Thursday, April 16, 2015

Music in My Heart

There's such a thing as muscle memory. Do something long enough, over and over repetitively, and it becomes a habit. Something you can close your eyes and do.

Things we are conditioned to do... like when I miss a turn because I'm so used to going straight to town. Or when I accidentally run the red light at Lees College because when I was cruising around town as a high schooler, there wasn't a red light there.

And the thing about memories are... they'll come back to you at the strangest of times.

Like today...

That organ started playing the first notes of "Morning Had Broken", and I caught myself standing a little taller, with one hand by my side.

No slouching. No fidgeting. "Lauren, quit rocking back and forth on your feet."

I could close my eyes and I was right back in that room at Breathitt High School. The chair is hard against my back and the carpet is a little worn.  We've gone over that same score too many times to count, and then...

She was sitting at the piano, head held high, a somewhat stern look on her face...

Until the music was over, and then...

She'd hold one hand up, directing us to stop, and then salute us with that hand.

And that smile...

It covered her whole face. There was nothing like nailing a song...

Not just because you sung beautifully...

but because you knew you had made her proud.

Chorus was my favorite class from 8th grade until I graduated, and I had a lot of excellent teachers(read more about those here, if you'd like). I'm pretty sure that my Senior year Chorus was pretty much a haven for me... because after AP English, AP Calculus, and AP Chemistry, I could go in and relax.

I'd like to think I was the teacher's pet. I won the Chorus award at 8th grade graduation and at high school graduation. The thing about Mrs. DeHoag, though... is that really, every one was the teacher's pet. She loved you regardless and managed to make you feel special. There was a place for everyone in her Choir.

Mrs. DeHoag taught me much more than what a teacher normally teaches. 

She taught me self-respect. She taught me courage. She taught me that if you just keep trying, you'll eventually get it... and if you don't try, you won't ever get it. As we drove to Louisville today, Nora and I laughed about how when she gave you music, the next time you went through it better be better than the first.

She had high expectations.

From my first solo in 8th grade (one of the verses of Who Put the Bomp) to my last solo in high school (Bind' aut dein harr... in German, no less) she pushed me to try things that I never would have.

A note that seemed to high?

Breath control.

An Eastern Kentucky accent?

It didn't matter... when you opened your mouth to sing, it better disappear.

You didn't hold out the consonant sounds, only the vowels, and you shaped your mouth a certain way to make those vowels rounded.

You just simply didn't disappoint her.

You sang from within, from the heart, and you showed that in your presentation.

She taught me about other things, too...

how to project my voice during a ballgame. All-District Chorus tryouts fell right smack dab in the middle of football season...

and what an exciting football season it was.  We were undefeated, and we all know that was largely due to my hard work on the sideline.

I never worried about my voice being strained, though, because Mrs. DeHoag had a talk with me my freshman year about how I could yell deep without putting a lot of pressure on my vocal chords.

Wallace has her to think when I can be heard yelling at the refs across the gym now, loud and clear, and still be able to talk the next morning.

She taught me how music is something to be enjoyed... all types.

I shine at UK football games because we proudly sang My Old Kentucky Home, and I know all the words, not just the "Weep No more my lady" that most of the stadium sings.

Songs like "Poor Man Lazarus" are jotted in my Bible, because every time I read that Scripture I think of Mrs. DeHoag.

Decrescendo and crescendo and emphasizing your diction.

Determination and hard work.

And love. I knew Mrs. DeHoag loved me... loved all of her students. She showed it by pushing us, and she showed it as she talked about us during concerts, and she showed it when she came to my wedding.

She showed it when I looked over in a Target bathroom while washing my hands and met her eyes after I hadn't saw her in a few years.
"Lauren!" She squealed, and hugged me even though my hands were dripping wet.

She showed it when I ran into her at Red Lobster in Louisville during one of Wallace's Reserve meetings.

A hug and questions about Mom and my sisters until we realized that we were holding up the waitress.

And as we sang "Joyful, joyful" to conclude her service today, I thought of the medley we sang from Sister Act that included that song and O Happy Day

Today, and these past few days, were sad days, as I read comments and posts made by my friends and classmates who were impacted by her love for her students and her music... As the music went on, and the service spoke of how grace and love win, I teared up, as is expected with death...

But I was reminded during her service that it is also a happy day, because we have hope.

Hope in Christ.

Victory over death.

We don't mourn as people without hope...

and that hope is in my heart.

Just like her music.

Thank you, Mrs. Dehoag, for believing in me... and in all those who were blessed to have you in the classroom. Thank you for the memories, for your laughter, for your smile of pride that I can still remember.

And thank you for the music. "Next to the Word of God, the noble art of music is the greatest treasure in the world."- Martin Luther

"Eyes have not seen, ears have not heard, neither has it entered into the heart of man, what God has prepared for those who love Him."

And I'm pretty sure that includes new songs and melodies. I'm glad you're going ahead of me. I'll be doing my warm-ups, and we'll sing together again.

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