Tuesday, October 04, 2011


I know. It's been forever.  Again.  For those of you who continue to check for updates, thank you.  I apologize for not posting life stories, deep and meaningful comparisons of life in CO and life in ND, or media of recent performances.

It's possible (although not likely) that all of the above will come again sometime, if I ever find the time, energy, and inspiration to keep writing.  It's also possible that writing this entry will encourage me to write more. 

Until one of the above happens, this will have to suffice:


I had one of those experiences this weekend that reminded me why I'm doing this whole music thing. 

One of the most important reasons that I'm following this path to what I hope will become a lifetime of performance is for the opportunity to make music that moves people to feel.  There are songs that have brought a huge smile to my face (see this), evoked tears (Adele makes me want to die), incited laughter (how could you *not* laugh at this the first time you hear it?), or made me want to shake my booty (although I can't do it as well as JLo).

But the beauty of music is that what those songs do for me could be entirely different from what they do for you.  We all connect to different things at different times, based on our past and present experiences.  It's powerful for me to hear a song that formerly meant nothing to me suddenly mean something and I enjoy exploring how that connection was created.  That connection is what makes music powerful.

Even more special to me than exploring that connection, though, is playing a part in the connecting.  

For those of you who don't know, I'm fortunate in that one of my sources of income is doing what I love: singing.  A local church pays me to attend weekly choir rehearsals and services to support the choir and sing a solo here and there.  It's very common in cities, although I'd never heard of such a thing when I was living in good ol' ND.  (I could write a whole blog on this topic, so I'm skipping over the details.)  

Due to a number of unforeseen circumstances, the song that we sang this past Sunday featured me as a soloist for 2 of 5 verses.  I sang, the choir sang, church went on, life was normal.  

Until after the service.  A man who I've seen in church every week approached our music director. I was near her and overheard him thank her for such beautiful music (she wrote the setting of the text).  He then pointed me out and said, "I don't know where you found her, but she's incredible."  He then turned to me for the first time and I saw tears in his eyes.  He then asked me, "Can I give you a hug?"  I smiled and replied, "Absolutely."  While we hugged the awkward hug of people who don't know each other, he thanked me and then walked away.

I should mention that seeing people cry almost always makes me cry, too.  But the tears in my eyes at that moment were out of gratitude and a tiny bit of shame.  Gratitude is obvious.  I'm grateful to be here, studying what I love, sharing beautiful music, working with my talent, connecting with people, etc.

But why shame?  I have to be honest with you: even to this moment, I have no idea what the text of that song was about.  I didn't give one thought to the text or its meaning.  I'm pretty sure that the only things that I was thinking about while singing were the notes, blending my voice to the section, and making sure that I was using good technique to create a smooth, even phrase with no major bumps or misaligned vowels. I never once looked at the congregation in an attempt to connect with them.

In light of the horrible performance practices outlined above, I never ever could have imagined that what we were singing about as a choir would have an effect on the people listening.  But it did.  A large effect.  It's humbling. 

This is a problem that we performers have.  We have to pay attention to the details to make technically beautiful and sound music.  We need to use good technique to preserve our bodies and minds.  We can't get so emotionally attached to the music that we get emotional in performance.  We MUST do all of those things.  But we do occasionally lose perspective.  We forget to look at the bigger picture, to think about the music as music itself, which is just as important as the details.  We sometimes forget that we aren't performing for ourselves, but for our audience.  (Every "we" in this paragraph should maybe be changed to "I."  I should speak for other performers.) 

Thankfully, our audience can be affected even if we aren't doing everything exactly right.  And we can't know if, how, or when we'll affect them.  We can just do our best and hope that someone is making some sort of connection to the music.  And when we do make that connection, we can be thankful for the opportunity and ability to have made it.  Connection, after all, is one of the best benefits of performing music.

Monday, March 07, 2011

I Do?

People my age who are from my area of the country but no longer live there generally agree: It’s crazy how many people our age are getting married.  That’s not the worst of it, though.  We also are guilty of committing an awful double standard: We grumble about how we ourselves haven’t yet found someone to marry and how unlikely it is that it will happen anytime soon.

I won’t lie to you (and this may be the first time I’ve actually “said” this aloud): I act like I’m grossed out by the prospect of marriage, but in reality, I’m pretty sure that I wouldn’t be terribly disappointed or disgusted if it actually happened to me sometime within the next 10 years. 

