Winter Band Concert

What a treat this evening, to be in the audience during grandson Jonathan’s band concert debut. This talented young man, who sings, dances and performs in musicals and plays, added a band instrument to his repertoire three months ago, choosing the clarinet.

Tonight the 6th Grade Band opened the winter concert at the Pittsburg Memorial Auditorium.

Looking classy in a white button down shirt, suspenders and a bow tie, Jonathan was front and center on the stage. He did not appear to be at all nervous for his first band concert.

The 6th Grade Band, Jazz Band, and 7th & 8th Grade Band performed under the direction of Mr. Matthew Reimer. He did a fantastic job of introducing each band and explaining their musical numbers. It was easy to see that this dedicated band teacher is building skills in his students that will further their musical talents.

Jonathan and his fellow musicians led off with A Mozart Melody by W.A. Mozart, a readily recognizable tune. Listen to it HERE. Their next selection was Listen to Our Sections by John Higgins. Mr. Reimer explained this piece helps the students learn when to play, and when not to play. Watch it HERE.

Aura Lee by George R. Poulton was musical piece number three. You can experience it HERE. And for their grand finish, the band performed a Christmas classic, Jingle Bells by J.S. Pierpont. Sing along HERE.

I was so proud of Jonathan, and the 6th Grade Band. These children are at the beginning of a musical journey that will take them through hours and hours and hours of practicing and perfecting. Ahead are many performances in marching bands, ensembles and concerts. I am thrilled to have witnessed this auspicious first performance.

Jonathan’s big brother, Dayan, who made it home from the university in time to be present in the audience, began his musical journey in 6th grade as well. I spent the next six years enjoying his concerts and performances. How perfectly timed is Jonathan’s decision to pursue band as well. I have more years ahead to enjoy his performances.

There are powerful life lessons to learn, mastering a musical instrument. Those lessons about playing their parts, focusing on the music in front of them, and allowing the other musicians to play their parts well are apparent to me also as I watch with appreciation and gratitude.

It just would not have felt right this December, without a band concert to attend. Well done, Jonathan. You played beautifully. Bravo!

When I Believe 

I wake up every morning with a song playing in my head. Sometimes the same song stays with me for days. Most often, the songs change with the sunrise. This morning I hummed along with the tune only I could hear, recalling a few of the words from the chorus. 

Curious why this particular song was with me today, I pulled up the song list on my iPhone. I knew I had this one saved. From the Prince of Egypt soundtrack, I actually had two versions of the song, When You Believe, one from the animated film, and one performed by Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey. 

When I Believe

I listened to both versions…and was moved to tears. And forget trying to sing along with the song. I choked up and no words could flow. Out running errands today, I must have played When You Believe at least a dozen times…and I teared up every time. 

I have never been one to cry easily. When my emotions are close enough to the surface to inspire teary eyes, I pay attention. It is more than a Divine tap on the shoulder. Tears are a strong invitation to slow down and look deeply within. 

After a day of reflection around the When We Believe lyrics, and my response to them, I’ve realized that the song mirrors aspects of my journey, and in particular, my healing journey. 

When I Believe
I’m adjusting the lyrics, changing them to the first person. Otherwise they are directly from When We Believe

Many nights I prayed/with no proof anyone could hear/in my heart a hopeful song/I barely understood. 

I have a daily, ongoing conversation with the Divine. More than prayer, it is a share and listen kind of communication, full of signs and synchronicities. I do have proof I am heard. However, the part about having a hope in my heart that I barely understood was the first line that caused tears to flood my eyes. 

I am a positive, hopeful person. However, as the pain in my legs increased the last few years, I felt like the hope I was clinging to, that I would somehow get better, was slipping away. The song I barely understood was the act of healing. 

Now I am not afraid/although I know there’s much to fear/I was moving mountains/long before I knew I could

These words reminded me that fear no longer grips me as it once did, even though there will always be fear inducing events going on in the world. It is faith and trust that move mountains, or obstacles, out of the way. Part of my recent journey has been learning to trust deeply, and let go of any need to control life and outcomes. 


There can be miracles/when I believe/though hope is frail/it’s hard to kill

Who know what miracles/I can achieve/when I believe somehow I will/I will when I believe

I have experienced miracles in my life, in my health and well being, the past 10 months. It began with a belief…and not just believing that I could get better. It started with the belief that there was an answer out there for me. I stopping asking for relief from the pain and healing for the deteriorating condition of my legs. Instead I asked where to look for answers to my questions…and remained open to all possibilities, both conventional and unconventional. 

In this time of fear/when prayer so often proves in vain/hope seems like the summer bird/too swiftly flown away. 

