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Entries in choir (15)


Photo 234/365

After only two days at home, Calvin is again away from home. Instead of true camp this time, though, he is off with his choir enjoying a short three day retreat to start the year off right. I remember the first year I dropped him off for this event. He'd never been away from home and I was petrified, but the minute we arrived he was at ease and I went home only slightly nervous for those two nights and three days. Now it's not only old hat, it's like no time away at all compared to Blue Lake. We've come so far since then.

So with Calvin gone I'm doing the tedious, but exciting, work of planning school for the year. Thankfully I have pictures from the Boychoir director to supplement my own boring ones.

From me...

From camp...


Photo 173/365


Photo 62/365 (series: Harry Potter with the Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra)

At the Holiday Pops Christmas Concert last December we noticed an ad in the program for a Night with The Music of Harry Potter, a concert offering from the Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra. It sounded good to us so I made a mental note to look into tickets. Thankfully, I forgot to put that task in my journal, because a month or so later we were told that the Boychoir would be performing in said Harry Potter concert, no ticket for the singer necessary. So while Jon and I procured tickets, Calvin procured music and a magical frog (you can't sing in the Hogwarts Frog Choir with one, after all).

The night started with fun in the lobby, which Calvin got to participate in (including his very first selfie as part of the baffling Horcrux search) before ducking backstage for his Frog Choir debut. We were able to keep him away from the prying eyes of the Ministry and out of Azcaban, so I think we did a good job of wizarding.


Photos 46-49/365 (series: ACDA Honor Choir weekend in Chicago)

Last fall Calvin auditioned into the American Choral Directors Association (ACDA) Honor Choir. This is a selective choir assembled annually of auditioners from all over either the region or the nation, in alternating years, to sing at the ACDA conference in February. This was a regional year, and Calvin, along with three other boys from his choir, were accepted into the Elementary Honor Choir. Music arrived in January and practice began in earnest—the performers were expected to arrive with their music learned and memorized because their time to rehearse together with the director is limited. Very limited. In fact, the elementary choir had just one and a half days, though long days they were. 

The weekend awakened something in Calvin. Beforehand he practiced with his usual ease—he learns music quickly, and tends to take its simplicity (to him) for granted—and he arrived well prepared and eager for the event. These were things I expected. What I had not expected was the way he took to the intensity of the weekend. He may have come out of each several-hour-long rehearsal glassy eyed and melting, but he basked in the weight and responsibility of it all.He loved feeling important, with both parents going to obvious lengths to make sure favorite meals were served up at his leisure, and whisking him to and from rehearsals and social gatherings (a pool break after dinner and a lunch date before the concert) with friends. His joy was especially visible in his drama—the back of a hand wiping an exhausted brow, or the sighing plea for a stress relief tea. That was when I realized that he enjoyed acting the part of the pressured singer as much as anything else. He ate it right up.

The trip was challenging, but also rewarding for Calvin on many levels. At nearly 100 kids strong this was a large group for him to work with, and the music was different from the usual Boychoir program. The director of the Elementary Honor Choir this year, Francisco Núñez, a MacArthur Fellow (recipient of the 2011 Genius Grant) and the founder of the Young People's Chorus of New York City, proved to be an energetic conductor who loves music and children. In the Friday afternoon rehearsal, he happened to pick Calvin out of a sea of hands to answer a simple question. Calvin answered so well that he was asked to answer all the rest of the afternoon's questions, no subsequent hand raising required.  

Jon and I also found much to enjoy over the weekend. Required to stay in the fancy conference hotel as chaperones but not required during rehearsals, we were free to fill that time as we pleased. We filled it with pastries, coffees, a walk out on Navy Pier, a dinner for two in the upscale hotel bar, and lots of rich together time. And our weekend didn't actually begin and end with choir, either. We love to travel as a family, from the car trip and stops along the way, to nights spent visiting after dark in a shared hotel room. Plus we actually started the weekend a day early with a delicious and entertaining Chinese New Year dinner at Duck Duck Goat with my brother and his wife, and then, following the Saturday concert, ended it with wine, sushi, and Olympics at their always relaxing West Loop loft. They know how to show visitors a good time. 

But the best thing about our weekend, aside from the coveted couple time alongside the chance to see our son blossom in a new environment, was the concert itself. It's amazing what a group of very talented kids can do with just a day and a half. 

A very foggy Chicago

A room with a view

Chinese New Year Pris fixe dinner at Duck Duck Goat

complete with Chinese New Year dragon visit

Bright bushy tailed for rehearsal

Relaxing during lunch break

While the kid was away, the parents at play...

