Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Recording on the Row

Today was a fantastic day for music. On Thursday, I'm doing an online course with Song U, but unlike the other courses I've taken with them, this course is live and interactive. It's limited to 10, preregistered students. Over the next day or so, we all need to load one song and lyric into our Song U 'backpack' (just a space online, but working with the campus metaphor...). Our instructor, Sue Smith, will listen to our songs, and then on Thursday, at the appointed time, everyone will gather online to listen to Sue give us feedback on our songs. We'll be able to listen to each other's songs, and respond through written comments. I haven't done this kind of class before, so I'm really excited about it.

My song for the class is a me and Gerald co-write called "The Point of the Song". We've performed it a fair bit and it gets really good response, but I know it's a step from being finished. Gerald and I spent the afternoon recording a worktape of the song (a worktape is like a simple demo, with just guitar and vocals). We did several takes, and managed to get a good one with no car alarms or dog barks in the background.

But tonight held the exciting stuff - I did my first vocal session on Music Row!

My friend, Jenna, music director at Redeemer, wanted to do some final touches on her album, and she asked me to join her in the studios to record some vocals. I was so excited and honoured to be asked. Jenna's music is primarily Praise and Worship, and the song we worked on was one of her originals.

I was a little nervous going in, only because I've never done any kind of session stuff before. I listened to Praise and Worship music in the car on the way there to get me in the mood. The studio is in the basement of Belmont Church on Music Row. The whole thing was very laid back, which was cool. In the end, the singing I needed to do was very simple. For me, it also helped that I'm very familiar with Jenna's voice. I've sung with her a lot in church, so I felt confident matching her style and phrasing.

This song was the final musical piece of Jenna's CD, so after the session, we went out for dinner to celebrate. We sat on a lovely patio enjoying the beautiful food and the change in the air. Ah, finally - Nashville is entering patio season!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Whitsitt Chapel & the SB Community

This morning, I drove out to the east side of Nashville to hear my friend, Brandon Andrews, sing at Whitsitt Chapel. I think it was still Nashville? It's out by Percy Priest Lake - so beautiful out there!

Brandon is a Stamps-Baxter alumnus, and I always like to see what our students are doing. This service was actually the church's Homecoming Sunday, so the place was packed. Brandon did one special song during the service, and then after the invitation, he did a mini-concert. I was afraid people might wander out to start enjoying the food and the sunshine, but everyone stayed for the great music.

Brandon is a young singer with a voice beyond his years. He sings a lot of great old songs, but once he starts recording newer stuff, I'd love to get a few of our songs in his hands.

Near the end of his concert, Brandon started his thank yous, and he introduced me! He pointed me out not just because of my school connection, but also as an artist with two radio singles! I felt so famous - and I'm pretty sure I blushed bright red! It was actually very cool, and I was just honoured that he would consider me worthy of mention.

After the service, we caught up, and also chatted with Brandon's friend Sondra, another SB alumnus. Sondra was the one to get the booking for Brandon, and it really got me thinking about our SB community. At the end of school this year, several students were teary-eyed. I reminded them that they weren't leaving school alone. They are now part of a community that lasts all year and crosses all state and national boundaries. Today, it was like seeing that community in action.

Happy Anniversary, Mom and Dad!

40 years ago today, my parents stood in St. James Church - before family, friends, and God - and committed their lives to each other.

Congratulations, Mom and Dad, on 40 wonderful years of family, laughter, adventure, and love.

May we all be so blessed!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

DIVAs in Nashville - again!

What a great night! I think this was the second largest DIVA gathering in Christian DIVA history. Beth, Leah, Tara, Rachanee and I were all in Nashville on the same day, so we gathered for Chinese food and ice cream. It would have been nice to do a show together, but there just wasn't time to make that happen.

There were lots of laughs, stories, and general silliness. Beth and Leah just finished a two-week tour, so we got lots of stories from that. Beth even gave us a tailgate concert, singing a song they wrote about their tour.

Lunch was also a nice musical time. We had a gathering of the Redeemer praise team to catch up on summer vacations and adventures. Jenna is taking a mission trip to Sri Lanka this fall, so I'm hoping to get a Sunday in while she's still here.

