Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Officially Closed

So...we finally broke down and decided to stop trying and posting on multiple blogs and are having just one for the two of us. So, there will be no more posts here and you should check us out at:

Monday, June 14, 2010

What do you think?

So...I'm having to write my own course packet for the Basic Vocal Skills class I am teaching this fall. Every book that I read seems to be a bit odd in how it teaches to sing. (odd=different than how I think it should be taught, but I've earned the right to think it should be different!) For heavens sake, one goes into detail about the four functions of the glottis (one of which is defecation, in case you were wondering...)

So, I wrote my introduction to the class, and I'm curious if this would make you excited to learn to sing? I know it piddles out at the end, I'm working on that:

Learning to Sing

Basic Vocal Techniques

I remember the first time I got on a bike. My little 10 year old body climbed over the frame my mother was holding up while I tried to figure out all of these new places to put my hands and my feet, where I was supposed to sit, and figuring out this new motion that meant that I was pedaling. It was a completely different world than walking (something that I’m sure was as difficult to figure out, since I seem to have blocked it out of my memory), and I wasn’t completely sure that I could really pull it off.

My biggest concern was falling over, so my mom’s promise was that she would hold on to the seat while I pedaled to make sure I stayed upright. As I started pedaling, though, she redacted her promise and I soon found myself alone, pedaling for my life trying to stay upright. While I was excited that I was riding a bike and staying balanced, I soon learned that there was a whole world of skills I had not yet learned related to bike riding. For example, as I came upon the gravel pit marked by a “No Trespassing” sign, I was unable to turn and avoid certain failure. Once I had entered the gravel pit, I was unable to figure out how to brake and effectively stop the bike. My only solution was to abandon ship, and I soon found myself on the ground with my new bike several feet away.

Years later, as an adult, I decided to return to bicycling, both as a way to keep in shape and a way to explore new territory. Perhaps my first ride after decades of not being on a bike was a bit ambitious. After driving several miles up into the mountains, only to discover that the trail was one constant and steep climb, I discovered that it was much too much work for my significantly weak lungs and out of shape legs. Fortunately, I have a good wife who encourages me to stick with things and convinced me to keep riding, starting with less demanding trails. In a very short time I was back in shape and ready to attack the very same trail I had tried at first, and was much more successful. While there are still skills to master and strength to gain, I can see the progress I have made, and am willing to continue mastering the skills I’ve learned.

Some of you are coming into this class to sing for the first time, while some of you have been at it for years. Many of you may have sung years ago and are looking forward to singing again. In many cases, the situation is the same for each of you. To learn to sing well you have to coordinate a variety of processes, from breathing correctly to moving your lips, tongue, and soft palate into the right place, all way staying open and relaxed. In addition, there are hundreds of tiny muscles inside your voice box that you can’t even feel (let alone see) that need to be coordinated so that you can change the pitch and even the intensity of your voice. Many of these muscles will have never been used in the way that we will ask you to in class.

As a result, your muscles may feel like they are rebelling, and you may think that the best solution is to just dive off the machine you’ve set in motion. Don’t give into that temptation! Remember that the muscles related to your voice are simply learning how to do something new, and that is going to take time and patient repetition for them to be able to have the strength to be successful at it.

Just like in my first mountain biking excursion as an adult, as a singer you cannot begin singing the most difficult of music in the loudest voice at the widest range. Instead you have to start with basic exercises that will help to train and strengthen the muscles to be prepared for that big, dramatic moment. Every chapter we will talk about a different aspect of your voice, give you an opportunity to discover and become more aware of the muscles or the sounds that we are trying to pay attention to, explain to you what is happening in your voice, and give you some exercises to practice at home so that your body will get more effective at the new technique you have just learned.

Learning to sing can be broken down into three major areas that are best approached by looking at the three parts of a bicycle horn: the bulb, the honk, and the horn. Squeezing the bulb pushes air through the honk, creating a sound that then bounces around in the bulb to make that unique sound that sends pedestrians scattering. In the voice, the breath (the bulb) pushes air through the vocal folds (the honk) and create sounds that bounce around the spaces in the head, the mouth, and the nose (the horn) until it final comes out to make a beautiful singing voice. As a singer, we have to learn how to work each part of the voice independently so that they can work together to make a beautiful sound. Each section will deal with one of these three areas. While we may leave one area for awhile to work on something different, keep practicing the exercises so that you are ready to learn more advanced techniques when we come back to that part of the voice.

