I do it, and I do it big. Here's to not forgetting about it.

Posts tagged ‘Music’

S-M-R-T Ass! Race Report

The morning was cool and beautiful at 6:45 as Adonis and I left the house for the race. It was a nice change from the week, which had been rainy and/or cold. We found parking close by the race site and strolled through adorable Safety Harbor as we looked for packet pickup. It was nice being there early enough before the race not to have to rush and to have time to explore, with much love to my perpetually late parents. 🙂

3M was running the 10K, so we went to the finish line to cheer her on. She reported it being hot and I hoped foolishly that I wouldn’t feel the same way, although my race didn’t start for another 40 minutes.

i-am-so-7gtovh

I went to the bathroom for a 2nd time since arriving – I’m terribly paranoid about needing to go during a race, especially a shorter distance one. I even have a policy to stop drinking about 30 minutes prior. Since the race was in a public park, we had the option of *gasp* indoor plumbing! Amazing! That 15 minute wait in line was totally worth it. I took the time in line to finalize my race playlist. 33 minutes and change.

Adonis and 3M walked with me to the start line. As I found an appropriate place to corral myself, it dawned on me that I had neglected to warm up. I groaned to myself and hoped I would still have a good race. As the horn sounded, I wrapped up my obligatory tears and sniffles at the start of races and started toward the timing mat. I started my Garmin and my music and off I went.

I felt incredibly determined and focused with my first steps. I was well-rested and feeling confident. Quite frankly, I felt like a badass. Then I felt silly for feeling like a badass with my moderate to slow ass pace. “Who am I to feel like a bad ass in the dead ass center of the pack?” Sigh. I laughed inwardly at my ridiculous self-talk – I was already breathing too heavily to do anything but smile outwardly. How else am I supposed to feel as I am running? There’s no pace threshold at which I should be allowed to feel confident – I have been training regularly and I deserve to feel good RIGHT. NOW, just before making my first turn.

The first mile went by more quickly than I expected. As I passed the mile marker and my watch went off, fewer than 11 minutes had gone by. I pumped my fist and pointed one finger up, my way of thanking God for each mile and asking humbly to carry my legs through the remainder. I saw a sign that read “You are NOT almost there.” I was feeling good enough to laugh until I saw that there was a looooong incline ahead. Not cool – and I don’t just mean how 3M told me it was not cool (she was right, by the way). I grimaced and just pushed forward. I regretted not stopping at the first water stop and hoped there would be one at the top, but alas, it did not come until much later. The incline marked the turn around and I tried to motivate myself by reminding myself I would have a sweet downhill in a little while.

Meanwhile, in my pocket, my amazing playlist was thrown off by the fact that I had forgotten to lock the screen on my phone, so I was now hearing my songs go back and forth and finally one just stuck on repeat. I had planned it so meticulously and it was failing, but I thought to myself, “at least it’s a long one. I hear this about 2 and a half more times and then I’m done.” My 2nd mile took me more than 11 minutes, but I was still on track for my 33 and change despite my having lost my playlist to help me track. I felt slow and tired and I was now at the point I reach every race – why am I doing this, again? I got a reprieve at a water stop and walked for a brief moment. I took the time to reorient my thinking into something positive and told myself I would start running again on the one – it’s totally normal to plan intervals based on downbeats, amirite – and did it.

I dug for a final gear that I could not seem to find. That incline and the weather had pushed me and I realized I was doing my best. Nothing left to do but just go to the finish, and thankfully, it was near. I glanced at the timing clock and I knew I couldn’t slow down if I wanted 33 and change not to become 34 and change. I saw 3M at the chute but I couldn’t shout out because I was damn near out of gas. Adonis saw me and reached out his hand and I managed to high five him. I high fived another stranger as I gave my last effort to the finish.

Boom. 33:43. Down from 35:27 four weeks ago. Goal met. I am S-M-R-T. ❤

 

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‘Επαιξα και εχω νίκησα. Recital Report, Part II

I played and I have won. Heh.

I was expecting to go first because I am – let’s just say, new, but I was wrong. I was second, hah! There was a quartet who played twice in the program so I was the first soloist. I still think I was practically right 😉

I walked onto the stage and adjusted the bench. I thought about putting down the music stand but I didn’t feel like messing with it, so I left it up though I played from memory. I started with my first chord and felt relieved that the piano felt decent. No other instrumentalist has to gamble the way we do! I felt my feet shaking as I was pedaling, but I just took deep breaths and did my best to tell the story. I moved my body to the music I was making and it felt very natural.

