Friday, October 7, 2016

An early wake up call, familiar city, pages, and Berndt

Did you ever wonder what Augsburg looked like at 6:00 am? Me either. But I've seen it. (See picture below) Apparently they pack full schedules and get you up at the crack of dawn here on Concordia alumni tours. In fact, they were even so kind as to call everyone to make sure we were all up. What?!

I am also understanding why the price was on the higher side. I don't think I've ever stayed at such a nice hotel in all my life. Also when we are done touring and check in, our luggage is magically in our rooms. While we are at breakfast it magically gets on the bus. How crazy is that? This is like a grown up trip or something. 

We were on the bus by 8 and on our way for a quick stop in Bamberg where we strolled around this very old historic town. Beautiful really, and so old. I continue to think I was born in the wrong country. I am so comfortable here it's crazy. Anyway we toured the town and stopped for lunch where I had more apfelshorle and spätzle. Yum!!!!

We hopped back on the bus and went to Erfurt, which will serve as home base for the next several days. I've been to Erfurt many times and while I didn't like it the first time I was here, it has grown to be one of my favorite cities and one I am extremely comfortable in. Once here we had only a bit of free time before rushing off to a mini-recital by Dr. Wente. While the organ was not the type I'm used to playing here, I was so glad to be there and honored that he asked me to turn pages. It reminded me of my college days where I frequently turned pages for chapel and recitals. This was his first recital in Germany which was special. One of my reasons for going on this trip was that I wanted to be in Germany with him since as an undergrad I always wondered about Germany and German organs and what it might be like to go there like Kapelle did trips. I am so glad I came on this trip for so many reasons and even though it's a large group, it has thus far been a much, much more positive experience than the last trip. 

On the way to dinner, I ran into Berndt, a dear old friend from former times. My friends will understand the significance of this. :)

The hotel we are staying at is not my favorite and has odd bathrooms, but it's just a few days. I had given Mark W an earful about how I hoped this trip would have normal bathrooms. He assured me it would and he's done many of ties trips. I have him a bit of a hard time (joking, of course!!) about this and he commented that he thought of me as soon as he saw them. Ha!

We had a large buffet dinner together where I sat with one of my former CUC classmates, his sister, and her husband, which was nice, then back to the hotel. Mrs. Gard and I sat in the lobby and then Dr. Wente and Dr. Gard came too. Once the Gards went upstairs Dr. Wente and I visited a bit and again I just remembered the many conversations during my college days and am so thankful and blessed to have had him as my college organ teacher. I owe him so much! What an influence and blessing he has been in my life, both in college and in the years after. 

Tomorrow we don't leave the hotel until 10:00, which means I can sleep in a little. 

Germany, it is so good to be back. 

Thursday, October 6, 2016

The Never Ending Day

I'm not sure if I should date this post as October 5 or 6 since it is both. Jet lag and time changes are funny business. 

I arrived at the airport with mixed emotions. I was thankful for my dear friend Stephanie who agreed to drive me to the airport. It was a pleasant chat the whole way there and she prayed with me before sending me off. 

Once at the airport I realized that  I would be the youngest by far, save one classmate and his sister and her husband. But, I was excited. While waiting for the group to arrive, I got confirmation on the organ in Berlin! Yay. Also, I received confirmation on the most important organ of this trip (secret for now!) before leaving to the airport. In short order the Gards, Mark W, Mark R, and Dr. Wente arrived. I hung out with the Gards and their friends and we chatted while waiting to go. Dr. Wente and I also chatted and I learned this is his first trip to Germany! I thought he'd been here before but he hasn't and it's kind of special that I get to go with on his first trip. He was hands down one of the most influential people in my life during my formative college years (personally and musically) and I continue to look up to him as a model of what serving the church looks like. 

It wasn't long until boarding the plane. I was grateful for paying the $49 to upgrade my seat and had lots of leg room. I sat next to a lovely couple (former principal and teacher) from Wisconsin also on the same group. Lutheran principals and teachers are special people. I just met these folks but they are the kind of people you automatically feel like you've known your whole life. The flight was thankfully smooth and uneventful and I got some amount of sleep. 

