Life Stuff, Yearly List

The New List: 2016 Edition 29 Things To Do Before 30

Alright, it’s everybody’s favorite time of year. The time of year when the new list comes out! First, let’s take a look at the progress of last year’s list. Overall, I think I did pretty well.

28 Things To Do Before I Turn 29

1. Go to a minor league baseball game

2. Graduate with my second masters degree! – finished my coursework 12.15.16

3. Host a fancy dinner party

4. Ride in RAGBRAI – completed 7.24-25.2015 


5. Start my music therapy internship – completed 1.4.2016

6. Be a bridesmaid for the first time – completed 6.20.2015 at Tori’s wedding!

7. Ride a roller coaster with Boone because we have never ridden one together

8. Go away on a girls weekend with my mom – completed 5.28.16-5.30.16

9. Drive a Vespa

10. Go hiking at a local state park – completed 5.21.2016 at The Palisades

11. Complete at least three sewing projects – completed July 2015

12. Go to an arena football game

13. Go to Cedar Rapids BBQ Roundup (June 25-28) – completed 6.27.2015 
14. Go to one of those drink wine + paint pictures classes

15. Go on a coin flip road trip

16. Call someone, tell them to look out their window, and be standing on their front lawn

17. Listen to an audiobook – completed 6.25.2015 with Steven King’s Mr Mercedes — see my blog post about it 
18. Go visit my Grandma in Denver, CO – completed 7.2-5.2015 with Elliot and Mom.

19. Complete a weekend without electricity

20. Complete a coloring book for adults – this was not completed but I did color some pages…

21. Be listed as an author on a research paper published in a journal – completed 11.17.2015

22. Keep a journal. Doesn’t have to be everyday…just periodic writings – completed! I also kept a journal for my music therapy internship

23. Spend less time on my phone – I’d have to ask Boone about this one…

24. Complete a 1,000 piece jigsaw puzzle – completed 1.1.2016 

25. Visit Snake Alley in Burlington, Iowa

26. Be able to look at myself and be happy with what I see even if it’s not exactly where my end goal is – I think this one will always be a work in progress but the important thing is that I’m making progress toward this goal.

27. Get all fancy-schmancy and go on a date with my husband! – completed 3.25.2016


28. Get a library card – completed 6.29.2015

And now for this year’s list! I think I have some exciting things to offer this year! 2016-17 is going to be an exciting year of transition and change. Here’s what’s on the list for this year.

29 Things to do Before 30

1. Pass my Board Certification Exam

2. Get a job as a music therapist

3. Sell our condo

4. Move to Cleveland, OH

5. Take part in NEOcycle events – September 9-11

6. Dance in the rain

7. Ride at least 1,500 miles on my bike

8. Go to a Major League Baseball game.

9. Visit a National Park

10. Go to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

11. Go to a drive-in movie

12. Visit Niagra Falls

13. Go see my brother graduate from college! (What?!)

14. Do the Canopy Walk in Kirtland, OH.

15. Try yoga three times a week for a month

16. Go to a Cleveland Orchestra performance

17. Eat food from a food truck

18. Plan a visit to my goodest friend David.

19. Go to Cedar Point!

20. Write a letter to myself to be opened when I’m 35.

21. Leave a $100 tip for someone when we go out to dinner

22. Record 5 covers of songs or write originals with Boone

23. Spend New Years Eve in New York City

24. Go to a new restaurant and let the waiter pick my entire meal

25. Go on a night bike ride

26. Have a “no spend” month–only spend money on necessities

27. Learn how to play a new instrument

28. Complete a triathlon

29. Go paddle boarding

Life Stuff

When to Let Go

I’ve been holding on to something for a while now. It’s something that I hold dear. Something that means something to me. Unfortunately, that something doesn’t want or need me. How do I let that go? I’ve been holding on to this for so long it’s probably to the point of being unhealthy. That something never responds to my yearning. I get no response. I give much more than I get. But that’s because I get nothing in return. Literally. nothing.