On Bended Knees is a slower piece, and I have found over the years that those types of slower tempo pieces are my favorite to play. I felt the same way when I performed in 2014 and I can report confidently that there is no change! While I may not have to worry about my fingers running away or getting tripped up, I do I have to work to stay in the moment mentally – not letting myself think too far ahead. Enjoying every melodic and harmonic moment was key. Key. Heh!

There had been a part as the middle of the piece comes to an end where I had been having some memory trouble, and it happens to be one of my favorite moments of the piece. I had thinking that I wanted this moment to be absolutely perfect as I played, and guess what. It was! I smiled as I relished the chord before continuing. I wanted Burleigh’s lush harmonies to fill the room and I couldn’t have done better. The piece was coming to a climax when I heard a child cry out. “Shut that kid up!” I thought to myself. “This is my time!” The kid was shut up, and I was able to reach the pianissimo ending without interruption 🙂

I got up and was met with a thankful audience. I bowed and returned my seat, where I was able to enjoy the rest of the concert and relax. I am in a group of some talented teachers! It was nice to meet musicians and exchange compliments and respect. It makes me want to play more and more! I hope I make it happen!

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Concert Black: Recital Report, Part I

I am playing in a recital today!

It is the first time I have played publicly since my recital four and a half years ago.  The local association of piano teachers of which I am a part organizes a recital for teachers each year and a few months ago I was feeling brave and so I did a dumb thing – I registered 🙂 On an emotional scale where 10 is “Whee, I can’t wait to play for everyone!” and 1 is “I want to hide under the covers with Bear,” I am registering at a respectable 6. I am currently under the dryer at my hairstylist and after I get my nails and waxing done, perhaps I could peak at an 8.

This recital has special meaning for me because it is the first time I will be performing a piano piece by an African-American composer, which sounds insane coming from a grown ass African-American pianist, but here we are. And thank God for that. I am playing On Bended Knees, the 5th piece of 6 from a set called From the Southland by H.T. Burleigh (1866-1949). I was supposed to play 2 of the 6 but – life. I didn’t practice enough to feel sufficiently confident playing it. I am looking forward to practicing more to put the whole set together with other amazing works by these often overlooked composers.

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I must confess – I was bitter when I got the reminder email from the concert organizers.

Attire: Concert Black.

Like I said, I’m grown! How are you going to tell me what to wear? We are all piano teachers who regularly enter their students in recitals and who likely have grown up doing this very thing themselves. I can only surmise that they didn’t want the new one *me* looking flashy as hell. Maybe they know me without knowing me, because I would have found something really bright to wear. I’m feeling bold and proud and I love when my outfits match. But let’s be real – what’s bolder and prouder than a black pianist playing black music in a room whose ethnic composition is likely to mirror the Republican National Convention?

I am not sure if many in the room will recognize the Negro Spiritual upon which On Bended Knees is based, but I believe it is a melody that evocative of all of the pain of my people as well as the hope that has been carried and passed on. Everyone has experienced pain and hope, and it is my hope that I will be able to express these feelings successfully today. When I think about how the closest I will be to slavery is my student loan debt, and of the privilege I have to share black history on stage today, I feel incredibly thankful. It won’t be perfect, especially since note perfect is not how I roll, but I am in the perfect position to imperfectly tell our story.

Concert Black. All day, every day.

 

Over the Humps: Race Report

By humps, I mean bridges. Literal and metaphorical. 

Fewer things make me happier than a family field trip to a new racing destination. EXCEPT! This time Adonis is running too! Whee! The night before the race, I asked if anyone objected to us driving over the bridge I knew would be part of the course. “Bridge?!” exclaimed Adonis. “You NEVER said there was going to a bridge.” Lies. “Well, then you get the bridge!” Both legs have a bridge, dear. “You should have told me.” I did, sweetheart. 

On race day, we carefully navigated our way to the relay point, where I would be dropped off. Adonis was going to run the first leg – the one with the cooler weather, and I got to be the one to cross the finish line. Fair enough. I kissed everyone goodbye and waited with a set of second leg runners for the shuttle. 

I looked out of the windows of the bus in vain for Adonis as we drove the first leg of the course. Over his bridge we went before we had to get out to walk to the exchange. As we waited, I checked and double checked my perfect playlist. “Personal Record.” That’s right, y’all. That’s the level of confidence I was feeling that day. I’ve only run one other quarter marathon and I had a feeling that based on my race from 2 weeks ago, I could beat my time. 

Cold air, warm feelings about running.


After 70 minutes, I started looking over the bridge for Adonis. I saw him 10 minutes later, still looking very strong, handsome, even. I hopped over to the timing mat, where we exchanged his relay chip for my sweater. “Hey!” I shouted as he turned to get his medal. We hugged and kissed, I turned on my music, and I was off. 

