The Hills are Alive!!

14 12 2010

On Saturday, I had the amazing opportunity to play with the Von Trapp Children in Marshall, Texas. These four siblings, ages 16-22, are the great-grandchildren of Captain and Maria von Trapp, of Sound of Music fame.

Going into the performance, I had no idea what to expect. Turns out I was one of just six musicians accompanying the singing group. The Von Trapps were running late for the second rehearsal because they had to drive over from Birmingham (after a performance with the Alabama Symphony the night before). And although they were the guests of honor, and we were happy to wait for them, they entered the convention center full of apologies. Sofi, the oldest, strode onstage, introduced herself to each of us individually, and thanked us for being there.

And that opening set the tone for the rest of the day. I was impressed not only by their vocal talent (which was PHENOMENAL) but also by their graciousness and genuine friendliness. Having traveled the world on concert tours, they could easily have come to Marshall with their noses up, deploring this backwards town and its less-than-virtuosic musicians. (And it wouldn’t be the first time something like that had happened!)

But in fact, they did just the opposite. They were excited to be back in Texas, where the weather was considerably warmer than their Montana home. They ate dinner with us backstage, and we had a wonderful time getting to know them a little bit better. And after the performance was over, they even asked if they could take a picture with us!

I shared this story with my Sunday School class this past Sunday morning, and Conrad interrupted. “It’s like Jesus, isn’t it?” he said.

“What do you mean?” I asked. I hadn’t really planned to attach a moral to this story.

“Well, like, we should be getting excited about getting to meet God, and we should be wanting to have our picture made with him. But it’s just the opposite. Jesus came here to us, and wanted to get to know us.”

I was speechless. He was right, of course. What a great Christmas story!!

And here’s the (completely unsolicited) pitch: If you ever get the chance to go hear the Von Trapps in concert, please please take it!!! They’re 100% worth it. And if you just can’t wait until they come to you, go listen to them here

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 🙂

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.


22 07 2009

Without  a 9-5 desk job to occupy my days, I’ve had plenty of time lately to think and brainstorm and vision for the future.  Here are some highlights:

1. Yesterday … I had lunch with the pastor of a local Methodist church about the call of God, with the end result that I am reconsidering my own path and will be embarking upon a more formal discernment process.  And depending on how that goes, I may be applying to Candler School of Theology this fall (incidentally, they have a really unique “Theology in the Arts” concentration for MDiv students)

2.  Last night … I had a great conversation with my mom about the new arts ministry that is in the works at Noel UMC in Shreveport, LA.  It sounds like a great time to be in the church, and I only wish I could be there as it starts up!  As we looked for ideas together, we found several neat ministries in action across the country.  (I’m slowly adding these to my “links” pages; leave a comment if you have any other cool websites to share!)

3. This morning … I began preparing for my new violin students: compiling ideas for games, exercises, lesson plans,  techniques.  And I headed back to the basics, perusing my old Suzuki Book 1 for insights written onto the page long ago by my own violin teacher.  Jordan must have thought I was crazy, though: when he woke up, I was in the living room, demonstrating the old “rest, zip, step” routine!

an answered prayer??

20 07 2009

And, one last post about our experience at church yesterday.

Last week, frustrated by the futility of my job search, I decided to change tactics and set up the foundation for a freelance music business (see my recently updated site at!)  I was accepted as a part-time violin teacher at a local music school (YAY!) but will still need to find my own students, and possibly another lesson venue, to fill up the rest of my time.  In my head, I had thought it would be ideal if I could find a church that would let me give lessons there, and I would be more than happy to work in arts ministry and service in exchange!

So, here is a recap of a conversation from church yesterday:

Guy sitting in front of us: Hi! I’m Matt.

Me: I’m Callie.

Jordan: I’m Jordan.

Matt: Is this your first time here?

Jordan: It’s our second time.  We actually were here last week, too. We just moved to the area.

Matt: Oh, are you a student at Tech?

Jordan: Yeah. (they converse about materials science, engineering, PhDs, etc.)

Matt (turning to me): So what will you be doing while he’s working on his PhD?

Me: I’m not sure yet. (I fumble for words and sound like an idiot for a few seconds before I remember that I do in fact have a plan!)  I’m going to be teaching violin lessons.

Matt: Oh, really?  We’re actually hoping to start offering art and music lessons here at the church…

What were the odds?  We ended up sitting behind the very people who are starting a new arts ministry at this church, which will be affiliated with the international arts mission/ministry that they founded!  It was just a few seconds of conversation, and who knows what will come of it…but there was definitely a seed planted!