Why is it so important for me to hold on? Maybe it’s because I’m confused about why that something has built such a rigid and impenetrable wall. Maybe I did something. Maybe it’s because my heart longs for that something that was once so important in my life. But, things change. I have been the one reaching out to that something for many years. It is clear that something wants nothing to do with me. Why can’t I let it go? What keeps me tied to that something. When obviously, that something is not tied to me.

It hurts to put so much into something and receive nothing. And yet I continue to try. I say to myself that I am done trying and then I try again.

This week in my music therapy group sessions, I talked about identity. Who we are. What makes us who we are. And how identity changes over time. It is interesting to look back on who we once were, even five years ago, and see who we are now, how far we have come. Somethings will come in and out of our lives. Sometimes, it’s easy to let go if something chooses to leave your life. Sometimes it’s not. Luckily, I have a lot of somethings that have filled my life.

And it’s okay to let go.

Life Stuff

Stars Hollow: A Place Where Dreams Come True

I am three seasons in to my first Gilmore Girls experience. It’s been tender. And sweet. Like every first experience should be. But I have some questions. As with most first experiences. Okay, enough with the innuendos.

First and foremost, is Luke’s diner a magic place? This is a rhetorical question because of course it’s magical. Mainly because Luke is there. But let’s be real here: how do Lorelai and Rory eat there for every single meal of the day, every single day, and look like they do? They order pancakes and bacon, burgers and fries, donuts, pastries, and endless amounts of coffee. Every day! PLUS when they’re not eating at Luke’s, they’re ordering takeout from some delicious sounding Indian, Chinese, or pizza place. And I have yet to see any sort of exercise regimen implemented into their daily lifestyle. The closest thing to even a mention of exercise is when Lorelai buys “Cardio Salsa” and wants Rory to partake in the activities. Rory declines. As would I.(Okay, if I’m being honest here, I would totally do Cardio Salsa with Lorelai…)

While we’re on the subject of Luke’s Diner…how can they afford to eat at Luke’s every single day for almost every meal? Unless it’s part of a meal plan at Chilton, and I highly doubt that it is. Can you imagine the uproar that Emily Gilmore would cause if she discovered that LUKE’S was what she was paying for? Maybe the burgers are $1 and the coffee is $0.10 like the good ole days that I’ve never experienced. OR, more likely, Stars Hollow is magical.


B of all, are there endless hours in a day in Stars Hollow? Because never, ever, EVER in my life have I spent such a leisurely morning before school. And I’ve been in school for over 20 years. How do they have time to water their neighbors yard AND eat breakfast at Luke’s? I’m usually racing out the door every morning thinking “I shouldn’t have hit snooze that last time because now I have to catch the later bus…” And yet here, in Stars Hollow, they have time for a movie before school! Maybe school starts at 10:00am. I’d have time for a movie if school started at 10:00am. That’s a lie, I’d still hit the snooze button too many times. I like my sleep. But wait! So do they?! It’s a vicious circle that I may never know the answer to. Yet another thing I attribute to the magical world of Stars Hollow. A dream place where time stands still while you drink your huge cup of coffee. That would be the life.


This next one is not so much question about the show but merely an observation (in question form!) about my personal experience. How do you, as audience members, not constantly want to eat donuts and drink coffee when binge watching this show? Because I’m seriously wishing that I had donuts in my house at all times. Come on Luke, bring them to me!


Finally (for now, I still have a million seasons left for questions) how is Rory such a good student. We barely see her study. Usually when she’s studying, Lorelai comes in and interrupts her with her sarcastic quips. Maybe (probably) she’s just a genius and she doesn’t have to study that much. Because…you guessed it, Stars Hollow is magical! She talks a lot about studying. Maybe that’s how she gets good grades. She thinks about studying. I’ll try that method this semester and see if it works. Keep you posted.


