I posted a video! First time in public in quite awhile.
Hello and welcome back!
If you’ve been watching this site, you’ve undoubtedly been bored, as nothing has happened here since January.
But now things have kicked off! I’ve done a fair amount of revision over the last few days, and there is more to come. It will take me a while to get everything cleaned up and consistent, but it’s something.
In addition to site updates, here’s an unfairly brief summary of my life recently.
In March, I found out that I had been accepted to Shenandoah Conservatory, to study conducting there. This program has been highly recommended by several people who I respect, and I jumped at the chance to be involved.
I accepted the offer and resigned my job at Magnolia West High School. I finished out the end of the year (earning a UIL Sweepstakes trophy in the process!) and moved to Winchester, Virginia. I’m renting a house with several other grad students, and I’m sitting on the couch as I type this.
I’ve spent the time since my move working with Shenandoah Summer Music Theatre, the summer stock program run by the conservatory. In addition to showing me around the school, I’ve had a chance to interact with faculty and staff who I will be working with during the year. Needless to say I’ve spent plenty of time at the piano and in the library.
I was awarded a partial assistantship, which was recently converted to a full assistantship, which will cover many of my expenses in exchange for my work. I’m excited to see what that will lead to!
At the same time, I also left my job at Advent Lutheran Church, where I’d been playing since December of 2018. I am incredibly thankful and blessed to have worked with Pastor Kim and with Scott MacAdow there, and I learned a lot. I also finished my studies with Dr. Dave Englert, and earned my Service Playing Certificate from the American Guild of Organists.
Before I moved, I had a chance to go one last time to UIL State Solo & Ensemble. I accompanied about 20 students, including covering for two students who I had never worked with but found themselves in need.
The move went smoothly and I enjoyed seeing many parts of the country. You can check out my Instagram feed for pictures of the travel.
My time with SSMT has nearly ended. I’m still playing for some occasional rehearsals while David, the main rehearsal pianist, is busy with shows. But it allows me many free days and not much to do.
So with the remaining summer, I’m making a point of sightseeing and preparing myself for the fall. I’m playing plenty of piano and reading a lot. I hope to visit friends in Washington, D.C., and possibly even in New York City before the summer ends.
And of course I’ll be updating and filling this site in as well. No excuses, since I have plenty of free time.
I didn’t realize it until I checked Facebook (I’m terrible with remembering dates unless I write them down), but today is the 5th anniversary of my Grandma’s passing.
Her name was Susie Lewis and she was an incredible force in my life. I wish I had planned ahead and could write a longer, more coherent post than this, but instead, I will content myself with sharing some of the many things she did for me and the lessons she taught me.
Grandma was always my biggest fan as a musician. She owned the piano where I first learned notes (it’s still at my Grandpa’s house, sadly neglected as I live so far away). She always supported me in singing and playing piano, even though she could barely carry a tune. I was recently reminded of the lullaby she used to sing, so I know she wasn’t totally tone-deaf.
She always wanted to hear whatever I was working on at the piano, even if it was a little piece by an obscure composer. She actually paid for my piano lessons for several years when it was more difficult for my parents to do so.
Fun fact and quick sidebar: when I met my first real piano teacher, we quickly discovered that she had lived in the same small town where Grandma did. In fact, I think I remember hearing that my aunt baby-sat her kids a few times.
Grandma never missed a performance of mine, if she could help it. Because of her, my parents must have seen me in Les Miserables more than a dozen times over two productions. She was at every piano recital as far back as I can remember, and she spearheaded the receptions for both my high school and college recitals.
When I was very young, she convinced me to perform a simple arrangement of Crown Him With Many Crowns around Easter at her church. That was my first “public” solo performance. Over the next decade I would perform easily a dozen times there, everything from attempts at karaoke tracks of I Can Only Imagine (while my voice was changing and I had to sing most of the last half down the octave), to piano pieces. I think one summer in junior high I stayed with her for over a month and played something nearly every weekend.
I remember especially two performances in her honor, neither of them at a church. When I was in sixth grade (I think; I know my voice hadn’t changed yet), there was a Relay For Life planned in her small town. I got up and sang My Heart Will Go On which I had been working on with a voice teacher. My parents have the video—it’s precious. It’s the kind of performance that in high school I would have rolled my eyes at, but now I remember it fondly.
The second performance was while I was in college. My family planned a special event in her honor at a Louisiana Swashbucklers game (indoor football). Without telling her ahead of time, my cousins arranged for me to sing the National Anthem at the start of the game. I remember the look of pride and the hug she gave me when I came back afterward.
There are so many other performances I’m remembering now when she was in the audience, but I’ll leave it with those stories for now.
