Saturday, December 27, 2008

Octave of Christmas – Feast of St. John the Evangelist

Octave of Christmas – Feast of St. John the Evangelist
By Randy Sly

Catholic Online (
St. John sometimes described himself as the disciple whom Jesus loved. To this “son of thunder” as he and his brother James were named, relationship was everything.

WASHINGTON (Catholic Online) – James and John, the sons of Zebedee, left their father and the fishing trade first to follow John the Baptist. Later, they were called to follow Jesus, who named them “the sons of Thunder.” The younger brother, St. John would become the one who writings revealed Christ’s divinity as none other.

John was included in the inner circle of Christ’s followers. He was present for the miracles, healings, the transfiguration and the teaching ministry of Jesus from the beginning. Even at the cross he remained while others fled, standing next to the Mother of God, whose care was entrusted to him by the Jesus who hung above the two. He, along with Peter, discovered the resurrection of Christ. Read the rest here.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

Luke 2:1 - 14 And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Hodie Christus natus est

Hodie Christus natus est:
hodie Salvator apparuit:
hodie in terra canunt Angeli,
lætantur Archangeli:
hodie exsultant justi, dicentes:
Gloria in excelsis Deo,
et in terra pax hominibus bonæ voluntatis:

Christmas Eve

'O come, O come, Emmanuel (Veni, veni, emmanuel)'

Monday, December 22, 2008

An Introduction to Priests for Life

Fr. Frank Pavone, of Priests for Life, was in Harrisburg for a Pro-life Mass at the Cathedral in October. For many years, I have admired his work with this pro-life organization. Some of my children and I were privileged to meet him and pray to end abortion with him at the nearby Abortion Clinic.

Be inspired as you catch the vision of Priests for Life to end abortion and build the Culture of Life through the Church.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

More on Advent - Key of David

A friend of mine pointed me to a really great website by Fr. John Zuhlsdorf called What Does the Prayer Really Say? Today's post tells about the Key of David and sheds light on what is often a stumbling block to Protestants in considering Catholicism, that of Jesus giving Peter the keys to the kingdom. Read it here.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Gregorian Chant

"Conversion is like stepping across the chimney piece out of a Looking-Glass world, where everything is an absurd caricature, into the real world God made: and then begins the delicious process of exploring it limitlessly."
- Evelyn Waugh

One of the things I am exploring is Gregorian Chant. As a music major in college, I learned about this beautiful music in Music History class. And had not thought much about it since then. Listen to this exquisite music. I am wondering how Christians got from this to worship and praise music . . .

My New Church


My Presbyterian Church did not observe Advent. I had loved Advent as Lutheran and really missed it. Now, attending a Catholic Church, I have Advent again.

Click here for a good site to learn more about Advent.

I love the music of Advent. I found this lovely rendition of one of my favorite Advent hymns -
Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming sung by Frederica von Stade.

Books About Catholicism - My Book list

Ever since I was a little girl, I have loved to read. I take a topic and jump right in! That's how I learned about homebirth, homeschooling, and most anything in which I have been interested.

Although most of my reading about the Catholic faith has been done within the past year, many years ago I read a book which influenced me greatly; A Severe Mercy by Sheldon Vanauken.

Van, an American, studied at Oxford after WWII and became friends with C. S. Lewis, who greatly influenced his conversion to Christianity. His book, A Severe Mercy, tells that story, as well as the story of his great love with Davy, his wife, and is in the top five best books I have ever read (I read this in college and have re-read it many times). Van's subsequent book, Under the Mercy, which I read about 5 years ago, is the chronicle of his Catholic conversion. Van's writings, more than any others, prompted my initial inquiries into the Faith.

In an interesting twist of events, on an email list where listers discuss Van's writings, I expressed interest in possibly converting and asked if any Catholics on the list would be willing to answer some questions. Floyd Newman responded. Floyd is the godson of a writer, Sheldon Vanauken, having converted in his 20's when Van was still living. His story is told in the book, The New Catholics, one of the books listed below, which Floyd kindly gave to me.

For what it's worth, my reading list follows. You might choose a title and join with me in learning your Christian heritage.

A Severe Mercy - Sheldon Vanauken

Under the Mercy - Sheldon Vanauken

The Little Lost Marian and Other Mercies - Sheldon Vanauken

Rome Sweet Home: Our Journey to Catholicism - Scott Hahn and Kimberly Hahn

Evangelical is Not Enough - Thomas Howard

Lead, Kindly Light: My Journey To Rome - Thomas Howard

On Being Catholic - Thomas Howard

The Night Is Far Spent - Thomas Howard

The New Catholics: Contemporary Converts Tell Their Stories - Dan O'Neill

The Catholic Mystique: Fourteen Women Find Fulfillment in the Catholic Church -Jennifer Ferrara and Patricia Sodano Ireland

By What Authority?: An Evangelical Discovers Catholic Tradition - Mark Shea

This Is My Body: An Evangelical Discovers The Real Presence - Mark Shea

Surprised by Truth: 11 Converts Give the Biblical and Historical Reasons for Becoming Catholic by Patrick Madrid

Surprised By Truth 2: 15 Men and Women Give the Biblical and Historical Reasons For Becoming Catholic - Patrick Madrid

Crossing the Tiber: Evangelical Protestants Discover the Historical Church - Stephen K. Ray

The Lamb's Supper: The Mass as Heaven on Earth - Scott Hahn

Reasons to Believe: How to Understand, Explain, and Defend the Catholic Faith - Scott Hahn

Journeys Home - Marcus Grodi

Home at Last: 11 Who Found Their Way to the Catholic Church - Rosalind Moss

Answer Me This - Patrick Madrid

Handbook of Christian Apologetics: Hundreds of Answers to Crucial Questions - Peter Kreeft and Ronald K. Tacelli

The Hidden Manna: A Theology of the Eucharist by Father James T. O'Connor

An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine - Cardinal John Henry Newman

Ronald Knox As Apologist: Wit, Laughter and the Popish Creed - Milton T., Father Walsh

Catholic for a Reason: Scripture and the Mystery of the Family of God (Catholic for a Reason) - Scott Hahn and Leon J. Suprenant

The Fathers of the Church, Expanded Edition - Mike Aquilina

The Mass of the Early Christians - Mike Aquilina

Worthy is the Lamb: The Biblical Roots of the Mass - Thomas J. Nash

Catholic for a Reason II: Scripture and the Mystery of the Mother of God, Second Edition (Catholic for a Reason) - Scott Hahn and Jr. Leon J. Suprenant

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Studying Catholicism

My husband is Roman Catholic. I have at times belonged to the Lutheran Church, and most recently, the Presbyterian Church. After almost 28 years of marriage, I am immersed in the study of Catholicism. I am finding out that much of what is said of Catholics in Protestant circles is not true, or at least, a misunderstanding; a very different way of looking at theology.

Twenty three years ago when our eldest son was born, Jack and I went through the very painful process of deciding where David would be baptized. That process took months and many prayers, tears and anguish, much discussion, sometimes very heated discussion, as well as counsel from both my church (at that time, Lutheran) and Jack's church (Roman Catholic). Many times I was not sure our marriage would survive. Finally, the decision was made to bring up our children as Protestants. Once that decision was made, over the past twenty three years, I have never once heard my husband complain about that it.

But inwardly, my husband has suffered much. He has never felt he could share his Catholic faith with his children. Over time he has realized how important that faith is to him. He has felt guilty for making that decision so many years ago, regretting it many times. And I have felt guilty and torn, as a Protestant wife and mother, believing that the husband was the head of the home, but not really allowing my husband to be that head. Our children have felt torn between us.

