Saturday, July 28, 2007

Stamps-Baxter - Day 10

Day 10 - the final day. It comes and goes far too quickly.

Today was crazy busy, but I knew that going in and went into it prepared to do anything that needed doing. I arrived a 7am for a staff meeting. (I'm just convinced that all the Speers must be morning people.) We had a bit of time for feedback on the past 2 weeks, but for me the best part was just getting to visit with some of these awesome people in a quiet and relaxed environment. Everyone was a little tired and probably looking forward to the weekend, but we all shared stories and laughed a lot and just got to know each other a little more. This is also the meeting where they choose the scholarship winners, but that's a faculty decision, so I left before then.

And I'm glad I did because I finally got to sit in on devotions for the first time this school. Each morning, they've been having a member of the faculty perform a song. This morning it was Teri's turn, and she decided to pull up her Momma, Miss Mary Tom, with no warning, to sing a duet with her. It really says something about the artistry of the performers when a completely unrehearsed song can still be so beautiful and moving. Connie Norhtam has been leading devotions each morning, starting with a story and ending with a prayer. It was great to hear her speak again. Her warm, funny presence really sets a good tone for the day.

There was so much stuff to do today to wrap things up and prepare for tonight's show. We spent lots of time answering questions and helping people purchase those CDs they've been mulling over all week. I was doing some photocopying in the back hallway, when I heard a familiar strain coming from inside one of the theory classes. They were singing O Canada! I popped my head inside, and heard the entire class trying to sight-read my national anthem. I was just tickled! That class had one of our Canadian students in it, and they were learning it as a surprise for her! So cool!

Our final group singing session became a quick rehearsal for tonight's program. At lunchtime, I was chatting with a longtime student about the wonders of group singing. I really don't think there's anything else like it. Her choir director back home couldn't understand why coming to Stamps-Baxter every year is so important to her. She answered him, "Imagine sitting in a room and singing harmony with two hundred and thirty five of your closest friends, all of whom just love singing for the Lord." He took a moment to imagine it, and finally understood. I wish I could explain it better. I know I can give a sense of the magic of that room, but all I can really give is surface impressions. There is truly no finer experience.

The afternoon was just busy, busy, busy. Theory classes were cancelled to allow rehearsal time for tonight's soloists and groups, and Allison's class was still on so she could get through everyone on her list. But we were so busy I didn't get to any of it. The school CDs came in today, so getting those organized was a big deal. Then there was no one to pick up the school photos, so I ran out of to get that. And, again, another big deal to distribute them. There were room keys to organize and product to organize, and just a million little things to do, but they all lead to the highlight of them all....the closing program!

The closing program is a huge deal. Each year, the show features 9 of the best songs from our group singing sessions, conducted by our 3 conductors. And then we have the soloists and groups, as chosen by audition. The show is taped and DVDs are available for sale. These DVDs go all across the country as students share their Stamps-Baxter experience with friends and family. This makes those DVDs are great advertisement for the school and, because of that, they want the talent on the program to be impeccable. It's big deal to be a part of this program, and tonight's performers lived up to that honour.

Some of the performers, like Miles, Ben, and Michelle, were also on last Saturday's program. There were 2 awesome groups, including one that performed with a jazz trio fronted by theory teacher extraordinaire, Jack Clark (I was in Jack's class my first year). The star of the show was little Hannah, who wowed everyone with her poise and gorgeous piano playing.

This afternoon, we had a unique experience at the school. I wasn't there, but here's what happened: Ben came into the auditorium with 3 white Stamps-Baxter hats, autographed by Ben, Mary Tom, and Rosa Nell. He auctioned them off to raise money for the scholarship fund, starting the bid at $20 a hat. Well, the bidding just took off, and by the end of it, 3 people had agreed to pay $300 each per hat. O-mi-word! That's $900, and that's almost one and a half scholarships. Well, tonight, they had found one more hat, and it too was signed. This time, they started the bidding at $300. It was slow at first, but once it took off, we were all blown away. In the end, a first-time student bought the hat for one thousand dollars! It was all so emotional. I met this woman and her husband at registration, and I've been able to get to know them over the past 2 weeks. Earlier today, I heard them sing in Allison's class (the one performance I got to see all day.) They are not polished, professional singers, but their hearts were strong and clear. After the song, they told me a little bit of how they met and how they found the school. They were supposed to attend last year and had to cancel for medical reasons, so they were so thankful to be at the school this year. Well, to see this lady's hand jump into the bidding, and then end it all with such an amazing bid was so so incredible. She told me after that it's just a small gift back to the school for giving them so much. (I'm crying again as I proofread this paragraph.) Just so awesome!

The whole concert was filled with great moments, like the group singing, and the spontaneous performance of Allison with the Jack Clark jazz trio. Near the end, Ben walked out and said, "I told them we weren't going to do it, but now, we're going to do it." Puzzled looks everywhere. Out came Aunt Faye and Miss Mary Tom. The track began for "Rain", and the place just went up! They were wonderful! I would never want to have to follow that!

Near the end of the show, they gave out the scholarships. Most of the school's scholarships are based on financial need, but there are 2 based on talent and dedication to the craft. The first, the Anthony Burger award, went to none other than our little Hannah! I just went nuts. I was so proud of her. (I got to know her when I was in Teri's class.) Next, they awarded the Brock Speer scholarship. Our winner this year was Kenny O'Neil, a humble and generous man who has been a real blessing to the school this year. Earlier this week, I wrote about a performance opportunity where a track broke and someone just jumped up and offered to accompany the singer on the piano. That someone was Kenny, and since that night, I have seen him accompany several students, always without show, and always with a true servent's heart.

It's been 2 years now since I've won the Brock Speer award. My life has changed dramatically, and so much of it is rooted in that moment when Faye Speer said my name. I never could have imagined my life in this place - living in Nashville, singing gospel music, and working with people I first saw on TV. But God had a plan for me, and He let me know it at this school. All week, I've been wondering, "I wonder how many lives will change this week? I wonder how many people will hear their answer from God at this school?" I may never know the answer, but what a blessing to know that God can still speak to us and point us in the right direction for our lives.

The aftermath of the show was emotional and wonderful. Exchanging hugs and email addresses and promises to meet again next year. The staff decided to go to a restaurant to relax and celebrate, and when we got there, half the school had showed up for the same reason. Everywhere you looked, tables were overflowing with excited Stamps-Baxter students. It felt like we were in small town, and everyone had gone to the local malt shop after the sock hop. All very cool. All very wonderful.

