Category Archives: Out of the Box

“Focus on the up”

My Alexander Technique teacher said those words to me yesterday, mid-lesson.  The first thing I thought was of the sweet kindergarten boy who volunteered to be the bunny in Union Avenue Opera’s educational performance of Little Red Riding Hood last Friday.  He added a bounce to the role that I’ve never seen before, replete with upward commitment–a nearly tangible determination to be the best bunny he could be.  While continuing through the forest in my red cape, I inwardly marveled at that youthful, joyous expression of springiness.  Focus on the up.

My high school voice students were more nervous than bouncy last Thursday night when they gathered at my house with friend and colleague Elizabeth Schleicher’s students.  It was a non-recital.  A chance to sing in front of peers with an accompanist and no parents.  A chance to see how other people are doing with their voice and body exploration.  A chance to see how it feels to share music simply for the sake of sharing.  A chance express.  Their “up” challenge involved a little more focus, more poise, and more confidence.  Who couldn’t use an extra serving of that?

I witnessed yet another kind of “up” at the Girls on the Run 5K a few days ago.  I have been involved with the organization on and off during the last several years, and was invited to the microphone this year.

National Anthem

Photos by Tyson Kanoya

As I sang the National Anthem, I stared out at the crowd from a perfectly elevated perch.  Take the committed bounce of my little bunny, stir in the nerves of my high schoolers, add 10 weeks of preparation, some rain, and a Sunday morning, multiply by 4,400 runners, and you get a rocket of enthusiasm.  Neither gravity nor precipitation was going to bring that crowd down.

Missouri Secretary of State Robin Carnahan said a few words.

Pre-race

A six-time marathoner herself, she related to the focus, determination and commitment necessary to run any distance.   It’s the the same kind of focus, determination and commitment that the runners will take with them as they venture through life, she suggested.  It will lead them and the world around them to exceptional places.  They are on their way up.  Way to focus.

Lori Chalupny, member of the 2008 gold medal winning US soccer team took Mrs. Carnahan’s message and hit it home.  Work hard, and sometimes your sky-high dreams come true.  They did, after all, for her.

Up.

Starting Line

Why we sing

Every once in awhile, someone reminds me that the world likes singing.

I had the pleasure of observing a long-time friend of the family the other day.  He stood in front of his Maryville class and community members and led them through a Latin reading of Luke’s Nativity account.  Never have I seen a more genuine celebration of the Giving Season.   I was invited to sing a couple of pieces in Latin to round out the affair…in the university’s library….that hallowed ground where one is not supposed to speak, more or less sing the Bach-Gounod “Ave Maria.”  But sing it I did, according to the good Doctor’s wishes.  And halfway through “Adeste Fideles,” some individuals in the group took me up on my offer, and they sang too.  They even thanked me afterward for singing and for letting them sing.  I should have been the one doing the thanking.

I walked away thinking, maybe it isn’t as hard as we think to give and receive.  Sometimes it just  takes driving to Maryville University, listening to a beloved professor engage with his students, and singing.

A day later, the professor and friend told me he’d been thinking about this poem by Wordsworth.  I’m now convinced.  We sing because the world likes it.  Before, during and after.

BEHOLD her, single in the field,
Yon solitary Highland Lass!
Reaping and singing by herself;
Stop here, or gently pass!
Alone she cuts and binds the grain, 5
And sings a melancholy strain;
O listen! for the Vale profound
Is overflowing with the sound.
No Nightingale did ever chaunt
More welcome notes to weary bands 10
Of travellers in some shady haunt,
Among Arabian sands:
A voice so thrilling ne’er was heard
In spring-time from the Cuckoo-bird,
Breaking the silence of the seas 15
Among the farthest Hebrides.
Will no one tell me what she sings?—
Perhaps the plaintive numbers flow
For old, unhappy, far-off things,
And battles long ago: 20
Or is it some more humble lay,
Familiar matter of to-day?
Some natural sorrow, loss, or pain,
That has been, and may be again?
Whate’er the theme, the Maiden sang 25
As if her song could have no ending;
I saw her singing at her work,
And o’er the sickle bending;—
I listen’d, motionless and still;
And, as I mounted up the hill, 30
The music in my heart I bore,
Long after it was heard no more.