Life Stuff, Musical Experiences, Songs I've Written

Oops, I Dated a Ben

(Thanks, Andrew! I can’t believe we didn’t come up with that.)

If you’re missing the most recent dramatic season of The Bachelor as much as I am, then this post is for you. Since The Bachelor is perhaps the cheesiest reality show on television (thanks to the wonderful editors who make it seem like girls are having conversations with raccoons…), Boone and I decided to commemorate this cheesiness with a song in the same vein. We present to you “The Ballad of Ben and JoJo”…be prepared to take a musical trip back to 2000…

Will you accept this rose? rose_PNG651


Musical Experiences

Guitar Debut

It’s amazing the things you can get done when you don’t have to go to class. Speaking of class…this semester I have been in a guitar class. I’ve been practicing pretty hard so I decided to document my progress by recording where I am at the end of this semester and comparing it to where I end up next semester after the second guitar foundations class!

This was a surprisingly difficult song to sing. Good job, Sara Bareilles, for making it sound so easy. It took me about a million recordings to get it in one take. Plus I have crazy cats knocking DVD cases all over the place, too.


Until next time, fellow BFs.

Life Stuff, Musical Experiences

My reVOLution

They say you want a reVOLution. I’m not quite sure I was ready for mine. At least not in the ways that I realized. This will be a reflection of my two years with reVOLution – the all-female a cappella ensemble at the University of Tennessee.

I have to say that I’ve been in choirs ever since I can remember. I think the one thing that has been fairly consistent over my almost 26 years on this earth next to my love for music is my participation in choral ensembles. When I came to UT, that didn’t change one bit. In fact, I was immersed even deeper into choral music by trade. Contemporary a cappella, on the other hand, was something that was fairly new to me. “New” as in I had only been introduced to it in college. My freshman year at Maryville College I heard “Off Kilter” for the first time and thought “*GASP* I want to do that………” And so my love for all things contemporary a cappella grew! So you’re not bored with me by the end of this post, I am going to shorten my undergraduate experience with Off Kilter.

It was cool.

After I graduated, I stayed around Maryville College and got to work with Off Kilter helping with rehearsals and sectionals and realized, hey, I can do this…I should do this…I’m going to do this. And I applied for my master’s in choral conducting.

When I auditioned at UT, Dr Batey told me to come and listen to one of the choir concerts. So…in the spring, after I had been accepted and knew that UT was where I was going in the fall, I went to one of the spring concerts. I listened to the choirs and thought “I could get used to this.” And then it was VOLume and reVOLution’s turn to perform.

reVOLution went first.

CAUTION: I am going to speak very openly here. I do not wish to hurt anyone’s feelings, nor do I wish to offend anyone. at all. ever.

I was really upset when I heard them. Why? Because Dr Batey told me that I would be working with that group and I didn’t really think they sounded all that…good…NOW…to their credit, they were a newly formed, student-run group and I was impressed that they were on a choral concert! And, I was really spoiled because the girls section of Off Kilter the year I was working with, was probably one of the best sections there ever had been! So…all of those things combined, my heart sank a little. Then VOLume performed and kicked butt. As always. So my first impression of reVOLution was not that great. All of that being said, however, I was still SUPER STOKED to get to work with an all-female a cappella group throughout my graduate career.

Year One – First Semester of Graduate School:

My first semester was a learning semester. Meagan, the founding director, was still in charge and I was there to watch and learn. Learn about audition procedures, learn about rehearsals, learn about how to schedule concerts, basically she helped me walk the rope that first semester. I taught one or two pieces to the girls but for the most part, she was the leader. We had a couple of concerts and performed on the choral concerts like they always did and it was a blast!