Another big part of learning to sing is finding beautiful music to sing. In this class, we want to expose you to a wide variety of different types of songs that you can sing. Some will be familiar to you, while some will be completely different. All of them, however, will be beautiful and fun to sing. Take advantage of these opportunities to try something new. While it may not be your favorite flavor, it might be something you like to come back to every so often, and it definitely increases your versatility as a singer.

As we work together this semester, remember that singing should always be fun! Every opportunity that you have to sing, either with the class or in front of the class is an opportunity to do something that you love enough to join us for this semester. Our goal is to help you to have fun and to learn ways to be a better singer.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Lesson Learned

So...for my Music Appreciation Course that I'm teaching this fall, I'm getting all gung-ho about getting things lined up early. My goal for each of my classes is to have the first 8 lectures (first month) prepared (or at least powerpointed...) so that I am ready to go. I still am going to have a lot of work once I get there, so I'm hoping this gives me a chance to keep my feet under me this first semester.

I found a really fun text for the course and started getting my lectures ready. This text was particularly attractive, because it had some powerpoint slides that I could already use, as well as a test bank that works very nice for midterms, etc. So I've made it all the way up to my first midterm (about 8 or 9 classes in) and I decide its time to talk to the textbook manager at the school to make sure I can get the text ordered.


Turns out they bought back a text from last semester that I need to use at least for this first semester. its a fine text, and the students will still learn what they need to. It just means I have to go back and read another book and make sure that my lectures line up with what they are teaching....ugh.

Starting over....

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Finally some pictures!

I've gone on the Bonneville shoreline ride several times, but I always forget to bring Whitney's camera along! I'll admit that part of why I "forget" is because I'm afraid that I'll endo on the bike and ruin her camera, so I wanted to do it enough of times that I felt comfortable in the ride. Anyway, here are some pictures! In other news, Whitney's been playing with Adobe Lightroom, and did just a wee bit of editing on these pictures, don't they look great?

A panorama of the starting point for the trail, absolutely beautiful!

I think these views are so fun!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Fourth Try's....the charm?

I took this picture with Whitney's panorama feature on her new camera. This is the meadow about half a mile up the ride. This is the first ride I did when I rented a bike, and tried again the after I bought the bike, and tried AGAIN when my buddy rented a bike and came with me. Every time I've been a little bit better.

This time was the best by far. I stopped about half as often, didn't fall off my bike (only on the one really steep hill), and really enjoyed the ride! I ran into a few fellow mountain bikers, one college student - we rode together for a few legs - and a whole group of bikers who were pretty good at giving me some examples (as I followed them) on how to do better riding down the trail. It was awesome!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Little Engine that Could

I didn't take this picture. I keep forgetting to grab Whitney's camera when I go places, partially because I don't want to ruin it (it is a pretty nice little handheld). I borrowed this from so you can kind of see what the trail is like. this would be one of the smoother portions..:)

I really wasn't sure I was ready to go back on this trail. I tried it last Thursday and had a really rough time. It was a lot of fun because there were lots of ups and downs, but I kept having to stop on the ups (at a certain point the bike starts to tip over and you have no choice but to put a foot down) and ride my brakes on the downs (they were pretty steep). I kept planning on going at it again, but I just freaked myself out and decided to do other rides or sleep (after all, the book does say I should rest every couple of days or so). I couldn't come up with any excuse, so I decided to try it again.

I've learned quite a bit since I last tried this, and I felt pretty good about myself. I think I handled the gear shifts a lot better; I would either find myself in too high or WAY too low of a gear every time I would try a climb last time. This time I found the right gear a lot more often and just kept on trucking away. It was a crazy feeling to just crouch forward and keep on pedaling (looking at the top of the climb was pretty intimidating) and then all of the sudden find yourself at the top!

I felt more comfortable on the downhills, too! Partially because I knew where the turns were so I could prep for them, but also because I trusted the bike a lot more, and it was a lot of fun!