Also, can I just say I wish there were more scenes with Sookie in them? She is one of my favorite parts of the show by far. The scene where Jackson deep fries the turkey and Lorelai and Rory come and find her drunk on margaritas is the best. I’m so glad she’s part of the show. 387034d1b9b1b1ea06b9dc8894425274

I’ll leave you with my favorite line from the show thus far. Not because of its humor potential in the show. But because of how hard I laughed when Boone and I tried to say it after we heard it. This line was spoken by Emily Gilmore during a dinner where Lorelai finds out that Rory has applied to Yale. “That’s paranoia Lorelai.” Go ahead. Try to say it. It’s the best thing you’ll do all day. I promise.


Until next time, fellow BFs! I’m so glad that Tori and Kelsey made me watch this show.

Life Stuff

Ketchup. Or Catch Up.

That title probably brought you here under false pretenses. It’s not about ketchup. But how awesome would that be? A whole blog post about ketchup. Maybe that will be in the works. Stay tuned. In the meantime, it’s been a while since I’ve posted. A while…like August. So I guess we should catch up. You and me, we’re both so busy…and I’m not a very good blogger when I’m in graduate school. I think I’ve made that statement in every blog post I’ve made since I’ve been in graduate school. I originally wanted a blog so that all my friends and family members who were far, far away could keep up with the things I am doing in my life. But now I’m not updating this so that’s not really working. Well, for what it’s worth, here’s an update!

Over the summer I got to work with kids with Cochlear Implants and Hearing Aids with speech and language delays in a summer program two days a week. We worked on listening tasks like identifying and discriminating different sounds. We also worked on a variety of speech sounds by singing songs like “The hippopotamus blows bubbles through his nose, bubbles through his nose, bubbles through his nose. The hippopotamus blows bubbles through his nose, blow, blow, blow!” Wonder what sound we were working on there…!

The kids had a bubble gun and they got to make the hippo blow bubbles through his nose if they sang the song!

I also started volunteering once a week in the chemotherapy clinic playing music for patients during infusion. Over the summer, I took a keyboard and it was pretty funny to see the look on the patient’s face when I rolled my cart up with a full size keyboard and was like “Hey y’all, I’m here to play some music…” (That’s an exaggeration, by the way, I don’t say that…) But when I started back last week, I took my guitar. I stayed for three hours Christmas Eve Eve and played all kinds of Christmas and non-Christmas music for the patients and their families. It’s so much fun to listen to their stories. One of the highlights of my week for sure!

I made it through a tough semester of grad school (with straight A’s!) and am looking forward to not being in school anymore. For my practicum setting, I was working with adults with psychiatric disorders (like schizophrenia, bipolar, and borderline personality disorder). I was paired with an undergraduate music therapy student and we worked on social interaction, making positive statements, gross motor skills, and cognitive skills. Co-leading was a great experience and I’m so glad that I got to work with her! It gave me a lot of really good ideas and skills for if I ever get the opportunity to work with someone in the future.

I have 1.33 semesters of grad school left…not that I’m counting. This upcoming spring semester, I’ll take a full course load and then in the fall, I have to take one graduate class, finish up my Capstone project, and take comprehensive exams. I can do it. I hope. By this time next year, I’ll be at my music therapy internship somewhere out there in that great big world. Which is stressing me out at the moment because I don’t like uncertainty and currently, my life is full of uncertainty! One thing at a time.

I’m still teaching piano and voice lessons and have between 8-10 students. I’m about to gain a few more though because I’m going to start teaching adaptive lessons soon! That’ll be a new and exciting challenge for me because I haven’t ever taught adaptive lessons. I’m also still working as a music intern at First Presbyterian Church of Iowa City. I’ve really enjoyed my time there–singing in the choir, conducting occasional bell choir rehearsals, and I’ve even had the opportunity to conduct the choir during services! It’s been such a blessing to have such a welcoming church family. So welcoming, in fact, that they let Boone sing in the choir!

And that brings me to January 2015! That’s a really quick update of the past five months and I’ve left out a lot of details. I’m looking forward to my last semester as a full-time student. I think I’ve been a professional student for long enough and am definitely ready to enter into the real world! I’ve loved the past couple of weeks that I’ve been on break. We got to see my family and Boone’s family. We’ve watched all of the seasons of Parenthood (to be fair, we started that in November…which doesn’t make it much better…but some.) And can we just take a second to say “NO!” about Parenthood…??? Thank you.