Year Two – Second Semester of Graduate School:

When she left I thought there was no way I would be able to handle the group the way she could. She has excellent piano skills, she is a great leader, and every single girl in that group absolutely adored her. And now, here I come…the NEWBIE…going to take over after one semester of watching. Most to all of the girls in the group had been there since the group had formed. Who was I to take over and “direct”…? We had lost a couple of voices due to scheduling conflicts and I had to reaudition for a couple of parts. We ended up with three new voices and I had to make a quick decision because I wasn’t aware that we would lose singers until the week of our first rehearsal. I picked the girls I thought would blend best with the existing girls in the group. And they didn’t know that I was a “newbie” but I knew that I was a newbie. And the other girls knew I was a newbie…and the first rehearsal was coming up…right around the corner. So, as terrified as I was, I walked into that first rehearsal as prepared as I could be and left that first rehearsal feeling surprisingly relieved. I knew after that rehearsal that the girls weren’t going to tar and feather me for not being Meagan. Tar and feathering was my main concern besides being pelted with stones. From that rehearsal on, I did my best, picked repertoire, asked for arrangements from a great friend, William Brimer, and basically did what I thought needed to be done. I took a different approach than Meagan did. Mainly because I’m not as ‘cool’ as Meagan is. Plus, contemporary a cappella had become my strong suit over the few years prior and I felt right at home in rehearsals. I think the first semester was great because I was able to settle into a routine with the girls and get to know them as a friend/singer rather than immediately establishing myself as “the leader.” By the end of the semester, people began telling reVOLution how great they sounded and how they’ve improved ten-fold since the year before and how much they’ve grown. I’m not sure I realized how much we had grown because to me, it was hard work, and hard work was paying off. Every girl in reVOLution put 110% of themselves into (almost) every rehearsal. And I knew that if they were there 110%, I needed to be there 210%. I spent at least an hour and a half outside each rehearsal looking over the music and another hour playing parts before each rehearsal since my piano skills were not stellar. By the end of the year, I was more than pleased with the progress they had made and was very proud of the skills I had acquired as well!

Year Two: Third Semester of Graduate School

I had a fairly busy summer and didn’t have much of a chance to pick repertoire for reVOLution until a couple of weeks before school started. reVOLution doesn’t audition until the Fall and since we re-audition everyone, I wasn’t sure of the voices I would have. Which made the arranging and choosing of pieces pretty difficult. I had a couple of pieces picked out that I was pretty sure any mixture of voices could do. The auditions came and I had about three times the amount of girls audition than we had the year before. I was absolutely blown away. And by the time auditions were over, I was exhausted. Mentally, physically, and aurally. I couldn’t even listen to music on the way home because my head was so full of girls voices singing everything from Justin Bieber to Katherine McPhee. And that’s when it hit me — I have to break a lot of hearts and disappoint a lot of souls. I could tell that ever since one of the girls who auditioned REALLY wanted to be in reVOLution and they were excited and nervous. And I was excited for them! Until I realized I would be breaking hearts. It took me about a week, but I finally narrowed it down to a group of 11 ladies. 11 ladies who signed a year-long contract so we didn’t have to go through the trouble of reauditioning and re-teaching/re-assigning of parts. It was a larger group of girls than the previous year and I wanted to narrow it down to 8 but I knew that there was no way that I could. So I sent out the congratulations e-mails, I sent out the “unfortunately..” e-mails, and the week afterwards, we started rehearsing.

At the first rehearsal, I knew that I had an outstanding group. They blended immediately. Almost without any instruction what-so-ever. There were no egos to work around, there was no ‘bad-blood’ in the group, everybody in the group was friendly to everybody else. And I left that rehearsal with tears in my eyes. Tears of excitement! I could not WAIT until people heard them for the first time. I worked their butts off. I pushed them to the limit of what I thought they could do, I challenged them to learn more pieces, to memorize quicker, and to be more musical. I challenged them to push the envelope of what they were “comfortable” doing. For some girls, that was singing alto 2 when they usually sang alto 1. For others, it was encouraging them to try their hand at beat-boxing. For some, it was to put them on a part by themselves to see if they could hold their own. And I sat back like a little mother hen and watched them all grow before my very eyes! They grew as musicians, they grew as women, they grew as friends, and they grew — most importantly — as reVOLution. After our first performance, Dr Batey instructed me to send in a tape to Varsity Vocals. Unfortunately, she told me about it a day after the deadline but she told me to go ahead and send them an e-mail to see if we could submit a late audition form. Luckily, I had been video-taping the rehearsals so that the girls could listen to what we had worked on the previous day so I already had a bunch of film to pick from for our audition video. Varsity Vocals e-mailed me back and said that they would accept a late audition tape, so on a whim, I sent it in! A couple of weeks later, I told the girls that I had sent in a tape to one of the biggest collegiate a cappella competitions in the country and hadn’t heard anything so we must not have made it. But the good thing is that we put ourselves out there and we are making a name for ourselves. The last concert came and went and reVOLution went their separate ways over Christmas break. Still no word from Varsity Vocals about the competition…must not have made it in.

