She Put Music In My Heart

Ann AlfordToday I told a friend that I write when I grieve, there may not be enough words for this one.

Ann Alford has finished her concerto and now she has gone home to play for the Lord.

I was at the dentist office this morning waiting to be called to the back.  As I scrolled through Facebook, I saw a post from my friend Von, about Ms A passing.  I hoped it was someone else, but once I got back to my office I looked further and found out indeed it was her.

My heart immediately broke and I had to take a few minutes outside to myself, all I could think about was how much she loved us, all of us.

We were her band kids, a mis-matched group of high-school students that she challenged, rode hard, and saw reach our potential, all under her watchful eye.

I had quit band in the eight grade, too cool to be a band geek; that is until my 10th grade year when Ms. Alford told me I WOULD be in the symphonic band.  I didn’t argue with her, I just signed up.

I wasn’t a very good trumpet player and years away from the horn made me even worse.  I sat last seat, but she made me know I was where I belonged.  She pushed me and eventually I started to get better.

By the time marching season rolled around in the Fall, I was no longer last seat, I had graduated all the way up to third from last.

Ms. Alford drove us to be our best.  When we screwed up, we ran laps, when we didn’t live up to our potential, she had a steely gaze that could melt the toughest exterior, but we never doubted she loved us.

We were her kids and nothing made her prouder than when we did well.  As she flailed her arms to the beat, that wicked smile would sneak in and the twinkle in her eyes let us know we had it.

One year, as we were preparing for Marching Festival we had been a mess, it seemed like nothing we did was coming together to the standards Ms. Alford had set for us, not to mention the standards we had set for ourselves.

Thursday afternoon before Festival on Saturday, when it was time for rehearsal, we were instructed to meet Ms. Alford at the practice field and leave our instruments in the band room.

This couldn’t be good.

As we approached the field, I think we all expected to be running laps and marching drills, but when we arrived, cupcakes and drinks awaited us.

We got a pep talk that day about how good we were and how if we just put it all on the field, there was nothing or no one that could beat us.  Needless to say, we pulled all Superiors on Saturday beating much larger bands in the process.

Going into Symphonic Band Season, our end of season Festival would be the competition that would prove just how good we were.  Symphonic season wasn’t like football season, it was all about technique and skill, not putting on a great show.

On the first day of Symphonic Season, Ms. Alford put two pieces of music in front of us that had more sharps, tempo-changes and notes than most of us had ever seen before.

If I remember correctly the music was “Firebird” and a piece called “Mosque.” (Feel free to correct me if I am wrong.)

As we struggled through those pieces of music, Ms. Alford wouldn’t let us be defeated.  We were challenged in ways we never imagined and finally the notes started to fall into place, the tempos came and all those sharps didn’t seem so difficult any longer.

By the time Festival rolled around, we knew we were good, we knew we had it and so did she.  We walked onto that stage knowing we were about to blow the roof off and we did.

The smile on Ms. Alford’s face when we finished will always be etched on my heart.  Once again we ranked all Superiors and got a standing ovation from the crowd when we hit our last notes.

Ms. Alford knew our potential and she knew how to pull it out of us.

After symphonic season, we began planning for our Spring Concert, my favorite concert of the year.

The Spring Concert featured more familiar songs, ones that we could have fun with.  Not long before the spring concert season began, I had been chosen to participate in a regional competition in voice.

One of the pieces of music we would be playing that year during the Spring Concert was selections from the Broadway musical “A Chorus Line.”

Ms. Alford had an idea, I would sing “What I Did for Love,” the big solo number featured in the musical, I would be accompanied by the band.  YIKES, nothing like some pressure.

True to form, Ms. Alford coached me through it and on the day of our performance, I stepped to the microphone and did it, I sang accompanied by my fellow band members.

For all the years that I knew her, she was ill, but she never, ever let her illness affect her dedication to us.

She showed up every day, she challenged us and challenged her body to keep going.  She was dedicated to us and we were dedicated to her.

The last time I saw Ms. Alford was about eight years ago at my nephew’s High School graduation.

I had spotted her in the crowd shortly after we took our seats and she spotted me about the same time.  She smiled, I smiled and I mouthed “I love you.”  She smiled brighter.

After the ceremony was over, I made my way over to where she was, “Ken Rumsey, get over here and give me a hug,” she said and I did.  I hugged her with all my might and she hugged me right back.

She wanted to know about me and when I asked about how she was, in true Ann Alford form she never complained, she just laughed and said “old and mean.”  She was neither,  in my eyes and heart, she was still the loving woman who challenged me to be my best.

Ann Alford was more than a teacher.  She was an inspiration to a lot of kids that needed it, myself included.  She taught us to never settle for anything but our best.