It was nice to have a fun day out. Things really haven't slowed down much since NQC. Mom and Dad were here til Wednesday, and I've worked a few days too. I'm still trying to play catch-up on all emails, phone calls, NQC thank yous, etc. We realized this week that we've basically been going non-stop since June, so it's actually nice to have a bit of a quiet schedule for the next few weeks.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

NQC - Final Day

For the first time this week, my feet genuinely hurt. I'm taking it as a sign that it's time to go home. I had grand intentions of getting up early today to pack so I'd save time tomorrow morning, but we all know what happens to good intentions...

Instead, I left the hotel in the early afternoon to attend the Crabb Family showcase. I missed the opening songs, but arrived just as Aaron and Amanda Crabb were finishing a song. From there, the other three Crabb incarnations each took the stage for 2-song sets. Mike and Kelly Bowling sounded great with strong vocals. Next, Crabb Revival came on stage. I had sent them my demo when they were looking for a third singer. Seeing them today, I realized two things: One, I was not the singer for this group. Two, I am an instant fan of Crabb Revival! They were awesome! It was driving and rootsy and had lots of groove. Killer vocals and awesome instrumental parts made everything soulful and cool. Love them!

Jason Crabb was backed up by a five piece band, and he was just incredible. (No real surprise there.) There is nothing like Jason's voice, his phrasing, his choice of riffing notes. Always wonderful, always musical, always spiritual. After Jason's songs, the rest of the family joined him for the 'reunion' part of the showcase, but I had to leave early to hear my friend Wess Adams in the Regional Artist Showcase. Wess is a Stamps-Baxter friend, and I've heard him sing many times, but today was definitely his best performance that I've seen. The Dove Brothers were one of the guest artists on the showcase, and the audience nearly lost control when they sang "Get Away Jordan".

The exhibit hall was sheer madness for the first two hours tonight. NQC moved the Singing News Fan Awards to tonight, and I'm sure there must be a difference in attendance. Singing News had a songwriting contest this year, and part of the prize was a performance of the song on mainstage. Well, the quartet to sing the song was Allison Durham Speer, Johnny Minick, Aaron Minick (my fabulous producer!), and Mike Allen. They are still performing as an unnamed quartet, so tonight they announced their new contest called NameThatQuartet.com Actually, that was supposed to be announced, but the audio was out on Bill Gaither's taped piece that made the announcement. I watched their performance with Brian Speer, so I got the inside scoop.

After their performance, I got to spend some time with Allison and Brian and show them my banner and booth. Since they were part of the Banner Photo Selection Committee, it was great to be able to show them the gorgeous finished product. We also did some Elijah Conference chatting. I can't believe that's only a few weeks away!

Freedom Hall was packed again tonight, so Tara and I watched most of the awards from a live feed in the exhibit hall. Tara was getting a drive back to Nashville tonight, so she left just after the awards, taking her table and stools with her. Naturally, that pretty much dismantled the booth, but I was determined to keep my half of the booth going, so I left my banner up, and put the CD rack on the chair with a few artfully displayed business cards. Later, Wess gave me the flowers from his booth, so I placed them strategically and decoratively by the chair. Probably didn't bring me any business, but it all made me smile. I spent the next few hours visiting booths, saying hi to people, booking another SGM Radio interview (Mark Bishop!), and shopping for CDs. I also got to meet two more radio people, so that was cool.

My friends, the Stutzman Family, had comfy couches and a live feed in their booth, so near the end of the night, I just hung out with them, watching the final mainstage performances and eating their homemade cookies. Last year, Mark Lowrey and Lordsong were one of my favourite acts all week, and tonight's set kept the standard high. I guess, like a lot of people, I mostly know Mark through his Gaither appearances. Maybe I don't know enough about him, but I feel like he's found a new level of performing in the last few years. His voice is great and his patter is smooth and easy. He has you laughing hard, and then boom, he nails you with this serious, heartfelt thought. Lordsong sounded incredible, and the whole presentation was very professional and entertaining. I'm not quite ready for Mark's senior tour, but I'd be interested in seeing him in a solo performance.

Finally, it was time to break down the booth (or my half-booth, as I started calling it). As I was bringing stuff to the car, I started to think about the week. I know I'll spend more time with this as the week goes on, but for tonight, I think I'm really pleased with it. I think we came here with realistic goals, and overall, I think we met them. I learned a lot, I met lots of great people, I made some great connections, and I feel I performed well. Now, it's just about getting a good night's sleep and having a safe drive home tomorrow. Can't wait to see the puppies!