I think the hardest part comes now that the school is over. We've made contacts, but now we have to follow-up. We've been surrounded by 235 people in group singing, but now it's just a back-up track. We've been in an environment where gospel music is encouraged, and now we may have to go into venues where it's not even welcomed. But we will not go home empty, for our pallettes have been filled, and we are prepared to enter the world painting glorious pictures of love and hope.

(But personally, I'm taking a day off first! Tomorrow is all about sleep and pancakes!)

Friday, July 27, 2007

Stamps-Baxter - Day 9

Day 9! I can't believe we're so close to the end. I've had the chance to read some other people's thoughts on the school on some other blogs and websites. It doesn't seem to matter if you're a 'regular', or if you attended one school ten years ago. There is something so special, so magical about the Stamps-Baxter experience that it elicits near poetry in its remembrances. There's the big stuff, like meeting Bill Gaither or getting chosen for the closing program. But it's those small beautiful moments that seem to float up to the memory first, like hearing Tracey play a cool piano lick during group singing, or finally learning Do from Mi. I love watching all the newcomers this year. I can see them falling in love with the school just like I did that first year, amazed that such a place exists, and wondering why they couldn't have found it ten years ago.

The morning started out on a bittersweet note for me - my final lesson with Mr. Glenn. We did an exercise he calls his "Amazing Grace rap". It's not technically a rap because it's sung, but it's a great exercise none the less. You sing the first verse of Amazing Grace all on one note and all in one breath. You then move up the scale, doing the same on each note. It's great for loosening up the singing apparatus and getting your tone out of the back of your throat. I've been working on Jack Clark's song, "It's Unbelievable", and we took a final look at it today. With just these few lessons, I can already feel a difference in the song.

Later this afternoon, a student was asking Mr Glenn some questions about the voice, such as what is the difference between head voice and chest voice. I was nearby, so I became the sample student and we gave a brief voice demonstration in the middle of the product area. It is such an honour to work with him! I will definitely be back on his list for next year.

At lunchtime, we had a group picture taken of all Mr Glenn's students. My friends, Darl and Nancy Morgan, are the school photographers this year. (Last year, on the Saturday after school, I went to a concert at River of Life church, and I went there with the Morgans.) They have been at school every day with their cameras, taking pictures of students, concerts, classes, teachers, and even the student body photo. If you want to see the pictures, feel free to visit There's a nifty one of me with my guitar outside, and I think there's one of me and Gerald too. (I haven't been on it since last weekend, and they're adding new stuff every day.)

Oh, I also wanted to mention the spontaneous singing. I know I mentioned it when we took the group photo, but I don't think I've heard so much spontaneous singing before. On any break in activity, it is not uncommon to hear someone just break out in a hymn or familiar chorus. And suddenly, a small crowd will start to add harmonies. It's so wonderful! I was working the product table today when one of our younger students came along singing "I've Got That Joy, Joy, Joy, Joy Down in my Heart". Well, I know that from camp, so we had our own little singalong right there at the product table. Remember on the TV show "Fame", when they'd break out in musical sequences in the hallways of the school? Well, it's like that, without the dancing.

I got to sit in on Allison's class again this afternoon. It was a jagged class because of issues with the sound system, but it was still time well spent. Allison has a real knack for watching a performer and picking out those few specific things that can be tweaked to bring the performing up to a higher level. She also offers lots of postive encouragement and a safe environment. I think that's why so many people are willing to take risks and expose their hearts in her class. During today's class, we also had a guest performance by Teri Reid, joined by her brother Tim and friend, Chris Beverley. Teri told a little bit of the Speer's recording history, and of their early performances in TV. Then the trio sang a rocking traditional gospel song that used to be sung by another family group back in the early Speer days. Teri is such a rip-em-up singer, and the song was great!

Bu the best times of today all happened in group singing. We did a little rehearsal for tomorrow, but it was pretty much all sight-singing of new songs. Sooo cool! We did a few ballads, but mostly lively uptempos. I continue to struggle with my shape-notes, but I think that stands true for most people at the school! And that's no insult to anyone. Those cryptic little shapes just go by too quickly!

In the morning's session, Mr Glenn finished a song, and then cued Tracey to begin "Farther Along" (not a song we're singing tomorrow). We all sang a verse and a chorus and it was lovely, but then from the back, we heard that sweet voice we all love. When Miss Mary Tom got to the chorus, Ben and Miss Rosa Nell joined in on harmonies. So gorgeous! They've been singing this way their whole lives, and when they sing together, it just seems as honest and natural as breathing.

In the evening session, we were rehearsing a song for tomorrow called "Move Away to Gloryland". Well, as soon as the last note hit, our conductor, Charles Towler, just broke out into other convention song about Heaven. I didn't know it, but everyone else did and I quickly picked up the chorus. Well, that started a whole spirit-filled singalong. We moved from song to song to song - nothing from the songbooks, just songs that most people knew from memory, or could at least pick up pretty easily. We ended with several full-out, sing-em-high choruses of "What a Day That Will Be". It was just incredible. Maybe this happens in some people's churches all the time, but I've never experienced it anywhere but here at the school. That spontaneous, spirit-filled, Heaven-ready singing! Awesome!

We didn't have a concert tonight as it was the final night for closing program auditions. About 75 soloists and groups tried out, and they narrowed it down to two dozen. Tonight, they had to sing their entire song with full accompaniment. I would not want to be the judge on this one. There is so much talent, and how do you choose between the seasoned professional and the little girl who is just starting in sing on her own?

Tomorrow will start early for me. Staff must be there at 7:00 - Yes, in the AM! I also know tomorrow will be filled with taking photos and sharing email addreses and trying to squeeze every last moment out of this experience. We need all the memories we can get to last us til next year!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Stamps-Baxter - Day 8

Another late one! I'm just going on the fact that I know I can sleep Saturday!

I spent a good part of the morning in the parking lot. Not literally! The "parking lot" is a binder we're using where we store all the feedback, issues, and suggestions to work on for next year's school. As always, there are things that can be improved, and I've also suggested a few new elective classes. It's great to see the enthusiasm for this school. We've already had several people offer to volunteer in different ways for next year's school.

The latter part of the morning involved a great session of group singing. The focus was on singing new songs, not for performance sake, but just to try them out. I love sight reading, so this was great fun for me. I even got the shapes real good on one song! (say that with a strong Southern accent and it totally works!)

After lunch, I went back in to Miss Teri's class to do some more work with her young'uns. They're such a creative group that I thought we could try some songwriting. Some of them are already writing their own songs, so I got them in pairs so the 'experienced' writers could inspire the newbies. First, we took the lyric for "Jesus Loves Me" and studied the basic structure of the song. I then asked them to pick a subject, and write a verse and chorus to the tune of "Jesus Loves Me". I know they can make up tunes, but I thought this might encourage them to write with rhythm and form. It was awesome! At the end of 30 minutes, we had one full song, one almost-done song, and 2 half songs. I was so proud of them!