Some of the children have now said that when Daddy went to 8 AM Mass, they used to ask him if they could go along. Because of our agreement, Jack usually said no. One older son asked almost exactly one year ago, "Mom, why do we celebrate the Reformation if Dad is Catholic?"

Over the past few years, I have read the conversion stories of some prominent former Protestants: Scott Hahn, Sheldon Vanauken, Thomas Howard, Barbara Curtis, and Cathy Duffy. Upon learning of these Protestants that converted to Catholicism, I began to read and ask questions. What brought them to make this change? Don't Catholics pray to Mary? What about the Pope? Do they really believe Jesus is present in the Eucharist? I began to read more stories of Protestants who have converted, sometimes lay people and sometimes ordained ministers who gave up their livelihoods to convert to the Catholic faith. I have been reading history. I have been reading the writings of the early Church Fathers, finding out that what they believed sounded a lot like the Catholic Church.

If you have ever wondered just what the Church believes, here are some fine web sites with great resources.

Here at New Advent, you will find the Catholic Encyclopedia, Summa Theologica ( The theological masterpiece of St. Thomas Aquinas), Church Fathers( Letters, speeches and books from the earliest Christians) Holy Bible ( The Douay-Rheims version, with hyperlinks to the Catholic Encyclopedia) How to Recite the Holy Rosary and Catholic Links( A growing directory of good Catholic websites).

A major Apologetics site. Includes a large number of pamphlet style questions and answers about the Faith, as well as sample articles from the magazine.

Former Presbyterian minister, Scott Hahn's website: this one is really good!. The St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology is a non-profit research and educational institute that promotes life-transforming Scripture study in the Catholic tradition. The Center serves clergy and laity, students and scholars, with research and study tools — from books and publications to multimedia and on-line programming.

Our goal is to be a teacher of teachers. We want to raise up a new generation of priests who are fluent in the Bible and lay people who are biblically literate. For us, this means more than helping people to know their way around the Bible. It means equipping them to enter into the heart of the living Word of God and to be transformed and renewed by this encounter.

We read the Bible from the heart of the Church, in light of the Church’s Liturgy and living Tradition. In this way, we hope to help people experience the heart-to-heart encounter that Jesus’ disciples experienced on that first Easter night, when they knew Him in the breaking of the bread: "Did not our hearts burn within us while He talked to us...while He opened to us the Scriptures?" (see Luke 24:13-37 )

Saturday, December 13, 2008

What Christmas is All About

My Children's Choir Christmas Concert

Last night was my Children's Choir's 4th Christmas concert. The first two years I had only a Children's Choir. Last year I added an audition only Concert Chorale. In September, I added a Preparatory Choir for ages 5-8. I couldn't have been more pleased with the performance of all my choirs! Altogether, 42 children sang in the concert!

Children’s Choir
Personent Hodie . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Traditional
Arr. John Leavitt
This Is The Truth . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . R. Vaughan Williams
Carol of the Shepherds . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Derek Holman
Sweet was the song the Virgin sang . . . . . . . . . .Eleanor Daley

Preparatory Choir
Come Along with Me to Bethlehem . . . . . . . . Frank W. Klos
Shepherds Come A-Running . . . . . . . Traditional Polish Carol
O Come Little Children . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Johann Schulz

Concert Chorale
The Holly and the Ivy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Traditional
Arr. Betty Beraux
Christmastide . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .David L. Brunner
Angels did Sing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Steven Rickards

Children’s Choir
Ding Dong! Merrily on High . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Howard Cable
Jesus, What a Wonderful Child . . . . . . . . Traditional Spiritual
Arr. Rollo Dilworth
Hush! The Holy Child is Sleeping . . . . . . . . . Dan R. Edwards
Angels! . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19th Century French Carol
Arr. Ken Berg
On Christmas Night . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Traditional English
Arr. Jody W. Lindh

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Piper Palin for President

I haven't posted in a while for various reasons, including severe illness in my family, but this - I could not resist!

Friday, July 4, 2008

America, the Beautiful

O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain . . .

The author of "America the Beautiful," Katharine Lee Bates, was born in Falmouth, Massachusetts in 1859 and grew up near the rolling sea. Her graceful poetic style came through in poems such as "The Falmouth Bell:"

Never was there lovelier town
Than our Falmouth by the sea.
Tender curves of sky look down
On her grace of knoll and lea. . . .

Bates, who eventually became a full professor of English literature at Wellesley College, made a lecture trip to Colorado in 1893 and there she wrote the words to "America the Beautiful." As she told it, "We strangers celebrated the close of the session by a merry expedition to the top of Pike's Peak, making the ascent by the only method then available for people not vigorous enough to achieve the climb on foot nor adventurous enough for burro-riding. Prairie wagons, their tail-boards emblazoned with the traditional slogan, "Pike's Peak or Bust," were pulled by horses up to the half-way house, where the horses were relieved by mules. We were hoping for half and hour on the summit, but two of our party became so faint in the rarified air that we were bundled into the wagons again and started on our downward plunge so speedily that our sojourn on the peak remains in memory hardly more than one ecstatic gaze. It was then and there, as I was looking out over the sea-like expanse of fertile country spreading away so far under those ample skies, that the opening lines of the hymn floated into my mind."

On July 4, 1895, Bates' poem first appeared in The Congregationalist, a weekly newspaper. Bates revised her lyrics in 1904, a version published that year in The Boston Evening Transcript, and made some final additions to the poem in 1913.

For several years "America the Beautiful" was sung to almost any popular air or folk tune with which the lyrics fit: "Auld Lang Syne" was one of the most common. Today it is sung to a melody written in 1882 by Samuel Augustus Ward, a Newark, New Jersey, church organist and choirmaster. Ward originally composed the melody (also titled "Materna") to accompany the words of the sixteenth century hymn "O Mother Dear, Jerusalem." When the National Federation of Music Clubs sponsored a 1926 contest to elicit new music for Bates' poem but failed to find a winner, Ward's music prevailed.

"America the Beautiful" has been called "an expression of patriotism at its finest." It conveys an attitude of appreciation and gratitude for the nation's extraordinary physical beauty and abundance, without triumphalism. It has also been incorporated into a number of films including The Sandlot and The Pentagon Wars. Its lyricist, Katharine Lee Bates, died March 28, 1929, and is buried in Falmouth, Massachusetts, and its composer, Samuel A. Ward, died on September 28, 1903, in Newark, New Jersey.

O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!

America! America!
God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!
O beautiful for pilgrim feet
Whose stern impassion'd stress
A thoroughfare for freedom beat
Across the wilderness.

America! America!
God mend thine ev'ry flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law.

O beautiful for heroes prov'd
In liberating strife,
Who more than self their country loved,
And mercy more than life.

America! America!
May God thy gold refine
Till all success be nobleness,
And ev'ry gain divine.

O beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam
Undimmed by human tears.

America! America!
God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea.

Teaching Children to Sing

I love to sing. I have sung since I was a very little child. My fourth grade teacher used to have me lead any song we sang because she lacked confidence. God just blessed me with the gift of singing and I never really had to work at it. Even when I began voice lessons to develop my voice, it seemed as though my teachers would suggest something and I would magically be able to produce the sound they wanted. (You may be wondering, ok, then why isn't she singing at the Met by now, right?).

