Monday, August 11, 2008

My All-State Experience: A High on Learning!

Okay, so this probably is going to sound very cheesy and overdramatic, but I right now am reaching the beginning of the end and I really wish to write things down while I am still in this wonderful moment. There are so many things I wish to remember... so many things I wish to write about... and as each moment passes, more and more slips away. I know I will never forget all of them, but it's little things that can make a difference in the long run, and often times it's those little things that leave your memory first. So excuse me if I go on and on about things that really mean nothing to most people.-- The first thing I wish to address is how much the power of music has moved me during these fantastic six days. Not just the music we rehearsed, but the music all around me. It's such a neat experience to be among people -- teenagers -- who do not stop singing!!! It's such a wonderful experience to be in a rehearsal and have all the people around you listening intently, focusing on the music, and singing as perfectly as they can! I knew people like this already, but to be around SO MANY at ONE TIME is new to me. Very new. And it's a breath of fresh air, I tell you! All around me, people are singing!! In the hallways, in the dorms, outside, inside, it doesn't matter where! And they are all so talented!! Not only do they have great voices, but many of them are great pianists, guitarists, and jugglers (yes, jugglers). I am immersed in talent. I am immersed in artisanship. I am immersed in music. I am immersed in what means to me the most. And I really love it. --But with every positive, there must be a negative. In this case, the negative thing about all-state was basically the fact that it was VERY hard to make friends there. For those who don't know me well, I'll have you know that I'm not a very approachable character. Upon my arrival at Concordia, I only knew one person. I did not know this person well, and she was -- and still is -- very different from me. Although I knew she was willing to be my friend, I was troubled at the idea of spending my entire week with JUST her and not making any new friends. But within the first hour, I knew this would be a much harder task than I expected. Everyone seemed to already have their own social circle. Most came from schools that had many more All-State Participants than my school did. Here I was, feeling very much alone and different from the world I had been placed in. No one seemed to want to include anybody they didn't already know. I seemed out of place and unwelcome. --Things got worse after our first sectional started. I was sent to a room filled with about twenty girls who, like me, were first sopranos. If there is any vocal section you DON'T want to be in, it's the first soprano section. Why? Because more often than not, the first soprano section is filled with the biggest DIVAS you ever will meet in your life!! It was terrible! Some of them were SO full of themselves! Not all, but some. They went on and on about shows they were in, people they knew, parts they had played... And I was so jealous. I tried to ask them questions about their lives back home, hoping they would grow to like me and accept me into their group. But more often than not, they just went right on talking about themselves and never gave me a second thought. Part of me was so angry and disappointed. Why were people always so conceited and unappreciative? But then I realized that this is exactly how I should have expected All-State to be. These were the best singers in Minnesota, after all. Most of these girls grew up being the best. How hard it must be to be thrust into a new environment where everyone is the same as you are, if not better? I know it was hard for me. Perhaps this was their way of facing this new challenge. They probably all felt as intimidated and scared as I was, and felt like they had to defend themselves against this intimidation, somehow. I did not think of this at the time, but as I look back on it, I do believe this is why they bragged so much.--I learned a few very valuable lessons from my experiences with the other first sopranos. I learned that bragging is unattractive and unfulfilling. You do not get any better by doing it. I learned that no one likes someone who is prideful, conceited, and stuck up. I learned that I can make many more friends by LISTENING to people and by being appreciative and humble. I learned that sometimes, I need to SHUT MY MOUTH and let others teach me. I learned that sometimes I need to see through another person's eyes before I make a judgement about them. I learned that someone who may look proud on the outside may in fact be very insecure on the inside. I have no idea what is in a person's heart. I also learned how to not be jealous of others for things that don't really matter. I learned that there are more important things than talent, fame, or social standing. Jealousy can be avoided if I keep my eye on what is most important: True friendship, character, and self-fulfillment. The most important thing I learned is that I am not cut out for a career in professional musicianship. In order to succeed in that world, I must change who I am. I must become one of those proud, snotty, selfish prima donnas I detest, or else I will be seen to the world as unconfident. In order to be a star, I need to MAKE people listen to me. Make them love me