I've never been so reprimanded in my life. Not only have I received emails about my lacking of blogging this week, but I actually had students call me out. Oh well, can't argue about people actually wanting to read what I write.
I could list the obvious reasons - long days, short nights, too much work, too little time - but they wouldn't tell the real story, and I've been too honest, too long to start changing now. Just before school started last week, I got a call from my parents saying that our 15-year-old family dog, Desi, wasn't doing well. As a matter of fact, he had gotten very sick very quickly, and they were very worried about where things might be heading. That was just the first call. Each night this week, I would come home from a 14 hour work day, and call Toronto for a long and teary phone call about Desi. On Wednesday night, I got the call I was dreading the most. Things were bad and weren't going to get any better. The decision was for the best. The appointment was made for Friday morning. I cried and cried, not just for our beautiful Desi, but also for my parents, and for my overwhelming homesickness. Distances never seem farther than when your loved ones are in pain.
Needless to say, blogging fell on the back burner. I would come home full of excitement about the school, but after those phone calls, I just couldn't bring that excitement back. Now, I'm sure there are non-dog people reading this right now thinking, "This is the dumbest blog ever," and that's fine. Dog people know what I'm talking about. Desi was an incredible piece of God's creation, and I'm not exaggerating when I say that we were so blessed to have him in our lives. It still doesn't seem real to me to describe him in the past tense, and I know the real shock will come the next time I visit Mom and Dad's house and I'm only greeted by human voices. It hurts just to think about it. But tonight, I am so thankful for 15 years of wagging tails, happy barks, and unconditional love. Praise God for all creatures - especially those that are both great and small.
This past week really has been extraordinary in wonderful ways too, and I don't want to let the day end without making note of a few highlights:
Our students have been settling in nicely, and there's a wonderful spirit in the air. Returning students are noticing some of the changes we've made, and the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. Yay, office team!
We've had great concerts by Monument Quartet, Stephen Hill, and the Chuck Wagon Gang. The student Performance Opportunities has also had some incredible moments with great performances by new and returning students.
On Tuesday, I joined Rebekah for the first bluegrass jam session of the week. All students are invited to bring their instrument and play along. I would never pick up my guitar in that kind of situation, so I pulled out my set of keys in a lame attempt at making a rhythm section. We stayed outside til 11:00, and it was pretty fun. Ben eventually came along and played bass, so Rebekah played guitar and I sang harmony. We had about 8 other instrumentalists join us, about a dozen singers, and another 20 people just hanging out. All very cool indeed!
On Thursday, I joined Brian Speer and his private sound system students for a field trip to Aaron and Johnny Minick's new studio on Music Row. It's a little imperfect now, but it's going to be awesome when it's all set up.
On Friday, Bill Gaither visited with the students for an hour and a half, talking about songwriting, ministry, and music. He was fantastic, and finished with his incredible story of "hanging up his dream in the closet".
Friday also had 2 very cool highlights: First, I taught with Allison Durham Speer! Last year, I watched the students auditioning for the Closing Program, and got very frustrated with the mistakes they were making. So today, I taught Audition Techniques. I started with a primer of audition basics, and we moved on to mock auditions. I will completely admit that standing in front of that crowd to teach was much more intimidating that standing in front of them to sing. But the response to the class was overwhelmingly good from both staff and students, so that felt pretty awesome!
And second, tonight was our 20th Anniversary Concert, and I sang! The whole show was wonderful. Ben spoke about the history of the singing school, and Shawn Degenhart gave a presentation on the history of the Speer Family. We had some great performances by faculty members, and I sang "Do You Wanna Be My Neighbour in Gloryland". Here's where things got interesting: As I'm singing, I hear everybody laughing. I turned around to see Mike Allen and Steve Speer (Ben's son) waltzing across the back of the stage. It was surreal and hilarious. I just kept singing, and tried very hard not to laugh too much. After I left the stage, Allison told me that, back in the day, groups would often walk out on stage while their buddies were singing, trying to upstage them. Frankly, I'm honoured that they trusted me enough to do something like that, knowing that I wouldn't fall apart and would just keep on going. Of course, I wouldn't want it on every song...
The week was also full of those small, innumerable, magical moments that can only be found at Stamps-Baxter. If this school was a full-time program, I would sign up as a permanent student. It was such an honour to sing last night in the same room where I received my calling into full-time ministry. God has a plan that is perfect and unexpected, and I'm so glad He's delivered me to this place.