There are so many times in my life (particularly when I was younger) where I would try something once. If I failed, I gave up on it, if I was successful I kept going with it. The same old habits started to kick in here. I didn't necessarily fail last time, but I wasn't all that good at it... I'm so glad I didn't give up! Our home teachers came over last night (bless their hearts, they called at 5:30 because one had realized he'd be out of town all weekend and asked to come over at 7) but the message was about how change in the gospel sense is the result of repeated good choices, not some dramatic moment. Whitney has been reading in her new favorite book that sudden changes in weight - fad diets, overexercise, etc. - are not lasting. The only way to have success - to achieve lasting change - is to keep going at what we know is right, even when the payoff seems so small, or even non-existent.

One of my favorite quotes that I put on the board in choir is by Anna Pavolova: "To tend unfailing, unflinchingly toward a goal; that is the secret of success." I think that sums it up pretty well!

This wasn't the most well crafted thought I've had, but its something that's been sticking with me today.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

And I was worried about moving to the midwest...

Before I bought a bike, I did some searching around to see if there was even mountain biking to be done in South-Central Wisconsin, or if I would be smarter to go for a road bike. I found a few trails about a half-hour away and decided that was close enough for some fun enough to justify some weekend rides.

Then this article shows up in the Janesville Gazette!

How awesome! The Park is delightfully close to campus, too!

In addition to that, there's this, and this. I think I'll be in good shape!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Just like in Scouts....

Thanks to Jill W. and Jessica B.'s explanation of how the Provo River Trail ACTUALLY works, I decided to go for a longer ride today, you know...see how long I lasted.

Turns out that I lasted for about 23 miles, all the way up to Vivian park (not quite a 25 miler-but close)! It was an awesome feeling, and an awesome ride. Since my front derailleur wasn't quite working right, I could never shift into my topmost gear (it would shoot the chain PAST the top gear if I tried). It turned out to be a blessing in disguise, though, because it forced me to keep my pedaling up and get myself in better shape.

Our forecast sad that we would get less than a quarter inch of rain today, so I was feeling confident, even in the face of these ominous clouds!

(Since blogger loaded my pictures backwards, you're gonna' get it from the top down)

I, however, didn't catch any rain until the very last mile or so, and then it was really a downpour. Of course, the downpour only lasted for a couple minutes, so the total rain probably wasn't more than 1/4 of an inch.

I took a nice little pause at Bridal Veil falls, and even took some time to look the OTHER way, to get this beautiful picture (above).

I know there are a MILLION pictures of this exact scene.
But this one was taken by ME, when I RODE my bike up there from MY HOUSE!

All up the trail, there were these BEAUTIFUL finches that flew along the path. I got lucky enough to whip out my camera and take one. In other news, I tried to edit this one a bit to get the bird to look a little bit more brilliant

What a fun afternoon! Thanks Jill W. and Jessica B. for teaching my how far the trail really goes!

I'm also experimenting with making my own Gatorade. I found a great website that teaches you several different possibilities of making it (most of which include using "lite Morton's salt" which has sodium AND potassium in it. Now I'm just trying to find a way to sweeten it without using straight sugar or artificial sweeteners....


So....we're watching some movie (can't remember what, Whitney could tell me, but she's asleep) where they are investigating the history of some guy.

They seemed quite impressed with his limit on his credit card, and say something like "he sure must pay his bills on time."

The credit limit??

$750 far we've come, which direction? I don't know.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Couple More Rides

I'm totally getting into the Mountain biking thing! (Still no pictures, working on getting that all sorted out still)

I've gone a couple times down the Provo River Trail. Once all the way down to the Utah Lake, and another time HOPING to head up towards the canyon, but the trail stops at the Motion Picture Studios. (lame)

Then yesterday I had some extra time in the morning, so I decided to try something a little more ambitious. My barber (apparently EVERYONE is a mountain biker) suggested I try a part of the Bonneville shoreline trail that starts in north Orem (by the cemetery) and heads up towards Pleasant Grove. I didn't do so bad, but the 4.5 miles took me a LOT longer than I expected! The thing that was great is that there were a lot more ups and downs (instead of one constant climb like the last offroad trail I tried) so I would get a good work out, then breath a little while I went downhill.

The interesting thing about the trail (which I found at is that it climbs 650 feet over the first three and half miles or so, and then goes back down nearly all 650 in the last mile. The whole time I'm going down (scared to death and riding my brakes half the time....) I'm thinking "I'm gonna' have to ride back up this!" Fortunately, the map provides an option for a city street return.