Year Two: Fourth Semester of Graduate School

Spring semester started off with a bang. We had a retreat so we could record some of the fall repertoire and we started working on some new pieces. Within the first two weeks of spring semester, we got an e-mail from Varsity Vocals. Saying that we had made it to quarter finals.

Holy heck.

A group that was formed two years ago. That has never competed before. That has never even THOUGHT about competing in the future. We made it into quarter finals? There’s got to be a mistake somewhere…they meant to e-mail someone else…groups have been competing in ICCA for years and years and years…and we made it?

We’ve got a lot of work to do.

From the day that I told the girls that we had made it into the competition they knew that it was going to take a lot of extra work to even do a good job at quarter finals. I did as much research as I could to prepare them the best that I could possibly prepare them. I was so lucky to have someone who had competed before contact me and come visit with reVOLution during one of our rehearsals to give us a heads up of what to expect. But the thing that I was most impressed with over the course of the whole six weeks…was the dedication that each and every one of the girls put into the group. You have to remember that this is not a class for a grade. They don’t even get credit for being in the group. It’s something they do on the side for fun. And they would come to four rehearsals a week for choreography and extra rehearsals for musical issues. I’d never expect such a talented group of girls to put so much effort into something for fun. And I realized shortly after, that I was putting in a heck of a lot of effort into something that I wasn’t getting a grade for either. Because I love it. I love a cappella music, I love teaching, but most importantly, I love the group of girls that I was working so hard for. I couldn’t imagine a better way to be spending my time. (Besides planning a wedding..which I was also doing during all of this.) The six weeks went by FAST…and I was really excited for what we would learn when we went down to quarter-finals. The day of quarter finals, we all carpooled down to Athens, GA to compete. We were ready, excited, and really nervous. Sound check went well and we were all ready for our performance time! We performed. It went well. We had a BLAST and it eventually came time to announce the winners. I told the girls not to cry if we didn’t make it. And not to cry if we do make it. Because we were already the newbies. We didn’t also want to be the sissies. They announced all of the special awards first and we didn’t get any of those. And then it came time to announce the top three groups. The group in third place….was the all-female group from our host school. What’s going on in our minds right then? “There’s NO WAY we beat our host school’s own group…” The group in second place…also an all-female group. “Oh my gosh..we’re the only other all-female group here…..did…we….just….get SECOND?” After that I don’t remember much of what happened because the only thing going through my mind was “My wedding date is the 23rd. The competition is the 23rd. My wedding is in Knoxville. The competition is in Nashville. I can make this work…” We competed February 9th. Our next competition date was March 23rd and I knew that we needed to up the ante for this next round of competition. So we started putting a new set together. With wedding stuff, recitals, concerts, sickness, etc, we ended up two weeks before the performance (four rehearsals away) without a set. We put a set together two weeks before the performance. Perfected it as best we could, and took it to semi-finals in Nashville on March 23rd.

March 23rd. Sound check went horribly. We were almost late to our performance time. But we made it, performed, and waited. Unfortunately, we did not make it to finals in New York. And we decided that it was for the better. Because we couldn’t imagine trying to put together a competitive set for finals. But we were proud because we had never competed before. And we made it past the first round. We made it past groups that have competed in this competition for 20 years. And we had fun doing it!

After semi-finals were over, the pressure was “off” and we just had to prepare for our last few concerts. I knew that I wanted to do mostly new songs at our Spring concert so I pushed the girls to learn almost five new pieces in about a month. Which, since we only rehearse twice a week, is fairly quickly. They did it. They learned their parts, they perfected their musicality, they blended like nobody’s ever heard. And if they hate me…they have yet to show it!

All in all, my experience with reVOLution has been life-changing. My graduate school experience may not be the same as a typical MM Choral Conducting student’s but I could not have asked for a better way to spend the past two years. I have gotten to work and grow in a field that I absolutely love and adore. With a group of girls that I have more respect for than I ever could have imagined. And I’ve pushed myself to be a leader in a tough setting (an all-girl ensemble only slightly younger than myself…helllooooo? Can we please say challenge accepted?!)

