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Mary Biever | One Writing Mother | Tag Archive | choir
Tag Archive - choir

Teach Your Kids To Be Prepared

joyful and chaotic music from first ever concertphoto © 2010 woodley wonderworks | more info (via: Wylio)
Caution: I was frustrated when I wrote this blog, and it probably shows.

If you have your kids in an outside program, music group, or sport, please help teach them a simple lesson: Be Prepared.

I write this after 15 years of having my kids on sports teams, music groups, clubs, and classes.  Yes, I’m sure your week was busy. So was mine. But there are times in life we still get things done during tough times.

Let’s imagine there is an activity with 10 kids. Then imagine of those 10 the following:

  1. 1 is always late
  2. 2 never practice
  3. 1 tries to practice the night before to make up for skipping the rest of the week
  4. 1 never brings the right tools or equipment
  5. 1 has a terrible attitude.

If those roles rotate from week to week, that means the teacher, leader, or coach has 40% of those involved on time, practiced, prepared, and ready to go. The other 60% hold those who did what they were supposed to back.

A music class cannot play harder music if half the class refuses to practice. If your kid is in a group music class, and you don’t make sure your kid practices every night, then the whole group plays simpler music. Then MY kid doesn’t get what I paid for – a challenging, fun music program. It could be music or anything else.

I understand different families have different standards. However, when I pay for opportunities for my kids and your kids’ failure to prepare drag down the bar of expectation, I grow frustrated. When I’m the teacher or leader of such groups, I’m doubly frustrated because I know what the kids were capable of, prepared for it, but we can’t get there.

What are the secrets to success for a great class or activity? Be:

  1. On time
  2. Practiced
  3. Tools ready to go
  4. Attitude ready to focus and work.

Parents can impact their kids’ future work ethics. It can be a positive or negative impact.

If you take the time to schedule an activity and get your kids there, and often to invest in it, doesn’t it make sense to make the most of the opportunity?

Kids who know to be prepared are better prepared for life.

Ode to My Sharpie

Wherefore art thou, Sharpie? How do I love my Sharpies? Let me count the ways.

  1. Public Speaking. Writing cue words on a note card or paper makes it easier for me to glance and speak without reading.
  2. Grocery Lists. It’s easy to write with a Sharpie on my magnetic refrigerator list. Pencil is too faint to read. Ballpoint pens fade by the time I get to the end of the word. Sharpie works best.
  3. Organizing. When I’m doing something like planning my life or my business, I write notes with Sharpies. Sharpies keep me focused on the big picture, the forest, instead of being bogged down in the trees. I also think more creatively – I can write all over the page instead of logically like I’m more likely to do with an ink pen.
  4. Food preservation. When I can foods, I write the product and the date on the lid on top.
  5. Connect the Dots. Or Dogs. Once when a friend was napping, her son used their black Sharpie to connect the dots on their dalmation.
  6. Community Organizing. My son saw me make so many lists with Sharpies that when he was 5, he wrote a list of his friends he wanted to invite to his He Man Womanhaters Club… on the back seat of my car.
  7. Substitute Socks. Once, my daughter went to a choral camp and forgot to pack her mandatory black socks for the performance. The director informed the choristers anyone not wearing black socks would have black duck tape as a substitute. So she bought a value pack of black Sharpies and colored her ankles black. Then she decided to design her legs. She got no duck tape. She wore shorts showing off her artwork on her bus ride home from the final performance. When I called her on the trip home to tell her we were getting our family portrait taken as soon as she got off the bus, she burst into peals of laughter and hung up on me before telling me what she had done. When I finally saw her “art,” I was so relieved nothing was pierced, and her hair wasn’t flourescent, that I was relieved it was only permanent marker.

Hint: permanent marker can come off skin and carseats with soap and hot water. (I don’t know about the dog.)

Sharpies help me think outside the box and try new things. That can be a good thing. In an adult.

So Long, Farewell

“Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee,” we sang at the beginning of my friend’s funeral.

When a singer goes to an organist’s funeral, it is a trip with the Ghosts of Church Music past. To the far left is the organist I’ve known for decades. To the right is a lady I sang with from my kids’ choir. Beside me is another singer from a former choir. The pianist and I worked together decades ago on other projects.  There was a time our lives were intertwined.

Sometimes we struggled through music for this performance or the drama of the rehearsal where nothing worked.

We’ve come together to honor the memory of a friend, for whom his music was his life.  Here, in this congregation joined to celebrate the memory of a friend, are the strands of his life and our own. 

As our voices blend at the funeral, I don’t remember the bad rehearsals. I do remember the joy we had when we sang together and things worked – the Hallelujah Chorus. The a capella “Panis Angelicus.”

Our singing is our final tribute, our final farewell to a musician friend. Every line of every song has new purpose. 

It feels like The Sound of Music, when the Trapp family sings “So Long, Farewell, auf Wiedersehen, Good-bye.”

At the funeral, we each sing our own final personal tribute. When the music ends, we wish each other a final good-bye in the parking lot. Our lives, once joined together, have ventured on different paths. 

This good-bye is no more final than the one we said to our friend who died.  Our worlds will touch again in the future. We will sing together again. Hopefully not just at funerals.

Perhaps when I sing my Alleluia and you sing your Amazing Grace, in our separate lives, we can remember each other and sing them together in our hearts.

The So Long Farewell isn’t final.  It’s just awhile –

Till we meet again.

Sing through the Mountains

Morning sunrise

In my musical family, my instrument was French horn. I sang but was told, “Your sister is the soloist. You belong in the choir.” Music was more habit than artistic expression.

Those early years were hard. By the time I was 20, one too many heartbreaks silenced me. I quit singing. Completely. Singing reminded me of things and people I did not want to be. I chose not to.

When our children were born and I started going to church, I sang with them.  They got the childhood I never had, along with a strong musical education. Other than Sunday mornings, I never sang.

When my kids started singing in a professional choir, I became president of their parents group. I still didn’t sing with choirs myself. It had been so many years that now I was afraid to begin.

One Sunday morning when I was 40, a friend who’s often like a surrogate mom, Virginia, cornered me after the service. “Why aren’t you in church choir? They need you. They practice this Tuesday, and you should be there.”

So I went. The first week went ok, and I was so overwhelmed I cried the whole drive home.

Within a month, other choir members helped me begin to cantor, to lead the singing when needed at services. Each service felt like I was trying out a ski slope for the first time and had no idea what would happen between the start and when we got to the bottom of the hill.

That was 5 years ago. I cantored again last night.  As the music begins, I feel God grabbing my soul and pulling music from each heartbeat and heartbreak of a lifetime. The tremendous losses are there – death, illness, fire, flood, famine, and more.  Those losses neither defeated nor define me but are the valleys I went through that help me treasure time on the mountaintop.

Some said I wasn’t the sister with the good voice to sing the solos. But God had a different plan.

Every time I cantor, each song feels like Amazing Grace. For 20 years, I thought my music was dead. He brought it back and showed me how to pour my heart into every song.

Melodies dip into valleys of the shadow of death and soar on eagle’s wings to mountain tops.

Singing through the mountains helps me see the sunrise more clearly.

Give it a try.