Aretha Franklin accompanied my first steps. My steady feet were rocking to her steady beat. I looked to my right, where I saw the bridge that was waiting for me. “I’m coming!” I smiled. I felt strong. There were some really fun musicians along the course supporting us. May I say that music has helped me through many a race but not ONCE has an athlete helped me once I am on stage! Just saying…

11:03. 11:01. 10:58. Ridiculously evenly paced. Until…


11:55, lol. I was running and running and running – and then I wasn’t. But when that downhill came I started running like a champ for the finish. The best Mom ever was waiting for me. Seeing her made me go even faster. I sprinted and felt like I was going to vomit. Perfect, especially since I didn’t. 

Lil One and Adonis started cheering as I went through the chute. I felt great. Team Salt and Pepper was a great success! Adonis was strutting around looking for snacks, so I know he was pleased with himself. He has even committed to doing a half-marathon with me in June!!!!

Three minute PR!!!!!! 

!!!!!!! 

“I wanna be Pepper,” says Adonis.

God, Garmin, and Good Judgment. Race Report

Perfume. 

Lipstick. 

Earrings. 

Go to the bathroom as much as possible. 

Thank God for all He has provided me, also think of sins for which I need forgiveness so earthly payment doesn’t come due during the race. 

The last one in that checklist (perhaps the last two, tee hee) especially should indicate my level of anxiety. I try, imperfectly of course, to be thankful regularly, and I don’t think of God as my “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” kind of partner, but if there’s any day that I need a solid from the Lord, it’s today. The fabulous 3M had just texted me an excerpt from Hebrews 12, something I had reminded myself before my 70.3 and was trying to keep in mind –

12 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

Hebrews 12:1-3 (NIV)

Yes, Joan. While there is joy at the finish line set before me, the marathon is not the cross. Remember this today. Any pain I experience, while important to God, likely won’t approach crucifixion levels. 

I found the 5:45 pacer and asked him what his plan was. Murray said he was going to run for 2 minutes at about 12 min mile pace and do a brisk walk for 1 minute. He said that while he’s not an official Galloway pacer, running steadily at a 13:10 pace seemed too slow. Fair enough! I figured I wouldn’t get in trouble and go out too fast if I chilled with Murray, so I lined up with him in the corral after hugging my amazing family and saying a prayer with them. 


The horn for which I’ve trained for months finally sounded. I wiped away tears of excitement and awe that this day is really here and walked toward the timing mat. The French horn opening of the first movement of Brahms 1st piano concerto set the mood in my ears for this part of my journey – grand, expansive, RUBATO! Not. Too. Fast. I stayed close to Murray* at the very beginning, but something didn’t feel right about it. I let him go and just paid attention to my Garmin. Mile 1 passes and I look down at my watch. 12:43. And Mr. 5:45 is AHEAD of me. Nope. 

A lady sidled up to me and asked what my plan was. “2/1, stay alive, finish under 6!” I replied. “Me too!” she answered. 

I need you to understand this. I had imagined that I might make a friend or two on the way to the finish line. It had been immensely helpful to me during my 70.3 to do the run with someone, and I will never forget her. So when I say that I was open to running the race with someone else despite preferring to train alone, you must know that I really meant it. 

This was not that someone. 

Roz* from New Jersey was running this marathon on her journey to join the 50 states marathon club. This marked marathon number 15 for this running coach who would NOT. STOP. TALKING. She asked me about my training, and I judged her as I answered her stupid questions politely. I say her questions were stupid because they were questions for which I could presumably have wrong answers. If I did something wrong in my training, what the hell am I supposed to do about it now in mile 2 of the marathon? Turn around? Heffa, please. Performance day is just that. Make it work now, ask questions later. 

Still, I thought the Christian thing to do was to deal with her neediness. Some people need people to boss around to feel useful. I turned up my music and nodded and smiled as she went on about herself. I asked cogent questions. Everyone runs differently and if I can help someone run the best race she can, I can handle a bit of annoyance. 

Jim* rolled up on us around the 5k point. He was talking with Roz and it turned out he was already in the 50 states club. I was thankful for Jim because he took some of the pressure off of me. He wasn’t with us for very long, to which Roz said, “some people just need to show off and talk about themselves to new people!” I burst out laughing at the irony of her observation. “Don’t laugh too hard, Joan. 23.1 to go – save your breath!” I thought. 

