A Time to Share

I know hymns are sometimes viewed as old fashioned. But there are moments when they enter my thoughts like a long-lost friend. I picture the hymnal page in my head, each note in its place.

That picture transfers from my brain to my hands and the piano keys. Hearing the melody revives the words. The hymns I think of most often speak of grace, peace, and prayer.

This happened yesterday. I was preparing for the school day to begin, and one of my favorite hymns came to mind. So, I sat down at the piano and began to play.

After playing it in several different ways, I decided to record myself. I don’t do that very often, but I liked the way the music was sounding. As I listened to the recording, I began to think of sharing.

Sometimes I love technology. In a matter of minutes, I emailed my recording to a few family/friends. I chose the first three names that came to mind.

Not long after, I received three replies. Each sweet thank you made me smile. Yes, playing calmed my thoughts before students arrived for class. But this same music brought joy and peace to three others, miles apart.

At the end of the school day, I felt exhausted. I closed my classroom door, allowing the sounds of the day to fade away. Choosing another favorite hymn, I once again began to play. And once again, I hit the record button.

I have not played the second recording for anyone else yet. For now, It will serve as a reminder. A reminder that beginning and ending the day sitting at the piano, spending time with old friends, bring peace. A peace which, if shared, has the power to impact those around me.

Hmmm…maybe it’s time to share them both now. 😉

Heart and Soul

My parents attend a small church in Wye Mountain, Arkansas. The people are kind and serve as a beautiful light in their community. Each Wednesday evening they welcome, feed, love, and teach a large group of children. And those without transportation? They pick them up and take them back home.

The building is simple. A beautiful, stained glass window graces the wall behind the podium. A piano sits to the left. There are no fancy lights, no choir, and no band. Only a few microphones and speakers. And there is always coffee in the kitchen.

Every time I visit, mom asks me to bring piano music. My trip last weekend was no different. Of course, I forgot and had to go music shopping on Saturday. I chose a new book of hymn arrangements and picked two to play during the service on Sunday.

My Aunt Linda, who happened to be my first piano teacher, plays for the services each week. I saw her Sunday morning before the service began, gave her a hug, and she asked, “Are you playing today?” I smiled, “Yes.” “Want to play for the whole service?” she asked. “I’ll do whatever you want me to do.”

And so, I played the hymns and this precious group of people sang along. I also played my carefully chosen solo. As I began to play, the air grew still. The only sounds flowed from the piano.

The melody in this particular arrangement was a familiar hymn tune. One I remember from childhood. One which brings peace.

I need Thee every hour,
Most gracious Lord;
No tender voice like Thine,
Can peace afford.
I need Thee, O I need Thee,
Every hour I need Thee!
O bless me now, Savior,
I come to Thee.

After the service, many people thanked me for playing. Truthfully, I should have been thanking them. Being with them reminded me of how sweet it is when people worship together in simplicity.

Experiencing last Sunday morning from behind the piano (my favorite spot 😉 ) filled my heart and soul to overflowing.

Stress Secrets

Today, I physically felt my stress level rising. Our family has a lot happening right now. Not horrible things, just changes. Even so, a feeling of weight began to creep upwards through my chest. I had to remind myself to breathe.

What caused such a reaction? A combination of events. Tomorrow, I begin teaching at a new school. My daughter also begins her first teaching job. We are moving to a new house on Saturday. And my youngest son is starting college classes next week.

Each of the things listed is exciting! My new school is awesome! Our new house is beautiful, and the details will all work out. I’m proud of my daughter, just having a little trouble with the “mama bear” complex. And my son? I am still learning how to let go.

For a few moments today, I was unable to separate these events. It was as if they were all morphing into one big problem, a problem I could not solve. I took a few deep breaths. My head began to clear, and one beautiful thought entered my mind.

Tomorrow, I have the privilege of welcoming groups of new students to their music room. We will make connections, discuss expectations, and establish routines. We will play games, listen to music, and read stories. I will be exactly where I am supposed to be. ❤

All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold & Suzanne Kaufman

Those other things will continue to be out of my control, and that is ok. If the stress begins to rise, I will remind myself to breathe. And if I’m still struggling at the end of the day, an episode of Mr. Rogers Neighborhood is sure to help.

I guess my secret is out. 😉

Yesterday and Today

Think about your favorite song. I bet you can hear it playing in your head right now. (You are welcome.) 😉 Maybe you even remember a person or place associated with said song. Certain melodies/lyrics work their way into our memories and pop up when least expected.

Now imagine you wake up tomorrow and are the only person who remembers this song? It has been inexplicably wiped from the memory banks of everyone in the world…except you. This is the plight of singer Jack Malik, in the movie “Yesterday.”

As we watch Jack reintroduce the world to the music of The Beatles, he quickly finds himself in a difficult position. Even though no one else seems to know the songs are not his, he begins to experience a guilty conscience. And he alone has the power to make things right.

I know it may not be an award-winning blockbuster, but what a fun and entertaining 1h 56m! Though the music was a big focus, the movie was about so much more. The songs were beautifully intertwined with stories of family, friendship, life, love, and integrity.

