This was one of the most life changing things I have ever done. When I was a junior in high school, the Oregon Bach Festival started the Youth Choral Academy. It started out small, probably only about 50 or 60 of us, all from Eugene. They got one of the best choral conductors in the country, Anton Armstrong from St. Olaf College, to come and lead us with the help of an amazing Dick Clark from the U of O. I imagine we were not that great the first year, but I can tell you that I left that week of the academy a much better singer and chorus member. We got to work with amazing singers on vocal technique, body singing and so much more. We went to the ‘camp’ during the day, but were free to get into all sorts of shenanigans at night.
The next year, the administrators wised up, and put us in the dorm to keep a better eye on us. We were also much better the next year, coming from all over Oregon. Dr. Armstrong expected much more from us and kicked our butts a little harder. I learned even more. Unfortunately, my college women’s choir was a huge let down after singing with the amazing singers in the OBFYCA, so I quit singing after my first term in the choir. I did go back as a chaperone for the YCA the next summer.
I was a very strict chaperone.
This year was the 15th anniversary of the academy, so they invited all 700 of the alumni back for a weekend of rehearsals, a luncheon and to since a couple songs with the current YCA (now called Stangeland Family YCA) kids. The concert was this past Sunday, and I have to say I had so much fun. Only about 35 alums showed up, but there were 4 of us from the original year. I took Alma to the luncheon and it was pretty fun to imagine her singing in the choir in 15 or 16 years. Oh, how lucky she would be to have an experience like singing in the SFYCA.
This is a song that I recently discovered (thanks to Pandora). The line that really struck me is: “I want to change the world, instead I sleep.” When I was younger I had a sense that I was meant for great things. I remember having moments going to the mailbox or something similarly mundane and being struck by a feeling of hugeness. That is part of why I’ve always wanted to join Peace Corps. I knew I had to see the world (if not change it).
As I’ve gotten older I’ve realized that changing the world is not something that’s simply done. Experience (and PCT) has taught me this. But I have also realized that we can change our life, someone’s life and maybe even a small corner of the world. All we can do is keep breathing… and trying… and being inspired. Constantly. And not spend our time sleeping. If I want to change the world, then I need to get up and do something about it.
I know this is kind of a silly post, but it really is one of the most amazing things that the internets have given me ever. I love pandora.com so much.
If you live under a rock (or have been in the Peace Corps for 3 years) it is high time you learn about Pandora. What you do is you tell it a song or an artist that you love and it comes up with other songs that it thinks you will like. It is quite genius. We have so many ‘stations,’ that are edited to pretty much only play the music we love, that we never have to get bored of our old CDs and mp3s ever again. The only downside is that there’s a limit for how much you can listen to in a month, but it only costs $0.99 a month to keep the music coming. The only other downside is Pandora’s crazy affinity to Jack Johnson. Seriously. He shows up on all our stations – Decemberists, Audra McDonald, Glee Cast, Deb Talan, Emiliana Torrini. Everything. No matter how many thumbs down we give him. Oh well.
Audra McDonald has one of my favorite voices in the whole universe. She’s amazing. She has a wonderful level of emotion in her performance. I have been lucky enough to have seen Audra perform live twice. The first time was when mom and I went to New York when I was 17. We saw her in her Tony award winning role of Sarah in Ragtime. She blew me away.
The second time was in 2005 when she was on tour. She came to Eugene, so mom and I went to see her again. She was so wonderful and entertaining. That night I discovered that she not only could sing beautifully, but she was also a good story teller. She told great stories between her songs. I was even lucky enough to meet her and have an actual conversation with her. After the performance she had a question and answer session. I took a photo with her (on one of my old phones) and got to talk a little about how I had seen her in Ragtime. She was really a lovely person.
Here’s a video of her singing one of my favorite’s… It begins with some words about marriage equality that make me love her even more (the video is from a Marriage Equality Rally in NY)
I don’t know if there’s really a band that’s influenced me more than Dave Matthews Band. It was the first band I really became obsessed with. During high school I would drive around in my little white Ford Escort playing cassette tapes of DMB songs that my friends I would make and pass around. I have so many great memories of driving around Eugene with the windows down and Dave blasting out of the pathetic little speakers. Memories don’t get much better than that…
I saw DMB for the first time in 1999 with my friend Echo (turns out Jesse was at the concert that day too… we would meet about 2 years later). I felt like such a grown-up going to a big concert of the band that I loved more than anything. Fun times.
My obsession lasted quite a while. I had posters during college, went to see many, many shows. One day, one fateful day, at the Gorge in Washington, I met Dave Matthews. Yeah, you read that right. I’m kind of a big deal. Not only did I meet him, but he signed my shirt. Not only did he sign my shirt, but he also drew a man smoking a joint on said shirt. That’s right.
If you watch the following video you will see the aforementioned white Ford Escort (and subsequently hear my friend and me scream) around the 2:49 minute mark. You will also see various bits of my head and face in the foreground from 3:32- 3:48.
I still listen to DMB from time to time, but I’m not nearly as obsessed as I was during high school and college. I still love the music and the memories it brings up for me.