Friday, September 12, 2008

NQC - Day Five

Long day! After last night's midnight excursion, I was brave and bold enough to be up bright and early to attend this morning's Paradigm showcase. This is an industry, invite-only showcase, but I have a lot of friends on their label, so I got a ticket and took the opportunity to see a lot of friends at once. I got to hear my friend Darlene Chapman, who was wonderful. I also got to hear a number of female soloists I've heard of but never seen perform, like Cricket Lee, Tammy Kirkland, and Grace Bailey. It's always nice to see what other soloists are doing - a great chance to learn what audiences are seeing, and how other artists are approaching the solo stage. Jennifer Strickland just released an entirely self-written album, and her song was great, and the Shireys also did an original song written by their young female lead singer. Kim Hopper hosted the event, and just nailed a couple of solo numbers. Paradigm isn't a women-only label, but you'd hardly know it this morning.

Gerald and I had this afternoon reserved on our calendar for the songwriter's showcase. Last year, this showcase was the highlight of my week. It was one hour, and many songs were performed acoustically or by the writer. This year, it was a much bigger production. Phil Cross put together a 3 hour show to record for a DVD. (I missed the intro, so I think this is right.) Many songs were sung to tracks, and just a few were done acoustically. There were some definite highlights, though. There was a choir and an orchestra, and we all know how I feel about a good choir! Ronnie Hinson told the story behind his classic, "The Lighthouse", and Mosie Lister spoke about his song, "Where No One Stands Alone." The show ended with Kyla Rowland talking about "Holy Shore." I love this song, and the Perrys finished the whole show in great style.

It wasn't hard to tell the Gaithers were in the house today: You had to hunt for parking, and for the first few hours, while GVB and Signature Sound were having autograph sessions, you could hardly walk through the exhibit hall. It was great to have a lot of people there, because it also meant I got to see lots of Stamps-Baxter people.

Tara and I had a good day for radio. We gave out several CDs and press kits, and I did two interviews. One was with a DJ from Sarnia, Ontario, and the other was with Chuck Peters of Southern Gospel Reporter. (You can visit there to see my ad!) I thought I'd be nervous about doing the interviews, but I've felt very relaxed, so it's really just been fun. Thinking about it, I don't really know why I'd be nervous. I usually talk about music, Stamps-Baxter, Canada, Gerald, and the Gospel - why would I not love that?

After the second interview, Tara and I had supper with Tammy Norris. Tammy is in the process of putting together her first ever women's conference. She's hosting it at her home church, and has organized the whole thing herself. Tara and I have tossed about ideas about hosting or somehow getting involved in women's conferences, so it was fascinating to hear about Tammy's plans and experiences.

But after that conversation, we had to make our way to Freedom Hall for my second only mainstage performance this week: Signature Sound and Gaither Vocal Band. The hall was packed! Tara and I finally found empty seats way up on the second level, in a back corner somewhere. Luckily, two Stamps-Baxter students saw us and pointed out some empty seats. The ground level was packed, and people were standing and blocking up every entrance. Signature Sound was on fire! I know some people aren't into their style of music and performance, but what can I say? I'm a music theatre girl - I love singing and dancing and any kind of dynamic stagecraft. They sounded great, and they fed off the energy of the packed house. Gaither Vocal Band sounded fantastic! They did a mix of classics and new songs. Their blend was beautiful and the solo verses sounded great. It was a fantastic double set - well worth hunting for seats!

That sort of wrapped up the day. There are a number of things we want to do tomorrow, and I've already started wrapping my mind around packing up the booth and all our stuff at the hotel. I can't believe how quickly this week has passed by. I already have plans for next year...