Yet now I’m standing here/my heart so full, I can’t explain/seeking faith and speaking words/I never thought I’d say. 

One year ago, I felt fear trying to crowd into my heart and mind. I had been walking with a cane for more than six months. When I woke up in the mornings, it took half hour of slowly stretching out my legs before I could stand, and several more hours of using a cane before I could move well enough to leave the house. 

When I Believe
When I Believe18 months ago, the cane with me so I could walk. I was on pain meds, so I could keep up with my granddaughter and great niece. I was also 60 pounds heavier. 

On my worst days, I wondered what was going to happen next. And when I would no longer be able to walk at all. Hope seemed fleeting on those days. My choice was to resign myself to the seemingly inevitable loss of mobility and severe, ongoing pain…or ask the Divine what I needed to do to bring about healing. Doctors had told me my condition would only continue to worsen. 

And yet…now I’m standing here…my heart so full I can’t explain… Those words from the song evoked the greatest emotion. Because… I am standing. I am walking, without a cane. I am pain free. I am the healthiest I have been, in more than 22 years. My heart is, indeed, very full. 

They don’t always happen when I ask/and it’s easy to give in to my fears/but when I’m blinded by my pain/can’t see the way, get through the rain

A small, but still, resilient voice/says hope is very near/there can be miracles/when I believe. 

Beautiful, powerful words. I was nearly blinded by pain and despair wasn’t far from overtaking me. Hope was very near,  however. That still small voice guided me to Anthony William…the Medical Medium…a man very connected to Spirit, who happened to have a post on Facebook about neurological pain as a result of the shingles virus attacking the nerves after a trauma. A trauma such as a car accident. 

There in that article, I found answers. 

In 2013, my word for the year was Believe. I learned a lot about my old beliefs and about seeing in a more expansive way. The next year my focus was on living Beyond my comfort zone and stretching and growing. Then I had a year with the word Journey, as I continued to move beyond what I had previously known. Last year was all about Surrender. I wasn’t in control of where the Journey was taking me. I only had to decide if I would go with the flow…or watch life flow by while I stood still. My trust and faith deepened incredibly last year. 

While in that surrendered state…open and unattached, in pain and unsure what my future held, but believing, hoping, immersing myself in the flow…that still, small voice guided me to the answer I sought. I see the progression now, the unfolding of my journey, each step vital. 

My healing journey continues, as I experience greater health. My heart is full…of wonder, gratitude, love, compassion and boundless hope. My desire is to share publicly about my journey, and the benefits and improvements that a healthy diet and a positive attitude can bring. Someone else may be asking for answers to their health struggles. Someone else may be clinging to the hope that they can heal. 

There can be miracles, when you believe. Though hope is frail, it is hard to kill

I believe. 

When I Believe             Healthier, pain free, lighter, stronger. 

Listen to When You Believe HERE

Movie Review: Florence Foster Jenkins

Sometimes a movie trailer captures my interest, creating anticipation for the upcoming release. Such was the case with this film. I had not heard of it. But I saw previews for it several times, while at the theater to watch another movie. Florence Foster Jenkins trailers not only caught my attention, they pierced my heart as well. In the middle of a busy and full week, I slipped away late this afternoon to watch this enchanting film. 

Florence Foster Jenkins stars Meryl Streep, Hugh Grant and Simon Helberg. This comedic biography was directed by Stephen Frears and carries a PG-13 rating for brief suggestive material. The film has a run time of 1 hour and 56 minutes.  

Florence Foster Jenkins (Streep), a New York socialite during the early to mid 1900s, has a passion for music. She lives for all things musical, using her influence and wealth to support the arts in her city. She has a loving husband, St. Clair (Grant), a former small time actor, and a circle of adoring friends. 

Florence loves to sing. Nothing touches her heart more deeply than listening to a stirring aria. She has employed various voice teachers throughout her life and devotes herself to her craft. 

The only problem is, Florence can’t sing. 

She doesn’t realize this truth about herself. Her doting husband has shielded her from any unkind or critical remarks, arranging small performances with carefully selected guests whenever Florence feels the urge to sing before an audience. 

However, when Florence decides to begin another round of voice lessons, St. Clair finds his role of greatest supporter and secret protector a challenge. Florence hires a promising young pianist, Cosme McMoon (Helberg), to accompany her. 

Although initially shocked by his generous patron’s singing abilities, Cosme learns to see past Florence’s musical shortcomings. He becomes an ally of St. Clair’s, protecting Florence from ridicule as well. 

Encouraged, Florence unleashes her singing voice on the city and the world, releasing an album and pursuing her lifelong dream of performing in Carnegie Hall, before a sold out audience. 