Photo op with famous director at the end of afternoon rehearsal

pool party during dinner break

A little bleary eyed for the last rehearsal of the night...

Parent alone dinner time...

An autograph at the end of the full day of rehearsal

Rehearsal came early on Saturday morning

Lunch before the concert, kid version...

Lunch before the concert, adult version...

Beautiful snowflakes to end the weekend

One last stop on the way home...


10 influential people from my life

All good things must come to an end. We know this truth in life, we just don't always truly know it until we are faced with it, and as this school year closes we are saying goodbye to a man who was not only influential in Jon's life, but thankfully in Calvin's as well. The director (and founder) of the Boychoir of Ann Arbor has been shepherding boys, offering vocal and life training, for thirty years now, and he is retiring. Jon's experience in the Boychoir was important to him, and I feel priviledged to have had the opportunity to meet the man and witness the effects the choir has had on Calvin. Not only has he learned a lot about singing, he has learned a lot about coming together as a group, about honor and tradition, and about shaking hands (strong grip, look them in the eye!).

As we've spent this year, especially the past month or so, saying goodbye to this man who has been profoundly influential for so many, I've spent some time thinking about how formative these years are for children, and the importance of early role models and leaders. And that led me to thinking of my own formative years and the people who saw me through them. Parents aside, of course, because their influence is obvious and special, I have come up with the following ten:

(1) My parents. Yep, let's get the obvious out of the way. I'd say it's a given, but not every child respects their parents or takes their lessons to heart, so I put them first and foremost here because I learned so much from both of my parents, and continue to learn so much from them, that the top of this list is where they belong.

(2) My grandparents, and other extended family members. Another gimme, I'm sure, but my maternal grandmother especially imparted a lot of wisdom that I have carried with me. And beyond verbal lessons, time spent on her hobby farm when I was little I'm sure helped form some of my love for nature. I remember it so vividly. My Godmother taught me to ski like a woman (we have hips!), and later how to sew. My paternal aunt aroused in me a curiosity about my history that fed a later obsession with the broader subject of human history, then evolution. All of my larger family have quietly and influenced who am through our many years.

(3) Early friends (and frenemies). Yes, I realize this is a kind of nebulous list item, but specific names, even the specific people, from so long ago aren't what really matter here as much as the idea of them. The first half of elementary school is a maze of social learning that leads kids down many paths, some of them ending in disaster. I had a few friends who meant the world to me, some who stuck with me, even have stuck with me, through many years, and others who definitely led to hurt. 

(4) The young Authors program at my elementary school. Again, this isn't a particular person, but the program and the team that ran it were invaluable in developing my love for reading and writing. I can't even remember now if it was an in school special, or an after school club type thing, but I remember attending writing workshops where we received encouragement and constructive advice while we exercised our creative writing sides. 

(5) My fourth and fifth grade teacher. She was the kind of teacher who took a personal interest in each and every student. In her class(es, because I had her twice), we put on amazing plays, shared full thanksgiving meals where we learned about etiquette, and earned special Friday night dinners at her house through good behavior. She read aloud to us every day, which definitely deepened my love for reading.

(6) My middle school advanced math teacher. He was terrible—the worst—but I didn't say this list was all about positive influence, it's just a list of the most influential, and he was influential for sure. After a partial year in his class learning, above all else, that math is not, under any circumstances, meant for girls, it took me until my adulthood to regain any confidence in the subject. And you know what? I'm pretty darn good at math.

(7) My high school band director. He was taking no flack from anyone. None. Wasn't having it. And because of that our band was pretty good. But he was also jovial, and very supportive. I definitely remember whole class hours spent discussing important and difficult current issues, and those times were as valuable to our development as the music was. The life lessons I learned in band have never left me (like how to properly hang dress pants on a hanger, for one).

(8) My high school drama coach. Yes I was a band and a drama geek, and it wasn't as IN then as it is now. And it might be that my involvement in the club was as influential as the drama coach himself. I wasn't an actor, I was everything else behind the scenes, and I learned a lot back there, like how to wield a power drill or operate a table saw. Plus you can't beat theater for teaching self respect and confidence.

(9) My high school psychology teacher. This is another one on the list that is not entirely rosy in my memory. He was a difficult teacher, and not particularly nice, but that might be why I learned so much that really stuck with me in that class. I have several "flashbulb memories" of deep discussions in that classroom, including the one that taught me the term "flashbulb memory".

(10) My ninth grade literature teacher. When I got to high school I already loved to read, but my freshman english teacher taught me to read in a different way, opening up a whole new amazing world in my mind. That is a lesson I believe I will keep building on all my life.