Although it is not so unusual to be able to sing well, many people struggle with being able to sing, sometimes not even being able to match pitch well. An older man I knew was told as a child by his classroom teacher, "You can't sing, you play the drum." Until the day he died, he was convinced that he could not sing.

That is tragic.

One of the things I love to do the most is to teach children to sing. Although I have been very successful with this, I am forever on the lookout for resources to help me improve. I never want to stop learning and growing as a musician and teacher.

Last summer I have found three new resources, all DVD's, that promise to help me in this work.

1. Creating Artistry Through Movement
Dalcroze Eurhythmics in the Choral Setting
2. Singing FUNamentals
Toys that Teach
3. Sing Together, Children
Developing Young Singers through Vocal Exploration, Warm-ups, Rounds, Songs, and Singing Games

If your work involves teaching music and singing to children, you might want to check out these resources!

Happy Independence Day

I love this holiday! Summertime, family, picnics, fireworks! How can you beat such a combination! Our town started a town-wide celebration over the 4th of July many, many years ago in order to keep people (and their money!) in town over the holiday. We have enjoyed the almost week-long festivities for years. The festival is called SummerFair. So far, we have attended a parade, enjoyed an Ice Cream Social, and free miniature golfing. Tonight we will attend a homeschool drama troup's production of Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing (read about it here in our local paper) starring two of my (talented) children, a band concert tomorrow morning(with another of my talented children playing trumpet), fireworks tomorrow night and on Sunday night, a free symphony concert with the very wonderful Stuart Malina and the Harrisburg Symphony Orchestra.

Although fun and games are certainly on our agenda, I like to take some time over this holiday to remember why we celebrate it. Have you ever actually read the Declaration of Independence? Do you know the great sacrifices the signers made for our freedom? One of the signers was Benjamin Rush. On Sunday evening our family will sit on Rush campus at Dickinson College and enjoy the symphony. I am grateful that we can sit in freedom together with friends, enjoying a picnic supper while visiting and listening to beautiful music.

Take a moment to read the Declaration of Independence and reflect on what our Founding Fathers gave us 232 years ago.

Happy 4th!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Conveying History Through Song

As I have mentioned on this blog before, our family really loves the study of history. And for me, the study of history is about people, where they lived, how they lived, how they worked, what they wore, what they sang. . . you get the picture. All cultures throughout history have developed their own special music, folk art, and dance. When we study history, we should find out all we can about the way people lived at that time.

Today I found an article which really touched me. I just saw the movie The Great Debaters - which I loved, by the way, and I have been thinking about all that the black minority has been through. I will never fully understand, of course, but I do care.

Reading this article, especially the following paragraphs, really spoke to me about how strong the human spirit is - that will to live, to go on, not to be crushed. It reminded me of James' speech at the end of The Great Debaters and how even though he had witnessed something horrible, frightening, and sickening, he was not going to give up. He was not going to hide or live in fear.

"I was working with filmmakers on the Africans in America team who wanted slave songs, and they kept saying some of the songs I sent were too upbeat, too jolly. I told them that African-Americans would never have made it through slavery if they'd done only the mournful stuff.

"Think about black people coming to freedom with hope and wanting to know about their children, wife, husband, mother. Four million people who somehow have survived but are stunned because they had to absorb losing so much, who are going on in spite of losing so much, and finding a way to shout despite losing so much. With us laughter and tears are very close together; dancing and moaning are very close together." She pounded on her thigh, a fast, syncopated rhythm. "Dance! Drumming! It's a sanity thing. Even in a catastrophe, there had to be some time when you would smile and you would laugh. Or you wouldn't survive." She sang for me: "This is a mean world to live in till you die, without brother, sister, mother, father..." Despite the words it was a lilting song, full of joy. "I get audiences to sing along," she informed me. "I tell them even if you lose everybody there is still something in you that says, 'Since I am alive, I will go on.' How do you express that? Here you have it wrapped up in a jumping song. If you told the truth only in the pain and tears, you couldn't stand it for long. You have to have the moans and sadness, but also the shouting and celebration."

The entire article is really worth your time to read.

Conveying History Through Song
Bernice Johnson Reagon adds cultural nuance and period flavor to rousing a cappella renditions
By Michael Kernan,, February 01, 1999

In late 1961 the civil rights movement burst upon the scene in Albany, Georgia, as that town's African-American population galvanized to stand against segregation. A mass meeting at the Mount Zion Baptist Church was packed with people, from student activists to comfortable, middle-aged conservatives.

Cordell Reagon, an 18-year-old organizer for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, had discovered many talented singers in the SNCC workshops held in that community, among them Bernice Johnson and Rutha Harris, preachers' daughters studying voice at Albany State College. Reagon, Johnson and Harris were part of a small group of vocalists who led the singing in mass rallies, and that night, along with 500 others, they exploded in song.

Working without piano or any other accompaniment, the singers took the roof off the church. Everyone sang, everyone cried, the whole group swayed to the closing song, "We Shall Overcome," and people stayed on after midnight, wanting never to leave. It was one of the great moments in the American struggle for racial justice.

Her work in the movement was also a defining period in the career of Bernice Johnson Reagon, who eventually abandoned her plans for a career in classical music to work with a group called the Freedom Singers, founded by Cordell Reagon, whom she later married. She simultaneously pursued a solo career, making her first solo recording at age 19.

Bernice Reagon went on to found important musical groups herself, including the Harambee Singers in 1966 and the world-famous women's a cappella group Sweet Honey In The Rock in 1973. Along the way she picked up a doctorate in American history, a distinguished professorship at American University in Washington, D.C., the title of curator emeritus at the National Museum of American History, and a MacArthur 'genius' grant.

You can find the rest of the article here.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Amy Beach, composer and pianist

Amy Marcy Cheney was born on September 5, 1867 in Henniker, New Hampshire, to a prominent New England family. Her mother, Clara Imogene (Marcy) Cheney, was a talented amateur singer and pianist. Young Amy was a true prodigy who memorized forty songs at the age of one and taught herself to read at age three. She played four-part hymns and composed simple waltzes at age four. By the age of six, she began studying piano with her mother and performed her first public recitals one year later, playing works by Handel, Beethoven, Chopin, and some of her own pieces. In 1875 the family moved to Boston, where Amy studied with the leading pianists. She made her Boston debut in 1883, and two years later played her first performance with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Wilhelm Gericke conducting Chopin's Concerto in F Minor.

In 1885, she married Henry Harris Aubrey Beach (1843-1910), a physician, Harvard University lecturer, and amateur singer. Her husband requested that she limit her public performances, so she focused her musical energies on composing. She had only one year of formal training in harmony and counterpoint with Junius W. Hill. Beyond that, she embarked on a course of independent study, analyzing the compositions of master composers as models and translating theoretical works such as Berlioz's treatise on orchestration.

In 1892, Beach achieved her first notable success as a composer with the performance of her Mass in E-flat by Boston's Handel and Haydn Society. She became the first American woman to achieve widespread recognition as a composer of large-scale works with orchestra. Beach's national reputation grew through her equally well-received Symphony, op. 32; Violin Sonata, op. 34; and Piano Concerto, op. 45.

Following the success of her Mass in E-flat, Beach received important commissions for vocal and choral works. In 1892, the Symphony Society of New York premiered her concert aria, Eilende Wolken, op. 18, the first composition by a woman played by that orchestra. For the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago, she wrote the Festival Jubilate, op. 17. The 1898 Trans-Mississippi Exposition in Omaha commissioned her Song of Welcome, op. 42.

