A Chance to Shine

Everyone deserves to be celebrated and have their moment in the spotlight. It happens more naturally for some than others. But when the “some” decides to help the “others,” the results are magical.

Our high school puts on a yearly musical. It is a highly anticipated event. Students audition, prepare and rehearse for months. All of their hard work culminates in a shining moment of performance.

Our high school also has a large group of students who receive special education services. For these students, who have a wide range of disabilities, participating in such a production is rare. They are often overlooked.

A common assumption is they are not interested or able to be involved in such events. Nothing could be further from the truth. When given the chance, it is their light that shines the brightest!

This past week, these students were provided that chance. A show created especially for them and by them, with the help of drama students.

The playbill listed the title of each act and the names of all participants. There was no distinction between drama students and students receiving special education services.

The acts were as diverse as the cast. Magic acts, singing groups, lip-sync, and comedy skits kept the audience engaged for over an hour. Their “Show of Shows” was a hit!

Big productions typically have a grand finale. These precious students decided the best way to end their show was to include the audience. It was entitled Dance Party!

The entire audience jumped to their feet and rushed the stage. A grande finale filled with hugs, smiles, tears, and of course, dancing! Precious students who are often left out were congratulated and celebrated! And their smiles? Contagious! The joy in the air, almost tangible.

Weeks of planning, practicing and making new friends resulted in a funny and heartwarming show which cast and audience members will not soon forget. A show which may just change the hearts of all involved forever. One group because they were willing to share the spotlight. The other because they were given a chance to shine.

Side note: This production raised around $1,800 to benefit Special Olympics.

Dynamic Duo

I teach music in a large elementary school, over one thousand students. It is almost like two schools in one. Half of the students come to my class for music. The other half to my teaching partner. For grade-level performances, however, we come together as one big group. At least, that is our plan.

Our first performance is rapidly approaching. Fourth-grade students are busy learning songs and speaking parts for two Veterans Day assemblies. At least, they are supposed to be.

Preparing a large group for a performance is a daunting task. This year, in particular, I have been struggling. New students and unfamiliar music proved too much for me to handle.

Pridefully, I did not want to admit my struggles. But I finally had no choice. Of course, my friend was understanding and gracious, agreeing to a last-minute change.

We agreed on a well-known replacement song and decided to team-teach our classes for the next rotation. My stress level immediately dropped.

Even though we teach the same material, we have different styles. His students are familiar with his, mine with mine. What happened when we combined the two? Well, let’s just say we were a dynamic duo!

Students were initially confused. But once we got started, the results were amazing! Kids were engaged, they listened, and sang. The two of us naturally bantered back and forth. It was so much fun!

There is still much work to be done. Time is short. Will the program be perfect? No, but perfection is not our goal. Our goal is for students to give their best. And in doing so, to experience the power of sharing their music.

Hopefully, under the direction of our dynamic duo, students will continue to work hard. I know we will continue to have fun pushing them to be their best. And I will continue to be thankful for an energetic and understanding colleague. 🙂

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. ☀️