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


Life Stuff

Summer Winds Down…A Year Gone By

I think summer always goes by too fast. Soon, I may not have a summer so I guess I should be thankful that I at least get some “down” time. Even if “down” really means “not going as fast as I usually go”.IMG_2438.JPG

This summer has been a ton of fun and I’m not saying that it’s over yet, but it’s drawing to a close. Boone and I have put over 500 miles on our bikes and we plan to do some big rides as the summer comes to a close. I’ve crossed several things off of my list of things to do this year which is good because once school starts, it is going to be really difficult to get those things done. We’ve gone to festivals galore this summer including the Trek Fest in Riverside, IA, Blues and BBQ in North Liberty, IA, Solon Beef Days in Solon, IA, and the Sweet Corn Festival in Cedar Rapids is this weekend. We’ve seen a lot of really cool music at all these festivals. And I’ve gotten to spend some quality time with my family and soon some quality time with Boone’s family! IMG_2996.JPG

Summer has gone by fast. But the past year has gone by even faster! It’s really crazy to think that we’ve been up here for a year. I will say that I’ve learned a lot over the past year. First and foremost, being away from family is hard. I thought when we moved that I would be fine because I’ve moved a lot in the past. I thought that Boone would have a difficult time being away from his family because he grew up in Knoxville and this was his first big adventure away from the south. Boy was I wrong. I’ve been the one who has struggled to be away from friends and family. I’ve been the one who comes home crying because I just want to go home. And as much as this house has become our home, I can definitely still feel a hole in my heart. 


Now before you think all bad thoughts, I will say that there have been many blessings to moving so far away. Spending our first year of marriage away from everyone and everything that we know has been a blessing. Boone and I have come to rely on each other for support. If I have a bad day, I know that he’s going to be ready with an open heart to listen to why it’s been bad and if he has a bad day, he knows I’m there to do the same. If we have a disagreement, we sit and work it out. We can’t run right down the road to our family because we “want to get away for a minute”. We go to our separate corners of the house until we’re ready to talk and then we talk about it. We rely on each other and have built a strong foundation of trust and encouragement for each other. Most people say that the first year of marriage is the hardest. We didn’t have a chance to go through a difficult time because we packed up everything we owned and moved 14 hours away from everyone. We learned quickly how to live with one another, we adjusted well to living with each other, and we moved on to tackle bigger and more challenging feats. During the times when I feel the saddest about being so far from home, I think about those things and realize that that in itself would be reason enough to spend a couple of years away from everything that we know. Having a strong foundation on which to build our marriage will be worth it in the long run! 

I have wondered many times over the past year if we made the right decision to move up here. And sometimes I don’t know the answer to that question. What I do know is that music therapy is the right career for me. Without a doubt. And that knowledge is one of the only reasons we’re still up here. If I felt like I was wasting my time, I wouldn’t go through with finishing the program. But when I’m put in a music therapy setting, my heart is at peace. My sadness of leaving my family and Boone’s family is quieted. For that 30-45 minute session, I am happy. The ultimate goal is to push through the next three semesters of course work so that I can do my internship and we can move closer to home! 

This has been a somewhat ramble-y post. And part of the reason for that is because my brain is going about 1,000 miles per hour. There’s a lot on my mind and no real direction. But I haven’t posted much about my experience up here. Mainly because I want my blog posts to be happy and exciting. But, life isn’t always happy and exciting. And I think that’s okay. It’s just taken me a while to realize that it’s okay to be sad. It’s okay to miss your family. It’s okay to feel frustrated. It’s also important for me to remember to stay positive and hopeful that the next three semesters will be easier than the past year. That I won’t come home crying most days out of the week. That I can stay strong and finish what I started! 

And before I leave you with this post you should know that I’m thankful for a lot of things. I’m thankful for a supportive husband who has put up with a lot of tears over the past year. I’m thankful for loving parents who have shown more generosity and love than I can ever express. I’m grateful for new friends who help pass the time. I’m grateful for old friends who write me letters that show up at the exact moment I need them most. And most importantly, I’m grateful for the experiences and education I am lucky enough to receive. 