Thursday, September 11, 2008

NQC - Day Four

Awesome day! It is currently 2:00am Louisville time as I start to write this entry. A lot happened today, so I'll try to get down as much as I can:

I woke up feeling very relaxed, until I realized that this was Showcase and Single Release Day. Ugh - nervous knot in my stomach! Gerald made the espresso while I started the day with vocal warm-ups. (Yes, we brought our espresso maker to Louisville!) I went over to sign up for the showcase and have showcase orientation. My showcase today was the Regional Artist Showcase, which is basically the first level of showcases. They go up from here in prestige, the number of songs you can sing, etc. I think anyone with a booth gets to sing in this one, but frankly, I was just excited for the opportunity. It's organized by the Artist Initiative Committee, who were all present to welcome us this morning. Part of our showcase overlapped with the Gaither/Signature Sound showcase over in Freedom Hall, so the committee was also there to assure us that whether our crowd was five or five thousand, they were happy we were there and please have a great time. Phil Cross, songwriter extraordinaire and committee member, reminded us that "God will not bless you to be somebody else". Love that! After a quick chat from the sound guy, I headed back to the hotel for more rehearsal.

I really wanted to see the Gaither showcase, but I figured I had to give my own rehearsal priority. Gerald took me through a vocal warm-up (so nice to have a husband who sings), and we did some final rehearsing of the song. We then loaded up the car with all the Single Release stuff, and headed over.

I got to the showcase in time to hear about an hour's worth of other performers. The Hoppers did a song, and Kim and Dean also did a duet. I would love to tell you the names of some of the other regional artists, but to be honest, I was too nervous to keep track of the names. I'm fine if I have a whole show to do, but sometimes, it's just harder to sing one song. In a concert, you can warm up into it (not a good practice, but it happens sometimes), but with a single song, you have to be 'on' from that first note and make an impact in just a few minutes. I was the last on the program, which actually made me kind of happy. The Gaithers were over by that time, so we had a pretty good crowd of several hundred people. The moment I hit the stage, all my nerves disappeared and I just had a great time. I sang "Do You Wanna Be My Neighbour in Gloryland", and the crowd really seemed to like it. There was lots of clapping and smiles, and that just felt great.

Mark Bishop closed the showcase with two of his songs, and I'm always a fan of his. After the showcase, I got lots of great feedback, which felt wonderful, but the most powerful moment was from the man who told me he was blessed by the song. It's all worth it just for that...

Tara finally arrived in Louisville today, so after the showcase, we gathered at the booth to prepare for the Single Release Party. While getting ready, several people from Ontario stopped by to visit, so that was very cool. At 5:30, we got the party started. We played "Neighbour" and Tara's new single, "God's Got a Word", from my laptop. We passed out mini-chocolate bars, and stapled on each one was a slip of paper asking people to request our songs from their local radio stations. Because we were building on the "neighbour" theme, we also took prayer requests for neighbours. People could write down their requests on an index card and place it in a box, and we're going to pray for them tomorrow. And as a special "neighbour" gift for DJs, I had these neat little slate signs with "Welcome" or "Home" carved in them. All in all, I think the party was a great success! Again, we were up against the Gaither autograph session, but we had a good number of people come through and talk to us, make prayers requests, and eat our chocolate. Tara and I also got a joint interview out of it. A DJ from Ohio came by, and after chatting with us, asked if he could interview us together. We talked about our songs and about the Christian DIVAs, so it was all very cool!

After that, Tara and I decided we would try touring the aisles and visiting the different booths. Unfortunately/fortunately, we kept running into friends, so we never got very far. We did get over to America's Home Spun Gospel to record some liners, so that was cool.

At 8:32, however, I made sure I was in Freedom Hall for the one performer I've seen all week - Ben! He had a ten minute spot where he lead the whole audience in singing Gaither favourites. In true singing school style, he got everyone on their feet to sing Because He Lives, Something Beautiful, and He Touched Me. What a great sound! When he was finished, we left to go back to the booth, when the next group, The Dove Brothers, started to sing the Speer classic "Rain". Well of course, they pulled up Ben for the lead. It was awesome! He just nailed it, and the Doves sounded great, the crowd went nuts, and three encores later, Ben finally left the stage.

At 9:30, we all wandered over to the SGMRadio.com booth for a 'surprise' birthday party for Rob Patz. I say 'surprise' because he clearly knew about everything, but with a bit of singing and some great chocolate cake, it was a nice little party.

The rest of the night was socializing, networking, sharing CDs with radio people, and just trying to spend time with as many friends as possible. At midnight, we all wandered over to the Executive Suites for the midnight breakfast buffet. (I was actually a little overloaded on heavy foods, so I chose a midnight salad instead.) Tara, Gerald, and I shared a table with Judy Nelon and Sue Dodge, who were great ladies, and since Sue sang with the Speers, it was nice to hear some of her history as well.

