Friday, December 28, 2012


Have you heard about the dance fitness craze called "Zumba?" My sister teaches Zumba at a local gym.  Toby Mac raps about Zumba in Mandisa's "Good Morning Song." Every gym worth its weight offers several Zumba classes during the week.  Zumba is hot!

Since we had a lean Christmas this year, I decided to use what I already had and expand my horizons at my local gym.  A lot of the fitness classes that are offered on a daily basis are offered while I am at work so I printed a schedule and considered which classes I would try over break.  I chose three very different fitness classes - Spinning, Boot Camp fitness and Zumba.  I thought Zumba would be fun because I have an aptitude for music, I love to dance and I enjoy Latin dance music.  Let's begin with the Spinning class....

If you're not familiar with Spinning, you are in a darkened room with music blaring on a specially-designed bike for uphill and downhill riding.  The class I took was at 5:45 a.m. and lasted 45 minutes.  I wasn't sure I would enjoy this experience, but I thought it would be a great opportunity to do some interval training and get ready for my day.  I rode 16 miles in 45 minutes and am not sure I will ever attempt this fitness activity again.  I guess I'm actually a beach-cruiser kind of gal.  I live in Florida and it is flatter than flat in my part of the state.

Next, I decided to try Boot Camp fitness.  This class is designed to help strengthen your frame and build flexibility with a little cardio thrown in for good measure.  The instructor of this class was a track star who is trying to turn pro.  She did 45-minutes with us, trained local firefighters for an hour thereafter and then did her track workout.  Need I say more? I opted for 5-pound weights and a step at medium height.  The abdominal work we did on the mat which was placed on top of the step was killer, but she complimented me on the strength of my abs at the end of the class.  I told her it was probably years of singing and deep breathing...

And then there was Zumba.  The first class I attended was taught by a substitute.  This girl didn't have one ounce of fat on her body but she did have a very thick foreign accent and more energy than I have ever had on any day in my entire life.  If you weren't sure what to do, she would stand in front of you as if she were a mirror and model what you should be doing.  If you weren't kickin' it, she'd let you know that too.  She had a great sense of rhythm, which I appreciated, and got my heart-rate up where it needed to be for a great cardio workout.  I liked her.  I would go back and take her class again.

Today, I decided to try another Zumba instructor just for fun.  This one reminded me of a Puerto Rican hoochee-momma.  She knew every lyric of every song in Spanish.  She clicked and crowed every ten seconds and rolled her tongue like only a Spanish-speaking individual can.  I salsa'd, samba'd and cha-cha'd my way through an hour-long class.  I moved portions of my body I never knew could move in that way.  (There's a reason why three out of the four girls in my family were given dance lessons as young children.  I was not one of them.)  I had the most fun watching one lady in the back who was fully clothed in workout gear and did nothing but stand spread-eagle in the back with her hands waving in the air the entire time.  I'm not sure if she was praising God or worshiping Mother Earth, but she wished us all well at the end of the class and I assume she will return to repeat the experience next week.  It's probably best that this class is offered while I am at work.

I learned a lot about myself over the course of this experience.  First of all, a 52-year old can't move like a twenty-something, slippery shoes with orthotics in them work best for Zumba fitness and I can pump iron with the best of them, when called upon to do so.  I hope you've enjoyed your time off.  I certainly have.

Until next time...

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Landfill Harmonic

In His Word to us, God promises to make "beauty out of ashes," both in us and through us.

The students of Favio Chavez are accomplishing this and more...

I am humbled and have come to realize just how blessed I am at my school.

Until next time...

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Sad Day at Sandy Hook

How does one respond to what transpired a week ago in Newtown, Connecticut?

While we were enjoying our annual visit with Auntie Claus, terror was visiting a small elementary school up north and we felt it thousands of miles away.  How do you bury your child after such a senseless act of violence and move on? How do you show up for work in an elementary school after the horror you have witnessed? I do not know.

What I do know is that even though we are currently on holiday break, my principal has put out a "call to arms" for all faculty and staff before our return in January.  Emergency plans have been re-tooled and I have a new security assignment as of January 2nd.  I have always felt that our school was a safe place to learn (and work), but who is really to know?

