I love it here. I love the challenge, even though sometimes I am at my wits end. We literally walk around campus singing. Non stop singing.
Friday evening was the Strawberry Social. Students, faculty, family, and friends all gathered together to share in strawberries and whip cream and then we danced together for two hours. We were in for an extra special treat this year since the Amidons were there to teach and call all the dances. I LOVE to dance. It is so much fun. It was so hot and it wasn't long until everyone was covered in sweat, but everyone was smiling and enjoying each other's company. There is nothing like dancing in a room full of people, just connecting and dancing together. You end up dancing with zillions of people. We did contra dances, circle dances, line dances, and of course ended with a waltz. I was spun and twirled until I was dizzy. I haven't had such a good time in a long time and couldn't stop laughing. I even was lucky enough to dance with Peter Amidon, John Feierabend, and Jeff Rhone. These teachers of mine are wonderful and I look up to them and admire them so much. It's fun to learn new dances and when you get to dance with someone who knows how to do it well, it is light and effortless and magical. I LOVE to dance and wish I had more opportunity to do so at home. There were several children at the dance as well, and it was so beautiful to watch these young children dancing along with grown ups and learning about their world through dance. After we were all exhausted and sweaty and the sun had set, we pulled chairs around and sang for another couple hours. The banjo, accordion, and mandolin came out and we sang like crazy. It saddens me that our culture has lost the sense of tight communities. While the people from long ago may have been poor and not had a lot of material goods or big houses, they were rich in different (and more important) ways. It's such a beautiful and powerful thing that we've lost as we've become busier and more and more separated and isolated. People were meant to synchronize together. If we all sang and danced together more, the world would change. I'm convinced. By the time I finally got home, it was very late and I collapsed in bed exhausted but exhilarated.
Saturday I was up early for the 8:00 AM lecture and spent until 5:00 PM going to different lectures. I went back to the apartment for a quick dinner, then back to the community center for a 2 hour community sing. This was led by the Amidons and we sang all sorts of things. It was a beautiful and emotional two hours of singing with banjo, piano, guitar, unaccompanied, unison, in parts. Music is so powerful and such a wonderful gift. All week I keep thinking about other ways I can use music in my ministry as a way to connect people. I have many new ideas of how to get people singing, dancing, and spending time being together. I'm constantly realizing that music doesn't have to be just in the context of worship or even just "Jesus songs" for it to be good ministry. I know some would disagree, but sometimes a gentle side-door approach is just the ticket to ministry.
It is such a treat to have spent time with the Amidons. If you don't know who they are, look them up. If you're a teacher, buy all their stuff and teach it to your kids. 90% of the dances I teach to my students come from them. They are such special people who just live and breathe folk music and dance. They are humble, talented people and just some of the kindest and gentlest souls you could ever imagine. They live life to the fullest and set an example for everyone. It was very wonderful to see them working together. They work as a seamless team and it's as thought their lives and work are so intertwined that you couldn't begin to separate them. They are the kind of people who are just very wise, and truly listen and know what matters in life. It's almost as though they are surrogate grandparents to everyone they meet, and you feel comfortable with them the moment you meet them. I have such admiration for these fine people and hope I have many opportunities in the future to go to their workshops.
The conference was also great because I had the opportunity to hear Lillie (Dr. Feierabend's wife) speak. She is one of the most amazing teachers ever. She truly loves children and is one of those wise teachers who understands children and takes the time to see them for the wonderful people they are. She said over and over that we teachers may get tired of repeating things, but it doesn't matter, because the students will never tire of repetition and we are there for them. I've taken classes with her before and she just never ceases to amaze me with her wisdom and ideas. I walked away from her lecture with pages and pages of notes. Her wisdom and intuition is something that isn't learned from a book. Like the Amidons, it was fun to watch the Feierabends working together. In a culture with such a high divorce rate, it's wonderful to see couples who have been together forever working together and supporting each other and striving to make the world a better place. You can tell that they have a deep and mutual respect for each other and their work together is far better because they could work together. Two of their three grown sons were also in attendance and it was just fun to watch them all interact. (I love to people watch and see how different families interact together.) The Feierabends are just wise, wise, wise, and both of them LOVE children and LOVE music and can see the wonder and innocence and magic of childhood. They are so committed to helping teachers learn to give children their best. At the end of the conference, John said "Go out and make the world a better place for children to work and grow." I got goosebumps and that quote has been echoing in my head all day.
Being here has stretched my musicianship, challenged my thinking, allowed me opportunity to connect and share with other teachers. It has reaffirmed over and over that my vocation is that of a teacher and my ministry is to use music as a tool to enrich the lives of the people I work with and to help them to connect to each other. It is through building community and trust that we build relationships that allow for more genuine and honest conversations about the Gospel. While traditional church-music models are fine, music ministry must not stop at Sunday morning music within the walls of the church. Rather, the music ministry should start with worship in the walls on Sunday, but then be carried out into the community to those who are in need and who don't have church homes. Music is such a universal and non-threatening medium to get people together. It can melt away stress and make a bad day seem better. It's such a wonderful gift. I am so very thankful to work in a congregation who views music as a powerful ministry tool and allows the the privilege of teaching music classes to community children and being creative with the music ministry. They trust me to do the job I'm called to do and don't stifle my crazy creative nature, letting me try different things knowing full well sometimes it's trial and error to find what works best. I'm already dreaming big (shocker, I know) for things I can do in the future.
But for now, I just can't wait to see what week two has in store!