Thanks for reading that. Here’s a picture of Solstice and Finley who choose to eat breakfast and dinner perpendicularly. IMG_2827.JPG

Until next time, fellow BFs!

Life Stuff, Travel

Last Leg

So here we are at the last leg of our trip. If you follow my blog, you know that we just got back from choir tour to Philadelphia and New York. The past four days of our trip are documented here. I’ll pick up where I left off…

On Tuesday, we headed to New York City. The Big Apple! And what a trip it was! Boone and I chaperoned three girls through the city. We started our day at the John Lennon Imagine Memorial in Central Park.


After we saw the memorial, we walked through Central Park to find public bathrooms (which apparently are very hard to find in NYC) and then continued our adventure with a vendor hot dog while trying to hail a cab. The hailing of the cab was unsuccessful because there were five of us and the cabs we found would only take four. So we ended up taking the subway! Which was an experience in itself.


Our plan was to walk to the MoMA but we got side-tracked/distracted and ended up at Grand Central Station. I have to stop here and say that I’m glad we got side-tracked because we got to see Cameron Diaz filming her new movie The Other Woman. DSC_0524


After we left Grand Central Station, we walked through Times Square to the pizzeria where we were having dinner before we went to see WICKED ON BROADWAY!!!! Freaking out about it still…such an unbelievable musical experience. After the show finished, we walked back to Times Square to take some pictures of all of the lights. We got back on the bus and rode back to Eastern University and arrived back on Eastern University’s campus at about 1:30am.

Since we got in so late the night before, the next morning was fairly leisurely. We had a late-ish breakfast before getting on the road to the mall! We stopped to shop for about two hours before we got back on the bus to head to our concert. We had TVs on the bus (lucky little kids…all I had was my little Walkman to entertain me on bus trips) and were watching the news when we saw the breaking news story about  a building collapse in downtown Philadelphia. We were supposed to be going downtown after the concert but our plans changed and we ended up going back to the mall instead. Boone and I decided to take a little walk to Brookstone and sit in the massage chairs for a while. Why not…we deserved it! And it was well worth it.

After the mall, we headed to a small town to see a play called “Inherit the Wind” which is about the Scopes Monkey trial that took place in 1925. It was a cool experience because here we were all the way in Philadelphia watching a play about a historical event that occurred less than an hour from Knoxville, TN.

Thursday was our last day of fun. We began our day at breakfast, as usual, and headed to our first concert. It was at Sparc Philadelphia. Such a cool place to sing! It is a day-center for adults with disabilities. And they were the best audience I have ever sung for. Another confirmation that I’m going into the right field. After the concert, we handed out bracelets for all of them and everyone I talked to told me how much they enjoyed the concert. We had pizza at their facility before heading to our next concert. Our last concert was a blast and they had “hot” (aka luke warm) pretzels for us afterward. When the concert was done, we headed over to the USS New Jersey!


We got to eat dinner on the ship, too! And finally, after the tour of the ship and dinner, we went to see Cirque du Soleil – TOTEM.



The last day was a bus day. And unfortunately we got stuck in traffic for about three and a half hours and only went 19 miles. So instead of an eight-hour bus ride, it turned into a thirteen and a half hour bus ride. So that was frustrating. And by the time we got back to Church Street, Boone and I were ready to be home and see Little B!

4.19.2013 - I'm glad she's learned to love her bed so much!

Well, that’s all for 2013 choir tour! 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

Options, Choices, Decisions…Iowa Stubborn

Over the past several months, I’ve been trying to decide what to do after graduation. Just getting married and experiencing one of the most exciting times of my (slash our) life is apparently not enough for me. I have to make life more challenging than it already is…

I applied to four Music Therapy master’s programs in the fall and have been waiting to hear back from them this spring. I got my first acceptance letter from Radford University, about a month later I got accepted to Illinois State, a week or so later I got accepted to Colorado State and finally I got accepted to Iowa.

In the meantime, a job at the University of TN opened up. It was the first year coordinator position which turned out to be pretty much exactly what I was doing at Maryville College for the past four years. So on a whim, I decided to apply as a backup plan in case I didn’t get any financial aid money from the graduate programs.

