Monday, July 26, 2021

TCDA - A Family Reunion

I'm back from a very emotional "high" for me and many other music educators in Texas and around the nation. The Texas Choral Directors Association convention was the first professional convention I've attended since February of 2020. We were in "lock-down" three weeks after my return from TMEA in 2020, and we have been longing to gather again for months.

Wanetta Hill graciously agreed to help me with our booth during TCDA, and I believe she knows everybody in Texas!! It was wonderful to see everyone enjoying themselves during this very special time of reunion. Everyone was thrilled with the prospect of going back to their school and church choirs, yet no one really knows what to expect when they return. The "virus" seems to determine everyone's ability to plan, and the "one day at a time" mentality seems to be the only choice. One thing is for certain, no matter what situation unfolds, we have the "best of the best" out there in the choral classrooms, doing their best for their students. 

Here are some highlights from my time spent with fellow choral music educators, writers, and directors:

Wanetta Hill, Earlene Rentz, Victor Johnson, René Brain

It was wonderful to have friends stop by the booth to chat for a few minutes. In the photo above, from left, are Wanetta Hill (one of my wonderful, delightful lyricists), me, Victor Johnson (composer extraordinaire and choral editor with Choristers Guild....and one of the nicest guys in the entire world), and René Brain (fabulous pianist/accompanist and all-'round delight). I love these special folks, because we are all for the other person's success. For some reason, competitiveness seems to be present among many, and you can trust this, too: There are just as many of us who are totally supportive of each other, delighting in each other's success. We all have our strengths, and no one composer/teacher/conductor creates music exactly like another person. We all have our purposes and our uniqueness in this business.

Earlene Rentz and Cherry Tadlock-Garasi

Cherry Tadlock-Garasi holds a very special place in my heart as the person who saw possibilities in a piece I wrote in 2000. She was my choral editor with Warner Brothers Publications for many years, and she is now in Belton, Texas, where her husband Michael Garasi is in charge of the instrumental program at the University of Mary Hardin Baylor. I am so excited for Cherry and Michael (and all of Texas), and I know their future at UMHB is bright with promise. Cherry was responsible for the publication of my most successful piece to date (over 200,000 copies sold) entitled Sleigh Bells. Cherry conducted that piece in clinic after clinic, and she believed in it! All these many years later, it continues to sell-away! I will never wane in my gratitude for Cherry. She is amazing!

Wanetta Hill, me, Bryce Gage

Family reunion! Bryce Gage stopped by the booth to visit and look at our music! He shared "the latest" of his fabulous choral program at Marble Falls High School, and he purchased some music. He took advantage of one of Earlene Rentz Online Publications' unique features. He found a piece of music he liked, but it was not in TBB. No problem! It is almost completed as of today. He also needed it a step lower than I wrote it for TTB...again...No problem! Done! Our online publishing process makes it easy for choral directors to find a piece that will work for their choir. It is truly something I love doing, so Bryce will have his arrangement within a day or so....AND....he will have Rehearsal Preparation Sheets for everything he purchased. His SSA choir will sing "Die Lotosblume," by Robert Shumann, and his TBB choir will sing a custom-made arrangement of "Personent Hodie." It all works!

Wanetta, me, René Brain, and Debbie Talley

Just to be perfectly clear with ourselves about our happiness at TCDA, we observed "Happy Hour" with two other wonderful women. René Brain and Debbie Talley invited us to spend some time with them before dinner one afternoon, and I am reminded that some people are fun, fun, fun, and they are a magnet for other fun people. It was so great to catch up, and have a glimpse into their lives over the past 16 months. We found out we are strong women, and we do whatever we need to do to live our lives with integrity in the classroom and beyond. We laughed until we hurt physically, and others joined us occasionally to laugh along. May we always remember to laugh!

Me, Wanetta Hill, Mary Jane Self Phillips, and Tammy Benton

Life is a celebration, and no celebration at TCDA is complete without food! We enjoyed our dinner at the historic Pearl Brewery in San Antonio. It is the neatest area that has been artistically created by someone who thought friendships, food, and being together were winning combinations...RIGHT! We had the best time, and the food was outrageously delicious. Such a great choice, Wanetta! Along with Wanetta and me, a former student/amazing choral director (Tammy Benton) and Mary Jane Self Phillips (choral director) joined us for the incredible evening.

Happy Birthday, Wanetta!!

No special evening is complete without celebrating someone's birthday! Wanetta was the special person of the moment. It is so great to have Wanetta with us at TCDA, because it is always close to the time of her birthday. We celebrate...and celebrate...and celebrate! Birthday moments with friends are special, and to share good times with those around us who mean so much to us gives us opportunities to continue the celebration of life for all of us.

At the close of TCDA this year, my thought was "This has been really good." Everyone was delighted to be "out and about," and we were all thrilled to be smiling at each other in total delight of being somewhere. There are so many unknowns, but we know that we are among friends when we are together encouraging, supporting, and loving each other through it all. we will deal with whatever lies ahead. 

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Getting Ready for TCDA!

It is so great to be getting ready for another convention! Finally! Wanetta Hill (a wonderful lyricist) and I will be in San Antonio for TCDA in Booth 1327. We'll be selling music in every way card, check, cash, and purchase order. We have it covered, we have waited 16 months, and we are finally getting a bit of normalcy back into our lives. More and more people are getting vaccinated, and we are respecting the knowledge gained in the past, while we express hope for a bright new day in the future. I am glad we are getting back together with our choral music "family" for a reunion we alone understand (my late husband called choral musicians an "interesting sub-culture"....HA!). We get together for all things choral-musical, and we share ideas for success. As you know, there are those whom we only see at music conventions. They are our family "in the profession" when we go to San Antonio, or whatever place houses our "convening get-together."
So...whether it is lunch with Wanetta Hill, dinner with Tammy Benton and Wanetta, or whatever we decide in between, the truth is that in the past we have laughed, and laughed, and laughed. I'm wondering what the "dynamic" of the convention might, concern, worry over the beginning of school, worry over the dreadful Delta variant, budgets, logistics of singing together safely, vaccines for the "under 12" group, etc. How will the experiences of the past 16 months affect our interaction?
Choral musicians represent a group of people who love music, love each other, love students, and we love the fact that we share something in common with each other. We cheer each other on to do the very best we can to further the choral art among ourselves and in our students. My role as a composer of choral music is to be a provider of information to be studied in the classroom. I take that charge most seriously. It hits me sometimes that my music actually determines musical content for an extended period of time in rehearsals. That is huge.
I love going to conventions and meeting with other composers of music. We all have something unique to say in choral music, and we are the only ones who can say "it" the way we need to hear "it" said. We all have our specific function in the world of choral music, and we truly enjoy talking to each other and encouraging each another in the art of choral music writing.We generally know how to write as we listen to teachers who are "in the trenches."
Please come visit us at TCDA. Join us in this wonderful experience in San Antonio (Booth 1327). We will celebrate our return to a life that was under the veil of uncertainty for a long time. It will be a pleasure to join others for a sweet reunion of true goodness, living with hope into the future.