I must have missed my turn, because I ended up being WAY down in the middle of Pleasant Grove and having to wander my way back up towards the cemetery in Orem. I rode by Jill W.'s house, but decided against riding all the way up that hill to say hi, plus I had a lesson to teach soon and had to get home.

All in all, it was a fun ride! I think I'll try it again! AFTER looking at a map.

Monday, May 17, 2010


So, I discovered today that I didn't ACTUALLY make it up to the top of the trail. I was about a mile short....dangit.

Today I went with a buddy to the same trail and he gave me some good tips about successfully maintaining your energy while biking. He learned on a roadbike (did a Seattle to Portland trip a few years ago) but a lot of the stuff still applies.

This time I had my GPS with the coordinates for the top of the loop. When we stopped where I had before, we discovered that we were still about a mile off. But today I finished it! It had some pretty tough stuff, and I figured out where the picture that I posted a few times ago was (it was a pretty tough hill, I had a hard time keeping my front tire on the ground....) its a lot of fun though, we had a great time!

Of course, the ride was finished with a trip to Sonic - effectively canceling out all of the calories we burned on the ride....

Sunday, May 16, 2010

I did it!!

So...I know its Sunday, and that we should've been sitting on our couch reading our scriptures (or something like that) Whitney and I decided to take a trip up the mountains, to take a walk and for her to take pictures.

I suggest the place where I started my bike ride, remembering that it had some beautiful pictures if only I had my camera. Of course, since we decide to go up there, I can't pass up the chance to tackle the ride one more time, so I load my bike into the car and we go for it.

Armed with some new information (the bike salesman told me to lock my front suspension when I was going uphill...genius!!) and with a little more humility. I took the ride easy at the beginning trying to conserve my energy as long as I could. Low and behold, I finished the ride!!!

I wasn't so sure I did at first, but I came home and read over the trail description several times and decided that I really did finish it! It was pretty awesome! Still no pictures, but I'm taking a friend up on it tomorrow (yeah...three days in a row, I'm crazy...) so maybe I'll get some pictures then!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Mountain Biking!

Many of you know I've been on a trek in the past 12 months to find some hobbies that I really enjoy, there's a woodworking post from several months ago, and the nook post from just a few weeks ago (Really, I put these in because I think its funny to reference myself). I love them all, but i felt like I needed something more active. So, I've recently had a renewed interest in mountain biking. As Whitney can tell you, I have wanted a bike since we got married. Now that we've been good, diligent savers we decided its probably something we could afford by now. Of course, those of you who know me realize I spend money to try something new (watercolor is the most recent "experiment") and then I end up not really sticking with it.

For that reason whitney suggested that I rent one first to see how I like it. This morning I went down to BYU outdoors unlimited to rent a bike and try a ride. I spent all week researching trails in Utah trying to find one that I thought I could do (remember, I have been remotely physically active, but definitely not in tip top shape). I finally found one that looked great, they said it was for "intermediate" (surely I was an intermediate) and it looked beautiful, so I thought I could handle it.

How wrong I was.

This is one photograph on the page for the ride I decided to take:

1.) Note the physique of the guy in the picture. Much, MUCH better than mine. This is a guy who calls the ride "intermediate" and refers to the 750 feet rise over 1.75 miles as a "mild uphill." He didn't know much about me.

2.) Note the place from where the picture is taken. Realize the guy in the picture is going to arrive at the place where the picture is being taken - "mild uphill??" ha!

So...I had a great time. Really I did. I was exhausted, and I stopped several times, and I'm not sure I even made it to the top of the loop I was riding. But I saw some beautiful sights, and downhill was a blast!

So, after about 45 minutes of riding, I would feel quite sheepish taking back my four-hour I decided to ride it around the road that led to the trailhead. It wasn't so bad, I could handle endurance...just not the big pushes required for uphill. After a little bit of that, I took the bike home.

By the time I got into Provo, I still had an hour and a half left on the rental. So I drove to my house and told Whitney about my plight. She suggested I take a ride around town and see how I do. I took a ride down the Provo River Trail and LOVED IT! Downhill and uphill! Needless to say, I decided that I could easily do this, I just need to do some regular conditioning.