Music wasn’t the only thing Grandma supported me in. I went on so many trips with her, especially in the last few years of her life when she was driving to Baton Rouge regularly for chemotherapy treatments. It’s incredible to think about the fact that she did that for nearly a decade, traveling from across Louisiana, and later from Houston for treatments. She loved the doctor over there.
Grandma also went to Baylor with me for the first time after I became a student. For orientation weekend, we made a big loop from Houston to Waco, then to visit my great-grandmother in east Texas (I remember getting my first email from my roommate while we were there), then to Baton Rouge for another treatment.
She bought me my first laptop on that trip, which I used all through college. In fact, I still have it (I used it as recently as the school pop show last spring to run sound cues). She bought herself an identical laptop and learned how to operate the MacOS in her late 50s and early 60s. (She bought my second and current laptop as a gift for my college graduation, though she passed before making it to the ceremony.
The more I write this, the more memories bubble up. Rather than write them all down, I’m going to save some for stories. But I want to send off with some things that I only figured out tonight after seeing other family members’ reflections.
Until tonight, I didn’t recognize the incredible strength I saw from Grandma. I didn’t think about the level of commitment—determination—it took to fight the battle she fought for over a decade. She made it look effortless and we never felt she loved us any less, or that she had less time for the things she enjoyed. In fact, she seized on opportunities to try even more—family vacations, travel to see distant relatives, even summer camps.
So in short, here are the lessons I learned from my Grandma.
Keep your loved ones (both family and friends) close.
Once you’ve committed to a course of action, go for it.
Never give up. But be willing to change strategies in case of new developments.
Try new things. Explore the world!
Luck will help, but commitment and a good work ethic is what carries the day.
Encourage others to take pride in their accomplishments.
Life isn’t as complicated as it seems. Love, determination, and a cheerful heart will solve a lot. Then you can worry about the other stuff.
I got very excited when I realized I could use this as a title for this post. Here’s the reason:
1. capitalized : January 6 observed as a church festival in commemoration of the coming of the Magi as the first manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles or in the Eastern Church in commemoration of the baptism of Christ
3.a (3) an illuminating discovery, realization, or disclosure
Today is the feast of Epiphany, which is significant to me as a church organist. It’s the official end of the Christmas season (i.e., day 12 of Christmas, or the day when one famously received 12 drummers, 11 pipers, 10 lords…)
But also this first week of the new year has been a time of several realizations. And since tonight is the end of my winter break, it seems like a good time to reflect on them.
Today I spent several hours taking a hike in the forest north of me. It was a lovely day of weather, and that’s where most of this post was developed. I recently started listening to The Original Cast, which almost seems tailor-made for me.
In this podcast, host Patrick Flynn brings on someone working in the theatre and asks them to reflect on a cast recording that has been formative for them somehow. This has the double impact of (a) getting into someone’s brain about how they think of the world and the art of musical theatre and (b) introducing the listener to dozens of cast recordings.
Those who know me know I’m a huge sucker for cast recordings. I have a spreadsheet of nearly 900 titles of musicals which I want to explore if at all possible. This has led me to search out obscure cast recordings or famous ones that I avoided or missed.
And yet just in the first 3 full episodes, 2 of them are recordings I’d never listened to before this afternoon. The original 1967 cast recording of You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown and the 1995 cast recording of Hot Mikado. I highly recommend them both, but especially the second one.
Anyway, all this to say that listening to these discussions and soundtracks has reminded me of my love for musicals and the way they tell stories. I’m more excited for my next opportunity to work on a show, which I hope is coming soon.
Most of my attention this winter has been on my work as an organist. Since taking on the job at Advent Lutheran Church right at the start of the church calendar, I’ve weathered one of the busiest musical seasons at the church. On Christmas Eve I was responsible for 12 hymns (a typical service has 5-6) plus completely different sets of prelude, offertory, and postlude music for a piano driven service as well as an organ-driven service. The following week I played a lessons-and-carols service containing another 11 hymns.
I’ve grown tremendously as an organist in just a few weeks. My confidence has built and my interest in the finer points of playing has increased. As I noted on Instagram a couple days ago, I am finally starting to feel musical, not just technical.
I hope to keep playing as I go. I know that the congregation and leaders at Advent have been very complimentary about my work, and I am very gratified for the feedback.
Everyone asks for New Year’s resolutions. My stock response this year has been “I don’t do resolutions; I do plans.” What I mean by that is that I don’t vaguely commit to something. If I’m going to do it, I’m going to do it for real. Which means I need a specific goal (SMART goals, anyone?) and a process. This year I’m working to fall more in love with processes. Consistency is more important than anything else.
