Thoughts to Ponder are my musings regarding community, things of the Spirit, and living as a Christ-follower. I don't offer the words of a professional or an expert; just a fellow traveler and explorer. Please don't take my musings more serious than I do. I've discovered a long time ago that I do not hold the keys of knowledge or wisdom. If I did, I misplaced them somewhere...typical.

Monday, February 11, 2008

The Gift (a stream-of-consciousness rambling)

Jeanne Johnson is an incredible lady.

Presently Dean of Music and Dance, she's known as "Mama J" by so many music students who have gone through Kilgore College. Although, I think it's to my credit, I never addressed her in that way because she is too young!

I met her sometime in 1976--can't remember the exact time. She was just hired as a voice teacher for Kilgore College where I attended. Her office was beside my voice teacher, Bill Holda's office. (Later on my next voice teacher, Dick McKean would have Bill's space beside Jeanne).

She was beautiful, vivacious and energetic. One student a few years later described her as hooked up to an IV of caffeine.

A little over a year ago I dropped by Kilgore College and visited with Jeanne and Bill (now President of the College) for a few minutes. It was great to see them again and to see how little either of them had changed. Honestly, 18-20-year-olds tend to think of people over 25 as ancient--I knew they were young, but I didn't realize just how young they really were!

And yes, Jeanne is still just as beautiful, vivacious and energetic (the caffeine hasn't been depleted).

I didn't think anymore about it until the gift.

The gift.

It came wrapped up in a series of emails that stretched out over several months.

Jeanne was working furiously to put together a Reunion Concert for Kilgore College's Chorale begun forty years ago by Melvin Marshall. Jeanne, herself was a charter member.

It sounded like fun. Maybe I could see old friends I hadn't seen in years: reconnect with people I had grown to love in those days. So I made my plans to attend.

I was a little worried when I realized we wouldn't receive any of the music until the day of rehearsal (which would be the day of the concert). I hadn't sung choral music since I'd left Kilgore College. I wasn't a music major and my sight reading skill could only be characterized as relative. And that is charitable.

Regardless, the day arrived Saturday, February 9. We registered at 9:00 and began rehearsal at 10:00. Although several from my era could not make it, it was a delight to see and visit with those who could. And when my eyes caught sight of Melvin, my heart filled up with the memories.

Melvin and Marilyn Marshall: both directed the Chorale, although Marilyn only for a few months after Melvin's resignation. Both created in me a desire to give my best for the sake of love. Yes, love for music--their love for it was infectious--love for them, and love for the group of which I found myself a part .

Carrie (Butler) Swann, a former member and one of my dear friends, once told me there was something about those years which could not be replaced. The quality of friends, the experiences, the shared memories were so unique. I had to admit, they took on almost mythic proportions in my life. In many ways those early years of college defined my life.

Rehearsal made me feel better. Actually, I loved it. Sat beside Bronson Marshall (Melvin's son) and we joked about sitting in front so we could float on the draft from those Tenors who really knew what they were doing! Confidence did return and making the music together was an incredible experience. I enjoyed the rehearsal as much as I did the performance.

At lunch we were treated to the musings and memories of past and present directors, some whom I had only just met. Even though I had not experienced many of the very early and the later memories, I felt part of a vibrant community with a collective memory.

I felt I was given a gift.

And indeed, I had been given a gift.

Melvin and Marilyn were gifts themselves. They gave themselves to us and we were enriched by
their love and unselfishness. For me it was also Bill Holda and Dick McKean who taught me to love such exotic musical styles like opera and madrigal. Those who came back to direct, whom I had never met before (Dale Miller, Paul Neal, Mary Heiden and current director, Ryan Kelly and pianist Judy Owens), shared themselves in that small segment of time: a gift. The current Chorale members and those former classmates--those who could make it and those who couldn't--what a gift they all are.

Jeanne Johnson, "Mama J" had poured her soul into this moment and I am grateful. It was truly an unselfish act of love given toward Melvin and Marilyn, the 40 years worth of students, and the former directors.

Thank you, Jeanne. You are truly a gracious lady.

God bless you!

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