Whitney and I talked about the idea of renting the bike for a week, but when we realized how much it would cost, it made more sense to start shopping for an actual bike to own, provided that I will actually use it. (I have a feeling she'll guilt me if I don't make pretty regular use.) We did some shopping around (I had already been doing it for months) and finally settled on the same bike I had rented that morning. One that my father-in-law Craig said he absolutely loved.

So, I'm now I biker! This is gonna' be fun!

Friday, April 2, 2010


Okay, okay, so mine didn't come with the pink cover OR the daffodils.... But Whitney and I are the proud owners of nooks! Finally something that combines my love of technology and my love of books in one great little unit! Now I can still use technology WHILE using a book, get a download of The New Yorker or my favorite newspaper downloaded every morning, or just read great books!

The great advantage to this little nook as that you automatically have access to everything in google books' library for free!! I am falling in love with the classics again, and increasingly fascinated with writers like Dickens (currently reading A Tale of Two Cities; the book I was SUPPOSED to read in High School for Mr. Palagi's senior literature course....finally getting around to it) and their ability to vividly describe situations, landscapes, characters, moods with an incredible vocabulary that buries me deeper into the pages (or digital images...).

So...question for the day....which classics should I read? What are your favorites? Remember, we're shooting for the free ones, since we're saving up every last penny for the trip to Wisconsin!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Finish Line?

I won't necessarily say I feel like this guy....but today I wrote the last words on the bulk of my dissertation! I finished the major research chapters (all 6 of them) and all I have to WRITE is an introduction and a conclusion. Of course, I have to revise it all, because I'm sure there are some glaring mistakes somewhere in those 97 pages.

That being said, it certainly feels like a large weight off of my shoulders! Somehow, I was able to research something in enough detail that it was deserving of that much writing! There is such a joy in creating something that substantial! I think its a combination of the reward of hard work and the fun of creating something completely new.

Of course, I am a pretty big jerk if I realize I didn't do this alone. I had a great wife who was willing to work hard so we had food on the table and I could spend half a day every day working on this thing. I have wonderful friends and family who keep asking me how I'm doing - one in particular who has been in the same place as me for several years and did all the hard learning for me. Advisors who encouraged me to keep working even though I really wanted a break... What a crazy ride it has been!

I never thought it would go by that fast!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Back on the Wagon

Well, with the strong encouragement of a wife, and the excitement of a new job finally settling down, I am back into my "dissertation chair" (fortunately its a comfy one, since I've spent a lot of time here) and am charging full speed ahead to the conclusion of a dissertation! I think my new goal is to always start the next section before I take a break (even if its just one sentence). I think of it as the writer's equivalent to the"cliffhanger." You know, that moment in a book (usually a good suspense one) where the last sentence of the chapter says something like "But he never would've expected what greeted him as he opened the door into the dark, abandoned missile silo." Or the moment right before the commercial on House when all of the monitors start beeping at the same time (it happens before EVERY commercial, that must be the most exciting hospital in the country!). It just keeps you going until all of the sudden its three in the morning and you haven't even made dinner!

On a different note, I keep thinking about the "cliffhanger" that has been surrounding my life for the past several months - or years - and how grateful I am that I finally got to turn the page into the next chapter. Recognizing that I chose a field of study that is very specific, I have constantly been worried that I would really be able to do something with my education, and that all of the years of stress and worry would be worth it. I have created an innumerable number of "fall-back" plans, and every rejection letter came as another nail in the coffin that was my dream of becoming a conductor. I remember one night several weeks ago being particularly worried about if I would actually have a full-time job next semester, and the Spirit so quietly telling me that "it'll be okay, something great is going to happen in the next few weeks and you'll be amazed at how well you've been blessed."

The more I look into this job, I don't think we could've been more blessed. First off, I HAVE A JOB! I AM A CONDUCTOR! I AM PROFESSOR (soon to be Dr.) MORTENSEN! I never have to worry about whether or not all that education was worth it, because it is! Second, the community is a perfect place to start a family. Since GM closed its factory (sorry to all the workers) the housing market is really depressed (more so, I suppose than the rest of the country???) which makes it a great opportunity for a young couple to get their start! Lastly, without going into details the whole package of the job is incredible, I feel so blessed!

