Sunday, November 16, 2014

Proud to Be an American!

Last week was filled with patriotism, pride and community performances!

On Tuesday, the Singing Senators performed at the Veteran's Day Ceremony at Beaches Veteran's Memorial Park in Atlantic Beach.  It was a lovely day to celebrate our veterans - past, present and future.  Local ROTC commands were part of the experience and our very own FHS Brass Ensemble performed pre-show music for the audience.  Several hundred locals from around the Beaches community were there to pay their respects and honor those who had served and are currently serving to protect our freedom. 

Last night, an ensemble sang at the American Legion #129 as part of a patriotic program that was written by a former classmate of mine.  Candace asked if we would be part of her production when we bumped into each other at our 35th reunion last summer.  I told her I would be happy to support her efforts and thus our collaboration was born.  Funds raised last night will allow the American Legion to adopt a naval ship for the holidays at Mayport Naval Base and also to help send students to "Girls State" in Tallahassee next spring.  My favorite part of the program was when the wives of the men who are carved into Mt. Rushmore spoke about their husband's individual quirks.  It was quite humorous from the women's vantage point.

My students served food, dessert and sang
in the production.

Until next time...

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Fall Choral Festival 2014

On November 6, 2014, the Duncan U. Fletcher Senior High School Beginning Mixed Chorus traveled to Atlantic Coast High School to perform in the annual Fall Choral Festival.  This festival provides an opportunity for a chorus to perform in a non-adjudicated setting and for their peers from around the district.

Last year, we were unable to attend due to a scheduling conflict, but after experiencing the festival this year, I feel it is a valuable tool for my beginners to get a taste of what it is like at District Music Performance Assessments in the Spring.  Although there is no sight-reading component, the students begin in the auditorium, move to the warm-up room, walk out onstage, perform two songs and exit to the auditorium.  The process is very similar at MPA.  It is not my practice to take the beginning chorus to District MPA, but after the positive experience we had at this festival, it may be a consideration this year.

My students did well.  We only had 34 make the trip out of 48 in the class, but the group was very well-behaved and represented our school well.

Many thanks to Shelli Long for sight-reading our music onstage during the performance.  We only had 3 minutes in the warm-up room for her to look at it.

 Duncan U. Fletcher Senior High Beginning Mixed Chorus

Until next time...

Monday, October 13, 2014

Miss High School Pageant

On Saturday evening, I had the unique privilege of sitting in the audience and enjoying the Miss High School Pageant at the University of North Florida.  Our very own Rachel S. has been in chorus at Fletcher High School for the past four years.  Last year, she was crowned "Miss Fletcher" which provided her with the opportunity to compete in the pageant for the "Miss High School" crown.

Rachel is a charming and talented young lady who is poised, articulate and enjoys sharing her "gift of song" with others.  She is engaging in a dramatic presentation, a musical setting, or chorus concert and it's hard to miss her flaming red curls. She comes alive onstage and I was so glad to learn that she is going to pursue a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree after graduation in the spring.

Rachel was selected 2nd Runner-Up in the Miss High School pageant and we are very proud of her accomplishments.  She will be the featured soloist in our fall concert on Tuesday, October 14th.  She will also perform in the Drama department's fall show in November.  Congratulations, Rachel!!

Ellie, Rachel and Thea
Until next time...

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Off and Running

It is true.  The school year has officially begun.  I worked most of the summer and found myself in teacher trainings during the months of June, July and August.  Most folks think teachers get an 8-week "break" from their daily routine.  Maybe that's true for some, but not for me.  I spent the summer shuttling my boys to and from work and to and from football practice.  I was an assistant swim coach from May through July and celebrated with family during our annual family reunion.  It blew by so quickly, I am still having a difficult time adjusting to the idea that school has officially begun.

I have 116 chorus students this year. We are currently preparing for several things - All-State auditions, the Disney Candlelight Processional audition and our Fall Concert.  Next week we begin our first fundraiser of the year - Enjoy the City coupon books.  The new "Smart Snack" law has put the kabosh on any candy sales during the school day (one of our biggest money-makers!) so we are looking for other ideas to re-build our operating budget.

I am also teaching two sections of Keyboard 1 and one section of World Music this year.  I have 236 students attached to me.  It is a good thing that I am neurotically organized.  If that weren't enough responsibility, I was called upon to mentor a new teacher this year.  Folks must think I am "Super Teacher."  As the Bible says, "To those to whom much is given, much will be required."  God help me.

Several weeks ago, I did a blind audition for soloists to sing the National Anthem at the varsity football games.  Seven singers made the cut and three of them have represented our program very well under the Friday night lights.  I was at the game last night to conduct the singer in the press box.  Just as I sat down in the bleachers to watch the game, the "heavens declared the glory of God" and it began to rain.  I didn't have an umbrella and neither did my sister.  Needless to day, we were soaked to the bone.

Not only did we get soaked, First Coast High
kicked our tails 18-6. 

My sister is such a gracious person and had agreed to help me prepare the materials for the fundraiser which begins on Monday.  Our plan was to go to the game, sit through the first quarter and then go back to the school and stuff envelopes.  We finally closed up shop at 8:30 p.m. and took our soaking-wet selves home for the night.

Life is always an adventure with me.  Stay tuned...

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

River City Women's Chorus

I have always believed that "actions speak louder than words" and that one should "practice what you preach."  That being said, I auditioned for the River City Women's Chorus back in April and have been working diligently for the past 8 weeks preparing for several concerts that will be taking place this week and next.

This is the first year that there has been an option for women.  The River City Men's Chorus is in their 5th season.  We are raising money for a local charity called "Dreams Come True."  This non-profit organization grants wishes to terminally ill children and we are privileged to donate our time and talent for such a worthy cause.