I can’t imagine not working with them next year. My relationship with each and every one of them has grown and matured as I’ve watched them grow and mature. That sounds strange to say because I am only a few years older than them. But I really have watched each and every one of them expand into incredibly talented and dedicated musicians.

Words can’t express my gratitude for each and every one of their hearts and souls that they gave me on a musical and personal level. I think this is one of the reasons I can’t imagine being away from music. Music has such an innate ability to connect people on a deeper level. Singing with someone. Harmonizing with someone. Watching an arrangement come together before your very eyes.

My reVOLution is too great for words. There are almost 3,000 words in this blog post and I haven’t even scratched the surface of what I learned and how I’ve changed because of reVOLution.

I’m not ready for this part of graduate school to be over…I’m going to pack them up and take them to Iowa with me.

(Thank you, ladies…for everything! peace, love, and reVOL!)

Until next time, fellow BFs!


Life Stuff, Musical Experiences

Confessions (Part 1)

I’ve been feeling a little guilty recently because I haven’t been telling the whole truth. I’ve been lying by omission. So I’m here to come clean.


I have never seen Les Miserables.

Not the musical. Not the movie. Not the other movie. Or the anniversary version of the musical. I’ve actually never even listened to the music of Les Mis. Any music that I’ve heard from Les Mis has been a mere happenstance from being around musicians that have been exposed to this musical.


I don’t know what it’s about and I’ve never asked for fear of rejection. Because among the musical community, 99.9% of musicians (and I mean pretty much every musician…not just the ones who love musicals) are in love with this musical/story.

Well, tonight that is all about to change. My life will change tonight, your life will change tonight. Boone’s life will change tonight. (I should also mention that he has never seen Les Mis either.)

So for all of my friends from which I have omitted the truth…


And if you’re wondering why this post is labeled as “Part 1” … It’s because I felt more like a rock star. That’s the only reason. Like it’s the title of my second album, after a bout with the wrong kind of drugs. Or people. Like my first album was all innocent and all in major keys and then I did a Kelly Clarkson and completely flipped my tish and released who I really am the second time around!

Anyways…the movie is about to start and I don’t want to be one of those b-holes who uses their phones during the previews.

Until next time, fellow BFs!

**Update 1.13.2013 – I was disappointed in the movie. The cinematic portion of the movie was really great! And it’s an awesome story. But I was really disappointed by all of the vocals. Except for Anne Hathaway. I think she did a great job. My biggest problem with the movie was that since I didn’t have an understanding of what the movie was about, who the characters were, and how their relationships are affected by the others in the musical, I didn’t feel much of a connection with the characters. So while they were clearly suffering in the movie, I wasn’t suffering along with them. And I think that part of the reason I didn’t suffer with them is because, although the acting was phenomenal (for the most part) the vocals were lacking. In a lot of ways. I really hated Russell Crowe’s voice throughout the whole thing. I didn’t really like Hugh Jackman’s voice. Especially on “Bring Him Home” (which is one of the only songs I knew prior to watching it).

I discussed my opinions with several die-hard fans of the show and they have all suggested that I watch the stage production. So…I googled and youtubed. (Both verbs) and I have to say…

I listened to the Finale of the 10th anniversary version of Les Mis and I have to say…holy crap. Also, the encore of the 25th anniversary is…indescribable. When Ramin Karimloo sings “freedom” I about died. I listened to that part of the video around 50 times. I would love to give you a link to this part but it’s been yanked off of youtube. I literally watched it last night and it’s not there anymore. So sorry about that…but if you have a chance. Find it, watch it, and enjoy.

My declaration is that after my comps…I shall watch the 25th Anniversary concert and will then judge whether or not I liked the musical.


Life Stuff, Musical Experiences

An Update

Well, I haven’t really blogged since school started back. Mainly because I really don’t have time to blog. I am spending every single second of my free time reading for musicology (which is actually a good thing because at least I’m enjoying the class enough to read for it.) Or I’m practicing for my improvisation lessons. Because those are kicking my tail.

Please help?

I’m not usually the type of person who stresses out easily or gets overwhelmed but this semester has really pushed me to the limit. I’m not really sure what has made such a drastic difference from last year. It might be the combination of graduate school full-time, working part-time, applying to other graduate programs, and doing the music intern job at Church Street. Regardless, it’s been a testing semester. I’m doing my best and that’s all I can do!