Most importantly, I feel like the faculty that I get to work with are some of the most amazing people that I have met. They are very dedicated to their job, and are determined to making each student successful. As the Dean of the campus (read President) gave me a tour of the campus, she would stop and chat with students, calling them by name, and asking how a specific class or application to one of the UW Universities was coming along. How many students did the President of your college know by name? This is the kind of place I want to work!

I just needed to share that...I have no idea how to apply this to you, maybe just the idea of having faith, knowing what the future will hold, etc, is the best way to go about life, because the future always holds what you need it to hold.... (I tried)

Now on to the laundry....

Friday, March 19, 2010

Reserve the UHaul!

So, the real reason why I couldn't get anything done today (and couldn't tell you about it because it would have jinxed it...) was because I got an email from University of Wisconsin-Rock County saying that they would be following up on my references. I then heard minutes later that they had contacted my advisor at the University of Illinois.

So, with the absolute inability to focus on ANYTHING but when or if I a job offer was coming today. I happily resolved the situation by heading up to BYU and listening to the choirs. (Admittedly, I couldn't even really enjoy rehearsal, but at least I was DOING something).

Around 3pm I chat with Whitney and find out that she is done with work, so I figure I'll go get her and we'll do something to entertain ourselves until the concert last night. When I go down to meet her, one of her coworkers - in response to the email I had received - asked me when I was expecting to hear back.

My phone starts buzzing.

I pull out the phone, and its a Wisconsin area code, and I say "I can't answer it."

After I see that a voicemail is left, I go listen to it.

"Bryson, this is XXX from UW-Rock County. I'm calling to offer you a job! Give me a call back!"

I won't say my response was giddy. I was definitely happy, sooooo glad to have this phase of my life over, but a little bit in a daze about the fact that I had been offered a job and now I was officially a professor. Now that I have had some time to let it settle in and make plans for the next step of my life, I am getting really excited!!

Above is a picture of the Japanese portion of the Rotary Gardens in Janesville. So cool!

I Don't Wanna' Work...

The Carnival Cruise lines song is singing to me (although everytime I hear the melody, I think of The Office...)

The reason it keeps singing to me? I am technically on Spring Break (Thank you, UVU for having one) just got finished with an intense interview process (perhaps I overprepared for the first one?) and am sitting back in my "dissertation" chair trying to get back on track with my dissertation. I have two more chapters - 30 more pages - to write, and it feels like the last 100 feet of a marathon. But I've got to get this thing finished so that I can work on other things. From what I can tell, University of Wisconsin is going to be a summer FULL of prep so that I can keep on track and do what I can do best. (This, of course, is IF I get the job, there will be a much more interesting post when/if I do get a job offer, don't you worry).

Lesson Learned: Momentum is ALWAYS your best friend.

Second Lesson Learned: There are ALWAYS more fun things to do than try to get back to writing your dissertation. For example:

Playing with your new nook (can we say ALL the classics for free? yes we can!)
Looking at things to do in the Rock County, Wisconsin area
Finally doing a recipe from that French Cookbook your wife bought when you were first married.
Looking at housing options in Janesville, WI
Playing games on your computer
Reading into every detail in every email that you get from someone at UW-Rock County.
Sharing those details with friends and seeing what they think.
Watching "Saved by the Bell" (it brings back such good memories)
Posting on your blog!

I need motivation!

Thursday, February 11, 2010


To the three loyal readers of my blog (maybe more now that Google Buzz has come into play to increase my "popularity") you may have remembered when i wrote about my new commitment to write each day about the things I am grateful for in that day. I also told you I would let you know how it went.

As is true with most things in life, it took a little bit of effort to get it going. I would keep at it for a few days, then just be too tired and forget about it for several days, then pick it up again. Well, finally yesterday I gained a great testimony of how valuable it can be as a method to process through my day and see difficult things in a new light.