After her husband's death in 1910, Beach sailed for Europe to establish her reputation there as both a performer and composer. She received enthusiastic reviews for recitals in Germany and for her symphony and concerto, which were performed in Leipzig and Berlin. She returned to the U.S. in 1914, where she concertized in the winters and composed in the summers. In 1921 she became a fellow at the MacDowell Colony in Peterborough, New Hampshire, where she composed most of her later works.

Beach assumed many leadership positions, often in advancing the cause of American women composers. She was associated with the Music Teachers National Association and the Music Educators National Conference. In 1925, she was a founding member and first president of the Society of American Women Composers. Following her death on December 27, 1944, Beach's royalties were given to the MacDowell Colony, as prescribed in her will.

Listen to this haunting piano solo by Amy Beach beautifully played by pianist and author Joseph Smith.

Hermit Thrush at Morn

Friday, June 13, 2008

Center Stage Opera

Working with the chorus for Center Stage Opera in recent weeks has really been fun! I am meeting wonderful people and hearing some terrific singers. Tonight is my first performance with Center Stage. I look forward to hearing Sgt. 1st Class Antonio Giuliano sing the role of Manrico.

A member and Senior Vocalist and Soloist in The United States Army Chorus since 1988, Antonio is an interesting fellow. Check out his website here.

Ten Reasons to Homeschool Teens

Last Saturday, our second oldest son graduated from our homeschool. When life calms down a bit, I want to write about his graduation. But meanwhile, I wanted to share with you how glad I am that I homeschooled my two oldest through their high school years. For each homeschool family and teenager, the benefits are no doubt different and individual. For my two sons, homeschooling them gave them the time to develop their unique gifts and really pursue their passionate interests.

Elizabeth Smith has written a wonderful list of reasons for continuing homeschooling through the teen years. The list would really be applicable to any family who homeschools. Non-homeschoolers might want to consider her list as well.

Ten Reasons to Homeschool Teens

by: Elizabeth Smith

1. Cement family relationships. Relationships are the most important thing in family life. When teens are away from home for six to eight hours a day, subtle changes begin to erode relationships at home. Divided allegiance or “serving two masters” can shake their foundation. The result is diminished family ties and parental influence.

2. Individualized education based to needs. You can customize your teen’s education to provide motivation for gifts and abilities. In areas of academic weakness you can provide extra time and help. No classroom setting can offer this consistent and loving support.

3. Accelerated academic progress. Many homeschooled children are academically ready to do college level work between the ages of 14 and 16. Age/grade isolation or segregation inhibits socialization. Available research demonstrates that homeschooled children are ahead of their public school counterparts in maturity, socialization, and vocabulary development.

You can read the rest here.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Teacher's lessons go beyond music

I will probably never play piano or sing in Carnegie Hall. And I am ok with that. Making music, teaching music, directing my choir right here in my town is really enough. And that's what I love about music. Music is for everyone - it is the universal language. It can be your hobby - it can be your livelihood. One of my musical mentors, Joan Boytim, is a very, very fine musician, as a singer, a pianist and a French horn player. Yet she has devoted her life to teaching young singers, mostly high school students. And there are so many others like her in my town and in yours.

I just read an article that I had to share about a single mother who is a medical doctor and a pianist. She teaches piano on the weekends. I think you'll agree that she is truly an inspiration!

Teacher's lessons go beyond music
GAIL SMITH-ARRANTS, The Charlotte Observer

CONCORD - The teacher tapped the top of the old upright piano with long, slender fingers, like a metronome.

Listening was a 17-year-old who used to goof off in class because he wasn't really into piano.
"Keith has been my special project for the last three years," Dr. Honnie ("honey") Spencer likes to say.

When he started lessons, Keith Moore Jr. poked at the keys with one finger.
But it's much more than just learning notes and music. Spencer teaches lifelong lessons, from developing confidence to being patient with the piano and yourself.

Moore is one of dozens of students Spencer has taught for free over seven years. A family physician, Spencer founded the Logan Community Music School in Concord, wanting to breathe music into the lives of children and adults who otherwise couldn't afford lessons.

You can read the rest here.

How a Piano is Made

Monday, June 9, 2008

Barbara Curtis on the Alex Barton story

I love to read Barbara Curtis' Mommylife blog. Today she told her readers more about Alex Barton, the little five year old autistic boy who was voted out of his kindergarten class at the instigation of his teacher. Yes, you read that right - his teacher.

Barbara, knowing something about special needs children, as she is the mother of 12 children, including four with Down syndrome, has written an article for the Christian Science Monitor.

Alex Barton's story is tragic. But the blessings are real.

By Barbara Curtis from the June 10, 2008 edition

Waterford, Va. - Recently, a Florida teacher seeking relief from a challenging special-needs student named Alex Barton did the unthinkable: She stood him before his kindergarten peers and encouraged them to say what they didn't like about his behavior. Then she asked the students if they wanted him back in class after his reportedly disruptive actions earlier that day. By a vote of 14 to 2, they booted him.

Alex's mom was understandably outraged; she plans to sue. The resulting media sound and fury has brought to light the quiet revolution in public schools across America: the placing of special-needs students into regular classrooms.

Federal law holds that children with disabilities have a right to a "free and appropriate public education." But free for whom? Not for the taxpayers, who must foot the bill for the testing, evaluation, special therapy, and classroom support needed by the differently-abled students, who are increasingly popping up in classrooms.

That has parents everywhere asking themselves an uncomfortable yet critical question: Does the practice of inclusion detract from my child's education? Is it really worth it?

Read entire article here.

Our Oldest Son at College Graduation

Our oldest son, David, on his graduation day at Messiah College.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Where I've Been

The month of May has almost done me in. ~sigh~

May was filled with concerts, recitals, graduations, picnics, and birthday parties! All wonderful, but a little tiring. In addition to finishing up our own homeschooling, I continued to teach my voice and piano students as well as play piano for church. In addition to all of the music, I also have had my schedule full with doing homeschool evaluations, which I love! Homeschool evaluations mean meeting new homeschooling families, visiting with old friends and seeing terrific progress in children's educations.

My schedule looked like this-

May 1- Homeschool Orchestra Concert

The concert was on Thursday evening. Some of my children and I had been at choir practice that afternoon. We stayed put for the orchestra concert (the choir and orchestra share the same venue) and had our dinner catered (i.e. my older sons brought us the subs to which my sister-in-law had kindly treated us). The orchestra sounded better than ever! I had fun accompanying two violin solos, a cello solo, and a trio of trumpets playing Bugler's Holiday.

May 2 - Homeschool Children's Choir Concert

My Homeschool Children's Choir Concert was a dream come true! The children sang so well, even memorizing their first German song, An Die Musik. Here is the program-

Children's Choir

I Will at All Times Praise the Lord - Handel
Then Will I Jehovah’s Praise - Handel
I Will Rejoice in the Lord - Telemann
O Music - Mason
An Die Musik - Schubert
The Trout - Schubert

Concert Chorale
To the Greenwood - 17th Century English Round
Lift Thine Eyes - Mendelssohn
My Lord, What a Morning - arr. Schram
How Can I Keep From Singing? - Arr. Schram

Children's Choir
Stars are for Those Who Lift their Eyes - Pauline Delmonte
(this piece had a soprano soloist and a cellist, both from the choir)
Dona Nobis Pacem - Mary Lynn Lightfoot
Canon of Praise - Sleeth
Jordan's Angels - Rollo Dillworth
For the Beauty of the Earth - John Rutter
All Things Bright and Beautiful - Rutter
A Clare Benediction - Rutter

May 4 - Homeschool Choir Picnic

The Choir Picnic was a fabulous way to end our Choir Year. The day was sunny and beautiful! The food and fellowship were wonderful. Three of the choir dads and my three oldest sons had quite a baseball game going for the younger children. The picnic is becoming a tradition our family really looks forward to each year at the end of the choir season.