Ms. Alford has now passed, I wish I had gotten to tell her one more time how much she meant to me and how much I loved her, but I suspect she knew that.

We all loved her and when the music fills my heart and my spirit soars, I know she is there, counting the beat and striking up the band.

Thanks Ms. Alford, this band geek owes you more than words can ever express and grieves more at your passing that one blog post can ever relay.

 

It Is Well

I struggle every day.

I struggle with not feeling good enough, I struggle with money, I struggle with relationships, I struggle with decisions that I have made and I still have to make, life is a struggle.

While the struggles of everyday life weigh upon me, I have come to a peace in my life that I know comes only from a faith that has been instilled in me since childhood, since the days of the simple stories of the Bible, through life lessons as a youth and joys and disappointments as an adult.

I’m one of those “wear your emotions on your sleeves kind of guy.”  Once when my  brother was picking on me, my grandmother spoke up and in her most grand-motherly of southern belle grand-motherly voices said “leave him alone, he is a sensitive child.”

While that joke has been told and retold through life, it is true, I am sensitive, I ache when those around me ache, I cry for a nation that has lots its way, I mourn when I witness bigotry and oppression of people who are simply trying to live the lives that God created for them, yes, I am sensitive and I struggle.

When the same grandmother, who told my brother I was sensitive passed away, I had a meltdown in the funeral home.  My mom and dad took me into a back office to help me regain my composure and my mom told me something that struck home.  In that moment of pain, my mom told me “let it out, I wish I could.”

As I have matured, I have realized my sensitivity is a blessing, not a curse.  Sometimes I wish I could have a harder shell, but I don’t.  My emotions seep out of me like a river of lava from the deepest bowels of the earth.

I understand that being a sensitive child, sometimes makes life for those around me more difficult, but it is how I am wired and I accept that.

When I tell my co-workers and friends that I cried during a TV show, they just laugh and say “of course you did,” it isn’t meant as a condemnation, but more an acceptance of who I am.

This week, I have been having a hard time, I have thought about a relationship that I wish was stronger, my heart hurts for recently divorced friends that are struggling to find a way in their new-found reality and I have thought and prayed about recent events that have ostracized groups of people who simply want to share their faith the best way they know how and have been pushed away.

This week, a simple message has gone through my mind over and over again…

while we as humans want things done in our time, in our way, we must have faith, FAITH in knowing that HIS time is omnipotent and one day, someday, HIS plan will be revealed, we just have to stand strong, stand in our truth and TRUST.

That prayer filled message has been constant, I know it to be true and trust in the words of God that all will be well.

This morning, as I came into work and flipped on my Pandora, the first song I heard was “It is Well,” a song that has always had tremendous meaning for me, but one that speaks to me stronger today than usual.

It is well, yes because of faith, indeed IT IS WELL.  My sensitive self listened with tears strolling down my cheeks and a joy in my heart, still struggling to understand, but steadfast in knowing that HIS plan will be revealed in HIS time.

It Is Well…….

 

 

Unplanned, Uneventful, Perfection

Do you ever have one of those days that is totally unplanned, totally uneventful and turns into total perfection?  Today has been one of those days for me.

To start, I didn’t wake up until almost 9AM, something I rarely do and three hours later than I usually rise.

After a leisurely morning around the house, I headed out around noon. I had waited until noon, as that is when the recycling center opens and I wanted to drop off my trash.

I arrived to drop my trash and no one was in line, again, something rare especially on a Saturday or Sunday.

I got out of the car and was greeted by the sweet lady who always has a smile on her face and kind word for everyone who stops by.  As I finished dumping my trash, she smiled and said, as she always does, “have a blessed day angel.”  I didn’t realize it at the time, but it was moving that way.

I ran by the store and wrote my monthly column for Georgia Mountain Laurel Magazine.   This month I had been struggling with my column.  I knew what I wanted to write about, but the words weren’t flowing in my mind yet, it was a struggle.

With tomorrow’s deadline on the horizon, I sat down at my laptop and 20 minutes later almost 1,000 words had flowed from my fingers onto the screen.  I did some edits, but somehow the words that I had been wanting to say came.  (I hope you all like them, the new GML will be out in early November.)

After submitting my column, I cleaned the inside of my very dirty car and gave it a quick wash.

I then came home and decided to rake and blow the leaves off my drive and then put out some Halloween decorations I had forgotten about.

Now, the day is coming to an end.  As I write this I am sitting on my screen deck, enjoying a beautiful Fall day, my girl Lita at my feet.  An awesome 70’s Disco playlist on in the background that Alexa chose.

See what I mean….unplanned, uneventful, perfection.

Life’s Playlist…..You Say by Lauren Daigle

Life’s Playlist… This Is Me from The Greatest Showman