I finally got to spend a bit more time in Allison's performance class. She and Mike Allen spent a fair bit of time talking about the proper way to handle yourself in different church situations. Stuff like how to handle long line-ups of talkative people at your product table when you're dropping tired, and how to arrange your song set and your patter for different churches and venues. Great stuff. Then we heard some great performances. You can see already how people are taking her classes to heart and coming in with well-rehearsed songs. And then there are some people who are stepping outside their comfort zones and sharing their testimonies and trying solos for the first time. So inspiring to see their honesty and their open hearts!

Right after class I ran home to get Gerald so we could have another songwriting session with Daryl Williams. We booked an hour so we could play him a bunch of songs, but we ended up talking a fair bit about PROs and CCLI - all the technical stuff I still can't get my head around. Gerald did play "Real Big Fan" and, since Daryl wasn't there on Saturday, we did "My Child is Dancing with God". Daryl loved both of them, and we all made plans to keep in touch after the school ends. Yes, we are getting close to that time...

Our class ran late, but I had to run over to the auditorium to see one of my favourite performers: Gordon Mote! I love Gordon! I know I said that about Buddy Greene too, but it's all true. I'm such a Gordon fan. I've had the chance to get to know him and his manager, Bob, over the past year. Actually, I first met them at their Stamps-Baxter appearance last year. Last year, many people still hadn't heard of Gordon, and I spent the entire week before the concert hyping him up. And, of course, he only exceeded expectations. Tonight, Gordon did some of his classics, like "Gospel Ship", but he also did a lot of material off his new album. This man is prolific! He's only been in full-time ministry for a few years, but in that time he's put out 6 CDs. And they're all incredible! I haven't listened to the actual CD yet, but the songs sounded great tonight. Very soulful, of course!

After the concert, we entered into the world of auditions again, and we ran until 11:00. Crazy long days! There were some great performances tonight. I think every child in the school tried out as a soloist or in a group, and that's excellent. One of my favourite groups was the Hackett ensemble - my friend Karen, her husband Steve, and their 7 children. They sang in harmony, and it was incredible!

Loooong day. So ready for some sleep, but I'm not ready for the weekend yet. If I'm being completely honest, I really don't want this school to end yet! It's just going by far too quickly!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Stamps-Baxter - Day 7

Again, far too late and far too tired. My new goal is to get to bed before 1am tomorrow night.

This morning started with one of the biggest activities of the week - Recording the school CD. We all gather in our group singing formation in the auditorium, with several mics on stands, and record the songs we've been learning over the past week. But here's my little confession: Because I haven't always been able to go to group singing, there were actually a few songs I hadn't sung yet! Luckily, we would run each song, or at least a verse and chorus, before recording it. Between that and my sight-reading skills, I was able to hold my own. But on the other stuff, it was all fun! There's a great song called "I'm Gonna Keep On Keepin' On" and it's the hit of the school. It's got a great groove, and it's one of those melodies that just sticks in your head. We ended the morning early on that song, so everyone felt pretty good about the whole thing.

After lunch, I had another voice lesson with Mr. Glenn. Each lesson is half an hour, but this one only felt like a few minutes. We worked on an exercise that incorporated the 5 vowels and octave slides to work through the transitions in the voice, and to develop ease and flexibility. So good! I can't believe we only have one lesson left!

Next, I had a great blessing given to me by Allison Durham Speer. She and I sat for almost an hour discussing the recording process. She records solo CDs, similar to how my CD will be set up, and she gave me loads on info on what to expect and how to prepare. I'm really excited about recording, but I'm still a little nervous too. It's a fair bit of money (although small by some artist's standards) and I just want to be the best steward of my resources. I also want to make sure the music is top notch, and that my message is clear and relevant. Today was an great gift, and it answered questions I didn't even know I had.

The rest of the afternoon was a little dull for me. Just photocopying and selling bottles of water to thirsty singers. But, as always, there were great times to just chat to people, or peek in a room and hear great voices blending in harmony. I never tire of the talent in this school!

Allison's performance class has taken on a quality of the Ed Sullivan Show. You never know who's going to drop by to sit in the audience and watch the show! This afternoon, it was Naomi Sego, who has had a long and significant career in gospel music. (She's also in some of the Gaither videos.) Ms Sego was there to watch Allison teach, and at the end of the class, Ben persuaded her to get up and do a song. This is why artists must always carry their tracks with them! She sang one song, and was great! So much energy, and a real commitment for the message.

Suppertime actually allowed a little rest, which was needed with the crazy night ahead. After supper, we had another session of group singing. The CD is done, so now we're singing for fun, and to prepare for the Friday night closing program. But I was busy during this time helping our guest artist prepare for tonight's concert. And that artist was...

Buddy Greene! I am such a huge Buddy Greene fan! I missed his performance at Cafe Forte a few months ago, but I haven't stopped talking about his Stamps-Baxter show from last year. Buddy sings, writes, and plays guitar and harmonica. His music is soulful and rootsy and gospel to the core. He has a great performance energy - enthusiastic and passionate, yet cool and laid back. He does some great arrangements of hymns, and we had some beautiful singalong moments. He sang one of my favourite songs of his, "Man Against Man", which essentially says that when we go against each other, we go against God. It's beautiful and powerful. Allison got up and joined him in a song, which was partially improvised, but very cool. He made a joke about doing harmonica classes at the school next year, but they got some very genuine interest in it after the show, so maybe next year's classes will involve a harmonica workshop!

A little after 9pm, we started our first night of auditions for the Friday night closing program. This show is big! They want great acts that, as a group, will give an overall representation of the school. They video the show, and the pressure is large! Last year, we all did a 90 second audition of our song, using a track or live accompaniment, on the Thursday night. They've decided to try something new this year, and tonight was night one of three audition nights. Tonight and tomorrow are the first round of auditions. (With over 70 people auditioning, they had to stretch it over 2 nights.) In this round, you or your group can do a 90 second acapella version of your song. On Thursday night, a select number of people will be asked to audition again, this time using their full accompaniment. It's going to be a time-consuming process, but I think it's going to give the faculty who judge the auditions, a better sense of each act's overall sound. I know this year, they're choosing mostly groups with only a few soloists. Tonight's auditioners were mostly soloists with only a few groups, so it's going to be an interesting process to watch...