The fact is that people from the Midwest tend to get married way younger than people on the coasts.  I’m not going to pretend like I know why, or even make any guesses as to why that is.  But it’s true.  And citing that statistic makes me feel at least a little bit better about myself. 

In all actuality, though, there really are a lot of people who are my age who are (*gasp*) from North Dakota who aren’t married yet.  And even more who aren’t from North Dakota and who aren’t married.  We unmarried 25-year olds are not as unique as we would like to think. But recently, I’ve had many opportunities to hang out with a lot of really awesome people from all over who are my age and aren’t married.

When we hung out, did we talk about the crazy people who are getting married?  Yes.  Did we say how glad we were that we weren’t married?  Of course.  Did we, in the very next breath, lament our singleness with lack of any promising prospects?  Like we wouldn’t.

And even though the conversation can be intense and frustrating, it’s mostly just comforting.  I’m pleased to be part of the group of people my age who are wonderful people and simply haven’t found another wonderful person to ruin share their lives with.  Because really, the people I have in mind are great, wonderful, and, at the very least, on their way to being successful.  

I’m happy to include myself in that group, too.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Booze Cruising

Anyone who knows me well knows that I refused to drink alcohol in high school.  People knew better than even to ask me if I wanted to go to a party.
Sometime between high school and my senior year of college, though, that changed.  I mostly blame two people and one situation for the change of heart: Jordon Nissen, Medora, and Guillaume Andrieu.

In my junior year, I was still working as an RA of Watson Hall at Jamestown College.  I turned 21 that year, and I was on duty until midnight every Sunday during the second semester.  Come rain or shine, when midnight rolled around, there was my coworker Jordon, ready to take me to the bar for drinks.  Keep in mind that at that time, bars in Jamestown closed at 1:00, so we'd have less than an hour. But believe you me, we made the most of that hour.

The following summer, I spent my first summer in Medora.  I made friends with crazy people who liked to drink a lot. The rest, as you know, is history.

Upon returning to Jamestown College that fall, I was fortunate enough to make friends with this French kid. Guillaume.  It's pretty funny how I met him in the first place, actually, and if you want to know the story, just ask.  It doesn't really apply to the blog, so I'm not going to tell it here, but it IS a good story.  In any case, Guillaume did not allow anyone not to go out and have a good time. Especially me. And if we weren't out having a good time, we were in having a good time. It made for a good year.

And I haven't stopped the trend.  I drink about two nights a week now that I live in Boulder.  And have a really good time...

However, not many things in Boulder can compete with the beauty of booze cruising.  Now, you city people will never, ever understand the appeal or rationality of this, but I'll do my best to explain it in such a way that you won't think I'm crazy and stupid.  I definitely don't condone doing this where there are people driving or walking across the roads. Or where there are stoplights.  But it's a little different when you are the only car for miles and miles on gravel roads in cold, lonely North Dakota.|

Anyway.  Like I said, in high school, I didn't drink.  And anytime anyone did anything that involved drinking, I didn't want to be around.  My sister, on the other hand...  Again, a different story.  The thing is, though, that in high school, kids are way under the drinking age.  So going to the bar is out of the question.  Next best option: create your own bar.  In a car.

Yes, that's right.  Booze cruising, for those of you who haven't been exposed to the term, is quite literally and simply drinking and driving.  Usually in excess.

I had never *really* gone booze cruising until Thanksgiving this year.  And by the time the decision was made to go booze cruising, I had had enough to drink not to care about the safety issues behind driving around in a pickup on snowy, gravel roads with a driver who had had too much to drink beginning about 3 hours prior to the start of the cruise.  It just seemed like more fun than going home and going to bed.

And it was way more fun than going home and going to bed.  I can't really explain the appeal in driving around, drinking, peeing outside (yikes!), getting lost, and other such behavior.  It's just really fun.  I don't know why.  I guess it's just one of those things.  Or maybe it depends on the company?  I'll stop guessing.

In any case, I did it again at Christmas, and this time may have been even more fun, due to an incident that requires acting.  If it didn't, I would describe it here.  Maybe I'll take a video of it sometime for all of you.  Suffice it to say that it involves snow, gravel, peeing, and driving.  All at the same time.  Use your imaginations.

To be clear: I don't condone this behavior, nor do I necessarily think that it's a good idea.  That's why I didn't do it for a long, long time.  I still am not sure that it's something that I should be doing at the age of 25, but boredom breeds bad decisions?  (See "whoops.")