Is it talent that matters most? Or is it doing what she loves?

This movie was all that the previews hinted it would be…funny, inspiring, deeply moving. I laughed out loud several times. However during most of the film I watched through tear filled eyes and chuckled around a lump in my throat. 

What an amazing woman Florence was. Meryl Streep captures well her child-like whimsy and sense of self. Florence sang her heart out, and delighted in the opportunity to do so. Hugh Grant is one of my favorite actors. It is always a pleasure to watch him perform. His sense of comedic timing is perfect. This was a meaty role that brought him out of semiretirement. I appreciated St. Clair’s devotion to his wife. He never wavered in supporting her dream, although as he pointed out to Cosme, love takes on many forms. 

The real Florence pictured alongside Meryl’s character. 

And it was a joy to see Simon Helberg, most well known for playing Howard on the popular sitcom The Big Bang Theory, take on another role. His character, who often had giggling fits, was reminiscent of a young Mozart. 

This movie was a love story, a biography, and an inspirational piece about what is possible when one follows passion.  Florence did what she loved, not caring what anyone else thought or said, as long as she could look into her husband’s eyes and see acceptance and encouragement there. 

I appreciate movies based on true events, and real people. It was worth sitting through end credits to see actual black and white photos of Florence, St. Clair and Cosme. Florence’s performance from her only record played as credits rolled, verifying that technically, she might have been the world’s worst singer. Oh, but she had heart. Florence told her husband, “Some may say that I couldn’t sing, but no one can say that I didn’t sing!” 

Yes, she did. She sang. She was beautiful. I would have been standing and cheering and applauding Florence Foster Jenkins. 

Harmonic Connection

I’m very grateful for today’s creative activity, and not just because on the surface, it appeared to be a simple one. Often, it seems, inspiration wears the guise of simplicity. 

I drew this slip of paper today: 

Add a new song to my iPhone playlist

Although I don’t have musical ability, I love music. I took piano lessons as a kid and again as an adult, and played the snare drum in the school band…and that’s the extent of my talent. However, music has the power to move me, deeply. When I’m cleaning the house, cooking, or alone in the car, I have music playing. 

Drawing this creative action was akin to being told to go shop in a clothing store where every item is the right size. In such a situation I would simply enjoy browsing, leisurely, until the right outfit attracted me. 

Late this evening I settled into my recliner, donned earbuds and asked for inspiration to guide me to a great new song to add to my iPhone playlist. Google was my friend. I typed in inspirational songs and scanned through the suggestions. I jotted down songs that drew me and then pulled them up on YouTube. 

The first song that touched my heart and made my soul expand was actually one I’m familiar with, but had forgotten about. I have the Prince of Egypt soundtrack on my iPod, and yet I realized tonight that it’s been a long time since I’ve listened to any of the songs. 

This is such a powerful song, and very fitting to counter the climate of fear that threatens to overshadow us all during these turbulent times. Listening to these lyrics…

In this time of fear, When prayer so often proves in vain, Hope seems like the summer bird too swiftly flown away. Yet now I’m standing here, My heart’s so full, I can’t explain. Seeking faith and speakin’ words I never thought I’d say. There can be miracles, When you believe, Though hope is frail, Its hard to kill.

…I decided that fear has often gripped the world, through the ages, for a vast number of reasons. These words remind me that though hope is frail, it is very hard to kill. And I carry hope in my heart, as do many others around the globe. 

This song, though not new to me, was promptly downloaded to my phone. Listen to it HERE

I still needed a new song to add to my iPhone playlist. After listening to several good songs, I was captivated by one I had never heard before. 

Colbie Caillat has a beautiful song written for women on her CD Gypsy Heart. Listening to Try for the first time brought tears to my eyes. Watching the video moved me deeply. Her song is about embracing who you are and not changing yourself to please others. She sings…

Wait a second, Why should you care, what they think of you. When you’re all alone, by yourself, Do you like you? Do you like you?

You don’t have to try so hard, You don’t have to give it all away, You just have to get up, get up, get up, get up. You don’t have to change a single thing. 

…reminding me that when I’m alone, by myself, I do like who I am. I don’t have to change a thing. I was thrilled to add this ballad-style song to my iPhone. Listen to it HERE

This seemingly simple activity turned into a joyful time of sampling songs and being uplifted by the power of music. I feel the connection between music and creativity. Even if I’m not writing songs or composing stirring symphonies, music inspires me and feeds my creativity, in whatever form it is expressed. 

I love what Robin Williams’ character says in the amazing movie, August Rush. 

