Wednesday, February 25, 2009

A Kid in King Arthur's Court

After school today, we had a faculty meeting with our superintendent of schools. Yeah, it was a big deal. Obviously he was here to talk about budget issues in these tough economic times. I came away with two observations.

1. I felt like a child amongst giants. Here was the superintendent spouting off financial figures that I couldn't even register. He might as well have been saying, "We've got eleventy bajillion dollars here, and four gogillion dollars in this account. Now if we cut point four percentage points to the lateral axis of every fiscal hydrogen bonded rotator cuff, we can alleviate the negotiable divisor betwixt the three million and the seventy-leven zillion mark." WHAT? It was really hard for me to follow everything he was saying. I guess I'm a simple man who deals in simple figures. I trust that he knows what he's doing; which leads me to my next point.

2. We often see these "higher up" figures in a negative light. "He is so out of touch with us" or "He doesn't even come into the classrooms", etc. We often think that we are the ones that do the grunt work while they sit in their leather backed chairs lighting cigars with flaming Benjamin Franklin greenbacks. I can tell you, that is not the case with this man. I really got a sense that he fights for his schools. He doesn't spend much time in the classrooms, because he CAN'T. He's up to his eyeballs in financial figures, politicians, and bar graphs trying to steer our school system successfully through this "crisis". I do my job, he DEFINITELY does his. For that I'm grateful.

Monday, February 23, 2009

These Are the Moments

There are moments every now and then that make me go, "Oh yeah. This is why I do this. This is why I love this job. This is why I love teaching music." I had another one of those moments today. It couldn't have come soon enough, because I was in a slump of sorts. Each day seemed so boring and lifeless, until today. And, keep in mind, when I say "moment" that's exactly what these are. It was literally about five seconds long, but that was long enough.

I'm teaching my choir an African-American spiritual called "Yonder Come Day". It allows for much artistic liberty, including the use of percussion. I decided to purchase a djembe, a large African hand drum. It came in last week and it's AWESOME. I'm no expert on percussion instruments, but it's got a great sound and it's fun to play.

Oh yeah, the moment. It was second period. We were rehearsing Yonder Come Day. We got to a section towards the end where I've asked the choir to sway (which was rough when we first started it, but it all came together today.) I was playing the drum, the kids were singing, we were all swaying; it was a real Mr. Holland's Opus moment. I know, pretty cheesy, but I loved it so back off.

Friday, February 20, 2009

A Random List of Things on My Mind

-I can't believe Ricky wasn't voted into the top three. It makes me hate American Idol... again.

-I watched Survivor last night at Debbie's house. We would ask her questions about what was going to happen, and then try to interpret her facial expressions to come up with some sort of answer.

-Lost on Wednesday? Eh.

-Twenty four on Monday? Eh.

-I watch too much TV.

-I'm tired of cold weather. Can't wait for Spring, when the weather breaks.

-What are you doing this weekend? Me? Nothing. Ahhh...

-I recently joined Twitter. I'm still not fully sold on it's worth.

-I ordered and received a Meinl Djembe (expensive African hand drum) for my classroom today. It sounds so good!

-Teaching will take it out of you! I'm tired!

-I might already be addicted to the nasal spray I bought this past weekend.

-I'm reading The Shack right now and really enjoying it. Thanks for the recommendation, Holly.

-I'm also into a Japanese animated series (anime) for the first time ever in my life. It's called Cowboy Bebop. Judge me.

-That's all for now. Have a great weekend everyone.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Holy Moses

Did you see Ricky Braddy on American Idol last night? More importantly, did you HEAR Ricky Braddy on American Idol last night? And? Blown away I assume. I'm not just saying this because he's my friend or because I'm biased, but he was clearly the frontrunner of his group last night. Sure, the last guy was great too. But I still don't think he sang as well as Ricky. We shall see this evening as they reveal America's decision on the top three from group one. I never thought I would care this much about American Idol. I used to hate it. Eventually, I got to where I would sit through an entire episode. Now, I watch with baited breath to see what will happen. Who knows, at this rate, I might be auditioning for next season...

