What DO I do all day?

13 05 2010

I apologize — I haven’t posted regularly at all lately, and all my posts have been about youth ministry.  But, c’est la vie.   I am living and breathing youth ministry in everything I do, it seems.  And so far, at least, I’m loving it!

This morning, I had the opportunity to go help out with the parish-wide honors orchestra.  I got to meet students from five different area middle and high schools…and since I wasn’t their “regular teacher,” I got to be the cool, fun, young violin teacher…or at least, that’s how I’m hoping they saw me 🙂

After all the rehearsals were over, I ate lunch with a group of seventh graders, one of whom is a part of our youth group.  In the midst of our conversation, the following exchange happened:

B: So, do you, like, have a job or something?

Me: Yeah, I work at the church.

B: You work at our church?

Me: Yep…I’m the youth director.  (Just so you know, the student I was talking to is a faithful member of the youth group…comes every week to Bible study, etc.)

B: I knew that.  But…what do you do all day?

Me: Well… not sure whether to be offended or crack up 🙂

Missionaries of Music

23 09 2009

A Time magazine article from Dec. 3, 1979, tells the story of Sister Anne Marie Bickerstaff, an Episcopal nun who had moved to Haiti in 1951 to teach at a missionary school.  Over the years, she worked with her students to develop their musical abilities, and eventually raised enough money to fund an orchestra, concert hall, and music school (among other things.)  Very, very cool.

I actually discovered this article tonight, after reading the first chapter of Taking It to the Streets: Using the Arts to transform your community, by J. Nathan Corbitt and Vivian Nix-Early.  In the foreword to the book, Tony Campolo recalls his reactions to the Haitian orchestra project (side note: I assume the above-linked article is referring to the same orchestra that Campolo mentions below, although he does not give enough details to know):

“I was somewhat shocked.  When I considered the incredible poverty of this poorest of all nations in the Western Hemisphere, and when I thought about the massive malnutrition that plagues the children of the capital, I instantly concluded that the money would be better spent on things other than music.  That was before I saw the symphony orchestra perform in an outdoor sports stadium…As I watched the impoverished populace react to the music, saw the ecstasy and pride in their faces, and the sense of dignity that the music generated among these people, I realized that the nuns had done the right thing.”


18 09 2009

Well, it’s been two months now, and although I miss Louisiana deeply, I’ve noticed that Atlanta is starting to feel like home.  Here’s why:

1. My socks don’t match.  You know about the laundry machine monster that eats socks, one at a time, so that you can never find a matching pair?  Well, when it came time to pack up our boxes in Ruston, I somehow managed to find almost all of them again.  But we’ve kicked off our shoes enough times, done the laundry enough times, and avoided doing the laundry enough times, that my socks have started to separate.  Yesterday, I wore a blue-and-white sock on my left foot and a plain white sock on my right (I did the best I could–better than green and purple or something, right?)

2. I survived rush hour. To be more specific, I successfully merged onto I-85 in bumper-to-bumper traffic and then moved over 4 or 5 lanes within half a mile in order to get off at the right exit.  Given my irrational fear of driving on the interstate, I would say this is a huge accomplishment.   In any case, it made me feel invincible for the rest of the day.

3. Our futon is already well-used.  We waited a few weeks before finally breaking down and buying a futon, and we have enjoyed it ever since.  It does need a new mattress, as there are already indentations the places where we sit  It has twice been used by house guests, first by my sister and brother-in-law, and one week later, by one of my very best friends!   And just three evenings ago, I spilled a can of Diet Mountain Dew on it (Note to self: NOT a good idea.  Taking the cover off of a futon mattress is way more trouble than it’s worth).

4. I found an orchestra. When I arrived at the first rehearsal,  I didn’t recognize anyone and didn’t know what to expect.  What if I couldn’t hang with the Atlanta freelancers?  What if they did rehearsals differently?  What if the music threw some curveball that I wasn’t prepared for?  What if “concert black” meant something different here than in Louisiana?  But as we began playing the first song, I felt all my anxieties melt away into a feeling of familiarity.

5.  My planner is full.  I have determined that, to a certain extent, being busy makes me feel fulfilled.  Or at the very least, involved.  Last weekend, between work, orchestra rehearsals, auditions, church services, and teaching commitments, I hardly had time to breathe… and I wouldn’t have it any other way!

Orchestra (of Christ…)

17 09 2009

February 2005. Reno, Nevada. National High School Honor Orchestra.

Aaron Copland’s Billy the Kid orchestral suite opens with a serene piccolo solo, evoking a sense of the open prairie from which the story emerges. Throughout the National Orchestra Festival, we spent seven hours a day (at least!) in rehearsal, preparing for our final concert at the end of the week. Our piccolo player consistently botched the solo, his instrument cracking on the high note. High schoolers that we were, we giggled at the sound, and then as the week went on, we rolled our eyes. (Will he ever get this right??)

Our conductor looked at us sternly and said, “You are an orchestra. During this part of the piece, the piccolo might be the only one playing, but we are all in this together. You all need to be hearing the song in your head and envisioning the melody beforehand. And when we start to play, I want you to give him your undivided attention and silently cheer him on. No matter what happens, we are in this together.”

Four and a half years later, I remember that speech clearly. I remember taking his words to heart and holding my breath at the opening of the song. I don’t, however, remember whether or not the piccolo player nailed his solo. I guess it didn’t matter.

UNC Orchestra

As I played in the Cobb Symphony Orchestra last week, I couldn’t help but marvel at what a wonderful thing it is to play in an orchestra. In what other context can 100 people come together so singlemindedly to create such beauty? There is a certain kinship — a camaraderie — that arises from playing music together. We speak a common language and are bound together by what can sometimes become a transcendent experience. For that reason, although I definitely missed the familiar “Shreveport circuit” musicians, I felt more at home last week than I have so far in Atlanta.

I can’t help but wonder if the orchestral experience is perhaps one of the truest expressions of the body of Christ? Allow me to take a little bit of liberty with 1 Corinthians 12:

Now the orchestra is not made up of one instrument but many. For if the whole orchestra were only made up of percussion players, then where would the melody be? Or if the whole orchestra was just a trumpet player, what would happen after the fanfare finished?

But God has placed each of the players within the ensemble, just as he desired.

The violinists cannot say to the clarinetist “We do not need you.” Because who will take her place for Rhapsody in Blue? Nor can the tuba players make fun of the piccolo player when he misses a note.

On the contrary, the old adage is true: An orchestra is only as strong as its weakest player.

God has composed music for this ensemble, orchestrating the melodies to weave in and out through the various sections of the orchestra, so that each part is essential to the whole. And if one player makes a mistake, the whole orchestra suffers with him or her. And if one player nails a particularly difficult or beautiful solo, the whole orchestra applauds.

You are each individual musicians, and together, you are the orchestra of Christ.