Yesterday was not the best day. I didn't get up to exercise and as a result didn't feel very successful with any of the things that I had planned to do in the morning (you know, read about my dissertation, read more about my dissertation, listen to music for my dissertation, read about my dissertation...) and wasn't in a very good mood. As I get to voice lessons, one of my students seems particularly worried about the things I am teaching and I get the sense that this student doesn't trust me as a teacher. I keep thinking to myself "You're the one who is paying me! Why don't you listen to what I have to say?" Later I go to my class and notice halfway through class that one of my students seems to be particularly upset about the grading that I just handed back and my heart absolutely broke. While I was somewhat challenging in my response to this student, my intent was to help the student see how to improve and where to focus effort. I felt horrible that my intention to motivate had actual led to the exact opposite. It distracted me for several minutes while I tried to keep the class moving. Needless to say I was very tired and frustrated (mostly with myself) by the time I got home. Why wasn't I able to say the right things to get this student to trust me? Why had my attempts to motivate led to discouragement instead?

When it came time to write my journal yesterday evening, I thought that I would focus on a wonderful wife. When I came home she listened ever so patiently as I unloaded about my day, tried to help me see things from a different perspective, and made a FANTASTIC dinner that really made the whole day of frustration worth it since I got to come home to a loving, supportive, smart wife.

Then the Spirit started to talk to me: "Did you notice how you didn't blow up at your voice student, that you were given the right things to say to get that student to listen to you, and that by the end of the lesson the student had made some real progress?" No, I had forgotten all about that. I bet the student will be a lot more willing to go with things next week now that there is evidence of some progress. "Did you notice how it worked out that you ran into the student in your conducting class afterwards so that you could find out that the student was having a bad day because of other things? Didn't you think that I let you notice that student so that you could go talk later and show the student some much-needed concern?" Wow, I never thought about the role I would play as teacher who is building people and not just students.

I remember driving home from work one particularly cloudy afternoon. As I looked up over the mountains I noticed this one patch of brilliant blue in the midst of all of the clouds. I couldn't take my eyes off of it. It was so bright and clear (much better than the usual hazy blue that one gets looking through clouds) that it changed my whole perspective on the rest of the cloudy sky. Instead of being an "overcast day" I thought about this one spot of brilliantly blue sky.

Its amazing how finding (hunting, scraping up) one ray of light in what seemed like a very cloudy day gives you just enough light to see the silver-lining.

What are you grateful for today?

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Knowledge is....

I am a new fan of the Franklin Planner. Whitney and I got them near the beginning of our marriage, as we realized that our responsibilities were not only to ourselves and required that we would need to be aware of each others' needs and the needs of our household.

Part of this my planner is a little bookmark that keeps track of the day I'm on, but also has me set goals for myself with the different "hats" that I wear in my life. At the beginning of our marriage that was quite easy since I only had two hats: "be a good husband" and "pass my preliminary exams." Now, however, the number of hats I have to wear has dramatically multiplied: husband, teacher, conductor, dissertation writer, reviewer, conference proposal researcher, job applier, and the list seems to keep growing! Interestingly enough, in true "Covey" style, the bookmark suggests that you set four personal goals to maintain your sanity: a physical goal, a spiritual goal, a social goal, and an intellectual goal.

I struggle the most with the intellectual goal. For me it seems that so much of what I do already is intellectual. Pouring through books and articles to be able to see how they fit (or don't) into my concept of my dissertation, or my conference proposal, or my article for the Choral Journal. It seems like a lot of work to suggest that I should on some other level be increasing my intellectual skill.

On a different note, I recently attended a presentation by a hopeful candidate for the School of the Arts at the University where I am currently employed. His presentation was supposed to center around his vision for the School of the Arts. He definitely demonstrated his academic knowledge as he presented us with an 18-page paper that summarized the history of the words "arts," "university," and "vision." While it was an impressive analysis, it didn't seem to fit with a School that is geared for performance and preparing future secondary educators and showed that his knowledge was (in my opinion) ill-suited for our needs. It seems in this case that knowledge is not power.

As I have been diving deep into the job market and doing my best to find some full-time employment that will support a future family, I have been living by that very phrase: knowledge is power. The more that I can know about a university, the search committee, and the job-search process in the choral academia, the better prepared I will be to say the right things at the right time to the right people and I will find the job that is best for us. On the other side, the more that the search committee can know about me - my skills and my interests - the more likely that they will see how well suited I am for the position.

I am beginning to doubt how much knowledge really is power. After spending an evening of reading through articles that are designed to give tips on how to manage the hiring process, I think that my increased knowledge has led to more doubt: doubt in the effectiveness of my letters of recommendation, doubt in my ability to fund on-campus interviews (one article discussed how less and less campuses are willing to fund interviews), doubt in the effectiveness of my cover letters or in my tactics for helping myself stand out from the deluge of job applicants. The doubt discourages me about the fact that I will ever find a job that is right. It seems to me that - in this case - knowledge is not power, but fear.