“You know what music is? God’s little reminder that there’s something else besides us in this universe; harmonic connection between all living beings, everywhere, even the stars.” 

Music is everywhere. It abides within me. And even the stars sing. 

Surrender 122: Carl Junction High School Bands Spring Concert

This afternoon I left my mom in the cheerful company of my sisters and niece, and slipped away from the hospital to attend a spring concert. Unbelievably, the school year is drawing to a close. My grandson Dayan, who has been extremely busy with end of school competitions, joined the Carl Junction Wind Ensemble for the final concert of his junior year. 

I love band concerts and I confess a special fondness for the bands that my grandson is a member of. I’ve been attending Dayan’s band performances for years, and I’ve had the pleasure of watching him and the other musicians grow in their musical abilities. This group of teens sounds amazing together. I am always impressed, inspired and deeply moved, listening as they play. 

Today, between the Symphonic Band performance, directed by Trey Wadell, and the Wind Ensemble performance, directed by Scott Schneider, awards were presented. Dayan was recognized as a sectional leader and for being selected as a member of this year’s Honor Band. He also lettered in band, for the third time as a high schooler. 

After a time of recognition and well deserved applause, the Wind Ensemble, of which Dayan is a member, graced us with three musical selections. Fanfare and Flourishes by James Cumow was a great opening attention grabber. 

I Am by Andrew Boysen Jr was a moving selection with a poignant backstory. Commissioned after the tragic death of high school band member Lynn Jones, Boysen created this piece as a celebration and affirmation of life. There’s a section intended to represent the foggy morning of the car crash in which Jones died. And at the end of the piece, the band members softly chant, “I am…I am…I am.” Beautiful and haunting. 

The words I Am are from a poem Jones wrote just days before his death: 

I Am

Life, Music, Competition.

I like exciting things, and doing good for others.

Beauty, Successfulness and Smartness are important to me.

I like to achieve recognition.

I can succeed if I really put my mind to it.

I am very set in my ways,

But I can change when I realize my ignorance.

I like a simple nonchalant lifestyle.

I hate ignorance.

I hate structuredness.

This is me. I am!

                           Lynn Jones, January 1990

Such a powerful way to memorialize this teenager’s poem and life. The ensemble played with passion and skill. I was deeply touched. 

Listen to I Am HERE

The last selection was Undertow by John Mackey, a lively and creative piece that brought applause and a standing ovation. 

Cake was served after the concert. Josh, Elissa, Greg and I might have been near the front of the refreshment line! We enjoyed this celebratory dessert as we watched for Dayan, who joined us when he could. 

I’m proud of this dedicated group of young men and women. As I listened to their performance, marveling as always at the gifts these musicians offer to the world, I acknowledged that this beautiful work of creativity is the culmination of hours and hours of effort. 

I know Dayan’s schedule. From marching band to honor band to ensembles, he shows up for early morning practices, experiences long bus rides, participates in parades in all types of weather and gives his best effort during nerve wracking auditions, solos and competitions. Why? So he can play the music that’s before him. So he can join with others as they do the same. So that together, they create something larger than themselves. 

What amazing life lessons they are learning. What beautiful music they create. I’m already looking forward to the next school year’s performances. 

Journey 10: All District Honor Band Concert

All District Band 2

With a sense of anticipation late this afternoon, I took a seat in the darkened and hushed auditorium in the Webb City High School Performing Arts Building. Ninety-nine area high schoolers from 27 different school districts took their places on the large stage for the All District Honor Band Concert. My grandson, Dayan, playing the tuba and representing Carl Junction, was among those talented musicians.

Under the direction of Dr. Timothy Oliver, from Arkansas State University, the band played vibrantly, beautifully, as they performed. I settled back in my seat with a sigh and listened. Incidental Suite, with its three movements, had the big sound and feel of a movie soundtrack. Different Voices was unique in that the piece incorporated the band members own voices. During the second movement their rising and falling whispers added interest to the musical number. I loved that Dr. Oliver, before this work was played, informed us that during the piece we would wonder if the band was “doing something.” The answer he said, was that yes, they were doing something. I laughed, without really knowing what he meant, but as the whispering started, I understood. They WERE doing something indeed!

Mass from La Fiesta Mexicana was a more sober and reflective piece. My favorite part of this selection was the trumpet soloist who, in muted tones, sounded like a priest intoning the words of mass, while the rest of the band answered with tones that made me think they were saying, “Aaaaaaaa…..meeeeennnnnn.” It was beautiful and clever. The last work was Steel, an energetic and exciting piece with lots of percussion and movement. Dr. Oliver suggested we might want to get our groove on, listening to this melodic song, and assured us the band members certainly would be!