by shoving myself into their faces and doing ridiculous, stupid things. I need to sleep with directors, cheat others out of opportunities, criticize others, spend tons of money, wear immodest clothes, lose good friends, move to dangerous cities, undergo cruel auditions, and totally lose my soul in order to succeed in the performing world. This is something I cannot do. Something I never will do. All my hopes of becoming a famous broadway showman have gone out the door. I cannot -- will not -- pursue such an unwholesome and unfulfilling carreer. I'll let other suckers do that.In the meantime, I will TEACH. I am going to become someone who LIFTS UP and IMPROVES others. I will be a good role model. I will change peoples lives the way my teachers have changed mine. I will let those I teach become the big stars, and when they do, I will smile, it was I who made them big. I will give my talent rather than flaunt it. I will share. I will keep my eye steady on what is the most important in this world. And I will teach others to do the same. -- You are probably wondering just HOW this miraculous epiphany occurred, and I can tell you how in just two words:Vijay Singh.When I first heard I was in Women's Choir, I was disappointed. I wanted to be in the mixed choir. I thought I was missing out on not being with a choir that I thought was more talented and more... well, mixed. Women's choir sounded second best to me. Boy, was I wrong. I was supposed to be in women's choir. This was the choir God wanted me to be in, and Vijay was the conductor God wanted me to have. What a miraculous experience it was to work with this master and genius of musicianship, artistry, and character! What an uplifting and totally life-changing experience it was to be taught by -- in my opinion -- one of the greatest and most unappreciated conductors and composers of all time! This man, Vijay Singh, was amazing. He exceeded the bounds of music and performance in his teaching and taught me how to live my life. I learned SO MUCH under his conducting. I could write books about him, what he says. But seeing as I have already written paragraphs and I'm probably boring you out of your mind already, I'll create a new note dedicated to his work. The point I wished to make here was how Vijay Singh totally turned my All-State experience around. I loved every minute of rehearsal. I loved every song we sang. I loved making music. I loved hearing the girls make beautiful music around me. And it was because of him that we sounded so wonderful!Vijay's main message to us was simple: Strive for PERFECTION, and do not stop focusing until you get there. If you truly love something -- if you care about it -- you will spend every ounce of your energy, time, emotion, and focus on it. If you love the music, you will not let other things get in the way of performing it the way it deserves to be performed. It's about ARTISTRY. It's about the MESSAGE. It's about the EMOTION. It's more than just black and white on a page. And it's more than what you can give when you are only giving half of your energy and focus to it. And this goes for more than just music. It applies to ANYTHING. If you care about your grades, your family, your religion, your LIFE, you will aim for perfection in them. Only then can you be truly happy, becasue then you have that sense of fulfillment that you get when you have done right. It's wonderful! It's really put things in perspective for me. I have been living my life so day-to-day. I haven't put my heart into things. Now Vijay's taught me to put my heart into things I love. It feels so great. -- One thing Vijay really taught me was to not be afraid to make mistakes. That hit me particularly hard because, if you have read my previous notes, I have this thing about failing that I need to get over. Whenever someone would come it at the wrong time and let out a little "solo," Vijay would always say, "Thanks for being loud when you made that mistake, because now we can correct it." It's true. Mistakes are opportunities to learn and to improve! Why did it take me so long to figure this out? I guess it took a genius like Vijay to get it through my head.--Vijay also gave us "homework" that required us to shake hands and introduce ourselves to eight people. The day he told us about it, a girl named Maire Clemen came up to me in the bathroom and introduced herself. She was from Apple Valley, and she introduced me to two other friends, Mindy and Alex. Later, she introduced me to another friend named Callie. These four girls really made All-State fun. They invited me to hang out with them at the dance on Wednesday, and they treated me like one of their best friends, even though they hardly knew me. The world needs more people like that, particularly the world of performing arts. People who are happy all the time. People who smile at you and let you not only follow them around but be a part of their group. I had a circle of friends now!! Not just a couple friends I could only sort of relate to. This was a support. They asked me questions! They involved me! They laughed at my jokes!! I loved them!! While we were at the dance, this boy came up and began to randomly dance with us. At first I was a little urked... I had no idea who he was, and here he was, dancing in our circle. His name, he said, was Ray. And he turned out to be very, very nice. He's another one I wish to thank. I met so many people after those five friends. It's