You didn't think I was serious did you?

Monday, February 16, 2009

Moxi Mix-up

It turns out you can't set a show to record simply by thinking about it. All day I've been looking forward to watching 24 and then Heroes. With my new moxi, I would be able to watch two shows that air simultaneously by recording them, then watching them one after the other. They started at eight. Any DVR enthusiast knows you wait twenty minutes so that you can fast forward through commercials. So, I waited twenty minutes. When I turned the TV to Fox, I realized I hadn't set 24 to record. BLAST! I could start watching now, but I'd be twenty minutes behind; that'll never work. I had lost. There was no way to watch 24. I'll have to catch it online in a few days. I'm almost embarassed that I even care this much, but when I think back to all of the crazy obsessed Bachelor related facebook statuses today, I don't feel so bad.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

As Sayings Go...

My family has a few of them, sayings that is. One of my favorites being a phrase that my grandfather would say at EVERYONE'S birthday party, no matter what. He would wait for the lull of the crowd, then proudly exclaim, "Never been this old before!" As if his words were a revelation unfolding before our eyes.

Today is my birthday, and no, I've never been this old before. The saying rings with the same truth as it did last year. My grandfather is no longer with us, but my brother and I proudly carry on the tradition. Every time one of us has a birthday, the phone will ring and you can bet there's a Cater on the other end just itching to remind you that you've,

"Never been THIS old before!"

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Is This Real Life?

Reality television has been around for several years now. The percentage of Americans that have participated in a reality television series is increasing every year. Surely, it's only a matter of time until someone you know becomes involved in a reality television series. That time, for me, has come. Firstly, I have a good friend in the top thirty six of American Idol season eight. I've known people to try out, but I don't think I've ever known anyone to get this far. His name is Ricky Braddy and his voice will melt your face off. Secondly, my boss is a contestant on the newest season of Survivor! Are you kidding me? The premier was tonight, so we can finally talk openly about it. We've secretly known for a while that she was on the show, but we couldn't say anything. She mysteriously left school (in case you don't know, I'm a middle school choir teacher, so my boss would be the principal) for two months in October. While life at our humble middle school continued its mundane course, our principal was fighting for survival; literally. Her name is Debra.

So I guess the scope of the reality TV machine has reached its tentacles to my front door, or rather to my television. If you're the type to get online and/or text in votes for contestants (or even if you're not) get online, text, do it all. Vote for Ricky Braddy for American Idol. Vote for Debra Beebe for fan favorite on Survivor's website. This is crazy.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Operator Won't You Put Me On Through

It was Friday night, around 7:00 p.m. My phone rang...

Me: Hello?
Robotic voice: This is Charter Communications calling to confirm your appointment for Friday from 7:00-8:00 p.m. To confirm, press 1. To cancel, press 3.

I cancelled and they transferred me to a representative. I was greeted by a very nice sounding customer service representative. I made a joke about being called by the "robot". She laughed, and the rest was history. We settled the issue of the random call within about five minutes. We spent the next hour on the phone, just talking. That's right, I "chit-chatted" with a Charter customer service representative for an hour because she sounded attractive. Luckily, I had a Charter bill that I had not opened sitting on my desk. I asked Sarah to stay on the line with me while I opened the bill. Sure enough, there were erroneous charges on the bill. Sarah kindly deduced fifty dollars from the bill and talked me through some other options. We talked about everything from Kentucky "Bourbon Balls" (a chocolate and bourbon treat) to Xbox to wireless routers. An hour later, I had sweet talked my way into a free Moxi DVR upgrade. Of course, I'm very skeptical. Last time I was told something would be "free" from Charter, I got billed for it... twice. So, Sarah gave me her email address to ensure that I could get back in touch with her if there was a problem. Sounds too good to be true, and probably is. I'll keep you posted.

