Category Archives: School

Preflight observations

Four days and counting until I report to the school house at 7 p.m. as well as 7 a.m., so we can board the charter buses and blast off to NYC.

  1. It’s surprising how many people think I’m nuts for doing this. I hear it quite often. You’re taking a hundred people to New York? Whoa. Have fun with that. Well, thanks. I will. Ninety-nine percent of the people going have never been to the #1 tourist destination in the US, and I love seeing and hearing their reactions as I experience it with them.
  2. Although I don’t sleep much at all, it’s still fun. You’d think that after enduring the 10-hour bus rides at night, the risky weather, the worry about obvious big-city safety issues, the Lincoln Tunnel traffic, seeing Phantom on Broadway, Times Square, Grand Central Terminal, Little Italy, Central Park, Rockefeller Plaza, or Medieval Times in Lyndhurst — all for the umpteenth time — I’d be sick of the whole mess. But that’s never the case.
  3. Performing in our venue is unforgettable. Many choral directors do the “workshop” type thing when they take their choirs to NYC. Those are great and educational and fun, but they’ve never been my style — probably because of my decades-long, iron-fisted death grip on control. I’d rather schedule a place for my singers to perform, do the gig as early as possible, then get to the partyin’. I can’t think of a more beautiful venue to sing in NYC than the Cathedral Church of St. John, the DivineAwesome place, in the most literal sense of the word, as folks are truly in awe when they first walk in.
  4. The memories are truly special. I’d need several hands to count how many times I’ve seen and heard former students talk about what a life-changing experience choir tour was. That has to be one of the best feelings for me about the whole thing. I once became a bit upset during a performance at St. John because I looked up to the back row while conducting and saw a couple of basses (both great kids, leaders in the section, beautiful voices) grinning, ear-to-ear: peculiar and basically unacceptable behavior while singing Lenten music. They immediately sought me out after the gig and said, “We are sorry, Jax, but we were just blown away by our sound in this place. We couldn’t believe it.” I’ll take that.

I’m always “on” my choirs about professionalism, behavior, class, respecting the music, recognizing the beauty in things, and being a blessing to people. Sometimes I forget how much of a blessing (in good times and bad — especially the times when they want to see me take the long walk off a short pier…like, you know, now) they are to me. Tour usually brings that to bear in many good ways.

And that’s all the nicey-nicey I got this morning. Coffee, the shower, the road, the school house, in that order. TGI flippin’ Friday.

Have a great day, fiends!

Fun escape

Y’know…seems all I’ve been thinking about lately is this show opening in 25 days, and how much rehearsal time we’ve missed due to snow and playoff games, and how much work remains before we can even fathom putting something onstage for paying guests.

The Black and Gold

The Black and Gold

I think that’s why last night was such a great break for many of us. I adore these kids (and I have 130-some very much like them in the other choirs at school), truly. They keep me young. Most importantly, they’re parented very well, having been taught to be respectful and kind. Never once do I worry about them doing or saying something inappropriate at a huge venue like the Q. (Too bad the Cavs lost by 20. That was inappropriate.)

Getting ready

Getting ready on center court

We laughed a lot during the one-hour wait time before they lined us up to go out to center court, at which time they sang the national anthem very nicely.

I’ve admitted to you before that I often dread these gigs (the getting dolled up, the driving to/in Cleveland during rush hour amidst 10,000 construction barrels downtown, the hunt for a parking space, for which you are drained of $35), but once I’m there, it’s a total hoot. The Cavs have their “anthem singers” division pretty well organized, other than the part about standing the whole time while waiting over an hour to perform. (Still, my fiend Wendell and I found a nice cart to park our buns on for a bit. Shout out to her for taking these cool photos, too.)

Anyway. It was lots of fun, a great honor, and a much-needed diversion from the regular insanity. And as we were filing out of the event level, one of the boys sidled up to me and said, “So,we need to talk. When are we doing an Indians game this year?” :-D

How’s your week shaping up?