On the bright side, this is the first time in my life that I have felt like an educated musician. I can tell a huge difference in skill-level in different areas of my musical life. That is encouraging for me. On the other hand, I still don’t feel like I’m improving conducting-wise. So that’s discouraging. There’s always a balance, isn’t there? I got to conduct the Palestrina “Hodie Christus Natus Est” this week during Concert Choir rehearsal and for those of you who don’t know, it’s a double-choir piece. Which means eight parts. Eight entrances. Eight cut-offs. Eight parts to keep track of. And they were sight-reading it. Hopefully Dr Peterson is pleased with the progress we made on Wednesday.

I also had incredibly productive rehearsals with reVOLution this week which is always very satisfying. The girls of reVOLution work so hard and I can’t wait for our concert on November 15, 2012 at 6:30pm at Cedar Springs Presbyterian Church with the guys of VOLume! It’s going to be so awesome. Check out our FACEBOOK PAGE and spread it around to all your friends. Plus, I’ll post previews of the songs we’re doing occasionally!

I guess I’ll address something I said earlier that I have yet to address in my blog posts — applying to new graduate programs. At the beginning of this school year, I realized “oh man…I’m almost done with my masters degree…now what?!” So I thought about it, and thought about it, and thought about it. And I realized, after thinking a little bit more, that I really want to go into music therapy. I think I realized it mainly after thinking back over the summer to singing in the nursing homes with the Church Street United Methodist Youth Choir. The following is taken from my Statement of Goals that I had to submit to each school I applied to.

This past summer, we went to Canada and sang in several different churches, nursing homes, and other venues. At one of the lower-income nursing homes, we held a morning concert. There was nothing particularly special about the performance of the singers; however, I remember looking out into the audience toward an elderly Asian woman. Before the concert started, she was wheeled down from her room. The lack of expression on her face was haunting as she was situated in the front row of the audience. As soon as the music began there was an immediate change in her demeanor; her face brightened, she sat up further in her wheelchair, and her arms started waving as if she were conducting the choir of youth performing in front of her. Normally, I wouldn’t pay much attention to an incident such as this but this one was different. As a choral conducting student, I noticed her gesture was precise; her arms would wave larger as we would crescendo and smaller as we would decrescendo and she was always in perfect sync with the tempo our conductor had set. But as soon as the music stopped, she stopped. Her face and her body sank and it was almost as if she was no longer present in the room with the rest of us. This continued throughout the concert and afterwards our director and I headed over to speak with her. He told her she was a wonderful conductor and asked if she was a musician in her earlier years. She didn’t speak and shook her head “no”. As she was being wheeled back to her room, her caretaker whispered to our director and me a hauntingly beautiful statement: “She was the principal violinist for the Toronto Symphony for 50 years.”

That experience really changed my mind about music therapy. I’ve always thought about music therapy when I come to the crossroads of “where should I go now?” and the only thing stopping me was one person telling me “if you really love music, don’t go into music therapy.” It took me a long time to realize that she was just unhappy and that her opinion was not the norm.

I’m really excited about starting the music therapy program! I’ve applied to Colorado State, University of Iowa, Radford University, and Illinois State. I’ll keep you updated as things progress!

Until next time, fellow BFs!



Life Stuff, Musical Experiences

Last Weekend of Summer

Well friends, it has arrived. My last weekend of summer has officially come and gone. I think I did a good job of living it out to its fullest. I feel this way mainly because I’m still exhausted from it. Granted, it’s a Monday and I always feel pretty gross on Monday. But who doesn’t? I can’t say that I’m ready to go back to school because I don’t feel like I am. I’m ready to…get back into a routine. I figure once that routine sinks in, I’ll be glad school is back in session.

Friday was a good day. I spent most of the morning picking up around the house since Boone was at work until 11:30am. When he got done, he came over and we took a trip to the Goodwill to donate some of the clothes I have gotten rid of (starting to check “Get Rid of Half My Clothes” off of my list). I didn’t really want to look around because I wasn’t in the mood to shop so we left and went to Young Williams — an animal shelter in town. I dropped off a 20 pound bag of dog food as a donation to the little puppies! That felt pretty good. Plus I got to look around and see all the adorable little doggies.