The day we before Boone and I got married, I received an offer from Illinois State — full-tuition out-of-state waiver and a part-time stipend working in the school of music office. I felt really blessed because I hit it off with the professors at ISU right away and was honored to receive a full-tuition waiver. A week or so passed and I hadn’t heard from any of the other schools so I decided to check in since I had a deadline to decide with ISU.

I received an email from Colorado State about a week and a half ago saying they had a financial aid offer for me. I opened the email, logged onto their website only to find that they had only offered me loans. A lot of loans. With ISU’s offer already on the table, I politely declined their offer.

As I was waiting to hear from the other two programs, I was invited to do a phone interview for the job at UTK. I was beyond excited about the possibility so I took the chance and set up a time for the interview for last Wednesday. The same day, only about an hour after the interview, UTK called back and invited me to an on-campus interview that Monday.

From the time that I interviewed on Wednesday to before my interview on Monday, Iowa also sent me an offer. Their original offer was only $5,000 a year. Because I had the ISU offer and UTK offer on the table, I sent an email back declining their offer and expressing my gratitude. About an hour later, I got an email back saying there might be another option. By the end of the day, I had a full-tuition research assistantship, stipend, and health insurance offer from Iowa also on the table.

Monday rolled around (which I haven’t mentioned but Monday was my deadline to accept/decline ISU’s offer) and I didn’t want to decline them. The professors at ISU were trying to find more money but they didn’t have anything more available. My interview with UTK went pretty well and I felt really good about it.

Tuesday came. UTK called with a great offer but I also had two other offers on the table. I thought, talked, discussed, cried, and prayed some more about what to do and I decided, as heart-breaking as it was, to call ISU and let them know that I wouldn’t be attending in the fall. So now I only had two offers on the table. And the more I discussed each offer with different people, the more it seemed like staying in Knoxville was the way to go. Everyone seemed to think that staying here and expanding the relationships that we’ve already built was the best choice. And I had to agree with them on a lot of levels. It would be great to be financially stable for the first three years of marriage. But…I’d be sitting behind a desk doing the same job that I have done for the past four years, just for a different institution. As I was weighing the two options, I started asking myself the questions “why do I love being in Knoxville?” and “why would I want to stay here?” to see if that would clear anything up for me. The main reason I’m so happy being in Knoxville is because I get to work with an amazing a cappella group, I have a beautiful church family that I am blessed to work with every week, and we are close to our family. Two of the three of those things would change (or so I thought…) if I stayed in Knoxville. But then, other opportunities started opening up for me as well! I could still work with reVOLution (in a different vein but would still be connected to them) and I would still have the opportunity to stay at Church Street. Of course this made the decision much more difficult. The main reasons I justified leaving were now possibilities if I stayed.

It all came down to this: I would not be happy sitting behind a desk all week long. Yes, I would love to work at Church Street. And yes, I would love to stay connected with reVOLution. But those activities would not be the main parts of my life, they would be what I “did on the side.” And the more I thought about it, the more I dreaded it…

Wednesday morning when I woke up, my head said “Emily, you should stay in Knoxville. There is a lot of stability here.” By Wednesday night, my heart took over and told me that I really needed to go to Iowa. My logical brain knows that staying in Knoxville would be beneficial in a lot of ways, but my heart says to listen to it. And Boone and I decided, if ever there is a time for us to go and do something…now is the time! We don’t have kids, we don’t have any real “ties” to Knoxville. And the longer we stay, the deeper our roots will be planted here.

My deadline to accept/decline the UTK offer was Thursday 4.18.13 at noon. At 11:50am, I called and declined the offer. The second I got off the phone, I felt at peace. Boone felt at peace. And we both are excited about our new adventure to Iowa!


I hope that if we so choose to come back to Knoxville, our friends and family will welcome us with open arms! We will miss everyone here and it is very sad to leave a place that we have both called “home” for so long. But, as my best pal David says, “it’s all about the story!”

Iowa, here we come!

Until next time, fellow BFs!

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!