It’s May

…and every teacher knows what that means. No, I’m not talking about how it’s the final full month of school before summer. Of course not. :twisted: I’m talking about May being Field Trip Month.

Everyone and their teacher goes on field trips during May. Even the Fink and her 185 choir students are in on the act (although it’s just for an hour, and the field trip is coming to us in the form of a concert by the awesome a cappella group from Tiffin University, Up in the Air). It makes for hit-or-miss rehearsals sometimes, I’ll admit. Over the next two weeks alone, my students are out for various field trips, to wit:

  • SADD trip to somewhere, I forget
  • Nat’l Honor Society members out for a community service day
  • Physics class field trip to Cedar Point (the 8th grade goes on this day as well)
  • A dozen college visits by a dozen seniors
  • FFA state convention
  • Bunch of juniors out all day tomorrow to decorate for prom
  • NHS members out all morning to serve the senior citizens’ breakfast held at the high school

But hey, it’s good. It’s a sign of the times, for sure; a sign that the 24th (the students’ last day) is fast approaching. Trouble is, so are my three performances, all of which require the presence of teenage voices to rehearse. Still, like I tell myself a lot lately: it’ll all happen and probably be nice, and no one will have a fit, and it’ll be over with for another year and hello, month of June.

I do hate the “May funnel,” though. Everything’s swirling down tight, just before the final swan song. Hurry up already, would ya?

Fa la la. :-)

Robert who…? II

I’m doing a unit on the blues for my 5th grade music class. They’re enjoying it, and so am I, actually. This week, they’re writing their own verses, some of which I get behind the keyboard and sing for them. It makes them laugh.

My raison d’etre: amusing a group of 10-year-olds. Go ahead. Mock.  :P

Yesterday, I showed one class two photos of Robert Johnson. (Who is Robert Johnson? No worries; got ya covered, fiend.) While I talked to them about Johnson’s life and mysterious death, I passed the pictures around. I said, “Check out the length of his fingers.” The kids were blown away, which made me laugh. They couldn’t get over it, or stop talking about it.

“They look like alien fingers!”
“He has E.T. hands!”

Hahaha. Anyway, I told them that the photos they were looking at were the only two existing pictures of Johnson. Turns out I was wrong. I have since learned that a third photograph was authenticated just this year. I’ll have to bring that one in to show them.

My mentioning this blues unit at dinner with Lars last night sparked a lively conversation about blues altogether, and we talked at length about one of our all-time favorite players, Stevie Ray Vaughan. Gone way, way too soon. But that’s a subject deserving of its own post on its own day — maybe come the 3rd of October, his birthday.

And now I fly. More 5th grade craziness this afternoon. Are you having a good day?

Allons II

And away we go again.

Great opening night — one of the best ever. Two shows remaining today, then tonight around 10, it’s another one in the books.

Stoney and I play the same record every year after opening night. We look back at all the hair pulling and sleepless nights and frustration and “if only they’d love it as much as we do” conversations, and realize that it was all worth it. They do love it as much as we do. I submit that there are few experiences quite like watching a group of 14-18-year-olds come together as a committed group of actors, singers and dancers and “give back” to their community. There’s not a diva in the bunch, and we couldn’t be prouder of how they pulled this thing off in front of a sellout crowd of awesome parents and friends.

Perhaps the best part is how this rural (and I do mean out in the middle of nowhere), small community completely and enthusiastically supports the performing arts, with their dollars and their attendance. The theory that only larger, wealthier districts have that kind of support is consistently disproved, year after year out here in Hooterville.

Now to match the magic of opening night this afternoon and tonight…yikes.

But hey…there’s food. Lots and lots of glorious food after the matinee and before the final show. I don’t know about anyone else, but that makes me sixteen kinds of happy. Bring it! Eat! Laugh! Sing! Laissez les freakin’ bon temps roulez.