Sunday, 26 September 2010

Happiness, and God in the Details



Happiness is having a safe, secure, affordable place to live.

Happiness is fresh baked bread... delicious soup... experimental (and misshapen!) bagels.

Happiness is a roommate who puts up with you, even when you're making disgusting sounds because you have a sinus infection.

Happiness is the glorious weather that comes after a break in the summer heat.

Happiness is sitting in a comfortable armchair, surrounded by books and music, with a cool breeze from the window that occasionally blows your papers all over the room.

Happiness is meeting new people with whom, after spending only three hours in their company, you feel comfortable, relaxed, and welcomed, and with whom you have laughed inordinately for the entire time.

Happiness is waking up early to go to the farmers' market.

Happiness is the straw hat full of new potatoes, yellow squash, and green tomatoes that's sitting on your counter because you didn't have a basket to put them in!

It's already been a long semester and I know I've complained a lot.  But isn't it more fun to go through life being positive?  Optimistic?  Cheerful?  I could complain about the wind that throws my papers into disarray... moan about the sinus infection... feel poor and underprivileged because I can't afford to buy a cute basket to put my fresh produce in.  But it's so much more fulfilling - and interesting! - to think about the fact that the hot summer wind has given way to the fresh breeze of autumn... to appreciate and love on a roommate who's sweet enough to make dinner when you feel miserable... to improvise and put your produce in a hat.  

They say that "God is in the details" - and he is.  Every little feather on the wren outside my window was individually designed and made by him.  Talk about details!  But I think he's also in the details of how you live your life - how you react to situations.  Moaning and complaining, feeling ill-used, is not showing God in our details.  And I think this is something we often forget - that we can announce that we're Christians, and go to church, and wave our Bibles around, all we want; but if we don't live in a way that's different from the world, no one will believe us.  No one will look at us and say "I like the way he lives.  I like the way he reacts to difficult situations.  What is it that makes him different?"  

I'm not trying to say I'm in anyway a model of perfection in this area.  I most certainly am NOT.  I whine and complain about little petty things as much as the next girl.  But I know people who are consistently cheerful, patient, and God-honouring, even in the face of truly horrifically bad times in their lives.  I admire them, and I want to be like them.  I also know people who, while claiming to be Christians, act as though the world revolves around them; who seem to think that any minor setback is a personal affront and a cause for a loud and public airing of grievances.  I shudder to think that anyone would view me in this light!  So I've made - not a resolution, exactly, but at least a conscious effort - to look for the good - and for God - in difficult situations, or times when I'm tempted to be grouchy because things aren't going my way.

I hope it makes me more pleasant to be around.  I know it keeps me sane!  And I pray, above all, that people would begin to see God in the details of my life.

~~~

(This was originally going to be just a list of "happys".  But then I thought about this application and got sidetracked!  So it's another long post.)

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Frustration

There are two events in the music department that I've been looking forward to all semester.  One is the NATS (National Association of Teachers of Singer) vocal competition.  The other is the performance of Beethoven's 9th symphony, for which we're collaborating with the local symphony orchestra and several university choirs.

These events take place on the same day.

This wasn't supposed to be a conflict; NATS has two rounds, the initial and then the finals, which take place in the morning and throughout the afternoon; the concert is not until 8 PM.  No problem, right?

Well.  Apparently the dress rehearsal for this concert is Saturday afternoon at 4.  Which is the approximate time of the final round of NATS.  Which I certainly hope to be performing in, since it's from the contestants in the finals round that they choose the winners.  The problem is, the director of the symphony orchestra has decided that any singers who miss the dress rehearsal - for whatever reason, including the competition - cannot sing in the concert.  Period.  No exceptions.  My choir director has tried to change his mind - the directors of the other choirs likewise.  But it's made no difference.

I realise it's his orchestra, his dress rehearsal, but still this decision makes very little sense to me for several reasons.  Firstly, he's excluding from his performance all the best voices, most talented singers, and most dedicated musicians, since these are the ones who generally make it to the finals in competitions.  Secondly, these singers - dedicated, talented - are the ones who are most likely NOT to need the dress rehearsal - to be able to just walk in and sing.  And thirdly, all these singers who are singing in the competition are also required to put in the time and energy to learn the choral portion of the symphony, not knowing whether they will actually get a chance to perform it.  I know that I, for one, have less motivation to learn the music knowing I may not perform it - but conversely, I'm afraid that subconsciously I won't sing my best in the competition, because part of me will want not to make the final round, so that I can sing the concert.  I'm feeling frustrated and conflicted and just plain upset, at the moment.

I know God wants me to learn something from this.  I know that I probably will.  But at the moment, I'm just mad.  I feel helpless, because there's nothing I can do to change anything - frustrated because no one made it clear before now that there would be this conflict.  I'm also annoyed with myself for being so upset and emotional about what is, in the grander scheme of things, a very small concern.  I'm just praying for calm acceptance for myself - and, if it be God's will, for the orchestra director to change his mind!

~~~

Apart from all this, I had a very nice week.  How was yours?  :-)

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

I'm Terrible at Titles

Um.  Did I mention I'm not very good at blogging during the school year?  Well... yeah.  It's a definite failing in my character.  Or something.

At any rate, I've been keeping exceedingly busy already.  It's full steam ahead on my senior recital music (which doubles as grad school audition music, and competition repertoire...)  I've got 18 credit hours again this semester, which is probably crazy - but I'm always crazy.  I don't know how to attempt a *reasonable* amount of work, I think!

Most of all, I'm up to my ears in grad school research.  I started out with a list of about 12 schools - which expanded to 15 - and I'm trying to whittle it down to about 3 or 4 at which I'll actually apply and audition.  I've spent countless hours already going through their websites, jotting down notes on their course of study, price of tuition, cost of living, availability of scholarships, etc.  It's a lot of information even about one school, and when you make it 12 or 15 it's a bit overwhelming.

I've worked it down to about 6 schools that I really like and think I'd be happy at.  Of course (this always happens to me!) they are almost all both the really expensive and the extremely prestigious (and therefore HARD to get into) schools.  Places like Juilliard.  Curtis.  Northwestern.  Boston Conservatory.  Guildhall. And while my teacher seems fairly confident that I'd be accepted at most if not all of them, I'm finding I have self-confidence issues.  Just because I've done well in undergraduate school (at a tiny Baptist college) doesn't mean I have any right to think I'm good enough to get into the best schools in the nation - nay, the world!  I realise that if I don't believe I have a chance, then I won't have a chance - confidence is everything in the performing world.  And yet I've spent my whole life trying to be humble, to keep my opinion of myself and my ego within bounds.  So I'm struggling a bit on this.

I may not be blogging much in the next few months; in addition to my coursework, I'll be filling out applications, recording audition CDs to send off, preparing for my recital, for a competition, for a couple of master classes, and writing a massive research paper I'm hoping to present at a conference and my school's Scholarship Symposium in the spring.  So I'll be swamped!  I hope to pop in now and then with updates and maybe a funny story and a photo or two, but don't expect any more novel-length posts until Christmas :-)