some interesting conversations.
Today a group of 4th and 5th grade girls were talking about Hannah Montana. Some of the girls had been to a Hannah Montana concert and the overall theme of their conversation was very positive. In the midst of my eavesdropping, a third grade boy approached me and said, “Ms. T., I don’t know why they like Hannah Montana so much. She’s just going to end up like Lindsay Lohan and Britney Spears.” I know the little boy was probably repeating something he’d heard one or both of his parents say, but it struck me as so cynical. And very sad. Our children so desperately need positive role models, but, unfortunately, they are few and far between in our current crop of youthful celebrities.
Last Friday I took my fifth grade choir to sing at the State Capitol in Little Rock. Aren’t they a good looking group of singers?!!
The Arkansas State Capitol is a smaller version of our nation’s Capitol. Both buildings are magnificent structures.
Isn’t this a beautiful shot looking down from the rotunda? The kids sang from the opposite side.
Each county in Arkansas has a Christmas ornament on the tree. I love the ‘Joy’ banners. One of them would cover the entire roof of my house.
The Arkansas State Capitol is especially beautiful during the holiday season, don’t you think? I love taking my fifth grade choir over to sing every year. The atmosphere is so festive and it is the only opportunity that some of my students will ever have to see our State Capitol.