Well, I guess that about catches you up with my life. School starts again in a little over a week which means that life ends. Let the countdown to the end of the semester begin!

Until next time, fellow BFs!

Life Stuff, Travel

“Spring” “Break”

I know it’s spring. My mind knows it’s spring. But Mother Nature seems to still believe that we need snow. So, it’s not spring. I’m still wearing my heavy down jacket that pokes me with feathers everyday. I can’t wait until I can put the top down on my Jeep and drive around with the doors off!

But I digress…last week was “spring” “break”. They are both in quotations, as you can plainly see, because it was neither spring, nor break. It was break at the end of the week when Boone and I went to Chicago, but I’ll get there soon enough. Don’t rush me!

During the first half of the week, I worked at the hospital as I usually do and still had to (I guess I should say “got to”) teach lessons. Monday night was St Paddy’s Day so we went out and celebrated with some friends. Unfortunately the bar that we went to did not sell green beer, much to Boone’s dismay. He did get to play darts though! As did I. I’m not good at darts. Terrible things happen when I play darts. People lose limbs and eyes. And I’ll hit the occasional bulls eye accidentally.

20140324-093924.jpgTuesday we finally got the piano tuned! It was in dire need. There were several keys that would play at least two different pitches at the same time. It’s an old piano so it doesn’t sound great now. But it definitely sounds better than it did.

20140324-094214.jpgWednesday was the start of me not feeling well. Which is part of the reason I say it wasn’t a “break” because it’s no fun to be sick over a break from school! I had a voice lesson in the morning and went back to sleep on the couch for the remainder of the day. That evening I was tummy-sick and kept praying that it would go away before we left. I also managed to get Boone’s oil changed so that we could leave for Chicago Thursday evening. I made it through the drive to Chicago and we went out to dinner that night. Thus started the beginning of the actual break and the celebration of our first year of marriage!

On Friday, we decided since it was warm(er than it was going to be the rest of the weekend) that we would do all the outside activities like walking around Michigan Avenue and such.



We decided to stop into Water Tower place to see what all the excitement was. And we immediately discovered the wonderful world of Legos! Pretty cool to see the Chicago sky line built out of Legos.

20140324-094719.jpgBoone was definitely right in his element in the Lego store. He played nicely with the other kids. Unless they tried to take his Legos away. Then there was bloodshed. (Not really…)


For lunch, we heard that Lou Malnati’s was the best pizza in town, so of course we had to stop there and try it! And I have to say…daaaang. That was some good pizza. Plus, we got to eat while sitting on a leather couch! I felt like Gaston.



The traditional gift for the first anniversary is paper and the modern gift is time pieces. Boone decided to go for the modern gift this year. This is Boone’s new watch! I decided to go for paper and he got me tickets to see Lake Street Dive on Tuesday!


We continued our walk around the town for the rest of the day. We went in to see Fourth Presbyterian Church by recommendation of Edna Mae. It reminded me of Church Street and made me miss my friends back home.


Here is Boone waiting for the subway. Which we took the wrong direction. We started noticing the clothing of the people getting on and off the subway and realized that we were probably headed toward to bad part of town. So we quickly got off at the next stop and headed back the way we came. More time on the subway. Yaaaaay!


For our fancy anniversary dinner we decided to go to the Signature Room at the top of the Hancock Tower. 95 floors up! It was a tad overpriced but worth the view for sure. Plus, the dessert was phen-om-en-al. And let’s be honest, that’s really what we all enjoy the most.



20140324-094923.jpgOn Saturday we woke up a little later than anticipated and headed down to breakfast at Magnolia Bakery. One of my friends told me that they had a banana pudding that is to die for. And she was right. Seriously, the best banana pudding I’ve ever tasted in my entire life. One the way to the bakery we stopped by the Chicago theatre! It was slightly colder than we had anticipated so we also stopped and got Boone a Chicago hat. We wouldn’t be tourists without one.