On Thursday, I went to Church Street to help with some music library work and Tim gave me a bunch of sheet music to take to McKay’s so that was our next stop. We took three huge tubs of sheet music to them to see what we could get for it. It took about an hour for them to go through it and after they went through everything the lady at the desk told me they could only take two of each copy and the rest had to be placed in the “free” bin. So I said okay and she told me that I got $27.00 in trade! Not bad for sheet music that was given to me for free!

Trade credit is awesome!

After we left McKay’s, Boone wasn’t feeling well so we went back to my place. While he took a nap, I worked on my Belfast blog post and did some research into graduate programs. When he woke up, we went and had dinner with his parents at Mr Gatti’s — my first Mr Gatti’s experience. I decided that I needed to get some rest since we were driving to Atlanta the next day to see JASON MRAZ! So bedtime for Bonzo it was.

Saturday morning, Boone and I drove down to Chattanooga and met my mom, brother, and sister. My brother’s 17th birthday was Wednesday so I definitely wanted to see him and say “Happy Birthday” in person! We met at the mall, had lunch, and walked around for a little while. I gave Elliot his card and it was awesome because the front of the card said “Only the most perfect, awesome, amazing, etc… brother can open this card” but the card didn’t open at all. And on the back it said “I can’t believe you tried to open it!” And he did try to open it! How silly of him. So great. I also discovered the most amazing and awesome store I’ve ever had the pleasure of being in. It was called Earthbound Trading Company. I’d never heard of it before and they were having a buy one get one free on any clearance item. So I bought a huge canvas of an old tv, a mosaic candle holder, a jewelry box with a peace sign on it, and two rings for $50. Seriously, if you can find a store near you…go check it out.

Boone modeling a mustache in Earthbound Trading Co

Around 4:00pm, we left Chattanooga and headed toward Atlanta. We hit a huge rain storm on the way down there and I was really nervous that our seats were going to be outside since it was at Aaron’s Amphitheater. I had never been to an outdoor concert so I wasn’t sure what the set-up was going to be.  Luckily there was a covered portion because this is what it looked like from my car…


The rain slowed and we went to stand in line. Once we got inside, we got a hotdog, pizza, and nachos for $30. Such delicious concert food…

Christina Perri opened for Jason Mraz and she was okay I guess. I wasn’t a huge fan. I had only heard her hit “Jar of Hearts” so I wasn’t sure what to expect. She reminded me of Avril Lavigne a little bit. All of her songs sounded very similar to me, they had the same chord progressions, the same belt-y bridge, the same electric guitar solo, etc. It was okay and she has a killer voice. But she was definitely not the reason I was there. It was weird to be there and see so many empty seats. When she was done, they tore down her set, put up Jason’s set, and by the time he started, the entire place was packed — the seats and the lawn were full.

Jason Mraz!

Their website says Aaron’s seats 19,000. I wouldn’t be surprised if there were at least 17,000 there. And there were times when it seemed like every single person was singing along to his songs. How awesome would that be? To hear a song you wrote be sung by 17,000 people!

The crowd!

The concert was freaking ridiculous. Amazing. Awesome. Phenomenal. And every other adjective I won’t bore you with. I love Jason Mraz. He’s such a great performer and a great musician. And he has an amazingly talented band! The concert ended around 10:45pm and we didn’t get out of the parking lot and onto the highway until about 11:45pm. The drive home wasn’t terrible. Although, we did get stuck in a storm again and at times you couldn’t see the lines on the interstate. But we made it back to Knoxville safely at around 3:00am.

Sunday morning I had to get up early for church. The scholarship singers were singing two anthems, an introit, choral response, and benediction at the 8:30am service so we had to get there at 7:55am to rehearse. It was a very early morning seeing as I didn’t go to bed until around 3:30am. The service went really well and I love singing with the scholarship singers quartet. Boone came to hear the service which was awesome since he didn’t get any sleep either. He’s a good boyfriend! After the service, we had breakfast at Panera. Boone left and I headed back to Church Street for the second service. After the second service, I got to start my job as the music intern! We had our first children’s choir rehearsal right after lunch. It was such a great experience and so wonderful to see all those little kids (first grade-fifth grade) singing and reading music! I can’t wait to work with them for the rest of the year!

Classes start Wednesday…I think I did my best livin’ it up this weekend.

Until next time, fellow BFs!