While Steel seemed to be the crowd pleaser, evoking a standing ovation after the stirring conclusion, I enjoyed each piece, for different reasons. As I heard each selection, I’d think, “This one is my favorite”. And then I’d hear the next one and think the same thing! I decided I loved them all. Dr. Oliver was fantastic as the conductor, gifting the audience with his graceful movements and fun commentary, while giving expert direction to his band.

What is amazing to realize is that these young men and women met as a band for the first time last night. They had nine hours of rehearsals, with a director they’ve not worked with previously, before giving a concert. It is a testament to their talents and their ability to learn quickly that in that short amount of time they formed a cohesive and beautifully functioning musical entity. They sounded so wonderful together. It is a life lesson as well. When I offer my own music, knowing who I am and what I am gifted to do, I don’t need to worry about what notes others are playing. I can allow them to do what they do so well. Just like today’s band, we blend harmoniously and offer beautifully, when each gifted individual joins together to create an even greater and more gifted whole.

I let those amazing tones and melodies wash over me, soothing my soul, while at the same time, lifting my energy. I am proud of Dayan for his contribution and more than that, for his courage in stepping up and auditioning for these kinds of things. This young man doesn’t back down from a challenge or bother to dwell in his comfort zone. He gives it his best. And life gives its best back to him. He inspires me. The music this afternoon inspired me. I left refreshed.

Music is to the soul quote

Day 276: Doobie Brothers Concert

Doobie Brothers Concert 2e

My friend Mike set up tonight’s first. A few weeks ago he asked about artists I’d seen in concert. My list is short: Michael Jackson, years ago when they were the Jackson Five, and Michael Bolton, twice. That was it. Mike bought tickets for himself and his friend, Peggy, and for Greg and me as a special treat and to contribute to my year of firsts. This evening, we all piled into Mike’s vehicle and headed to Downstream Casino, for an outdoor concert featuring the Doobie Brothers.

I came into an appreciation for music later in life than most people. While I listened to the radio some as a teen, and had a few pop favorites, I was not a big fan of anyone. I was familiar with musical artists. I just didn’t rush out to buy their albums! As an adult with small children, I finally began to listen more to music. I tended toward the ballad style of Michael Bolton, and then came to love the genre of soundtracks. Listening to a movie score brings back memories of all that I love about a film.

Mike, on the other hand, is a musical genius. He began listening to a small transistor radio while still a small boy. He enjoyed a variety of music. As a youth he worked in a music store for a time, familiarizing himself even more with artists, their songs, their backstories, and who sang with which group and for how long. If I ever want to know something about music or an artist, I just ask Mike. He knows. And he enjoys music, at a heart level. It’s not just the facts. It’s the way music invades his soul and moves him.

So to attend a music concert with Mike was not only a first, it was a privilege. He made sure we had great seats. The concert was held at the outdoor theater at Downstream Casino, just a few miles over the Oklahoma state line. After a series of storms moved through the area yesterday, the temperatures dropped drastically into the 40’s as the sun set. That didn’t hamper the enthusiasm of the crowd or of the performers as they took the stage. Leading with the familiar song, “Jesus is Just Alright” the Doobie Brothers delighted the audience with a mix of newer songs from their last release and old favorites. We enjoyed them all, clapping, cheering, getting to our feet often. Well, they all did. I stood occasionally, giving my still aggravated Achilles tendon a rest by staying off my feet!

Doobie Brothers Concert 3e

The Doobie Brothers, founded in 1969, have become an important part of American music with their unique blend of musical styles. They continue to write and record new material and tour the world. Some of their top hits include “Black Water”, a favorite of mine which was performed tonight, “China Grove”, “Long Train Runnin’” and “What a Fool Believes”. They have formed a relationship with Nashville and have an upcoming release with a country-based theme. For this project they have paired with some of Country music’s biggest names. Singer, songwriter, guitarist Tom Johnston of the Doobie Brothers says, “We’re basically an American band – we cover a lot of areas. We cover blues, R&B, country, bluegrass, rock ‘n’ roll. It’s based on rhythms, rhythm structures, picking, and harmonies. That’s been the signature of the band.”

That flow of music was present tonight, and in spite of the chill in the air, the Doobie Brothers delivered an outstanding performance. I had such a fun time, watching the band, watching the crowd, watching Mike as he leapt to his feet to sing along with his favorite songs. The four of us finished the evening with a late dinner, great conversation and laughter. I appreciated that Mike not only suggested a first for me, he made it happen. I am grateful!

Doobie Brothers Concert pic e