It reminded me how chasing something just out of reach may cause me to miss the amazing things right in front of my face.

This funny, sweet story introduces us to the wonderful songs of The Beatles, as if for the first time. Songs from yesterday which continue to influence us today. You just might be tempted to sing along!

🎶Help me if you can, I’m feeling down
And I do appreciate you being round
Help me get my feet back on the ground
Won’t you please, please help me
🎶

~John Lennon & Paul McCartney

Beatles Kind of Day

Although I enjoy many genres of music, I’m a creature of habit when it comes to everyday listening. You can pretty much count on 80’s music or NPR from my car radio. If I do play iTunes, it’s usually James Taylor, Chicago, maybe Toto or REO Speedwagon. They never get old.

These summer days, though much-needed, are sometimes difficult for me. I enjoy reading and catching up with friends, but those can’t fill every minute. Honest reflection says I function much better with the routine of school days. It is part of my DNA, I suppose.

Our house is currently on the market, so I have created a bit of a routine. Necessary in order to keep the house ready for showing. General picking up, dishwasher first thing in the morning, wiping down countertops, dusting, etc. During the school year, these are not daily occurrences.

For some reason, this morning I decided to add mopping to my list. I had the time and energy, so why not? About the time I finished, my husband called. Would I mind bringing something to his office? Of course not! A reason to get out of the house!

Which brings us back to my music. When I got in the car, the radio wasn’t going to cut it. I plugged in my phone and scrolled through iTunes playlists. The Beatles Essentials. Perfect! Press play. Drive. I listened there and back, singing along, noticing words I’d previously glossed over. This made me smile.

While I was in Gart’s office, I received a text. Request for a house showing at 5:45…glad I mopped.

There was still some picking up and dusting to be done at home. And cleaning music would be required. “Hmmm…think I will just keep it on this Beatles playlist.” And that is what I did…all afternoon.

Even after the cleaning was done and I sat down to rest, I wasn’t ready to press stop. A sudden realization; this music had positively impacted my whole day. I felt happy and relaxed.

One song stood out above the rest today. Thinking about the words makes me smile.

🎶In a couple of years
They had built a home sweet home
With a couple of kids running in the yard
Of Desmond and Molly Jones
Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da, life goes on, brah
Lala how their life goes on
🎶

If you haven’t listened to the Beatles lately, press that play button. And maybe, just like me, you’ll realize how much you needed a Beatles kind of day. ☀️

My Favorite Seat

The past several weeks, I’ve spent many hours in my favorite seat. Hours practicing piano, preparing for rehearsals with young musicians. Some were singers, others played instruments. All of them dedicated and hardworking students. My job? To be their accompanist, providing support for their music-making endeavors.

Opportunities like these often fill my head with thoughts of more performing jobs. Memories of the years when playing piano consumed more of my time begin to surface. And although those were good times, this train of thought can be a dangerous one. Feelings of restlessness begin to creep in, causing uncertainty and doubts about my teaching.

Not so on this particular occasion…

This past Thursday, I spent the day accompanying high school students at State Solo-N-Ensemble contest. That evening I also participated in their chamber music concert. Such a fun, rewarding day of performing.

What happened after the concert had the most surprising impact.

As I left the concert, my phone started buzzing. The students I had accompanied all day were sending thanks through text messages.

“Thank you for being my accompanist!!!”
“Thank you for everything, Mrs. Morris!”
“I loved playing music with you!”

Suddenly my thoughts were not on seeking more playing opportunities. My thoughts were on the amazing opportunities I already have. “Best of both worlds” kept entering my mind. Both worlds? What does that mean?

Ah…performing and teaching.

Yes, my favorite seat is behind the piano. However, I cannot spend all my time there. Time spent in a classroom is also important. I must recognize the value of getting off of that piano bench and teaching the next generation.

Who knows, maybe some of my elementary students will grow up to be accomplished musicians. Maybe future requests for an accompanist will come from some of them. I hope so!

Accompanying my son, Robert. 🙂

An Old Friend

I love old friendships. You know the ones. Those which don’t seem to recognize the passing of time. Even if you haven’t seen each other in years, you pick up right where you left off. Memories of times past mix with the present, providing a comforting familiarity.

Sometimes music is like those friendships. Certain songs are stored in memory banks. Suddenly one plays, and I’m transported back in time. I can remember clearly a specific person, place, or time. In that sense, a song is like an old friend.

Last weekend I rehearsed with some oboe players for an upcoming studio recital. I’ve accompanied this studio for many years, and have become very familiar with the repertoire. After the rehearsal, I offhandedly referred to my accompaniment book as “an old friend.”

Today was recital day! Students were well prepared, some a little nervous. With the exception of one new piece this year, each song was pulled from my memory bank. I smiled as we began to play.

Yes, the students were different, but the music was the same. The notes and rhythms were familiar. The phrases were comforting.

Obviously, a book of music is not the same as a person. But as I played these familiar songs today, it felt as if I was visiting an old friend.

My seat during the recital. 🙂