Thankful for New Trails

In North Carolina, 2023 is “The Year of the Trail.” These trails could be hiking trails, antique trails, cheese trails, wine trails, historical trails, any kind of “trail” that helps people to connect with what is good to find in North Carolina.

I find it interesting that my personal trail led to North Carolina in 2023, and I am finding a lot of good here.

So, in today’s blog, in honor of Thanksgiving this week, I’m going to share ten things that I am especially thankful for right now, and how that is impacting my music.

  1. My husband: my husband was willing to uproot and move to North Carolina so I could go to school. He is also willing to do almost all of the housework and cooking to give me time for my school and fellowship work. I know how blessed I am, and I thank him every day!
  2. My kids: My kids are grown now, but it is still a challenge for Mom and Dad to move almost 1,000 miles away. They were willing to take it on, and we are keeping in touch. I am also thankful for super-cheap plane tickets so they can come visit at Christmas!
  3. New hiking trails: hiking has always been a hobby I love, and I’ve always preferred the mountains. Now, instead of having to take a weekend (which I didn’t get often) to drive 5 hours and stay overnight (and hope the weather is good on that specific weekend), I can take advantage of nearby trails whenever I have a day off. And if the weather is bad? No sweat. I didn’t lose money on traveling, and I’ll just wait a week. Getting out in nature clears my mind and rejuvenates me.
  4. Mountain Views: It takes an hour to get from my apartment to the school, but I have mountain views each way. No complaints! The mountains are always inspiring, and I love how they look different every single time, depending on the clouds, the amount of sunshine, and how much humidity is in the air.
  5. New Connections: I have made new connections with a few professional musicians in the area, but even more so I am making connections with many of the faculty at school – despite the fact they are not my course professors! All of these connections are the start of some form of collaboration, and I am super excited (and will keep you up to date as things happen!)
  6. Caring Professors: All of my course professors are kind, warm, helpful, and truly care about their students, wanting them to succeed. I feel like I am getting a “small liberal arts college” vibe at a medium-size university, which is perfect for me.
  7. A Private Teacher who knows exactly what I need: I wanted to write a microtonal piece. My teacher has written microtonal pieces. I wanted to get a more thorough understanding of post-tonal theory. It turns out I know more than I thought, but as we go along, my teacher has been able to explain things in such a way to fill in the gaps and bring it all together for me. Most of all, I want to learn how to teach composition, and he is a great model.
  8. My Church Choir Director: It’s a really wonderful experience to work with another professional musician at church who can talk shop at a deep level. This is a new experience. He has even asked me for musical advice a few times!
  9. My Church Choir: I’ve played with community choruses for years, but accompanying a church choir satisfies my soul on an even deeper level. I have also come to really understand how valuable and how much of a ministry a church choir is to a church. And how hard church choir members work! In a 3-month period, we are working on a complete Christmas cantata AND performing a new anthem every Sunday! That is an incredible amount of music! Members’ knowledge of music varies widely, and I can’t believe how well this group of 25-30 volunteer singers (depending on the Sunday) puts it all together! I also love how much fun we have, and how the weird instruction in a piece, telling me to “pedal generously,” has now become an inside joke.
  10. My Church: I grew up Evangelical. I am now at a United Methodist Church. The culture is very different, though here I am going to focus on music. In most of the churches I attended before now, there were very few people, if any, that had an interest in classical music or jazz and attended things like concerts put on by the local symphony, choral society, or chamber music or jazz festival. I felt very alone and unsupported in my pursuit of training, and later work, in music at a professional level. I was even called a musical snob on many occasions, though I tried not to be. (Which meant I basically stopped talking to people about what I do or what music I like.) Another time, I got scolded for playing Bach preludes and was told I need to play “church music.” I don’t have to hold back at this new church. They actually appreciate it if I don’t. This church has demonstrated the value it places on music by putting up serious money towards it. A few examples: a HUGE pipe organ (!!!), a 9ft Kawai concert grand piano (GASP!), at least three Kawai baby grands, including one in the choir room (another gasp that there is such a room as the choir room, plus closets for the choir robes and a music library!), a set of nice (real) handbells, and high-quality sound equipment. I can truly say I’ve never before been at a church that has invested in music like this. I no longer feel like a musical weirdo at church. And, by the way, some members have even shared tickets to the symphony and choral society with me!

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