almost like a switch was flipped. Maybe I just finally realized that since I could make those five friends so easily, it wouldn't be so hard at all just to say hi to people. I met so many people, and I was no longer afraid. Vijay had said the day before the performance, "I hope you left here not with just a new understanding of music, but with a few new friends." I am proud to say that I have made new friends while at All-State, and I have him to thank for it. -- One thing Vijay said during rehearsal was, "This society is oftentimes bereft of opportunities for young people to express themselves." I wish now to express myself through composition more than ever. He was so GOOD at it! We performed two of Vijay's works that week. One was a haunting piece called "Upon Julia's Voice." The text was by the British poet Rober Herrick, and he compared some of his lines to the Roman myth of Orpheus. It had lots of mixed measure stuff and lots of tension-release techniques (he is a fan of tension-release). In the middle, there's this beautiful, flowing melody made by the altos that just brings you goosebumps. The other song was my favorite -- probably my favorite song ever, actually. It's called "Tutto Il di Piango," and it's a Petrarchian poem. I will give the translated lyrics to you: ...All day I weep;and then at night, when miserable mortals rest, I find myself in tears, and my misfortunes double;thus, I pass my time in weeping.In a sad humour I wear out my eyes and heart in grief;I ma the lowest of all animals, for the loving arrows keep me at every hour bereft of peace.I am weary, since from one sun to the next, and from one shadow to the next I have already spent most of this death that is called life.It is more for the fault of another than for my misfortune that I grieve;because living pity, and my faithful aid, see me on fire and do not help me....How can you read those lyrics without feeling at least a little gloomy? It's such a powerful statement: the torture, the "death that is called life" of feeling such pains of unrequited love! Maybe it's because I particularly relate to this text or because I never really read something like this before, but the song hit me from the very beginning, when I first received this music in the mail. But nothing compared to the sound of the choir singing this piece, together, in front of the man who composed it. Tuesday night, we went through it after a long rehearsal, and something just happened. I don't know what it was, but I felt tears in my eyes. I saw tears in other girls eyes. By the time the climactic moment came when we all wail together, "Vedem'arder nel foco" ("see me on fire") there was so much passion amongst our choir it was almost unbearable. When the song ended, a silence reigned over the room, and the echoes of our last notes hung in the air like a mist. Vijay stood still, holding the fermata for a few extra seconds, and then he said, "That was exactly how I heard it in my head. Thank you so much, my angels." What POWER lies within these twelve notes, these four beats, these two vocal chords! What magic happens as each measure passes, as each note is sung! How the emotions can change with just a change in tempo, a change in dynamic, a change in vocal color? It's unbelievable! But Vijay has done it!! We've done it!! I want to be able to do it! I want to write something that moves people!! I want to be like Vijay! I want to write something as captivating and tear-jerking as "Tutto," something as steely mysterious as "Upon Julia's Voice." I want to do what Jocelyn Hagen did with her song, "Joy," which was co-commissioned for our choir and featured this AMAZING violin solo. I want to send a message to the world through music! --How can I do it? How can I ever measure up!? The answer is in Vijay's words, "Focus, anticipate, pefect, and wait for the song to come to you." It can happen, and it will! I'm going to be arranging a Freestyle song for this year, as a start. I've already talked to Mr. Fisher. He said it didn't have to be long or complicated, but he is willing to let me at least experiment with the human voice and what I can do. I am so excited!! This will be a great opportunity!! And maybe, if I work hard, I'll make Vijay proud and write something that could even be published! Until then, I will not stop striving for perfection. I will not forget everything I've learned here.--I am sorry this took so long, but it was a whole week of learning, after all. And I have only scratched the surface of the great things that happened this week. I've seen so many amazing things happen! I've had so many experiences! So many opportunities! I don't want to stop! I want to keep having these miracles happen in my life!! I want to keep learning these lessons over and over again! It's a positive high! A high on learning!!! -- Yep. All-State. An adventure never to be forgotten.


  1. wow. i am so proud and happy for you. that sounded like the most wonderful thing that could ever happen to you. that's how i felt about writer's camp. maybe i'll have to write something like that about it... i think i will.

  2. I can't believe you read all that.
    Sorry there were no paragraph breaks... I copied it from my facebook blog...
    and you should write about your experience at writers camp!!!
    It's SO IMPORTANT that people write things down -- because those are moments a person can't ever relive... and we need to remember lessons we have learned.