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Stamps-Baxter - Day 6

I have slightly changed the time on this entry so that it still reads Monday, because technically, it's Tuesday. I got home at 10pm, but I've just spent the last 2 and a half hours working on a demo for the song we're going to pitch. Yes, we did record yesterday on my day off, but due to technical difficulties, we had to re-record tonight. It's now 12:30 am, and I'm dropping tired. This entry will probably be short and full of typos, so please read with a forgiving heart!

Mondays are traditionally a slow wind-up into the week, but not at Stamps-Baxter. At 9am this morning, we were treated to a surprise concert by the Easters! It's the first time I've seen them at the school since I started going, although their daughter, Morgan, has been attending all that time (not that the two should be mutually exclusive...) It was a great surprise for everyone, and a terrific way to start the day. Their blend is just wonderful, and it was nice to see them without the massive Gaither stage surrounding them. Just great harmonies and happy people. We got the stories behind the songs, a few jokes, and a nice duet between Sherri and Morgan. It's also nice to see a SG group that writes some of their own material. The song "She Loved"... amazing!

This surprise concert shifted the order of the day a little. Most of this morning's theory classes were lost to the concert, and we didn't have a concert tonight. The rest of the morning was just busy for me. After the weekend, there was lots of admin and organizing stuff to be done, so group singing was not an option for me.

Teri asked me to join her theory class again this afternoon, so we continued to work on "Welcome to Bethlehem". They're learning it quickly, which is really satisfying for me. It's a really creative group, so I think, if I get to go in again, we may try a little songwriting, or maybe just another song, but with more challenging parts. We'll see. Too tired to think about it right now.

I had another songwriting class with Daryl this afternoon. I brought in a new lyric - my first praise and worship song, "Sure as the Sun". It still needs work, but I knew that going in. It was a great class because the feedback I got was specific. He's also encouraging me to pinpoint the problems in my songs, instead of just a generalized "This doesn't sound right...". Tomorrow, Gerald and I will be having another joint lesson. Very excited!

Speaking of excited, I've been getting lots of great feedback about Saturday night. People loved watching me and Gerald together, and I had several people comment on "Abide With Me". After the show, I wondered if I should have done more classic material, but today's comments confirmed that we made the right choice. Yay!

I thought the break after dinner might bring a little quiet time, but little did I know I would be invited on an adventure. Kaitlyn and Rebecca, the amazing animal rescuers, have found a mother cat and her 2 little kittens in the woods behind their dorm. We wandered out to see them and bring them some milk and snacks. I'm completely allergic to cats, so I couldn't touch them, and we all know I'm a dog person anyways, but these kittens were sooo cute! They had a neat, dark-grey spotted colouring, and they would bounce and play in the tall grass. So adorable! Kaitlyn and Rebecca have taken full responsibility for the strays, and as the evening went on, I overheard them trying to find homes for the kittens. May we always have such generous hearts!

Group singing took on a new dimension tonight as the CD recording is tomorrow morning. As always, it comes before anyone is ready for it. We'll start bright and early at 9am, and with any luck, we'll be done by lunchtime.

I thought I might get home early tonight because there was no concert, but no such luck. They're doing the auditions for Friday's closing program over the next 3 nights, so tonight was the last for people to sing at performance opportunity. Yes, it went very long, but it was really awesome. There were children doing piano solos, and teenagers in fully arranged trios. We even had a Minnie Pearl impersonator, complete with her own original tribute song to the late Ms. Pearl. There were contemporary versions of hymns, and soulful renditions of classics. What a line-up of talent! It will be interesting to see the auditions over the next few nights...

That's it! I'm done! The morning comes far too early for me. And we have a CD to make tomorrow...

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Saturday Night Alive!

A few months ago, Wess and Susan Adams asked me to perform in a Stamps-Baxter alumni concert called "Saturday Night Alive". The original plan was to drive 2 hours east of Nashville and perform the concert in Walling, but as I've written about recently, Ben Speer got involved, and the show moved to Nashville and grew in scope.

Well, tonight was the night! And what a night it was!

We all gathered in the beautiful sanctuary of the First Church of the Nazarene in east Nashville. Huge church! I thought the sanctuary was a great size, til I was told that this was the smaller, older sanctuary, and that somewhere else in the building was the 'real' sanctuary!

Wess acted as emcee for the evening, and he was terrific. He was friendly and natural, and kept the energy flowing. Almost all the performers were current students of the school. Wess himself did a few songs, which was great. The opening act was a quartet called Harmony Sound. They formed a few years ago at the school, and here's the amazing part: They all live in different states, and only meet a few times a year to sing and record, yet they sound like they sing together every week. What blend!

Next, we had the soloists. Miles Pike has such a range that he could sing all 4 parts in a quartet. Jordan James is a young man with a bass voice beyond his years. Michelle Darling is a charming soprano who actually contacted me through my blog before attending school last year. Ben Waites is 'confined' to his wheelchair only physically, as he is a master performer who can reach the back row with his smile. His version of "My Name is Lazarus" became an absolute show-shopper when Harmony Sound spontaneously jumped on stage for the final chorus. Awesome!

Ben, Jordan, Miles, and Ben's grandfather joined together for a quartet, and we had a couple of great performances from pianist Cody Mcvey, who might just be the next Anthony Burger. But the climax of the show went to the Speers. Ben sang a beautiful ballad, and then brought up Miss Mary Tom and her son Tim for some trio stuff. It was Gerald's first time hearing them, and like all of us, he was impressed. I just love it when Miss Mary Tom sings. There's no sweeter sound!

I had space for 3 songs, and since most people were doing covers, I decided to do all originals. I started with "Abide With Me". I thought this would be a good choice since it was inspired by the Buddy Greene concert from last year's school. Gerald then joined me for "The Point of the Song", which was inspired by my first visit to the school (or rather, the aftermath of that visit). In the second set, Gerald took the lead and sang his song "My Child is Dancing With God" with me on harmonies. We got huge response to this song after the show from several of the parents in the audience.

An offering was taken to support the school's scholarship program, and we raised enough to provide almost 2 full scholarships. Ben told us a little of the history of the school and the scholarship program. For the finale, we all gathered on stage for a group song, "What a Meeting in the Air".

All in all, what a fantastic and inspiring night! You look at the Speers and all they've given gospel music, and then you see all this bright young talent and you can't help but think, "It's going to be okay". With all the doom and gloom of the record industry, and the decline of internet radio, and churches contracting fewer concerts, it's easy to think that the Southern Gospel industry may get lost in the mess of it all. But a night like tonight reminds us that singers still want to sing, writers still want to write, and audiences still want to hear the sounds of the Gospel in song.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Stamps-Baxter - Day 5

Today was far and above the best day all week! The morning started in a busy, but not hectic, state. The end of the week brought lots of organizing and 'housework' for the staff. But the real excitement started part-way through the theory session, when I was invited to teach a class! No, I didn't teach theory. Teri Reid invited me to her children's class to teach her students a song. I brought in "Welcome to Bethlehem", which I thought would be a good, fun choice. After singing the song once for them, I passed out the lyric sheets, and we had a brief lesson on song structure. Then we started to sing, and they were great! They learned it so quickly, and by the end we were even working on a little echo part. It was so satisfying! Not only did I get to teach, but I also got to hear my song sung by their gorgeous young voices! Awesome!