And that, of course, is why I'm writing at this crazy night-time hour. My friends are singing in a showcase tomorrow morning, and I really want to see them, so I must go sleep for a few hours, and then start all over again. Now that I've sung my showcase, I don't care if I don't sleep til Sunday night!

Shot of the Day: Me and Tara in our first joint interview!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

NQC - Day Three

So, we actually did leave early tonight! Tomorrow is going to be a long day that includes both my showcase and my Single Release Party, so a good night's sleep is pretty crucial.

Today was a great day. We spent the morning doing final preparations for tomorrow's party, and after a few phone calls to ask Tara to bring more supplies, I think we're in good shape.

I spent the afternoon at the SoGospelNews Showcase, which was off-site at one of the hotel ballrooms. I heard a trio called Calvary's Voice who were really good, but mostly I went to see friends. My friends Chad and Phillip sang and played in a quartet called Victorious, and they were great. And my buddy Brandon Andrews blew the roof off the place with his three songs. Such a great voice!

Our first guest at the booth today was a DJ from Ontario! I was happy to offer him some 'Canadian content', and he was one of the few people there who appreciated the MAPL symbol on the back of "Real Big Fan".

I did a lot of booth visiting today also. I visited my friend Darlene Chapman at the Paradigm booth, and got to meet a lot of people there. They gave me tickets to their invite-only showcase on Friday, so I'm excited about that. I gave my CD to the XM people, so that would be a cool place to hear my songs. Gerald and I also had great conversations with several people, including people with the Billy Graham Library. I would just love to visit there some day.

I also had a great chat with Ron from the Klondyke Gospel Music Center in Ozark, Alabama. I did a concert there this spring, and today he booked me again for a concert next March. Yay! If I can get a few more bookings this week, I'll be a very happy camper.

It's interesting talking to the different artists here and just trying to learn as much as we can about how this industry works. For all our time in the music industry in Canada, we're still newcomers to the world of Southern Gospel. We're taking lots of notes on things we like (and things we don't like). I'm happy with the way this week is progressing, and I know we'll be in even better shape for next year.

Gerald and I just did a quick rehearsal for tomorrow, and I know we'll take another crack at things in the morning. Time for that good night's sleep...

NQC - Day Two

Like most bloggers this week, I'm adjusting the time on my posts so it keeps it on the appropriate date. Suffice to say: it is currently much later than the time on this post suggests.

You see, I had this wonderful idea tonight. "Let's leave a little early so we can get back to the hotel and do all the final prep work for Thursday's Single Release Party." Sounds good, doesn't it? Well, it was good, til we got back to the room and I realized I'd left my laptop back in the exhibit hall. PANIC!! I was that guy from the commercials. "I checked my notebook!" Gerald was already in his pajamas when I realized it, so he changed back into regular clothes (bless his heart!) and we raced back to the Expo Center. Gerald found a security guard who let him back in - it was well after midnight at this point, so the only people around were security and cleaners. We got back to the hotel close to one a.m. So much for my "early night"...

Despite the ending, we had wonderful day! We got there early enough to catch the Regional Artist Showcase. There were some great groups, and the featured group was the Dixie Echoes. They are just one of my favourite groups to see live. I've never seen a full show, but their's were some of my favourite performances of last year's NQC. Their mic choreography is dynamic without being slick, and I just love watching them.

Today was a big socializing day for me. I had a great visit with my friend, Susan Adams, who's husband Wess is a solo artist. They're also Stamps-Baxter friends, which are always some of my favourite people. Susan and Wess are with Song Garden, so I got to meet a number of their artists as well.

I ran into lots of familiar faces today, like Young Harmony, songwriter Sue Smith, and more Stamps-Baxter people. I introduced myself to Jim and Melissa Brady and got to thank him for the interview, and I also met some more artists that I'd like to interview.

We're across the aisle from a wonderful trio from Florida called Great Day. At one point today, they were talking to Gerald about his songwriting, and they quipped, "Why don't you write a song for us?" Well, they didn't realize who they were talking to. Within the hour, Gerald had a verse and chorus, lyric and melody, for them. (It's really beautiful too.) They jokingly shouted over to us, "Got our song yet?", and I loved the looks on their faces when he said "Yes". I see him write so quickly so often, and it always amazes me, but it was really cool to see their faces when the song started to come together before their eyes. Can't wait for him to finish it!