At mile 5, I decided to use the toilet. JUST in case. I wasn’t feeling a pressing need to go, but my colleague at work who just completed her first marathon said that it’s better to go in the beginning rather than later. What could it hurt? Plus, I was hoping Roz would go ahead of me. Well, she did, but not for long. A mile or so later, she stopped to refill her water and said she would be behind me. “Okay!” It took a LOT of willpower to stay at my current pace and not purposely speed up to put distance between us. I suppose I have more faith in my patience than I do my legs. 

The marathon and half-marathon courses were concurrent for about the first 7 miles. Then it got REAL lonely out there, man. It looked like I was going into the wilderness. I was actually thankful for Roz’s yelling behind me because I didn’t see a single soul ahead of me. Disconcerting, y’all. It wasn’t too long before I saw some more cones, cops, and the winner headed in the opposite direction toward the finish line. Confirmation of the correct path was comforting, indeed. 

As the race continued, I felt pains that worried me. My left hamstring in mile 8. My right calf in mile 13. I prayed for them and pressed forward. I stayed focused on my 2/1 intervals and the miles just came to me, one by one. I smiled as I enjoyed the music of the clearly brilliant person who created this playlist. I shrugged and sighed as I caught up to and passed Murray, who told me he didn’t think he was going to make it in 5:45. 

Speaking of the aforementioned brilliance, I had tried to time the gospel music around mile 19 – when I projected I might be questioning my life choices most. “Great is Thy Faithfulness.” “My Tribute.” “How Great Thou Art.” Naturally, I chose really powerful arrangements that evoked great emotion. Too much emotion. I started to think about how amazing God is and tears came to my eyes. I felt tingles all over. I glanced down to look at my heart rate. 

TWO.

O.

BLOODY.

FIVE. 

OKAY GOD PLEASE HELP MY HEART RATE COME DOWN BECAUSE I HAVE NEARLY TWO HOURS OF RACE LEFT IN JESUS’ NAME AMEN

Not the most artful prayer, admittedly. I slowed my walking and that helped. I drank more water from my trusty CamelBak. Every sip tasted heavenly, so I can assume by this point I was likely dehydrated. I didn’t want to have my stomach sloshing around with water and honey stingers, but I suppose my trying not to drink too much didn’t help my tingly euphoria. 

By mile 22, my heart rate was still sky high on my run intervals. I didn’t like it. I am confident God brought me Roz for this one piece of advice – “if you get tired, switch your run time to your walk time. That way you don’t lose hope or momentum.” I went from 2/1 to 1:30/1:30. I checked the clock. I had an hour to meet my time goal. I could do that with a speedy walk if I needed to. I stayed in the shade as much as possible. 

I saw some volunteers by the stadium where the race had begun. “This way to glory?” I asked. “Yes ma’am!” 

Then the most beautiful thing happened. 

As I caught sight of the finish line, the recap of the Brahms concerto with which I had begun the race was starting. I don’t know that I can properly describe how fitting this was – to hear that moment in the music at just that time, but it brought the biggest smile to my face. To be back where I started but in a completely different way – just like the music! was nothing short of perfection. I turned on to the track and saw my awesome Mommy. “Hi Mom!” “Hey Jo!” as she whipped out her camera. “You’re almost there!” The clock read 5:55:26 as I crossed the timing mat. I. Win. 

I serve a God that allows for so much more than finishing the race. I finished the marathon with BOTH arms in the air, a bright smile, and Brahms in my ears. He is a cherry on top kind of God. My prayer is that I can keep this moment close to me forever as I continue running with Him and toward Him. 


*- I don’t change names to protect anyone who annoys me. 

The Show Must Go On.


Can’t what, you ask? Stay in the bed, as I wanted to do. There was a Veterans’ Day Assembly at work and naturally, the music teacher was on call. On the program today: a 1st grade class singing America and This Land is Your Land, and a Kindergarten class matching with flags to The Stars and Stripes Forever. 

I first went into the first grade classroom to do a quick run through with them. I smiled as they stood up and faced the American flag, excited to represent their school in front of the entire student body and the guest veterans. I kept it together as they sang America, but as soon as they started bouncing cheerily for This Land is Your Land, tears came to my eyes. The simple lyrics of the first verse: 

This land is your land

This land is my land 

From California

To the New York island

From the redwood forest 

To the gulf stream waters 

This land was made for you and me 

You. And. Me. 

I love that I teach an ethnically diverse group of students, each of whom sings enthusiastically and believes in that America. Each time they come to my classroom, they stand and face the flag giddily, prepared to start, sing, and end together prior to the beginning of that day’s lesson. Whenever I teach them their patriotic song in the beginning of the year, I ask, “Why do you like singing these songs in particular?” 

I love America.

It is fun living here. 

America has lots of stuff to do. 