That’s why on Instagram I’m logging a #100daysofpractice challenge, plus I’m making a plan every week for workouts. I don’t feel bad that I’m not working out every day because I know when my next workout will be.
I’m tracking my budget, which is encouraging me to eat more at home. In fact, last night I made tacos with a homemade salsa which was lovely. If I can fall in love with that kind of thing more, I’m in great financial shape. I need to be saving more.
So if I buy into the “word of the year” trend, mine for 2019 is CONSISTENCY. If it matters, it’s worth doing regularly.
That should apply to posting here some too. But we’ll see. For now, I’ll continue to post as I’m inspired.
I promised a year-in-review post, so here’s a quick rundown of this year. Meant to post this last night but I wanted some time to review it before I sent it.
This has been an eventful year and I’m sure I’ve missed some things. It has felt incredibly long. I tried to hit the highlights of things, especially things that have built into where I am now.
I purposefully kept this list brief and dry because it’s so long and I don’t want to drown it in emotion forever and ever.
So without further ado: a brief list of what I did this last year.
Auditions for The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee at The Players Theatre Company.
Trip to New York to tour a college, including seeing performances of Sleep No More and Come from Away. Thanks to family friends, I was able to get onstage at Come From Away after the performance. Spent the night with my friend Michael Williams, and sadly missed his roommates Ryan Jacobs and Austin Jacobs.
Saw snow in Ithaca, NY!
Pop Show, Solo & Ensemble with choir students.
Piano Solo & Ensemble.
Continued Rehearsal for The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.
Performances of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee at the Players Theatre Company
Trip to Phoenix, AZ to visit Arizona State University, where I have applied for my master’s degree. I’m looking forward to auditioning in February of this year. I stayed with friends Dale Sakamoto and his wife Jayna.
Hatched the idea for The Woodlands Chamber Music Project along with John Paddie.
UIL Concert and Sight Reading
Rehearsals with Stageworks Theatre for Bonnie and Clyde (sadly, I was replaced on this show, as I was unable to play the score well enough on short notice.)
Rehearsals with Stageworks Theatre My Shot Cabaret.
Performance of Stageworks Theatre My Shot Cabaret.
First “The Woodlands Chamber Music Project” recital. It was the same night as the above, so I was unable to attend it.
State Solo & Ensemble with a number of band students.
Auditions for Seven Brides for Seven Brothers with the Players Theatre Company.
Performance with “The Woodlands Chamber Music Project”
Trip to the Grand Canyon (see Instagram for more detail on this one).
Continued Rehearsals for Seven Brides for Seven Brothers
Performance with “The Woodlands Chamber Music Project”
Final rehearsals for Seven Brides for Seven Brothers
Performance with “The Woodlands Chamber Music Project”
Performances of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers
Short & Sweet Choir Concert
Men’s Choir Performance at MWHS Football Games
SHSU Men’s Choir Showcase
Trip to Shenandoah, VA to tour Shenandoah University where I have applied for my master’s degree. I’m waiting on feedback, as I submitted just before they went on winter break.
Began rehearsals for [Title of Show] at Iconotheatrix.
Performances of [Title of Show] at Iconotheatrix.
Hired as organist at Advent Lutheran Church. This opportunity came about thanks to meeting with Scott McAdow, who judged my students back in the spring.
Submitted application to Arizona State University.
Merry Mustang Show & Auction
Christmas Services at Advent Lutheran Church
Thanks to all of my friends and family for their support during the past year. I’ve tried so many cool things and some have been successful and other haven’t. All of them were opportunities for personal or professional growth, so I’m thrilled to have had them.
I’m also incredibly grateful for the new friends and colleagues I have met in the last year. I have met so many talented actors and musicians through my travels and expanding my network. I have worked with committed, talented amateurs at the theaters and at school and at church. My heart is full of love for those who have given their art into the world during 2018. Let’s do it again in 2019!
So, I’ve decided to get on the #100daysofpractice bandwagon.
I have plenty to work on, especially as I’m now a resident organist at a church, plus preparation for grad school auditions (more on this during my “Year in Review” post on Monday).
But there’s a rather unique twist to mine: I’m a multi-instrumentalist, and at least one of my instruments is not easily available for me. I have only limited access to the organ, so I can’t practice it every day.
My understanding of the challenge is that I should be putting in daily, consistent work. So I’m broadening my definition of practice to keyboard skills in general. So I will make a point of describing what I’m doing each day, but be prepared for a lot of pictures of one of my organs, or of the many and various keyboards and pianos I have access to at school.
I won’t post to this site every day, but I’ll be posting to instagram, so follow me there if you want to see all the details.
See you on Monday for a year in review!