We also had a really cool visit today. A man walked up and said, "Hi, I'm a 'real big fan'." He's a DJ from Indiana, and his favourite song on my album is "Real Big Fan"! (which, of course, Gerald wrote!) He'd written and told me that recently, so it was really cool to meet him in person today. He actually told us that he plays the song every week! Whoo-hoo! Time to tour in Indiana...

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

NQC Morning Update

Here's the "Rob TV" I did yesterday. To read the Jim Brady article that he talks about, just visit here.

NQC - Day One

Sooooooo excited. Tired, but excited!

I got my good night's sleep last night, which was a real blessing. After an easy morning, we went over to the Kentucky Expo Center to load in our stuff. When we had everything moved into our booth space, I left Gerald there so I could take the car back to the parking area. Well, I got caught in the long twisty-turny one-way road that drives round and round the expo grounds. It reminded me of that scene in European Vacation where the Griswolds get caught in a British driving circle and Clark keeps saying "Big Ben ... Parliament".

Back to the booth: It took a bit to figure out how to balance the two banners plus the table plus all our other stuff, but in the end, I think it looks great! We had a bit of time before the hall opened, so after a snack (ribbon fries!), we wandered out to hear a bit of the afternoon showcase. We didn't get to hear many of the regional singers, but we did catch the performance of the King's Herald's which was great.

The exhibit hall is open from 4-11:30pm each night, which went quickly today. There are lots of Stamps-Baxter people here, so there were mini-reunions all day. My friends, John and Mary, are working for a radio station, so I did a radio interview with them. We had several DJs drop by, so we were able to pass on our music to them. I also did a "Rob TV" - a four-minute video interview with Rob Patz of SGM Radio.com. I'll post a link when it's posted online.

The rest of the day was just spent visiting and chatting with people. I didn't get to see any of the mainstage performances tonight, so I'm going to try and see a few groups tomorrow night. I'm so happy to be here this week. I'm proud of the music and message we're promoting, and let's face it - I just love being around anything Southern Gospel!

Shot of the Day - Fabulous Booth 448!

Monday, September 08, 2008

NQC ... about to begin!

I'm writing tonight from Louisville, Kentucky! We're all checked into our hotel, a plan is in place for the week, and all that's left for tonight is to get a good night's sleep...

We got back to Nashville late last Tuesday night after a long but uneventful drive from Toronto ("uneventful" being the best kind of drive home). Wednesday should have been a rest day, but there was far too much to do before coming to Louisville today. Wednesday was spent cleaning, unpacking, laundry ... all that glamourous musician stuff.

I worked for Ben on Thursday and Friday, so that added lots of busyness into the week. It was great to reconnect with my Stamps-Baxter buddies, and to work on school stuff.

Full work days meant just the nights for NQC prep. I have new business cards to match my banner (I'm all about branding these days), and they became a full drama themselves, almost worthy of matching the banner drama. There were lots of go-arounds on design, and then the plan was to get them printed and sent overnight. Well, numerous complications arose, and we finally ended up having a short run made locally.

The banner arrived Friday, and when I got home, Gerald had it set up at the end of the hallway so it was the first thing I saw when I got home. It's sooooo pretty! Really truly beautiful! I can't wait to have it on display. It's soooooo pretty! Yay, Brian for awesome photos and Lyndsay for an incredible design!!!!!!

Saturday was supposed to be my day to get all the last minute things done - printing press kits, buying groceries for the hotel, putting together business supplies, packing - but my body decided it was time to get sick. I couldn't do a thing! I felt awful, but my greatest challenge was not freaking out about all the things I couldn't get done. Lots of deep breathing, sipping tea, and spending time reading "Snow Flower and the Secret Fan" (awesome!!!!!!).

That left lots of things to do today, but it was most important for me to go to church this morning. This kind of week can be so draining emotionally and spiritually. There's a real danger of letting self-promotion and stage-time distract from the real reason why we make all this music. It was my first time back at Redeemer for a month. It was so grounding to see friends, sing great songs, be still and know that God is God.

The afternoon was the madhouse we knew it would be, and now we're here. When I think back at last year's NQC, it's amazing to think how much has changed for me this year. It's going to be a crazy/busy/wonderful week. Can't wait to get started...