River City Women's Chorus - R. Wayne Bailey, Director
(I'm the tanned one in the center of the back row)

If you would like to enjoy an evening of quality choral music and support Dreams Come True, you may do so at one of the following concert venues:

Tuesday, July 15th
Hendricks Avenue Baptist Church
4001 Hendricks Avenue

Friday, July 18th
Lakewood Presbyterian Church
2001 University Boulevard West

Tuesday, July 22
St. John's Episcopal Cathedral
256 East Church Street

Friday, July 25
Riverside Presbyterian Church
849 Park Street

All concerts are in Jacksonville, Florida and begin at 7:30 p.m.  A donation will be collected during the concert.  All proceeds will be given to Dreams Come True.

Until next time...

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

What Teachers Do During Summer Break

So many people ask me what I do with my "free time" in the summer.  I don't really have free time in the summer.  Summertime is when teachers take care of everything around their house that they couldn't take care of during the school year.  Summertime is when you make every doctors appointment you were unable to make during the school year.  Summertime is when you get a crown on a tooth that has 3 cracks in it because there is not enough time to sit in the dentist chair during the school year.  Summertime is when you trade the "tools of your trade" for an automobile and chauffeur your own children to and from their respective jobs.  Summertime is when you attend teacher trainings so you can earn points for "continuing education" and re-certify every five years. Summertime is.....well, almost as busy as the school year, but not quite.

I decided to spend what free time I had this summer on several things.  My greatest priority was to get back to the gym on a regular basis.  I have succeeded my own expectations in that area over the past several weeks.  I've run on the treadmill, run intervals between the telephone poles on the boulevard, swam laps, lifted weights, taken spinning classes and Zumba classes.  My body is responding in a positive way and I am grateful.

Another idea I had was to eat my way through the produce section at my local Publix.  I put on a few pounds last year and needed to regroup with diet and exercise.  I started with weird stuff like kale.  I hear it's really good for you.  From kale, I moved on to Red Swiss Chard.  From there, it was Bok Choy, etc.  I wanted to experience new flavors and I have time to cook during the summer, so this has worked out pretty well.  My diet is very clean now and I am feeling much better these days.  Stress really takes a toll on your body and your outlook on life after so many months of it.

One of my famous salads

For fun, my sister and I went on a dolphin safari.  We didn't see any dolphins, but there were lots of jelly fish, a couple of sea turtles and a manatee.  We capped off our day at Cap's Seafood and it was most enjoyable being out on the water and breathing fresh air.  I live in a cave 10 months out of the year and it could not have been a better day for dolphin-hunting.  Tip from the captain....never book a dolphin safari after June 1st.  Shrimping season opens that day and they all leave the inlet to follow the shrimp boats out in the open ocean where they can eat their fill of by-catch.  Who knew?

Dolphin Safari in St. Augustine

Castillo de San Marco from the inlet side

I love reading novels in the summertime too.  I visit my local library and load up on books.  My goal is to finish one a week before they must be returned.  That means I have three weeks to "git r done."  I love reading anything set in the Victorian Period and 300-400 pages suits me just fine.

Next week is the annual Abdullah Family Reunion.  Folks are flying in from CA and driving down from NY.  We will eat together, laugh together, fish together, ski, play mini-golf on Anastasia Island, do a water park, hang out -- all in honor of my dad who passed away in 2000.  It is the highlight of our summer each year.

Once we get past that point, it will be time for me to focus my attention on the upcoming school year.  I will be in Orlando at the end of the month for Choral Panorama and the Florida Vocal Association's summer conference.  The first week of August is the Teacher Academy for all secondary music teachers in my district.  On August 11th, teachers report to school and students are back in gear on August 18th.  School is just around the corner.

Until next time...

Sunday, June 8, 2014

The Fat Lady Has Sung

The school year is over.  I conducted my final performance of my inaugural year as a high school choral director on Thursday, June 5th at the Duncan U. Fletcher Senior High School Commencement which was held at the Jacksonville Memorial Arena.

First of all....I had never stepped foot on the floor of the Arena.  (I am a teacher.  We can only afford seats in the nose-bleed section when we go to events at that venue.)  Not only did I step foot on the floor, but I conducted the choir in front of thousands of people.  One of the graduating seniors captured 26 seconds of the National Anthem as it was being broadcast via the Jumbotron.  She was not supposed to have her cell phone on her person, but I'm glad she did.  Now I have 26 seconds of a rather big deal in my little life.

Secondly, we were required to dress in full academic regalia.  I have blogged about this hood-thing before, but let me say it again.  I waited 22 years for my Master's hood and finally got it this year.  Had I not left elementary music and made the switch to high school, I would still be waiting on the elusive hood.

I was getting married 3 months after graduating from my Master's program in 1992.  I did not have $250 to purchase the hood so I could walk in the graduation ceremony.  I apologized to my mom who was very disappointed (but understood my predicament) and moved on.  I told her it would just be a dust-collector in a bottom drawer somewhere and closed that chapter of my life.  There were many times that I regretted that decision, but I really had no choice in the matter.

Earlier this year, my principal informed us that every faculty member was expected to attend graduation in their full regalia.  The same thought crossed my mind again.  How would I pay for the hood the second time around? Long story short...Herff-Jones supplied each of us with our regalia "up to the highest degree conferred" and I proudly swagged my way out onto the floor of the Arena and conducted in it! It was one of the greatest moments of my life.  I waited 22 years for that moment and it didn't cost me a dime.  I don't know who paid for my regalia, but I am forever indebted to them.  Thank you!!

Fletcher Senior High School Chorus
Commencement - 2014

Until next time...