May 10 - CHAP Homeschool Curriculum Fair

My biggest purchase this year (or actually ever!) was a handmade harp. After years of admiring the beauty of these harps and listening to the harp maker's daughters playing lovely music, I splurged and bought a harp. And a "How to Play the Harp" book. My hope is to accompany my youngest choristers in my next Christmas concert! Take a look at these beautiful harps here.

May 11 - Joan Boytim Studio Voice Recitals

Joan Boytim, who is now nationally known for her work with high school voice students (and the vocal literature she has edited), was my high school voice teacher. She lives in my town. Her recitals are a joy to attend, and although her spring recitals are always held on Mother's Day, I attend as often as I can. This year I was accompanied in attendance by my mother and two daughters. Later we returned home to feast on a wonderful dinner that my sons and husband had prepared for us (and for my mother-in-law who did not attend the recital).

If you sing, or teach voice, and have never heard of Joan, please take a look at her materials here.

May 16 - Messiah College Baccalaureate Service

Where did the last four years go? My husband and I met our oldest son at Messiah College for his baccalaureate service. It seems as though just yesterday I had gone with him to a freshman seminar in the same room. The baccalaureate service was beautiful from the beginning music (with many of my son's friends playing). . . to the hymn singing by those who gathered to celebrate. . . to the wonderful student speeches. The last speech touched me most of all. The young woman who gave this speech spoke of how the graduating seniors had been prepared for their future careers, but she encouraged them all to remember the words of our Lord about who is the greatest in the kingdom of God. She reminded us all that we don't need college degrees to be servants. Her address inspired everyone to look for ways to model servant hood in our families and in our communities .

May 17 - Messiah College Graduation

Our entire family, along with my son's three living grandparents, were able to go to the Messiah College graduation. Although we had pretty good seats, at the last minute, some dear friends came to us and offered our family seats in the second row nearer the stage and not far from where the choir would be singing. Our son graduated magna cum laude. After a college reception by the creek, we all went out to dinner to continue the celebration.

May 23 - Perry Alliance Church Homeschool Graduation

Good friends invited us to their son's homeschool graduation, held at their church. There were many graduates that night in a lovely service. The Lord was honored in the ceremony which included student performances of violin, cello, piano and voice, as well as a short slide show of each graduate from the first baby picture to the graduation picture. We enjoyed seeing and visiting with old and new friends at the reception afterward.

May 24 - Harrisburg Fine Arts Fest & Peter Sirotin's Violin Recital

Son #1 sang four Schubert lieder plus a Bellini duet as part of a Fine Arts Fest at noon. I accompanied him on the Schubert and also in the duet with his friend John. John is an older gentleman whom my son met while singing in Rigoletto with Harrisburg Opera Association. They have struck up a nice friendship and have sung together a few times. That day, I was delighted to meet John's mother, age 104, who was visiting her son from her home in Georgia. A former piano teacher and church musician, she had given her son his first love of music. She enjoyed the duet immensely. Music keeps you young!!!!

Son #2 has studied violin for the past four years with Peter Sirotin of the Mendelssohn Piano Trio. Peter is an amazing violinist and a wonderfully kind, patient teacher. As an artist in residence at Messiah College, he was only available two days a week, as he lives in Washington, DC., but he found time for my son on Mondays. He took an interest in my son, even to encouraging him in his other pursuits (art and theater). Although Peter did encourage this young man to major in music, he took it well when my son decided on a theater major and this spring helped him with skills that will make it possible for him to continue violin playing all his life.

In his last recital, my son performed Praeludium and Allegro by Kreisler. I have been privileged to be his accompanist and will miss making music with him.

May 25 - Center Stage Opera Chorus Rehearsal and Family Picnic & Birthday Party

As if I didn't have enough to do, I agreed to help prepare the chorus for Center Stage Opera 's production of Giuseppe Verdi's Il Trovatore. The chorus is small, but a lovely group with which to work. So in the afternoon, I worked on the Anvil Chorus, the Nun's Chorus and Miserere.

Then I hightailed it to my sister-in-law's home where my family was gathered with my SIL's family, including all four of her darling little grandchildren, to celebrate my mother-in-law's birthday. Good food, good company, happy day!

May 31 - Students of Kathy O'Donnell in Recital

I am so proud of my students! Saturday's recital was wonderful! Piano students and voice students gave superb performances! My piano students who were absolute beginners this year have all made so much progress and did a really great job playing their pieces. A local retirement center has graciously offered their lovely chapel with a baby grand piano for me to hold my winter and spring recitals.

Now on to June - stay tuned - two more performances and a graduation this week!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Messiah College Presents - "Opera With and Without Words"

Actually, the performance is already over, but I just had to write about it and this is the first chance I've had!

Three years ago, Damian Savarino (my son's terrific voice teacher his four years at Messiah) and the Messiah College Music Department made history when they produced the first ever Opera Workshop at Messiah College. Opera Workshop was a 3 credit class the first year, although I believe that has changed due to the fact it was so popular, students wanted to take the class again next the following year(s). Possibly it is now an ensemble credit.

Although Opera Workshop's first and second performances were a series of opera scenes, this year, the exciting and ambitious plan was to stage an opera with orchestra. For the first part of the program, the orchestra played well-known opera music. For the second half of the program, Mr. Savarino chose to have the students perform Gianni Schicchi.

The production was fabulous!!! There was a full house and the audience loved it!!!! The directors of both orchestra and opera, as well as all the performers, did a wonderful job. It was obvious that a lot of thought was put into every aspect of the performance.

Besides our family, including all the grandparents, we brought eleven other audience members from our church and homeschool community. They adored the performance! I heard a teenager telling another young man all about it after church the next day and he was still laughing about the story line. This was a fantastic opera with which to begin - showing people who were unfamiliar with opera that it is fun and accessible.

In a brilliant move, Mr. Savarino cast music majors, a history major, theater majors, a business major and a math major, bringing their friends from those and other departments into the world of opera. And really involving the entire campus community. They will come back next year! And hopefully enjoy opera wherever they go for years to come.

Free opera - how good does it get?!!!

I look forward to Messiah College's Opera Workshop performances for years to come!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

No Head Shall Bow

Singing and the Brain

Craig sent me another wonderful article on the therapeutic benefits of music called "How singing unlocks the brain", describing how singing helped an Alzheimer patient and people who suffer with Parkinson's disease.

In my family's music ministry to local nursing homes, I have seen residents who seemed locked in their own world really respond when we sang hymns or other familiar songs. On one occasion that really stands out in my memory, a woman, who appeared to be sleeping, hummed along while Clair de lune was being played on piano. She knew every note. Yet she found speaking with the staff to be almost impossible. I wonder if someone had been able to work with that dear old woman in the way that this article mentions if she might have been able to increase her ablility to communicate.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Arist in the Family? Free art supplies!

Pentel Arts is giving away a free 12 color oil pastel set per household
address. Go to this website.