My heart goes out to everyone touched by this tragedy.  I have prayed for the families of those who lost loved ones.  I have prayed for our own safety at work.  I have read information provided to me by my superiors so that I can adequately address this subject with my students, should the need arise.  Although I do not feel equipped to try to make sense of a tragedy of this magnitude, I will do my best to provide comfort and emotional support wherever needed.  My heart aches for students, teachers and administrators who must report for duty knowing that it could happen again at any time and in any place. But for the grace of God, there go I...

Until next time...

Friday, December 14, 2012

Winter Concerts 2012

This week was a banner week for me.  Having conducted SIX programs myself last week, I decided to enjoy several of my colleagues' music-making this week in the spirit of the season.  

On Monday evening, I attended the Fletcher Middle Band Concert.  I was invited by a former student. This kid took his recorder study very seriously.  He stopped by my classroom almost daily to share his progress with me throughout his entire 5th grade year.  The most interesting thing about this is that I don't teach recorder in fifth grade; only in fourth.  As if on cue, he dropped by Chets Creek two weeks ago and informed me that he was currently playing the trombone in the middle school band and wanted me to come to his concert.  I e-mailed his band director to get the particulars regarding his performance and wrote it down on my calendar. I was determined to be there.  Most of my students feed to Kernan Middle School, and I was so proud to see that I had a tuba player, several flute players, numerous saxophone and clarinet players and a percussionist  - TWELVE in all in the Fletcher Middle band!  Approximately 30 students headed to Fletcher last year from Chets Creek; almost half of them are in the band.  I was blown away.

On Tuesday evening, I attended the Kernan Middle School Winter Concert.  I was blown away again!  THIRTY-FIVE of my former students were scattered among the numerous performance groups that played and sang that night.  There was a beginning band, a concert band, a jazz band, a chorus and a recorder ensemble.  Some of them were pulling double-duty playing instruments from completely unrelated instrument families in more than one ensemble. The energy in the room prior to the performance was so strong you could feel it.  Administrators, teachers, parents, grandparents, siblings - you name it - filled the room to capacity. The best part is that this program has only been in existence for a little over a year.  The musicians on the stage were so professional in the way they presented themselves and in the way they performed.  I was deeply honored to be sitting in the audience.

On Thursday evening, I attended my third "Winter Concert" of the week at LaVilla School of the Arts.  My niece and two former students sang in the 6th grade treble chorus and it was fabulous.  I could hardly believe that a sound so pure and so clear was being produced by a group of 11-year olds who just began their journey at LaVilla four months ago. I was also surprised by the sheer number of performance groups housed in the vocal department.  There are so many, they have to divide the concert in half.  Last night, we saw Act One. Tonight, Act Two will take the stage and all vocal students must return to support their peers and write a critique of the performance.  It was such an amazing experience, I can't wait to return for their spring concert!

Amber and Katie
Vocalists Extraordinaire!!

Until next time... 

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Season of Hope

'Tis the Season for holiday musicals in my corner of the world.

Yesterday, I conducted four programs (two dress rehearsals and two performances) of our multi-cultural holiday musical entitled, "December in Our Town."  There is one song in particular that grabs at my heart every time I hear it, conduct it or listen to these children sing it.  It is entitled, "Season of Hope."  The musical was written by Roger Emerson and this is one of the finest songs he's ever written.  It speaks to all of us at some level.

For our Season of Giving project this year, we partnered with The Grocery Fairy ( to collect non-perishable food items for needy families in our learning community.  The Grocery Fairy made an appearance last night at our performances and encouraged everyone to give generously.  She asked folks to shop at markets where they have "buy-one-get-one-free" programs and deliver the "free" item to one of her donation boxes at the school.  It doesn't cost your family anything extra to participate in this food giveaway and it is our sincere HOPE that she will need a van to haul the food away before we leave for holiday break.

I have two more performances to conduct tomorrow and I am certain that the tears will flow once again as my students sing "Season of Hope."

Wishing you a HOPE-filled Christmas this year.

Until next time...