I am humbled to have a job where I help children express their positive feelings about our country. I ask them to think about the people who have served America in the military prior to singing, the ones whom have helped make America a lovable, fun place with lots of stuff to do. I demand that they sing their best because so many have given their best so our children may sing freely. I strive each day to give them my best so they have as many opportunities as possible; to think, to grow, to challenge themselves. 

I brought my Kindergarteners into my room to rehearse the flag march, and let me tell you something – you have not seen excitement until you’ve handed 20 5-6 year olds each two miniature American flags to wave.  I reminded them to hold the flags still and respectfully, just as we should respect our country. As I heard the introduction of our national march, I started to tear up again. I stepped outside myself to ensure that my students were moving correctly, marching steadily, facing their conductor. “If you are not paying attention, you don’t get to celebrate veterans with us today -” was indeed an effective warning for them. They were eager to do their best, for me, for their school, for their families and country. 

As we filed outside for the assembly, I saw the veterans to be honored on the stage. After making sure my performers were seated and knew what to do, I stood to attention, as the color guard was about to enter. 

I lost it. 

Tears were streaming down my face. 

I wiped them away, not wanting to cause anyone concern, but all I could think was, 

“There are people who don’t want me here.”

There are people who see the many colors of my American classroom as a bad thing. There are people who see others as enemies solely because they appear different, worship another deity, or were not born in the United States. I know this is hardly news, but these people are elated that America’s president-elect has helped them express their views more comfortably. 

I understand that there are many people who voted for Mr. Trump that have no interest in discriminating against that which is different. I understand that there are people that I love – and that love me – who did so. I am saddened that this was the man who excited the conservative base in our country, because there were 16 other candidates with the same agenda who didn’t have an interest in overtly provoking the racist dragons that have existed in America from its beginning. I don’t expect them to feel how I do, but if you are truly my friend, I do expect you to consider my feelings. Consider that you probably have never had to question whether people viewed you as American enough. Consider that people likely don’t approach you with pre-judgment. Consider that I am wondering if my uterus should remain vacant until 2020 because I am not sure if this is the America I want my child(ren) introduced to. 

I truly believe the biggest lie told during the presidential campaign was that America is not already great. I could not stay in bed and reflect today because I had a show to do. I have rehearsal every day until Christ comes back (maybe between December 20 and January 20; I am kinda curious to see how my marathon goes – relax! I kid), and my mission in America’s practice room is to make her better by engaging with people who think differently than I do in a respectful manner. Helping others achieve their dreams. Serving my community. 

We’ve got a show to do. 

Never Silent – Noise v. Music: Race Report 

I have a confession to make. 

While I can honestly say I was proud of my performance in last week’s 5k, I wasn’t “satisfied,” and thus my quest for my next 5k before marathon training began hours after last week’s finish. I shared this with 3M, and naturally, she responded with suggestions. Though I was unsure if I could really make any gains in a week, I thought, ‘what the hell. I like to race. Let’s see what happens!’ 

I didn’t run at all this past week, as I was unusually tired and feeling in limbo before my marathon training is to start. I just tried to eat cleanly and show up rested. Last night, I was setting out my clothes/equipment for today and realized I did not see my wireless headphones. “Meh,” I thought. My phone on my arm felt heavy last week anyhow. “I’ll run without music!” 

Mind you, I have never run a running race without music. The last time I raced without music was at the end of my 70.3 almost 2 years ago. “Whatever. It’s ‘just’ a 5k. The silence won’t be a big deal.”  At the horn, I realized something quickly. 

There. 

Is.

No. 

Silence.

I mean this both literally and figuratively. Of course, there were plenty of things to hear as I struggled in the heat and humidity. Parents encouraging their kids. The occasional cowbell. My feet. My clearing my throat. My feet. The ducks. My feet. 

My feet. They’re loud. Seriously. 

Soon after I began mile 2, I felt very tempted to slow down. “You can slow down. You’ll still probably beat your time from last week.” Then, “It’s hot. Why am I doing this.” This was followed by the inevitable, “I am whining about 3.1 miles. Am I really strong enough to complete 23.1 more?” 

Oh, dear. I wish that no music meant silence. Quite the opposite. The inside of my head is incredibly noisy. I often tell my classroom students that we are in a music room and not a noise room. Our music is intentional, our noise is scattered and rarely pleasant. The music that I play during races helps to distract me from the noise in my head. I became thankful for my loud, musical feet – the organized, steady beat of my progress toward the finish line. Keep making music. Keep moving forward. 

I crossed the finish line in 33:27 – 1:05 faster than the previous week. Music triumphed over noise once again. I know now that if I am to complete a marathon, I must become a better musician. 

Always multitasking.

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