Register & enter the promotional code SA2008

Offer expires 4/30/08

Melodic Intonation Therapy

Remember all those songs you learned as a child? They could come in handy to help you regain your speaking voice if you ever have a stroke. Today's New York Times has an interesting article called "At 60, He Learned to Sing So He Could Learn to Talk".

I learned about this from Roberta at Vocalist (thanks, Roberta!) She says,
". . .to start recovering from aphasia nothing works better than an old, well remembered song with plenty of ties in the
oldest memories. And the intoning helps too."

Read the entire story from the Times here. God has surely given each of us a wonderful gift - our singing voice.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Charlton Heston RIP

The Ten Commandments, Ben Hur, and El Cid are some of my family's favorite movies. We all have a special fondness in our hearts for Charlton Heston. He died on April 5th. There are no Hollywood heroes like him today. Charlton Heston was married to his wife for 64 years. Heston was the president and spokesman of the NRA from 1998 until he resigned in 2003.

In their obituary of Charlton Heston, The Washington Post declared: “Hate his politics or love them, you have to say: There was a man.”

We need more men like him.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

War and Music

As a former elementary school music teacher turned homeschooling mother, I was always looking for ways to incorporate music into our studies. History has always been a favorite subject with all of my children. And sadly, history has forever been full of war.

Yankee Doodle was probably the first "war song" they all learned. When the three oldest boys were little, we participated in a Revolutionary War themed history day with the local homeschool group. The boys dressed up in some frontier costumes, held their Paris toy frontier rifles and sang "The Rifleman's Song at Bennington".

Visiting the Gettysburg Battle field and the little shops in the area, we discovered Bobby Horton and his terrific Civil War CD's (actually, when we discovered them they were cassettes - CDs having not yet been invented!). We listened as we drove around in the car and learned to sing such songs as Wait for the Wagon, Just before the Battle Mother, The Battle Cry of Freedom, The Army of the Free, Tenting on the Old Campground, Weeping, Sad and Lonely, and Rally Round the Flag. (Oh my, typing this sure does bring back the memories!)

The years rolled by. Soon my oldest son was choosing music for his Junior voice recital. To end the performance, he selected four songs with texts written by Rudyard Kipling. Two of the pieces were Boots and Danny Deever. With classic poetry texts and set to music by different composers, these songs were a dramatic ending to his recital.

by Rudyard Kipling


We're foot--slog--slog--slog--sloggin' over Africa --
Foot--foot--foot--foot--sloggin' over Africa --
(Boots--boots--boots--boots--movin' up an' down again!)
There's no discharge in the war!

Seven--six--eleven--five--nine-an'-twenty mile to-day --
Four--eleven--seventeen--thirty-two the day before --
(Boots--boots--boots--boots--movin' up an' down again!)
There's no discharge in the war!

Don't--don't--don't--don't--look at what's in front of you.
(Boots--boots--boots--boots--movin' up an' down again);
Men--men--men--men--men go mad with watchin' em,
An' there's no discharge in the war!

Try--try--try--try--to think o' something different --
Oh--my--God--keep--me from goin' lunatic!
(Boots--boots--boots--boots--movin' up an' down again!)
There's no discharge in the war!

Count--count--count--count--the bullets in the bandoliers.
If--your--eyes--drop--they will get atop o' you!
(Boots--boots--boots--boots--movin' up an' down again) --
There's no discharge in the war!

We--can--stick--out--'unger, thirst, an' weariness,
But--not--not--not--not the chronic sight of 'em --
Boot--boots--boots--boots--movin' up an' down again,
An' there's no discharge in the war!

'Taint--so--bad--by--day because o' company,
But night--brings--long--strings--o' forty thousand million
Boots--boots--boots--boots--movin' up an' down again.
There's no discharge in the war!

I--'ave--marched--six--weeks in 'Ell an' certify
It--is--not--fire--devils, dark, or anything,
But boots--boots--boots--boots--movin' up an' down again,
An' there's no discharge in the war!

Danny Deever
by Rudyard Kipling

"What are the bugles blowin' for?" said Files-on-Parade.
"To turn you out, to turn you out", the Colour-Sergeant said.
"What makes you look so white, so white?" said Files-on-Parade.
"I'm dreadin' what I've got to watch", the Colour-Sergeant said.
For they're hangin' Danny Deever, you can hear the Dead March play,
The regiment's in 'ollow square -- they're hangin' him to-day;
They've taken of his buttons off an' cut his stripes away,
An' they're hangin' Danny Deever in the mornin'.

"What makes the rear-rank breathe so 'ard?" said Files-on-Parade.
"It's bitter cold, it's bitter cold", the Colour-Sergeant said.
"What makes that front-rank man fall down?" said Files-on-Parade.
"A touch o' sun, a touch o' sun", the Colour-Sergeant said.
They are hangin' Danny Deever, they are marchin' of 'im round,
They 'ave 'alted Danny Deever by 'is coffin on the ground;
An' 'e'll swing in 'arf a minute for a sneakin' shootin' hound --
O they're hangin' Danny Deever in the mornin'!

"'Is cot was right-'and cot to mine", said Files-on-Parade.
"'E's sleepin' out an' far to-night", the Colour-Sergeant said.
"I've drunk 'is beer a score o' times", said Files-on-Parade.
"'E's drinkin' bitter beer alone", the Colour-Sergeant said.
They are hangin' Danny Deever, you must mark 'im to 'is place,
For 'e shot a comrade sleepin' -- you must look 'im in the face;
Nine 'undred of 'is county an' the regiment's disgrace,
While they're hangin' Danny Deever in the mornin'.

"What's that so black agin' the sun?" said Files-on-Parade.
"It's Danny fightin' 'ard for life", the Colour-Sergeant said.
"What's that that whimpers over'ead?" said Files-on-Parade.
"It's Danny's soul that's passin' now", the Colour-Sergeant said.
For they're done with Danny Deever, you can 'ear the quickstep play,
The regiment's in column, an' they're marchin' us away;
Ho! the young recruits are shakin', an' they'll want their beer to-day,
After hangin' Danny Deever in the mornin'.

Today I learned of another song my son could sing from my new friend Chris at The Collaborative Piano Blog. This story is hearbreaking because the text is from a letter written home from a young soldier in Iraq. He wrote this letter to his wife and five year old son, asking that it only be opened if he died.

This young soldier did not come home. US Army Pfc. Jesse Givens died in Iraq on May 1, 2003.

The letter has been set to music with Mrs. Given's permission. Listen to this performance by Lee Hoiby, composer and pianist with Andrew Garland, baritone.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Harrisburg Symphony Orchestra

Do you have a symphony orchestra nearby? Our local Harrisburg Symphony Orchestra performs only 30 minutes from my house. On Sunday, my husband, my parents and I went to hear the Symphony perform Dona Nobis Pacem, a cantata by Ralph Vaughan Williams, along with Beethoven's Ninth Symphony.

What a performance! The Messiah College Concert Choir, The Choral Arts Society, the Susquehanna Chorale, and the Alumni Chorale of Lebanon Valley College, plus some wonderful soloists joined with the Harrisburg Symphony to create a stellar production! The instrumentalists, choirs and soloists were all superb! As was the conductor, Stuart Malina. We are so blessed to have such a fine conductor and orchestra in our area.

The symphony concertmaster is Odin Rathnam. Odin is a fabulous violinist and a wonderful teacher, kind and generous. Two of my sons were privileged to study with him some years ago. Every chance I got, I stayed for their lessons. Odin is truly a master teacher, with that gift of coaching in a way that you will never forget. Although I am a singer and pianist, I learned so much from him that I can apply to my own performing and teaching.

