Thursday, October 30, 2008

Music Comes to Life!

I've been thinking this week about my experience with music. In many ways, my relationship to music has been much like my relationship with the church. But I will get to that later. Do you remember when you first learned about music? Do you remember when you developed a love for music?

I remember very early on in elementary school we had a teacher named Mrs. Cotton. She had to have been like 90 years old. Ok, well, maybe not 90 but she DID teach my mom when she was in school which seemed to make her ancient. To be honest, I can't remember exactly what she looked like but I remember her having big hair and pointy glasses. She would have us sit in rows in music class and take out our music education books (DREADFUL). She would tap out a rhythm and we would lifelessly tap in echo. We sang songs that were boring and, even in second grade, seemed completely dumb. Mrs. Cotton was the first person to introduce me to some of the theory behind music.

Then, on a warm day in August when I was in the third grade, Mrs. Jones came to replace Mrs. Cotton. Mrs. Jones was young. She had a Dorothy Hamill haircut. She was totally rad. Mrs. Jones taught the curriculum she was given...but would typically venture off the page toward the end of each class. Mrs. Jones knew chords to almost every popular song. You could hear third graders rockin' out to the songs from "Grease", "The Muppet Movie" and other quality films. She had us learning rhythms by doing things outside the box...like square dancing. She planned special programs with songs from the 50's and 60's. She directed an entire night of Disney music in one of our school shows. Mrs. Jones rocked my face off.

Because of Mrs. Jones, I fell in love with music. I loved how it felt to sing at the top of my lungs and express. I even loved some of the boring stuff..because it was never boring with her. That next fall I auditioned for my first big show..."The Music Man" at ACU. They were needing kids and my mom took me. That was, ahem... a long time ago. I'll never forget that experience. I was bitten.

Over the years I have had both kinds of music teachers. I've learned good things from all of them. They built on that early foundation...for when one learns to love music, it is half the battle. I learned sight reading from Jack Boyd (as did many others in the small church I grew up in). He wasn't afraid to lead brand new songs frequently...encouraging us to read the music and sing along. I learned more theory from Debby Milstead, Steven Nelms and Louis Thornton. Then, hearkening back to my secret love for Mrs. Jones, a brilliant woman entered my life when I was a young adult. Jeannette Lipford was a voice professor at ACU. She was hip. She was smart. She knew her stuff.

To measure the influence Jeannette has had in the lives of her students is virtually impossible. Her students never forget her. Even Amy Grant chartered a plane and flew to Abilene with Vince Gill to honor her. Jeannette is part teacher, part counselor, and part spiritual director. She has been the vocal director for the last 30+ years of astounding musical productions at ACU. This year's show, "All Shook Up", marked her final Homecoming musical as vocal director. I am pretty sure there was a groan heard 'round the world. She and her husband, Harold, have had (and STILL have) a significant impact on my life. Harold even spoke at my father's funeral. She again instilled a deep love for music and reinforced in me the notion that God had given me that tool to communicate with Him. Powerful!

There've been others. There have been artists like The Eagles, James Taylor, Amy Grant, Restless Heart, and Chicago who fueled my passions and taught me nuances along the way. There are friends like Jeff Nelson who helped me go deeper in a connection with what I was singing and what I was feeling. There have been other people who have been an encouragement. Maybe most recently, my wife. Sheryl has the unique gift of interpreting a song. I've never heard anyone better. Each of them has a spot in my heart's musical hall of fame. It's cool to think back on my scrapbook of musical memories.

I'm curious...who are some of your musical heroes? Which teachers or friends or bands taught you love for music?

9 comments:

Beaner said...

I was in the choir in grade school with "Monsignor" and Sister Emilie Marie. We got to sing in the choir loft in front of the huge pipe organ. I also sang once at Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago - it's cool to be in a room with good acoustics when singing! That started my love of singing.
In High School I started doing the musicals every year. Musical Theatre was the bug that bit me. I listened to CD's of 'Phantom', 'Les Miz', 'JC Superstar', and 'Miss Saigon' over & over & over. Now my favorite musical is 'Wicked'. And my favorite duet partner is my husband (we just sang "Falling Slowly" from the movie 'Once' at our Harvest Festival.) He teaches me a lot about singing with passion just by listening to him sing.

Thanks for the musical trip down memory lane!

Sheila said...

