Back to School Special

Back to School Special

Well, it’s official- the first week of school is over for both Kathy and me – Kathy at Schulte Elementary School and me at Carthage College.  And we’re both still alive – still standing – and still smiling!

The start of the last school year was a real bummer for my wife because she had to vacate the room she had been in for twenty years and move all of her stuff to a smaller room- without windows- at the back of the building, in order to make way for an additional section of kindergarten in the school.  At least this fall she was not saddled with that headache, plus she has the fun challenge of a student teacher in her room,  a Carthage student named Megan Wilson.  Among my wife’s many gifts is an impressive talent for welcoming student teachers into her room and having an unerring sense of how much control and guidance to exert versus how much freedom to allow.  Over the years Kathy has had some splendid student teachers who were basically ready from day one- and other student teachers who struggled with every facet of the work right to the end.  Fortunately, there have been many more of the former than the latter.  But whatever type each student teacher happens to be, it seems like Kathy has a knack for making the student teacher experience as positive as possible.  I’m sure this year will be no different.

Things are challenging at Carthage with a huge number of music students and not quite enough faculty go around – at least not comfortably.  But there is an exciting energy surging through the place and we are optimistic about what is ahead.  I felt very heavily saddled this first week with one of my least favorite tasks- scheduling my private voice lessons.  It involves securing the class schedule of every voice student-  for me that’s 23 students this semester (and I really should be teaching only 16)- and then assembling a master schedule in which each student gets a lesson time that doesn’t conflict with any of their classes, their work study, sports practice, other lessons, etc.  By the time I finish I feel like I’ve either just done an audit for the IRS – or been audited.  It taxes all the parts of my brain that were never very impressive to begin with.  At least the undertaking represents something exciting- a new year of lessons. . . and especially this year, a truckload of brand new students.  By the way, all of my students are men this year – which some teachers might find boring but not me.

I am also teaching Popular Music in America, which is my least favorite course to teach by quite a wide margin – but I think it will be better this time around . . . partly because we finally have an updated book (the old one had only black and white photographs and was fifteen years old) and a whole lot has happened in pop music since it came out.  I also have a nice group of 20 students who seem to be ready to learn.

The last official thing on my plate at Carthage is that I am the accompanist for Carthage Choir this semester- which means playing for Weston Noble.  I do have to watch that I don’t start playing a little too exuberantly- a la Liberace – when more delicate playing is concerned, but otherwise I think I’m the right person for the job.  25 years after my last Nordic Choir rehearsal I still vividly remember how Mr. Noble does things and I feel like I am able to anticipate just about everything that comes up.  And in those infrequent moments when the choir’s attention might wander, I can fix them an icy stare.  But actually, I don’t think that’s going to be happening too much.  At the choir’s first rehearsal on Thursday, I was amazed at their rapt attention when Mr. Noble was talking; it was like you could hear a pin drop.  The students are well aware of the magnitude of this experience and of how incredibly fortunate they are to be the recipients of it – and it is also neat to witness Mr. Noble’s God-given gift for summoning attention without any effort at all.

The first first week was wild and busy – and on top of the stuff on my Carthage plate, I also had a column to finish up for the Journal of Singing (I write the CD reviews for them) and auditions for the next musical at the Racine Theater Guild.  That’s why it felt good Saturday night to relax – first in a lovely dinner with Mr. Noble at the Chancery on the Lake – and after that to enjoy the second half of the Carthage football team’s thorough defeat of Lakeland College.  We were in the stands with our friends the Dieschbourgs and the Parkers – – – and it was fun to see Trevor on the sidelines as an assistant coach of the Redmen – – – and fun as well to see several of my Popular Music in America students on the field (including the starting center and a star wide receiver.)  It almost made me want to break into a chorus of “We’re All In This Together” from High School Musical – to find so many threads of our lives knitted together in that moment of celebration – but I think I’ll leave the singing of that to Disney.

pictured:  Four enthusiastic guys from Carthage’s famous Pep Band – and the two guys in the middle, Zach Wolf and Bryan Anderson- who painted themselves in Carthage colors – are two of my voice students.  I am excited to hear how wonderful their voices will sound at their lessons this week after screaming at the top of their lungs last night.  Ah, to be young, fearless and foolish again.  🙂