I went back to do more busy stuff, and then ran off for another voice lesson with Mr. Glenn. My first year here, I fell in love with a beautiful song by Jack Clark called "It's Unbelievable". We did it in group singing, but I really heard it as a solo ballad in the style of an aria from the old Victorian operettas. So, I brought in a copy to work on it in my lesson. It felt awesome to sing it! I'm going to continue working on it next week.

When lunchtime came, I jumped in the car to run home and bring Gerald back to the school for the afternoon. As soon as I got back to school, I joined in a planning meeting for tomorrow's concert. This thing has turned huge! Allison Durham Speer lead the meeting to organize the set list. There's going to be 2 quartets, 8 alumni soloists, possibly 2 or 3 guest soloists, 2 piano accompanists, and a special appearance by the Speers. We've each been asked to do 3 songs. I chose my 3, but then when they found out Gerald would be there to accompany me, they asked if he'd like to do one of his songs too. Yes, please! Very excited!

Next, Gerald and I ran off to Wakefield building for the real reason that Gerald came to school today: a joint songwriting lesson with Daryl. I wanted to bring in some of my co-writes, and it just made for sense for Gerald to be there too. We started with "The Point of the Song". He really liked it, and only had one small suggestion, which we immediately changed. It's so much easier to sing now! Hopefully, I'll be able to add that change into tomorrow's program. We also played our brand new song, "Fear Knocked, Faith Answered". This song has barely seen the light of day yet, so we were expecting a lot of feedback. But we couldn't have been more wrong! He actually thinks it's pitch ready, and even made a pitching suggestion! Whoo-hoo! And yes, I have followed up on that suggestion already!

By this time, Allison was starting her performance training class, so we sat in to audit. It was a great session, and I know Gerald really appreciated it too. Lots of great advice about being a performer, while also maintaining your authentic purpose of ministry.

Gerald stayed for supper, and then I drove him back home and got myself back to the school in time for the evening's group singing session. I can't believe we'll be recording by Tuesday! Things are sounding good, but I always wish we had more prep time.

Tonight was the traditonal Friday night faculty concert. The past 2 years, they had a Homecoming-style set-up, but this year, it was more concert style. Wess (the organizer of tomorrow's concert) opened with a few songs, followed by Heath, a theory and percussion teacher. Heath did 2 of his own songs, with his own back-up tracks. The songs were great, especially the ballad that prays that people will recognize Christ in us. One of the highlights came from a solo by Miss Mary Tom, with Ben on piano, and Aunt Faye and Ben on harmonies. Next was Allison, and she did 3 songs from her latest album. Before the last song, she mentioned that her voice was tired from all the teaching, but that she still wanted to sing out for us. She ended with "I'm Bound for that City", and she just ripped it out. It was incredible. They always say you should leave a piece of you on the stage, but Allison just poured her heart, soul, and everything inside her onto the stage! So inspiring!

Ben came on to do a few solos, and then called out Allison and another theory teacher, Sean, to do a Speer classic, 'Didn't it Rain". First off, it's a short song, but it's a killer song! Ben does all the work, singing verse after verse of high-speed patter, but Mary Tom steals the whole song when she just shouts out "Rain, rain, go away! Come again another day!" (If you've heard the song, you know what I mean.) They did that song about 3 times, maybe more, before they finally closed the show with a few announcements and a prayer.

After the show, we were slammed with people wanting CDs of the teachers, and just doing all the things that need doing before the weekend. I missed performance opportunity, and I was too tired to stick around for the jam session. But still, I'm smiling! What a day!

Friday, July 20, 2007

Stamps-Baxter - Day 4

Well, the best part of my day really didn't start til four o'clock this afternoon. The morning was quiet, but my eye was still really bothering me, and even good things like group singing were difficult. The doctor at the school referred me to a specialist, so after lunch I had my first American medical treatment. And you know what that means - I had to bring my visa card! I know that's how they do things down here, but I still can't wrap my head around it. The doctor's office should be a source of relief, not a source of stress. The doctor, though, was awesome. He confirmed my original diagnosis, gave me a stronger medication, and I finally got to head back to school.

Which brings us up to four o'clock.

I arrived back in time to attend a great seminar on radio promotion. With the new CD planned for this year, I just thought this was a great opportunity for me. Rhonda Thompson does radio promo for all sorts of artists, including indie, non-label, artists like me. She talked about how radio works, how to build relationships with the radio stations, and how a promo person can help you with the process. I took lots of notes, which will be very useful in the New Year.

After a lovely suppertime of visiting with people, we all headed back in for a great group singing session. We were singing a new song about the blood of Jesus, and the Spirit started to move. When we reached the end of the song, the conductor broke out in the chorus of "The Blood Will Never Lose Its Power". Well, that was it! We all stood up and blasted out that chorus. And once wasn't enough. Three times we sang it, full voiced, in four part harmony. At the end, we all broke out in applause. And then the Spirit moved again and we belted out one more chorus with a big ending. Awesome! Where else do you get a moment like that? Just so awesome!

After the singing had settled a bit, we all headed outside to retake the school photo. (There were some problems with the first version.) As they were setting us all up in the right formation for the shot, the crowd couldn't help but continue to sing. Randomly, spontaneously, choruses of "I'll Fly Away", "This Little Light", and "Lean On Me" would rise and fall from different groups within the crowd. I love it here. People sing as naturally as they breathe. It's like being in a musical, without the choreography.

Tonight's concert was an incredible blessing: The Melody Boys. They are a legendary quartet, but what made it really special was their new tenor, Scott Baker. You may remember Scott as my "I've Just Seen Jesus" duet partner from last year! Well, not long after the close of school, the Melody Boys were looking for a new tenor, and Scott got the job. In the past year, he's toured the country, recorded a quartet CD, and they're just putting the finishing touches on a new Christmas CD.

This was my first time seeing the group. Their music is very traditional Southern Gospel - four part male harmony, accompanied by piano, with all old songs, like convention songs. They did a lot of songs with very little patter, and the show moved really well. Ben came out just before the end to do a short interview with the founder of the group, Gerald Williams. Gerald has been singing professionally for almost 50 years, and he had some great memories about the old gospel radio shows. Some of those shows aired live at 5:30 in the morning! Clearly, I would not have made it in the business back then.

