Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Stamps-Baxter Wrap-Up

Well, as always, the two weeks just flew by. Had a great time with friends both old and new in Murfreesboro this year. A highlight was having Tom Powell back to direct the group singing sessions. Tom is Rosa Nell Speer Powell's son and the oldest grandson of G. T. "Dad" Speer. Singing many of those Speer Family classics with Tom directing is like a little taste of heaven. 

Several groups came to give concerts to the student body, including the Perrys, Mike & Kelly Bowling, Priority Quartet (formerly the Mike LeFevre Quartet), Chuck Wagon Gang, Stephen Hill and Greater Vision. I had never heard the Perrys or Greater Vision live before, so that was an extra special treat.

My class consisted of mostly 16 and 17 year olds that had a basic knowledge of music theory. We took that and built upon it, reviewing scales, intervals and key signatures and by the end of the two weeks, we were working on 4-part writing. They were a great group of kids and were eager to learn all they could.

Performance Training with Allison Durham Speer was always a treat--she is an excellent communicator and knows how to get the most out of a singer. Looking forward again to working on her "Elijah Conference" this fall.

Perhaps the best times are the "off-hours" times after we've finished for the day. It wasn't uncommon to find a group of us at Steak-n-Shake or Sonic around 11:00pm after the concerts were over. Hearing Ben Speer tell stories and jokes from his experiences on the road is priceless!

Allison Speer asked me to help her plan out the closing program and we had a lot of fun doing that. We recognized Harold Lane, former member of the Speer Family, who is being inducted into the SGMA Hall of Fame this fall, by playing a recording of his song "I'm Standing on the Solid Rock." Tom Powell had decided to close the concert with Dad Speer's incomparable "He is Mine and I Am His," which always moves me to tears. Prior to that song, we decided to incorporate some audio of Dad Speer giving his testimony at the National Quartet Convention in 1958--the year he received a special certificate honoring 50 years in gospel music. It worked beautifully with the hymn and there wasn't a dry eye in the house. As a special ending, Ben, Faye, Mary Tom and Rosa Nell concluded the program with "Didn't It Rain," always a crowd pleaser.

All 3 of my girls were excited for me to be home and I was very glad to see them--a short two weeks for me wasn't quite as short for Anne, who is a single mom for these two weeks. I so appreciate her willingness to let me go and do this every year!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Stamps-Baxter Update 1

It's been a great 3 days so far. The school's schedule is always full and tiring, but so worth it! Tuesday night we were treated to a concert from the Perrys...fantastic! They are doing everything right and it was great to hear them live. I've heard them at NQC, but never at a full concert. Last night was Mike & Kelly Bowling--another great concert!

My class is going very well. I've got 11 students, mostly sophomores & juniors in high school and they seem eager to learn. They can all read music and know their scales & chords, but we're focusing on getting them to a place where they don't need to think about what a ii7 chord in the key of Ab is...any takers? One of my students actually ENJOYS the ear-training exercises...writing out a melody after hearing it, identifying chords by listening to them. I hated that part of my collegiate experience.

Group singing has been phenomenal. With Tom Powell back, Tracey is playing better than ever and we're not only doing some new songs, but we're also working on some old favorites, including many Dad Speer songs like "He is Mine and I Am His" and "When I Kneel to Pray." A glorious experience each time...I struggle with wanting to sing and wanting to sit out and just listen...but I choose to sing. This music is definitely participatory in nature and I think you can enjoy it more fully when you're totally engaged in it.

Two more days, then we can sleep in! Looking forward to that!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Stamps-Baxter School of Music

After a great vacation in northern Wisconsin last week, I arrived in Murfreesboro Saturday to get ready for Ben Speer's Stamps-Baxter School of Music. Registration began Sunday and it was great seeing old friends--many of whom are like family after so many years.

This morning I received my class roster--11 students--and we had a great first day focusing on intervals and scales...and of course shape notes!

Tom Powell has returned this year to head up the academics as well as lead group singing. It was wonderful having him back at the podium. If you've never sat in or heard a large group singing these wonderful convention songs, you're missing out! Many students and staff will be posting updates, so be sure to keep your eye out.

Tomorrow is another busy day that will culminate with a concert by the Perrys in the evening!