We climbed out the back of the plane and the chilly October air woke me up and it was quite windy. I literally bounded down the stairs, skipping the last three and just jumping down. At long last, my feet were back on German ground where they belong. I may or may not have gotten a little emotional. 

After this it was the usual customs, plane change, wait, etc, quick flight from Berlin go Munich, transfer by bus to Augsburg and tour officially began. 

Once in Augsburg, the Gards and their friends and I grabbed a quick lunch. I had the first of many apfelschorles!

Mrs. Gard and I walked the town and the at 3:00 we had a 2 hour guided city tour. We heard all about the Augsburg confession and my Lutheran pride came oozing out of me. I love Lutheran history. While on tour we stopped by the Dom (St. Ana) and I spotted a Cranach altar painting a mile away. The rest of the group toured around the rest of that church while I sat glued in front of the altar gawking. 

After this, it was dinner and devotions and by now it was 8pm. I lost track of how many hours this odd 2-day trip was, but I was ready for bed.  

I must add as a brief afterthought that my roommate is a lovely woman and we'll get along just fine. It saves $600 to have a roommate and meeting new people is part of the travel fun. This older woman rushed over and threw her arms around me in a grandmotherly way the moment we were introduced. We didn't chat much since we just went to bed but this rooming arrangement is just fine. (We hardly are in the hotel anyway.)

This tour is going to go way too fast. 

Wednesday, October 5, 2016


Almost ready to go! Emotions swirling around like crazy. I'm sure I've forgotten something. If I did, I'll just buy it there.

Some observations:
  • It is not as easy to pack light when one travels in the fall. The necessity of bulkier clothing, shoes, and coats really cramps the whole "pack light" thing.
  • Germans speaking English is absolutely charming. It always brings a smile to my face. 
  • Germans writing e-mails in English is my favorite thing ever. I notice that my own language and wording is very different when I write to someone in Germany than when I write to Americans. I'm already transitioning back to being there. 
  • It is 2016. My phone was exploding yesterday with text messages. "Be careful!", people kept saying. "Be safe!", people insisted. I realize the world is changing. That is nothing new. Anything can happen anytime, anywhere. There is no guarantee anywhere that it will be 100% safe. Use common sense, be aware of surroundings, and for gracious sake, don't sit at home being afraid because that isn't LIVING. Worry not, I will be cautious and be smart, but I will NOT be afraid. Should something horrific happen, it will still be OK. Last I checked, I am still a baptized child of God. All the warnings and concern did serve as a reminder of how blessed I am having so many people who care. 
  • Traveling suits me. It changes my thought process, my stress level, and snaps me into major reflective mode. 
  • When I travel, I always remember the wise words of my organ professor prior to that long-ago first trip. He told me I would mark all my music pre and post European organs and that I'd never see the music the same again. He said the instruments are so deep that "you better have a good shrink waiting back home". He said I would learn more from those instruments than from any teacher. He said I would be one of the students that "get it". Well, I'm not sure if I "get it", since those instruments just show me how much I don't know, but I sure enjoy the opportunity to swirl around in the depths of that history and the months of processing I do upon return. 
I received confirmation just moments ago about the thing I am most looking forward to on this trip. I can finally relax. I'm still a little nervous about the 4 organs I'm hoping to play that likely won't work out this trip, but I'm not going to stress. The trip will be what it is supposed to be, and it's not like I won't ever be back. Besides, the most important part of my trip is set to go. I'm keeping that to myself for now, but suffice it to say that confirmation e-mail had me squealing like a kid on Christmas morning.

My next post will be in Germany, provided I don't get locked out of my account again.


Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Long overdue

I leave in 14 hours. I'm long overdue to be back. It's been 780 days since my feet were on German soil, which is the longest stretch I've gone since I first went as a naïve little baby graduate student. 

The last time I went with a group, it was not a great experience. I'm fairly confident this time will be different, but I'm a bit nervous.

I am hoping to play 4 instruments, but have yet to confirm any of them 100%. That makes me a lot nervous. OK, if we're being honest here, this makes me downright panicky.

