one day (and year) at a time

2013 rang in while I was working on a composition deadline
and the rest of my family were tucked soundly in their beds.
My New Year’s celebration (or lack of) may seem a bit boring
but my heart was filled with anticipation and wonder.

With the start of this new year I have a lot to be excited about:

– My son Archer turned one year old and received his first haircut :’)

– I was interviewed by artist, designer, and architect Corissa Nelson.
We talked about 
how women find time to be creative, especially moms.

– I completed my composition, Point Me To The Skies, for Martin Luther College’s wind symphony

– AND launched Holy Hen House, where friends and I are writing a Christian women’s blog
check it out!

New Year2

Do you remember how I posted about making goals with deadlines and sticking to them?
Well – I should have added – don’t put all the deadlines in the same week. Haha!
I have to admit I didn’t get much sleep and even stayed up as late (or early?) as 5:30am.
BUT I met all my deadlines and am working towards a whole new set of goals
that I could not have imagined one year ago.
How awesome!

With all of these opportunities I have to remind myself to discern my priorities.
What is God’s will? What is first? Him – the one thing needful.

Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city,
spend a year there, carry on business and make money.”
Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life?

You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.
Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.”

James 4:13-15

I have about 10 days to start and complete my Epiphany text and hymn
but as always I am taking it one day at a time. A day of His grace.


want a change // make a deadline

At the Soaring Leap workshop Eric Whitacre gave some advice that I quickly put into practice. The advice was simple and so far rewarding.

Whitacre said along these lines…

Ask yourself what you want to do and then make a list of each step to take that would make it happen.

Set a deadline for yourself.

If you want your music performed then contact a music group and pick a date for your piece to be performed. Now you have to do it.

I call this “going fishing”. You offer your work to several groups some bite and some don’t.

Since the workshop I have “gone fishing” quite a bit and have committed to three compositions. I am truly excited about the projects and the people I am working with. I will be composing for wind symphony, women’s choir, and concert choir.

I am composing again! My music will be read, rehearsed, and performed.

The best part is that the music is for God’s glory and there is no greater motivation for me than that!

Like a cuckoo clock, when the correct time strikes – music is played.

doodle by Christen Noelle


soaring leap // eric whitacre workshop

Eric Whitacre did not know how to read music, thought he was going to be a pop star, and went to college for no greater reason than that was what everyone else seemed to be doing. After being convinced to join college choir to meet girls, Whitacre was blown away when he heard Mozart’s Requiem for the first time and was brought to tears.

It was something he had never experienced before. Something sacred. Something that he would never forget. Something that he would continue the rest of his life aiming to do – to reach and connect people through music to that something he couldn’t find words to describe. Inspired by this he continued his education at Juilliard where he earned his Master’s degree in music and is now one of the most famous composers of our time.

I first heard Whitacre’s choral music when I was going for my undergraduate back in ’05. When I completed my first choral composition Search Me I was curious what Eric Whitacre would think of it and sent it to him. He enjoyed the piece and encouraged me to focus on getting my piece performed rather than spending my time trying to get it published. He mentioned that once pieces are performed, those who hear and like it will want to publish it for you. So, I stopped licking envelopes and continued composing.

Hearing your music performed is one of the most unique experiences I think a person can have. I’ll never forget the first time I heard the choir sing the opening phrase of my piece. I was deeply moved and humbled as my composition became alive through the collaboration of voices.

A few weeks ago, I happened to be on twitter the same moment that Whitacre tweeted about a workshop he would be leading in Houston, TX. I quickly learned that the workshop Soaring Leap was for composers, conductors, and singers. I fit all three descriptions and couldn’t pass it up!

Picture courtesy of Charamy Vicoy

The workshop was truly wonderful! My eyes were wide open not wanting to miss anything! It was an intimate and priceless few hours. I think back to  Johann Sebastian Bach’s admiration of Dieterich Buxtehude’s music. Bach’s journey was a 250 mile trip on foot to “learn one thing and another about his art”. I think of the music performed around Schubert’s friend’s (the Schubertiads) living rooms and of Nadia Boulanger’s at home salons where her students would perform and be influenced by the top musicians of that time.

When Whitacre was speaking I was taking notes in my composition journal, when he was conducting I was watching the expression in his face and hands communicating to the choir, and when he was instructing other voice parts I considered them equal to my own and listened attentively.

Eric Whitacre invests in his fans and protégés do not go unnoticed. During the first break I was quick to introduce myself. I reminded him of our brief correspondence years before and thanked him for his reply and encouragement. He asked what I had done since and was truly engaged in my story. Again, humbled.

Photo courtesy of Charamy Vicoy

I will be sharing more insights and lessons from the workshop this month including Whitacre’s use of breath in sculpting music, awareness of audience, use of text or silence to enhance the music, creative process to start a composition, thoughts on tonal and atonal music, and the sacredness of music found in intelligent design.

Eric Whitacre inspired me to challenge myself to compose better quality music and have it performed again. My last commission was two years ago. It’s time to contact choirs and musicians to have me compose for them – even if it’s for free. I need to stop hesitating and find the opportunities waiting for me!

Written in my composition journal.

I sincerely thank you, Eric Whitacre.