It was great to hear Scott's tenor voice ringing above the harmony, and the whole group has a clear, vibrant sound. After the show, I helped out at their product table, which was a real blessing. It lead to lots of visiting and chatting. I just love gospel music people. There's almost an expected familiarity with them. "Oh, you like Southern Gospel? We're clearly friends already!". I know that made sound really corny to some people, but I find it more and more, and I like it more and more.

After the visiting, I wandered over to the bluegrass jam session. This is held every night, usually til a very late hour, outside, under the stars. All are welcome. I sang along on several songs, and we were treated to a beautiful duet by 2 of our younger students. The group had to move in as the wind and rain picked up, and that's when I finally left, so to avoid driving in bad weather.

I know I've sounded like I'm complaining a lot about my eye this week, but it's really caused me a fair amount of pain and discomfort. I think my visit to the doctor took a lot of that stress away. This afternoon and tonight were amazing, and they reminded me of the truly awesome beauty of this singing school. I can't wait til tomorrow!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Stamps-Baxter - Day 3

I can't believe this first week is now half over! How did that happen?

Today was long and full and wonderful. The morning was just very busy with running errands. Nothing glamorous, but exciting for me to know that I'm contributing to the school in this way. It's nice being in a different position this year. I'm getting to make friends with people that I've just met in passing before. And I'm gaining a new respect for the amount of effort it takes to organize the school.

After lunch, I had my first songwriting lesson of the week. Daryl Williams is a patient and generous teacher, always ready with a simple but powerful thought. We started by chatting about my writing over the past year. I was very glad that I've picked up on my writing discipline lately so that I could tell him about my Song U classes and my solo writing time. I played him "Wedding at Cana" as an example of a completed song. (I actually wrote that song a few years ago for my choir, but after learning a few new things this year, I did a rewrite and ended up with the version I play now.) He really liked it, and then asked to see what I'm working on now. I sang the new one, "Do You Wanna Be My Neighbour in Gloryland?". As soon as I started, he said "That's a Stamps-Baxter song!". Yes, it's peppy! He liked the lyric, and gave me a few ideas for polishing the verses. It was a satisfying lesson, not just because he liked the song, but because the things he criticized were the things I knew needed work. I'm taking this as a positive sign towards my growth as a songwriter - the ability to look at my own work with a critical eye. I mentioned that Gerald and I are co-writing a lot, and we're going to look at those songs at my next lesson.

For this afternoon's elective class, I decided to stay with this theme and attend the songwriting workshop with Dave Clark. He talked about raising the bar, not just as individual writers, but also as a songwriting community. We made a list of great song attributes, such as tltles, structure, etc. Dave then encouraged each of us to make our own list of things we think make up a great song. We are then to work on each subject on the list, and as we improve in each subject, we will be able to chart our progress as writers. I can't get over the number of writers here this year. I wish we could do a whole songwriter night here some night.

Supper was very rushed for a great reason. I ate quickly and jumped in my car ... to go home and get Gerald! For the first time ever, a member of my family got to visit the imfamous Stamps-Baxter School of Music! I was so excited!!! We got back just in time for group singing. Gerald decided not to join the group, but he did get to sit back and listen to our voices in harmony. (Of course, we're still learning the songs, so there was the occasional moment of un-harmony!) Next, we ran over to Wakefield House for my private voice lesson with Glenn Wilson. Gerald squished into our hot little rehearsal room to audit my lesson. Then we ran back over to the auditorium to watch the last part of the Reggie and Ladye Love Smith concert. I really wish we could have seen more of this. Since they're a husband-wife duo, I thought the concert would be a good learning tool for me and Gerald. Reggie and Ladye Love have such a natural onstage energy, and their harmonies are just incredible. Their blend is so easy, even down to their effortless phrasing.

After the show, I jumped out to the lobby to help out with the product table again, and Gerald got to visit with people. When the rush of CD-buyers slowed down, we went back in the hall to see some of the student performances. When the singing stopped and the bulk of the crowd had cleared out, we just sat and visited with people. It was so awesome to share that part of my life with Gerald. For the past 2 years, I've been a part of an incredible world that my family has only experienced through photos and a blog. It was just so wonderful to finally bring my family into that world - literally!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Stamps-Baxter - Day 2

This morning started early, if not exactly bright. After devotions and announcements, I spent the early part of the morning helping set up the product table. All the large group events happen in the same auditorium, and in that lobby, there's a central area which serves as home base for staff and all things info. There's a large product table featuring CDs and songbooks by faculty members. Students can also come to the table to purchase water, drop off lost and found items, and just find answers to any questions. Between classes, things can get very busy, and working that table is part of my job this week.

Things overall were a little more relaxed today, so I got to sit in on both group singing sessions. I thought I was doing okay on the shape-notes til we got to a fast song. Still 8 more days to master it...

But the highlight of my day actually happened this morning - My first voice lesson with Glenn Wilson! I was sooo excited about this! Glenn was my teacher last year, and I just loved him. I've had a lot of training, so I'm pretty picky about teachers. I want someone who is positive, but I also want someone who will challenge me. I also want someone who is able to pick out those little details and just work them til they're beautiful. That's Glenn! He really knows the voice, and he loves great singing, and it's just such an honour to be his student again.

After lunch, I finally got my eye medication! Yay! There was actually more drama around it, because the pharmacy had forgotten to order it for me and wanted me to wait another day, but all things worked out in the end, and I'm hoping to see a difference soon. It really started to hurt today, so I'm glad it all worked out.

Allison Durham Speer was back today. Each day, she will teach a 30 minute vocal technique class, basically covering warm-ups and all things related to the voice itself. I decided to stay in for her performance training class as well. Since it was her first class, she did a lot of overview, which was mostly review for me, but completely valuable none the less. We also had some great performances by Ben, Michelle, and Jordan, all of whom are singing in the concert on Saturday night.

This afternoon, I had a bit of a magic moment. We found ourselves with a few moments of quiet, so I got my guitar to squeeze in a little practice. I thought I would find an empty room somewhere, but everything was full. So I found a spot outside, on a bench swing, under a willow tree. There was a gentle breeze, and no noise at all. I sat there for half an hour, just playing and singing. Maybe saying Hi to a few people who walked by, but just sitting there, in the cool of the day, making a little music. Heavenly!