I wish I was playing more, but the places we are going are all organ deserts. This makes me nervous. Terrified, really. I need to play and the urge has gotten so strong it consumes me from the inside out.

This is only a very, very quick trip. In fact, this is by far the shortest trip I've ever taken to Germany. Will I feel like it is just a tease and will leave me even more hungry for time there? This makes me nervous.

I'm not really going anywhere new this time, but excited for the opportunity to be there with some of the most influential people in my life. I knew when I signed up for this trip that I'd likely end up frustrated at times with the whole group travel thing, but I knew that I'd regret for the rest of my life not taking the opportunity to be in Germany with these people, so in the end, I signed up.

I am glad to be going. I need to be going. I hope to go again in July so I see this short trip as a way to tide me over until I can go and spend lots of time on lots of instruments and get the full experience.

There are always a lot of unknowns with travel, particularly when one goes overseas.  This trip is no different, but the unknowns are very different.

I'm excited and not all at the same time, but I'm long overdue for a dose of Germany.

I'm grateful for the opportunity to go back to the country I love so dearly, even if only for a few short days.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Been a little busy

So I've been a little busy to post every day, but want to share some highlights.

  • Level 3 is intense. No way around it and no way to sugar coat. My brain is being stretched and challenged but I am loving every minute.
  • These professors are some of the smartest people I have ever met in my life. It's an honor to be learning from the best. 
  • I have made some really great friends in my 3 summers at Hartt. It's amazing how close you become through shared experience of torture. 
  • My musicianship is challenged big time. 
  • Friday night was the strawberry social/ folk dance/ singing at Dr. John Feierabend's house. This is very special. His wife is there and so were his boys. It is a joy to see babies through seniors all gathered to enjoy music. There was a long line of dancers on the driveway, a live band on the covered porch, and a grandma in a rocking chair on the other porch with a baby playing on the ground. So picturesque and ideal and beautiful. While I don't appreciate the language choice of many of the people here and it is very clearly a secular group (not all, but the majority), there is still something beautiful about people of all different backgrounds coming together through the shared experience of music. We danced and danced and danced. You have to have a different partner for every dance, so it's a great way to get to know people. Can I just say that I LOVE to dance? I love to be twirled and whirled around, the live music is amazing and there is just a rush you get from dancing with a big group of people! The live band was amazing and the singing was great. Our one teacher, Jeff, know Jean Ritchie personally. Aside from being awesome that he knew her and I'm learning from him, he sang a Jean Ritchie song and told a great story, honoring her memory since she passed away this past June. We owe so much to Jean Ritchie. What an amazing woman she was. I have more pictures than I can ever post, but I'll post a few favorites for your viewing pleasure. 

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Day two reflections

I'm too tired for a long post, so here's my thoughts for the day.

You know you are in the thick of Kodály training when:
1) You hear people singing in the shower and can immediately determine what level they are in based on what they are singing. 
2) It is midnight and the last three people to walk by the lounge on the way to the bathroom did so while singing and signing. 
3) You have so many songs going through your head like a broken record that it is too loud in your head to possibly sleep, not to mention the clashing keys drive you batty. 
4) You are surrounded by people who are actually as nerdy as you are. 
5) You feel simultaneously more exhausted and more alert and alive then you have in a long time. 
6) You know without a shadow of a doubt that your profession makes a major difference in the lives of children and our society. 
7) Despite the stress and anxiety you are really savoring every minute and having your musicianship challenged in huge ways. 
8) The feeling of being affirmed in your vocation pushes doubt and anxiety out for at least a little while.

Day one complete, along with a little fun

Day one is in the books. I'm still alive to tell about it, too. I must confess that, despite all the stress and anxiety and hard, hard classes, it is a pleasure to spend time with such amazing professors and colleagues and I'm thankful that there are moments of laughing (our way of coping perhaps?) and silliness. I don't think I've laughed so hard in a long time as I did tonight. More on that later. 

