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Saturday, July 20, 2019

July 14-18

    This summer I am taking any opportunity I can to grow as a person. I mentioned a few things I've been up to in a previous post- relaxing, eating well, brushing up on my German, reading, doing things that make me happy, etc. I've actually lost 5% of my body fat since the beginning of the summer. (You can't really tell, but the scale says I've gained lean muscle and lost fat. Eventually I'll be able to see that, right?)  When I got the opportunity to sign up for a conference for choral educators and saw that the clinicians were Andrea Ramsey and Rosephanye Powell, I knew I wanted to go.  If you don't know who Rosephanye and Andrea are, they're incredible composers. They are both charismatic, intelligent and very down to earth. I'm so grateful to have gotten to know them a bit.
       The conference was on the other side of Massachusetts, conveniently about an hour away from the Jason Robert Brown concert the week before. I booked a hotel room for the few days so I would have a place to work if I wanted, to relax and to even exercise. (I actually did one day, the other days went from 8am to 9:45 without much of a break.) The conference was on the campus of Smith College in Northampton. I hadn't ever been there before and it was beautiful. When I arrived at my normal "way earlier than you have to be here" time, I decided to take a walk. I explored the botanical garden.
That tree was massive! I think it was a ginko biloba.
My first cypress tree?
Apparently there's another garden inside but I didn't know I could just walk in.
If I lived here as a child this would've been my fort. The next 3 pictures are from within these leaves.
Looking up.
Don't often see cacti in the wilds of Massachusetts.
I feel like I'd seen these before but I don't know what they are.

    If you're one of my penpals, I'd love to see some flowers from your region of the world. After going through the botanical gardens, I walked down to the boathouse and explored the river. It was a great walk before settling in for dinner.
     Fun side fact- After I got home from the first night of activities  (dinner and a sing through of the Brahm's Requiem), I went to charge my phone and realized I was missing my charger wire. Although I am a person who is generally content to live "unplugged," I was planning on using my phone for my clock, my navigation back home, my way to communicate with home and my Duolingo German practice. lol. I was freaking a little bit when I "checked everywhere" and couldn't find it.  So, when I returned to Smith the next day, I retraced every step. It was a long walk. I didn't find my wire until later that night. 
     On Monday, I took a few interest sessions about a variety of subjects- non-classical singing, middle school chorus, the difference between gospel/spirituals/ethnic anthems, a discussion with the composers with questions submitted by the conference attendees and a reading session of music from composers who are less known. I was singing in a chorus that was made up of conference participants and community members. We had bought the music ahead of time but put the repertoire together over 2 days. Monday had 4 hours of rehearsal.
     Tuesday I learned some fascinating facts about singing/neuroscience/ singing in groups, how to program repertoire and rounds/canons for all levels. We rehearsed for 3.75 hours and had a concert at the end of the night.  I wish I had recordings of our performance, but they would be illegal to post without permission. We sang Non Nobis Pacem, written by Rosephanye. She's so fun to work with. In one of the reading sessions we read through a gospel piece and I've never enjoyed singing gospel music before that moment.  We sang Kuimba- Victor Johnson, 1941- Andrea Ramsey, No Time- Susan Brumfield (LOVED this one), Get Busy- Rosephanye Powell, Keep Me Fully Glad- Andrea Ramsey, written in dedication to a music teacher from MA who recently passed away. We sang the world premiere. We ended with Draw the Circle Wide and were joined by Worcester Children's Chorus. Look up some of those pieces. 1941 really grew on me and has been stuck in my head. Here are a few really (unflattering) pictures of me with the composers and the room we sang in.

     It's always good to learn new things and stretch yourself but this conference was also a reminder to myself that I do important work. What I do as a music director really has the power to change people's lives and to create community. Honestly, this world is just filled with grossness sometimes and anything I can do to create beauty, pass along kindness or teach people how to work collaboratively is a win. There is something kind of magical when strangers come together to learn and perform as a choir. If you're not a musician, you may not directly understand, but most people have been emotionally moved enough by music to feel an inkling of what sometimes happens. It was a good decision for me to surround myself with people who have the same passion that I do.
     The last day was bittersweet and short. I took 2 reading session and a terrifying class about preventing vocal damage. (Which prompted me to get a referral to an ENT this week.) Sorry, if you don't know what a reading session is- we get a packet of music and we sight read (sing it without hearing it first) all of the songs. It's a great way to find new music and to hear what it sounds like with everybody rather than 1 line at a time. 
       You may have noticed in the month of posts that I've left out the 18th. The 18th I just hung out with my family since I was away for a few days. 
       This next week will be spent doing errands, doing schoolwork, preparing a paper for grad school credit, writing and preparing for vacation. Woohoo!

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