On Sunday, Odin's solo in the Vaughan Williams was so sweet and beautiful - I never tire of hearing him play. And you can hear some of his charming playing here. But if you live near Harrisburg, do make a date with the Symphony. It will enrich your spirit!

Practicing Music

The Dallas Symphony Association has a great website with information for teachers, children, and everyone! One of the articles on the kids page is all about practicing!

"Practice Makes Perfect??? - Not Always!"

"Every good musician knows that regular practice is a must, but did you know that careless practice can actually make you worse? Before you tell your parent or you teacher that you have decided not to practice, think about the WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE and HOW of practice that will help you play better and enjoy music more."

You can read the rest of the article here.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Summer Choir Camp

I am thrilled to announce a Summer Choir Camp opportunity for your child!

Here are the details -

Summer Choir Camp

Who - boys and girls ages 8 - 15 who have an unchanged voice

When - August 18 - 22, 2008

Monday - Friday

Time - 9:30 am - 12:30 am

Where - the wonderful Philip Bongiorno Conference Center just outside of Carlisle, PA

What - Campers will participate daily in choral warm-ups, vocal technique instruction, sight-singing instruction, choral rehearsals, musicianship and enrichment activities, and organized recreation. On Thursday, campers may bring a packed lunch and stay for a pool party from 1 pm - 3 pm. The last day of choir camp will end with a mini-concert at 12 pm for family and friends.

Founder-Director of the Summer Choir Camp - Kathy O'Donnell

For more information, email Kathy O’Donnell at

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Eva Cassidy - Over the Rainbow

What a beautiful song - sung by a beautiful singer.

My Children's Choir on Veteran's Day

Last November, my children's choir sang at our local Veteran's Day Ceremony. Our family has attended the ceremony for years and have always found it to be inspiring. Last year at a ceremony for Memorial Day, a men's chorus who usually sang for the patriotic festivals in our town announced that they were disbanding. Thinking that the sound of children's voices might be encouraging to the Veterans who attend, I asked our mayor if my children's choir could sing at the Veteran's Day Ceremony. He was quite enthusiastic about our participation!

A Lieutenant Colonel from the Army War College in our town gave a wonderful speech. The choir's singing really touched the audience (you can read about more about the ceremony here in our local paper). As for the children - seeing the many Veterans we were there to honor plus hearing Lt. Col. Dickerson's words - they were given an excellent civics lesson.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Summer String Chamber Music Festival

Music abounds in our home. Not only do we sing and play piano, the family has its share of string players. Son #1 plays violin, as does son#2. Daughter #1 chose to study the cello, which pleased her mother - cello was an instrument I had always wanted to play, but my parents said "We are already paying for piano lessons - forget it." Or words to that effect. So, much to my dismay, I have not (yet) learned to play the cello. But I still love ya, Mom and Dad! :-)

Today my daughter's fabulous cello teacher told us about a terrific looking Summer String Chamber Music Festival opportunity open to string musicians ages 12-14 at nearby Mercersburg Academy. You can download a brochure and an application here.

While browsing the website, I actually noticed quite a few interesting summer camps - adventure camps, sports camps, as well as camps for aspiring thespians.

I was in Mercersburg a few years ago for my nephew's wedding. It is a lovely, historic town. An interesting fact I just discovered is that in 1928, actor Jimmy Stewart, star of such classics as Rear Window and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, graduated from the Academy. (If you haven't ever seen Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, you must do so soon - what a good movie!)

But back to the string festival. Summer is the time for new activities that are not possible during a busy school year. Collaborating with other string players would be a tremendous experience for a young musician.

And I know that it will be a well-run camp. My daughter's cello teacher is the director. He is a very fine musician and as kind and patient a teacher as they come. Not to mention very encouraging and creative. I love to listen to the lesson (he comes to our house). So I fold towels and help my youngest with math while I listen to beautiful cello music. I especially love it when they play duets!

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Literary Nights

My second son is going to graduate this year from our homeschool year. Thinking back over the years of his homeschooling, one of the things I am so thankful that I took the energy and time to do was to host Literary Nights in our home. One evening while reading the Clarkson's wonderful book, Educating the Wholehearted Child, I read about their idea of a literary night. Excitedly, I chose a date, some families to invite and sent out invitations.

Come to. . .

A Family Literary Night

Where: The O’Donnell’s

When: Monday, March 4, 1996

What: Each child (and/or parent) prepares a reading, recitation or presentation based on literature. (For fun, dress to match the presentation!) You may prepare something together
as a family if desired or all do something separate.

RSVP by February 26

We hope you can join us for an evening of homeschooling fun! I will be preparing a printed program for portfolios, so let me know by February 26 what your selections are. After the program, plan to stay for dessert!

This event became one of our children's favorite activities. Over the years, they have all memorized countless poems for the Literary Nights, written and acted out skits based on beloved books, chosen favorite book selections to read, and learned about new poems and new books from our friends. Our family has performed skits on William Tell, Saint George and the Dragon, David and Goliath, and Robin Hood, to name a few. Oh, the memories!

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Teaching Gratefulness

Today's mail brought a pleasant surprise! A delightful thank you note from an eight year old girl whose family participated in the Countries of the World Fair. Besides being beautifully written, it was quite thoughtful.

Which got me to thinkin' . . .

Am I teaching my children to be grateful? Am I modeling that myself? Am I grateful to the people in my life (family, friends, my church family, neighbors, my students, my choirs' accompanists, and the list goes on) or do I take them for granted?

My little friend probably did not take that long to write her note, but the good feeling I got from reading it will last at least the rest of the week! It certainly made my day! Now I need to remember to thank someone today!

Devotions by Elisabeth Elliot

Do you know about this dear godly lady? You can read a short biography here.

Man of Dust by Elisabeth Elliot

"As we have worn the likeness of the man made of dust, so we shall wear the likeness of the heavenly man" (1 Cor 15:49 NEB).

What a word of hope for us when we are discouraged with our own sinfulness! The old Adam is always there, rising in rebellion against the new life which Christ has given us. There is constant struggle, daily reminders that we are yet very unholy, very un-Christlike, very dusty. But a day will come when even I, with all my glaring faults, will wear the likeness of the heavenly Man. This gives me ammunition to fire at the Accuser. I shall be like Christ--just wait! You'll see!

You can subscribe to her daily devotion here. Learn from her wisdom.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Messiah College

Messiah College is a wonderful Christian liberal arts college nearby where I live. My oldest son will graduate from Messiah in May. My next son will begin his freshman year there in September. I love Messiah! It is my Alma Mater. I had transfered there from a State College before my junior year. The Christian atmosphere was so refreshing. At my other college, I had professors who chain smoked while they lectured and used language I was not allowed to use at my home. At Messiah, the professors opened class with prayers.

However, as a homeschooling mother, I was not sure how colleges would react to what we had done in our homeschool. I needn't have worried. The Messiah admissions staff in charge of homeschoolers was wonderful to work with four years ago when David was applying. I recently wrote her this email -

"I want to thank you for your help almost four years ago when my son David decided to apply to Messiah. My husband and David first spoke to you at the Homeschool Track meet that May. Although it was really very late to apply, you encouraged David to apply anyway.

David is now a senior and has had a wonderful four years at Messiah. You told me when he applied that the homeschooled students often ended up being the top students at Messiah. I wanted to let you know how things have gone for David.