The day began bright and early with ear training. Nothing quite as awesome as having Gábor first thing in the morning cramming chromaticism down your throat and calling you an idiot before 9AM. Brutal, absolutely brutal. We spent the next hour and a half singing, signing, taking dictation, and singing one by one. This guy has an ear that doesn't miss a thing. You can always smell the fear in the room when he's around, and dictation this morning was no different. "Let me see your hands! Hands up, hands up, hands up!" he commanded as we sat there with our hands up listening to the music we were supposed to notate when he gave word to do so. Whew! In all honesty though, I do very much respect him as a teacher and learn like mad in that class. Once he released us from this torture, it was off to orientation and snack break, then to Conversational Solfege II. This class began as John Feierabend's classes always do, with singing a canon, doing a dance, and doing a Move It. John was his usual flamboyant self and it's hard not to smile and laugh when in his class. The canon this morning was most certainly a level 3 canon with odd intervals and unexpected jumps. This was NOT a canon to take back and teach your kids, but rather one to challenge your own musicianship, and challenge it did. The dance this morning was the Grump Dance! Nothing like starting a class with a rousing high spirited dance. This is one of my favorites, so it was a good review. I LOVE to dance. I wish I could have gotten it all on video, but of course I was busy dancing. This dance is full of emotion and weight, and my favorite part is when the head couple grabs each others wrists and twirls their way down the longway set. I picked a partner who would go crazy and we twirled and danced and nearly lost our grip half way down the set. It's quite a dangerous dance but oh so much fun. From here we did our daily Move It and when we returned to our seats, everyone was wide awake. I love that about music. It gets you moving and breathing and the endorphins flowing. What a joy and blessing music is. Feierabend's class was great and we were up and down, taking notes and trying different activities. 

At this point, we got a break for lunch, so back to the dorms we went for a quick lunch, change of books, stop at the bookstore, and off we went to our afternoon, which was filling me with dread and terror. First we had choir which wasn't bad. Pretty typical Hartt summer choir rehearsal. Awesome to sing with so many fine musicians, but churned up the usual struggles within me and my brain was going a million miles an hour thinking of it all. 

Then, we had conducting and masterworks materials.  Two separate classes. Same teacher. I've had this guy for choir, but never for class, and I've been terrified of his classes since my first year here. Conducting was all the level 3s and also the conducting kids. I was pretty nervous and was glad I wasn't the only one. That class seemed to go on forever and made Gábor's class look like bliss. When class was done, my friend leaned over and whispered "I can see why so many people cried last year....". I couldn't agree more. Last year we saw so many Level 3s crying and we felt bad for them and terrified knowing that would be us next year. Well, now next year is this year and we are the Level 3s. Time will tell how much crying ensues. I mean, this man is brilliant, yes, but talk about intense. There were glimmers of gentleness when he would show a bit of empathy but then without warning there would be no patience and yelling. I think he is one of those people who is so brilliant that he doesn't really understand what it is like to be a regular person with a regular brain. I don't fault him or think ill of him because I really don't think he sees how hard he is or how hard it is for us to do what he asks. Masterworks Materials was interesting and helpful, but I didn't realize it was also going to be more ear training and dictation. I about died, and 5:45 never looked so good when he finally sprung us free. 

Our class then spent some time working on the skit, which comes with more pressure than I thought. From there, we went back to make dinner. (Without a kitchen it's slim pickings and a lot of cereal and microwaveable shelf-stable meals) and then to practice some more. We took a break around 10PM to wash dishes. We were a bit slap-happy and when I joked with Jessica that it would be fun to wheel the desk chair down the hall she decided this would be fun. So, I sat in the chair, took the huge bag of dishes, dishtowels, and soap in my lap, and she wheeled me very quickly down the super long hall. We were laughing so hard my stomach hurt. She pushed the chair right to the elevator where we rode down to the first floor (We're on the 5th) to the little kitchen that has a place to wash dishes, then rode all the way back up. Once we got control of ourselves, we spent several more hours on homework and then survived the shower experience again. 

Now it's time for bed, nearly 1:30 AM already. Not much sleep here, which is partially why we so easily get to slap happy. 

I did, by the way, get a video of the chair ride down the hall. I posted on facebook, but this wont' let me post it since the file is too big. If anyone has an idea for how to post, please let me know.

PS I should note that 9 times out of 10 when I say "we", I am referring to me, Jessica, and Sue.