After the evening's group singing session, we had our first concert of the week - Stephen Hill. I offered to help with his product table, and as we were setting up, he asked if I had any requests. Of course! I asked for "Lo and Behold", a funky Christmas song about the possible reactions of the Bethlehemites when they found out an unwed girl was pregnant. It's so smartly written, with a great melody. After the show, he told me he never does that song live, so I felt honoured that he would play it for me.

Stephen's solo show is great. He started with a few songs with tracks, and the rest of the set was a mix of hymns and original songs with just voice and guitar. I really didn't appreciate Stephen's talent til I saw his solo show. His writing is great, and his guitar playing is wonderful, and well matched with his soulful voice. But, now that I've seen him a second time, I think what I appreciate most is his patter. He talks about the wonder and reality of God's love, but never in a way that's preaching or churchy (and you all know what I mean by that!) He just talks about it in a way that let's you know it's cool to be Christian and it's cool to be overwhelmed by God. Love it! He encourages a lot of interaction, and with a singing school, you know that's going to be good. Every singalong becomes a harmony exerience!

I missed performance opportunity tonight because I was out at the product table. We were there til close to 10. After, I wandered out to the bluegrass jam session for a bit. It was great! There must have been a dozen musicians and twice as many singers. At one point, I counted 3 fiddle players, 3 on guitar, one mandolin, a double bass, a harmonica, and even a saxophone. (That's less than a dozen, but you know what I mean.) I stayed as long as I could, but I wanted to drive home before I dropped from exhaustion. That's the only rough spot about commuting - you can't just crawl back to your room!

Tomorrow will be my first songwriting lesson with Daryl Williams. Can't wait!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Stamps-Baxter - Day 1

I forgot this: The first day of Stamps-Baxter feels like a week! I can't believe the things I'm going to talk about only happened this morning!

But first, an official piece of news: I am now on staff at the Stamps-Baxter School of Music! It sounds a little more impressive than it really is, but I couldn't be more excited! I'm basically an on-call assistant, ready to do what ever needs doing. I feel like a PA (the production assistant on a film set). I really think this will be a great learning opportunity for me, and I'm just so happy to be involved with the school in this way.

This morning, I helped with photocopies, breaking down the registration set up, organizing teacher's materials, and helping a new student find out what theory class he's in. I've been bothered the last few days with a bit of a red eye. Well, there's a doctor in the school, who was able to diagnose me! I spent most of the afternoon driving around looking for the right medication, which I couldn't find, so I had to order it and go again tomorrow, but what a blessing to have someone finally tell me what's wrong, without even having to leave the school!

I got back just in time for the afternoon electives. This is the only time of the day when students get to choose their class. The auditorium always holds Allison Durham Speer's performance class, and then they hold 2 smaller workshops on things like sound, songwriting, career development, etc. This year, they're holding one class on radio promotion, which I will definitely be attending. Today, I sat in on performance training. Allison is away til tomorrow, so today's class was hosted by Mike Allen. Mike makes no secret of the fact that teaching in front of a crowd is way outside his comfort zone, but if he hadn't said it, you wouldn't have known it. He was really relaxed and welcoming, and he made everyone feel very comfortable. A bunch of people wanted to sing, and you could tell most people hadn't preplanned it because their tracks were left in their rooms. They all bravely sang acapella. Let me tell you, there is some great talent in this school. And a lot of songwriters too! Really nice to see that. One of today's highlights was the family of 5 children who sang acapella. So cute, and so much talent!

After supper, I finally got to sit in on a group singing session. How much have I missed that! 200 voices in 4 part harmony! I was a little dizzy with my first run at shape-notes, but some of it was stored in the back part of my brain, and bit by bit I started to recognize the musical hieroglyphs. By the end of the school, I'll be flying! (she says with hope...)

Next we all gathered on the lawn for the school photo, and headed in for what will usually be concert time. Tonight, we jumped straight to "performance opportunity". This differs from the afternoon class in that it's more concert style, without the teacher feedback. Again, some great singing and writing. My favourite was 13-year-old Jacob, who played a simple version of He Touched Me. When he got to the chorus, the entire audience began to gently sing along in 4 part harmony, letting Jacob lead the way. Pure magic! How much do I love this school? And the grand finale was the always incredible Miss Mary Tom Speer, accompanied by Ben on piano. Just amazing! Please, let me still sing that well in my eighties!

The night ended with a bluegrass jam session, featuring the legendary Earl Scruggs! He was joined by 6 other people, including students and guests. They played about an hour - some traditional bluegrass, some originals off his latest album (yes, he's still recording!), and, of course, the theme from the Beverley Hillbillies. (Mom, I thought of you!)

What an incredible day! It's strange and good to be commuting from home this year. It's awesome to sleep in my bed, kiss my family goodnight, and write this on my own computer. And wonderful to tell people, "Yes, I've moved to Nashville!", especially when I get to tell them how much the school influenced that decision. Just awesome! I can't wait til tomorrow...

Monday, July 16, 2007

Stamps-Baxter - Registration

Sing it: It's the most wonderful time of the year!

That's right, it's time again for Ben Speer's Stamps-Baxter School of Music, right here in Nashville, Tennessee. And for once, I don't need to risk my guitar to the 2 hour flight and sadistic baggage handlers. (See last year's entry for details...) Nope, this year, I am a mere 15 minute commute to the school, and I couldn't be more excited.

I called Ben yesterday to see if they wanted some help today with registration. I was put in charge of giving out the school folders, but I ended up being the Info Girl as well. So many new people this year! It's pretty awesome. And, of course, today was also a great reunion with many old friends. It was great to see the kids that have gotten taller, and to hear the stories of people's lives over the past 12 months.

On Saturday, I'm taking part in an alumni concert, organized by fellow alumnus Wess Adams. Originally, the concert was scheduled for a church in Walling, about 2 hours from Nashville. But Wess got to talking with Ben, and the show was moved to the First Nazarene church here in Nashville. Great, huh? Well, it gets better - Ben is joining the program! Yes, I'm going to share the stage with Ben Speer! I think a few other groups from the school might come too. There were posters everywhere today, and I think most of the school is planning to come. I really wasn't nervous before today, but now, the pressure's on!

I just got home a little while ago. It's going to be a crazy (and wonderful) 2 weeks, but I know the key to surviving this school is lots of water and lots of rest. So, here's to another great year of Stamps-Baxter!!! Whoo-hoo!!! Nap-time...

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

NSAI & Kenna Turner West

Today was a full writing day for both of us. Gerald had 2 - yes, 2! - co-writing sessions today, including one with a staff writer at Peermusic. (A staff writer is basically someone with a publishing deal, which means any song they write together has a decent chance of getting cut.) Very exciting!