Monday, February 9, 2009

When in Rome

My good friend Emily is in Italy for the semester. If I let it go unchecked, my jealousy boils into a frenzy. I can't believe the things she's getting to see, do, and eat. I imagine that one would obtain such a different perspective of a foreign place by living there, not just visiting. It makes me feel like my humble little life here in Auburn is nothing compared to her new Italian life. I'm eating leftovers from last night's dinner and she's eating 1,000 year old cheese and fine Italian wine. Live it up.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

We Are the Champions

I found this image on Facebook. I had to show it to you. This is my father after the Steelers won the Super Bowl. To those less savvy, he's waving a "terrible towel". It's Steelers tradition.

Go Steelers!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Bile em' Cabbage Down

For the last several weeks, the space between my watch and my wrist has really stunk. I'm sorry if I startled you by frankly coming forth with a mysterious bodily odor. It's a Fossil watch, all metal. So, it's not one of those stinky velcro band issues. And, it would stink after only wearing the watch for a few minutes, so it had nothing to do with sweat. I deduced that there was some kind of "funk" in my watchband. Every time I would put the watch on, the funk would get warm and release its funkiness.

So, what did I do? I boiled my watch. That's right, I brought a full saucepan of water to a rolling boil and dipped my watchband into the boiling froth. Three or four dips lasting about ten seconds each and I was done. I let the watch cool and dry overnight. Today, I'm funk free.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Domo Arigato

I begin each class with a "Bellringer", ironically titled since we don't use bells at my school. Most of the time, I like to come up with my own bellringers. However, I often turn to a small book of music related journal questions that are perfect for just such an activity. Today, I used a bellringer that I've used before and had conversations similar to the ones I always have with this question: "Could a robot compose or perform music better than a human being? Why or why not?" What's particularly interesting is not necessarily their answers to the question, rather its their presupposed and readily offered knowledge of robots that cracks me up! "Robots" in the sense that we think of them (Rosie from the Jetsons) don't really exist, right? I mean, Honda created some kind of little walking thing that will one day help old people around their house, but we don't daily interact with "robots" from popular culture. This information doesn't phase a sixth grader. Don't even mess with them. They already know most everything there is to know about robots.

"If you program a robot to compose music, it could compose better than a human."

"It depends, if you like robot music you might like what a robot composes better than what a human composes."

"No. Robots might run out of batteries or have a short circuit."

"No, because robots voices only have one pitch."

"Yes, because robots are made of metal and are awesome."

These kids talk about robots as if they have a daily interaction with and deep understanding of them. I never knew I knew so little about robots!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Swimming Upstream

Warning: Stream of consciousness ahead.

It's show choir season. This brings with it mixed emotions. Don't get me wrong, I love me some show choir. But, I do think it can get out of hand in some cases. There are school choral programs that are solely devoted to having the best, loudest, flashiest show choir in the land. Trophies. As a result, these students are receiving an unbalanced music education. They are missing out on a ton of excellent choral literature. Another adverse effect of show choirs is the tendency to be exclusive. Just like a team, a choral director must pick the best performers. A school whose choral program exists solely for show choir would leave out a large number of students that simply want to sing and have fun doing it.

I live in Auburn; a city whose choral programs take great pride in their show choirs. Fortunately, these are well balanced choral programs that offer students experiences in classical choral literature as well as popular show choir literature. My choral program does not offer show choir. It just wouldn't fly at this age.

Do I want a large, flourishing show choir program? Sometimes. Most times, no. It's a TON of work, but the rewards are great. No, I don't mean trophies and first place ribbons. I think that performing on a stage in front of people greatly increases confidence in those that perform. It has such a great impact on people.

Tonight was the preview shows for the Junior High and High School show choirs. It was incredible to see so many of my former students performing in a show choir for the first time. I was beaming with pride.

So, I think I'm okay with not having a show choir. No, I know I'm okay with not having a show choir. I'm perfectly satisfied with going to the occasional high school show choir practice, offering my two cents of advice. Playing electric guitar in one song for the high school show choir band. For now, I've got all the show choir I need.