He came to Messiah as an English major but switched to music at the end of his freshman year. As a voice major he has represented Messiah's music department well, placing first in National Association's Teacher of Singing Competitions (NATS) each year. David performed a solo junior recital in October of 2006 and his solo senior recital in March of 2008. A former Metropolitan opera singer joined him for a duet in the recital.

He has had the fabulous opportunity to work with Linda Tedford and her outstanding choral program, performing as a soloist with the Concert Choir.

Last spring, David was one of only two music students chosen to perform with the orchestra. He sang two arias. His orchestra conductor, who has conducted him professionally as part of Opera Harrisburg in Paganni and Rigoletto, asked me afterward to write down for him and all new parents how to get your child to turn out like David! I just told him that David was God's gift to us and has always been a blessing to us. But I really need to follow up on that and tell him more about how I believe homeschooling helped shaped our son.

Last spring David was honored to be the recipient of the Presser Scholar Award for music.

He has been on the Dean's list every semester. He has participated in Messiah's opera workshop each semester it has been offered. This spring he has been chosen to sing the leading role of Gianni Schicchi (in Gianni Schicchi, an opera by Giacomo Puccini) in Messiah's first production of an opera which will be performed with the Messiah College orchestra.

David has been accepted to the Eastman School of Music and Manhattan School of Music's Master of Music programs. We are thrilled for him and look forward to what his future holds.

I wanted you to know what an impact you have had on David's life by your encouragement four years ago. Thank you for helping David with the opportunity to learn at Messiah College!

And I have more good news - our second son, Michael graduates this spring from our homeschool. He will be coming to Messiah and has been awarded the Daniel Vollmer Scholarship for Theatre."

I am really proud of both my oldest sons! Years ago when I was nauseous from pregnancy, worn out from toddlers, getting hassled about educating my own children by relatives that lived nearby, and being told by friends that I should be accountable to the state, I would have loved to have read stories about homeschool successes! By God's grace, I taught these young men how to read and write (and a few other subjects required by the state of Pennsylvania) and He has blessed us abundantly!

Homeschoolers Countries of the World Fair

Our town's Homeschool group has put on a Countries of the World Fair for over 18 years. For the past several years, I have been the coordinator of the event.

Here is what I sent out to our newsletter to encourage participation-

“Homeschoolers Countries of the World Fair” will be held at (name of church) on March 28th at 7 p.m.

How to participate

1. Sign up by March 1st. Space is limited - first come, first served. Let me know your country when you sign up.

2. Study a country

3. Prepare a display about your country (you will have a round table to display your work)

4. Prepare a short presentation (4 minute limit) as a family or just by the children (presentations must include the students)

5. Prepare two dishes from your country's menu & have on your table for tasting as we visit your display

6. $8/family to cover cost of paper goods, programs and donation to church for use of facilities.

7. You may come to the church anytime after 6 PM to set up your display, but please be ready to go by 7 PM

Optional - dress in costume from your country

Last Friday night was our Fair. This year we had an unusually low turnout - only 7 families - but still had a wonderful time. In the past we have had as many as 18 families participate. One dad commented that he really like the small group better - more intimate.

The displays were fabulous. Projects like this are so important for the children - setting goals, having to meet a deadline, working together with your family on a projects, preparing a presentation and then showing off your display to family and friends.

I love the creativity of the presentations. This year we had one family perform a Russian song with guitar, cello, violin, trambourine and triangle. It was great! Another family did a Mexican skit, complete with artistic backdrop. In years past we have had a William Tell play, an Italian puppet show, songs sung in different languages, and beautiful ballet dances. Homeschoolers are so impressive!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

7 Interesting Things About Me

I was tagged by Mrs. Wilt at The Sparrow's Nest for this meme simply by reading every one of her 7 interesting things, so . . . here goes-

1. I was a cheerleader in junior high and 9th grade.

2. I used to be blonde!

3. My husband and I met while working in a restaurant (he was the chef and I was a waitress) and we have been married for 27 years.

4. Growing up, I used to go to my basement and sing along with all my mother's old records.

5. I used to hike up this wonderful hill at my neighbor's farm and run across the top like Maria in the Sound of Music singng "The hills are alive with the sound of music".

6. Senator Kennedy was assassinated on my 10th birthday and buried on the day of my 10th birthday party. I went out and bought a 45 record of Andy Williams singing Ave Maria from his funeral and used to play it all the time. I think the other side of the record had The Battle Hymn of the Republic.

7. I love to break out in song in public place, which really embarrasses my family.

The Presence Ministry of Alberto and Kimberly Rivera

Not so long ago a dear friend asked me to listen to a song on a music CD. Now, I am not a real big fan of what is known as worship - style church music. I love hymns and great choral music from the Western tradition - Bach cantatas, Handel oratorios, etc.

But I wanted to be polite, so I sat down and listened. I was absolutely amazed at how this music touched me and truly ministered to my (wounded) heart. The music was from a CD called Longing by Alberto and Kimberly Rivera. I have since had the opportunity to hear another song from this CD. My friend told me that this music would transform the atmosphere in my home. With nine strong personalities living under one roof, the atmosphere in my home is not always, shall I say, peaceful. I have just placed an order for this CD and one other. Should get here in 2-3 days. I'll let you know what I think of the other CD. And how it brings peace.

You can read about the Riveras and their ministry here.

California and Homeschooling

This just in from Homeschool Legal Defense Society-

Court of Appeal Grants Petition for Re-hearing

On March 25, the California Court of Appeal granted a motion for
rehearing in the 'In re Rachel L.' case--the controversial decision
which purported to ban all homeschooling in that state unless the
parents held a teaching license qualifying them to teach in public

The automatic effect of granting this motion is that the prior opinion
is vacated and is no longer binding on any one, including the parties
in the case.

The Court of Appeal has solicited a number of public school
establishment organizations to submit amicus briefs including the
California Superintendent of Public Instruction, California Department
of Education, the Los Angeles Unified School District, and three
California teacher unions. The court also granted permission to
Sunland Christian School to file an amicus brief. The order also
indicates that it will consider amicus applications from other groups.

Home School Legal Defense Association will seek permission to file
such an amicus brief and will coordinate efforts with a number of
organizations interesting in filing briefs to support the right of
parents to homeschool their children in California.

"This is a great first step," said Michael Farris, chairman of HSLDA.
"We are very glad that this case will be reheard and that this opinion
has been vacated, but there is no guarantee as to what the ultimate
outcome will be. This case remains our top priority," he added.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Daily Workout for a Beautiful Voice

I recently purchased a DVD called Daily Workout for a Beautiful Voice to use with my choir. Although not every chorister takes voice lessons, a director can teach a lot of technique in the warm-up time. The choir demonstrating the warm-ups in the DVD is a treble high school choir, but the warm-ups are appropriate for any age choir. I am very pleased with the tone and vitality that I am hearing from my choir as a result of these warm-ups. There is movement (which is done in place - no roaming around the room) for each warm-up which is very helpful in releasing a great sound and preventing tension.

In fact, I have been so impressed with these warm-ups that I have begun to use them in my private voice studio. A few young high school girls are finally giving me sound that I have never heard from them - I think the movements with the warm-ups are the key. Something has clicked and I am thrilled!

From the booklet that accompanies the video -
"The Daily Workout exercises are designed to help singers develop a free warm tone, to sing with ease, and to increase range. They are clustered into five dynamic groupings. The sequence of these groupings is significant. The concepts focused upon in each group progressively build upon one another."

Let me know if this DVD helps you with your choir or your own voice students!