I took advantage of the empty house and sat down for another solo writing session - my 2nd in a week! At the end of my time, I had a new lyric, and a semblance of a tune. I think it's actually my first praise and worship song. The title is "Sure as the Sun", and it was inspired by the Bible study of Hosea I've been attending.

This afternoon, I spent time at NSAI, and then came home to do another Song U class. I'm continuing my course on Power Rhymes. Later this week, I'm going to start the Indie CD course.

Tonight was my favourite night at NSAI - Christian Writer's Night! We were blessed to have guest speaker, Kenna Turner West, who has written for all sorts of SG artists, including the Easters, the Talleys, and Karen Peck and New River. You know, SG is the niche of Christian writing, and so far, we've had 2 of these NSAI nights featuring SG people. Very happy for that!

The night was organized like an interview, and Kenna illustrated her stories with clips from her songs. The whole night was full of practical information about writing, demos, and pitching. She's very vibrant and funny, so it was pretty entertaining too!

We got to chatting after the event, and I mentioned that I'm recording this year. We exchanged info, and she's going to send me some songs to consider for the CD. Yay!

What a satisfying day! *sigh*

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Cafe Forte Open Mic

For months now, I've been spending my Monday evenings at Cafe Forte, a Christian songwriter gathering. I've been hoping for a chance to jump up on stage, and tonight, they hosted an open mic.

I was really hoping to look at the night as an 'audition' for their regular shows. Unfortunately, due to various reasons, almost all the organizers were away for the night, including the booking person. Arg!

Still, Gerald and I arrived, guitars in hand, and sang our songs. Gerald did "Real Big Fan", and "Never Wait Until Tomorrow", with me on harmonies. I did "Wedding at Cana", and then Gerald accompanied me on "The Point of the Song". "Wedding" got lots of comments after the show. I think that song just tickles people!

There was a real mix of performers, including a trumpet player, and a couple of 15-year-old singer-songwriters who are poised to do great things. The level of talent in this town never fails to amaze me!

Not an enormously glamorous night, but still a very satisfying experience. Just continuing to sow the seed...

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Happy 4th of July!

This is our first ever 4th of July as non-immigrant aliens!

We spent the very hot afternoon down by the riverfront, which Gerald and I keep calling the "harbourfront". We joined our friends and their very new baby for a great afternoon of music and food. They had this huge stage set up, and some people had arrived at 9 in the morning to get prime seats for the evening's headliners and fireworks. They also had a huge kidzone, complete with a mechanical bull.

We didn't want to face the crowds for the night-time performances, but I think we got the best show of all - songwriter Jeffrey Steele. You may not know his name, but if you listen to country music, you have definitely heard his songs.

But here's the highlight for me: I tried alligator!

I actually ate alligator! They had it deep-fried on skewers, like satay, and they were calling it Gator-on-a-Stick.

Because it was deep-fried, it tasted a little like chicken at first (Kentucky Fried Gator!), but the meat itself was more like a dense white fish.

I liked it, but I don't really know that I'll be making it at home. That would just be too weird.

We are so not in Kansas any more!

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

A Songwriting Day...

Today was all about the writing. One of the things I've decided to improve is my commitment to finding solid, preplanned stretches of writing time. I found out Gerald would be out tonight, so I marked a few hours into my datebook. It's been a while since I've had this kind of time, so I decided to do some prep work throughout the day:

I've been continuing my Bible-in-a-year readings, so I read a little this afternoon to fill the well of my imagination. (I'm really enjoying this project, by the way. I'm a little behind in the Old Testament, but I digress...)

I picked out a new, sparkly pink journal to use for lyric writing, and found an awesome pen I picked up at GMA Week.

I recently won a 3 month tuition for an on-line songwriting school called I decided to spend a little time on that to remind myself of the discipline to the craft.

And, finally, I decided to blog tonight, as that gave me a bit of pressure to actually write something and not get distracted by laundry. It's amazing how important the laundry can become when it's writing time.

After Gerald left, I grabbed my little pink book and planted myself in my beautiful writing room. I poured myself a glass of iced tea, opened all the windows, and said a little prayer.

I'd written a chorus a few months ago, but I'd never gotten around to writing verses. I've realized lately that I'm very good at starting songs, but not so good at finishing them. I wrote out the chorus in my book, and began to work on the verses. I had an idea for a verse melody (the melody for the chorus was already complete), so I tapped it out to figure out approximately how many syllables I'd need for each line. I knew I wanted to start with the chorus, which would give me space for 2 verses. So, with that info in place - theme, melody, rhythm, and structure - I dipped into the well and started to write out some verses. Several hours later, I had 2 fairly complete verses. I think they're probably pretty good, but I decided to close the book on them for tonight. I'll go back to them tomorrow to see if they're really okay, or if I need to start all over again.

I felt drained but empowered after my writing session, so I jumped back on the computer and headed over to Song U. They offer a range of self-paced and instructor lead courses on everything from lyrics and melodies to business and recording. There's even a group there that does the Artist's Way. I finished the Orientation class, and chose my class list. I'm starting with a few lyric courses, a class on commercial song structures, another on the Christian market, and finally, a 3 course series on recording an indie CD. I started a course on rhyming tonight, which is another reason why I want to check the lyric again tomorrow. Maybe I'll find a newer, more exciting rhyme for one of my lines.

Oh, and the song is called "Do You Want to be my Neighbour in Gloryland?", complete with Canadian spelling!

Monday, July 02, 2007


That's right, Happy Canada Day! Some of our new American friends are shocked to discover that we have a Canada Day. Some are asking if we celebrate the 4th of July. And a lot want to know if it's actually Canadian Independence Day.

Well, not really. Here's how Wikipedia describes it: "Canada Day marks the creation of Canada as a Dominion through the British North America Act on July 1, 1867, uniting three British colonies—the provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Canada. The three colonies united to form one country divided into four provinces. The Province of Canada became Ontario and Quebec."

Other than the Stanley Cup playoffs, it's one of the few times of the year when Canadians are outrageously and publicly patriotic. I've always enjoyed going out to see fireworks, or going to a Canada Day party, so I wondered how we would spend tonight.

Well, Carol, who runs the back room at Cafe Coco, is Canadian! She decided a year ago that she wanted to have a Canada Day party. On her last trip home, she brought back Tim Horton's coffee and Molson Canadian (you know that sold out fast!). They put poutine on the menu, and filled the stage with some great Canadian singer-songwriters.

The back room was packed, and I think they were actually having to turn people away throughout the evening. There were young couples and families with kids. People were wearing red and white. The crowd were only half Canadians; the rest were obviously super cool Americans! We heard great music, Gerald found a possible co-writer, and I gave out advice on getting an O1 Visa. What a great night!