AMEN to Jeannette Lipford! She is so precious! My heart fills just to think about her. I remember she wouldn't let me open my mouth to sing a note until she knew I was doing ok personally. She mentored me in so many ways and I am grateful for the influence she had in my life! Other influences have been my mom who exposed me to music from day one, my jr & sr high directors, high school vocal coach Sonia Hood and all the great people I have been blessed to sing with including . . . BST :)

Brandon Scott said...

Thanks, Piggy! I feel the same about you!

Elizabeth S said...

I have loved music for as long as I can remember. My dad was a song leader in our church, and I used to pretend to be a song leader, standing on the hearth in my grandparents' living room. I was in chorus in high school and loved every minute of it. Then there was my time at OC when I learned that I could actually be a "song leader", even as a woman ;) And my life has never been the same. I don't know if you realize the impact you have had on so many, but you helped me realize a gift I didn't know I had. Worship music/leading is probably my favorite today, thanks in a large part to you. And now, after much prayer, I am getting to use my gifts again at my church.

Suzie said...

My mom...every day I woke up to her singing during her morning devotional time.

My middle school music teacher, Mrs. Lovvorn. She took 7th and 8th graders and put on an outstanding musical every year...Bye Bye Birdie, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, The Sound of Music...she was ambitious, and when I later became a middle school teacher, I marveled at her capability.

Also, Dr. Gerald Moore from Lipscomb.

The old musicals... I grew up watching Bing, Gene, Fred, Judy, Doris... (I sound like they are my personal friends)

Ones I've never really met but have loved...Rich Mullins taught me a lot about being honest in your music, Keith Lancaster and Acapella when I was in Middle School and High School (I think I can still sing those songs), Chris Rice, Keith Green, Amy Grant, Chris Tomlin

I would also have to say Zoe.

Sarah said...

I'm pretty sure that Mrs. Jones is still around -- and I'm guessing that's the Mrs.Jones that my kids (and the Durrington and Cranford and Nichols kids) have had for music. No longer too young and no longer with a Dorothy Hamil cut, she still is a cut-up and still teaches about music. My 7th grader wrote her a thank you note this year -- once she got to middle school she saw that not everyone's elementary teacher taught them about reading music. She is a strong influence around here.

Suzie's memory of her own mom singing in her morning devotional time makes me cry -- what a precious legacy to leave to your own children.

My own list of musical influence would be long, but it would start with my grandmother -- showing me how the notes she was singing with her breathy, gravel-y, alto voice were going up and down with her while we sat on the 3rd pew, right side.

God gave me the gift of appreciating music, not singing it. I "sing" with my hands while I interpret for the deaf, but we leave the actual carrying of notes to my talented husband. Music is a big deal at our house, too, and I love that my kids hear all different kinds.

I loved thinking about all of this! Thanks for asking!

Anonymous said...

In 8th grade I signed up for choir but somehow my schedule got screwed up and I was placed in a math enrichment elective (gasp!). Being new to town, I didn't want to rock the boat, so I tried to stick with it. I found every way possible to get out of class, including frequent potty breaks. On one such occasion, I was singing "Under the Boardwalk" as I took the circuitous route to the loo when a little man with a gotee and Minnesota accent grabbed my arm and marched me to the office. Turns out he was the choir director, John Matson. He changed my schedule that day and the rest is history! The solo in "Somehwre Out There" (An American Tale) followed shortly thereafter...

Honorable mentions: My dad (of course), Kevin Kilpatrick (B'ham), Acapella, Boys II Men

Good Memories...
P Duncan

MammaJones said...

I'm sitting here in tears after reading about myself in your blog! Those days as music teacher at Wylie were precious and so much fun! I remember well how much everyone dreaded coming to music class at first, so it didn't take me but a day or two to figure out that if I was going to have a successful program, I would definitely have to think outside the box. It's because of special students like you, who always were so eager and so appreciative, that I have loved every bit of my teaching experience. Just to fill you in, from Wylie I went to teach choir at Cooper High School for 6 years, then when my own children graduated from high school I went back to the elementary classroom and have taught 3rd and 4th grade since 2002--not music, but other fun things like Texas history and reading and writing. You can bet I work in quite a lot of fine arts along the way. I'll be retiring at the end of this year--with fond memories of all the special students like you who have come into my world over the years.
Thanks you for your kind words and memories. I'm glad I was able to play at least a small part in your successful musical career.

Brandon Scott said...

Mrs. Jones!!! Thank you for leaving a comment! I hope this blessed you to know that you made a significant investment in my life... That investment was really life-changing! How cool to know what you're doing now! I pray the Lord will bless you 10 fold for all the blessings you've bestowed on others. Please give your family my love.
Brandon