20140324-105114.jpgAfter our unbelievably delicious breakfast at Magnolia Bakery, we went to yet another tourist attraction–The Bean! It drove me a little crazy because there were a TON of fingerprints on the thing…

20140324-104528.jpgWe then decided to head North of Chicago to get a feel for the non-touristy attractions. And we just so happened upon a coffee-bike shop! You can drink your coffee while you get your bike worked on. Boone was in heaven.

20140324-104557.jpgSaturday night we got tickets to see the Blue Man Group. A really hilarious part of our evening because Boone wasn’t feeling well tummy-wise and there are a lot of really gross things in the show. I won’t ruin the show for you if you haven’t seen it. But we were in the “splash zone” and we definitely got splashed with…not water…


And finally, we returned home to our hilarious cats on Sunday evening. It was a great trip and an exciting way to celebrate our first year of marriage! I can’t believe it’s already been a year.

20140324-104626.jpgAnd now we’re back in the saddle again. Hoping the second half of the semester goes by as quickly as the first.

Until next time, fellow BFs…Finley says adieu!


Life Stuff

My Husband is Hilarious

Every day I receive an e-mail from Boone letting me know about the happenings of his day. It’s one of the highlights of my day because since we go from around 7:30am-7:30pm (usually later) without seeing each other, it reminds me that he is still a (hilarious) part of my life and that I get to go home to him later! Usually these e-mails are fairly normal stuff like day-to-day experiences and what’s going on at work. But this past Tuesday was our 7th month celebration of marriage. I don’t say “anniversary” because my friend Carolyn (whose blog you can check out here) would argue that it’s not an anniversary. We’ve been married seven months and still love each other. Whoop-dee-doo! I tried to find her Facebook post where she says this — but I couldn’t.

ANYways…so last Tuesday was our celebration of marriage. The e-mail from Boone was hilarious so I thought I would share it with you guys. At first, I started reading it in a very busy cafeteria type thing but I started laughing so hard that I had to stop reading it because people were staring.

A little backstory first. At some point in our relationship one of us slipped up when saying ‘honey’ and accidentally said ‘hanni’ so it’s become a thing. Which obviously turned “anniversary” into “hanniversary”. Also, at the beginning of the e-mail he says that I ruined the theme of the e-mail. It’s because I texted him happy hanniversary. (But don’t tell Carolyn or else she’ll think we’re silly.)


“You ruined today’s theme. Not really ruined I guess but definitely spoiled the surprise. It’s our 7 month Hanniversary. Yes, spell-check, that is a word. Webster’s Dictionary defines the Hanniversary as a noun from the Latin roots “hanni” meaning “dearly loved one” – “anno” meaning “year” – “verse” meaning “part of a song” and “ary” meaning “song birds”. Roughly the word means: “A celebration of life with a dearly loved one who will be yours for many years to come. The Hanniversary includes (but is not limited to) singing and a release of songbirds from captivity.” Ancient Romans celebrated the Hanniversary by having lavish meals and extensive week long celebrations. Interestingly enough, early Roman Hanniversaries inspired the Greeks to begin practicing the act of Hanniversary which is what subsequently led to what we now know as The Olympic Games. Hanniversaries did not begin with the Romans and Greeks, however. There are early cave paintings of pre-literate cultures partaking in song and dance. Also, ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs reveal that on a sacred day in the Egyptian calendar known as “Hanno Vasso” the construction of the pyramids was completed. To celebrate this massive undertaking, a spectacular fireworks display was put on over the pyramids. This fireworks display coincided with the release of thousands of songbirds. The fireworks were later regarded as a poor choice as many of the birds were exploded and the mood quickly became rather somber. The Egyptians created the Sphinx in honor of the birds who perished on the first “Hanno Vasso”. The words “Semper Ubbi Sub Ubbi” are inscribed underneath the bellybutton of the Sphinx. Roughly translated this means “let us never forget the fallen birds.” This is one possible explanation for why “flipping the bird” is considered such an insult in today’s society.”

I won’t bore you with all the sweet, lovey-dovey stuff that he wrote at the end. But I thought you’d probably enjoy learning about the origins of ‘hanniversary.’

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!