Then I turn to the knowledge that I have received from my Heavenly Father as I have turned to Him in this whole process. The information He gives me is so little so rarely. To summarize it, he says "you will get the job that is right for you." I can derive from that two assumptions: I WILL get a job, and I don't necessarily need to change from the course I am headed (that is, shipping off several applications a month) to be able to get to the job that I will get in the future. When I trust that message, I can act with courage instead of doubt in knowing that the path I am treading will lead me to a place where my family and I will be successful and my family will be happy.

For once in my life, I think that my academic success has much more to do with FAITH than with KNOWLEDGE!

How do you depend on faith when you have no knowledge to back it up?

Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Organist?!?

So, tomorrow morning, I make my debut as an organist in our ward and I'm extremely nervous. You may think that's odd, that the guy who almost has his DMA in choral music is nervous about playing the organ.

Well I am. And here's why.

I am not really a keyboard player. Any one of my voice students can attest that the only way that we even SURVIVE lessons is by my drastic reduction of the accompaniment (which usually involves me using both hands to pull of playing the left hand part). When I auditioned/interviewed for the Master's program at BYU, they had me play a Bach chorale. The first one was in D-major, I failed it miserably! Then they gave me one in C-major, still failed it miserably!

So, I've worked LOTS to pull off playing the piano, at least to get the hymns to the level that I can play them. I pull that off mostly with LOTS of sustain pedal, and simplifying when necessary.

The Organ has no sustain pedal! Worse than that, it has LOTS of pedals that all make different sounds! I did play the organ for awhile at a Presbyterian Church in Salt Lake City, but that was way easy! I just had to play the melody in one hand and chords in the other, didn't even have to use the pedals!

So, tomorrow we'll see how it goes. I'm using pedals for the prelude, and the bass coupler for the Hymns. It should be fun, and hopefully it turns out okay!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

7 Pages Down

Got done with seven pages of chapter two.

For those of you who are interested, the former chapter two (regarding Imperialist Propaganda at the turn of the century) became chapter one. So now I am writing chapter two AGAIN (this time about Elgar's attitude toward's Imperialism). Hurrah for getting words on paper!

I read a very interesting chapter in a new book last night that attemps to refute all of the "feel good" self help books out there that base their advice on undocumented subjects. It even talks about one study that is regularly cited in self help books to encourage one to make goals. Interesting this is that the study never happened!

So citing some research, this book suggests that one of the best ways to move from a negative state to a positive state is through journaling. Processing the negative issues when necessary, but more importantly writing the things which you are most grateful for! Even better, it suggests that you not spend more than a minute a day writing in your journal (does this sound familiar?) So I'm trying it, again. I felt great last night with the huge wash of things that came to me. Hopefully I can keep it going!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

What a Weekend!

What a rewarding weekend! Good friends, GREAT music, great learning experiences. Lots to go home feeling great about!

Hopefully videos will follow soon! I have to somehow get from VHS to DVD to Computer to Blogger. We'll see how it goes!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


Well, it probably won't be that much of a vacation, since I am conducting in the masterclass, but I do get to fly to Houston, where the weather is supposed to be rainy all weekend, but that's a step up from snow! AND, I get to get out of Provo

I am really looking forward to this masterclass, I haven't been critiqued in my conducting for a very long time, and I can't wait to work with great people like these folks:


I'm looking forward to it! Hopefully I have some great pictures to share with you!

P.S. I finished the second (or first) chapter this morning! There's plenty of room to improve, but at least its on paper! 21 pages!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


So today I wrote the first ten pages of my dissertation.

They need serious help.

But they are written! I have a goal of getting the first draft of my dissertation written by May 1st so that I can hopefully graduate by August. It is a relatively ambitious goal, but I am feeling like I can make it happen!

So, my intermediary goal was to have the first two chapters written by the end of January. They should be the easier chapters since they are both different aspects of literature review (one on the British sentiment towards imperialism, and one on the writing about Elgar and Imperialism).

The goal within that goal (yeah, my life is a whole world of interlocking goals) is that I write the first chapter (well, actually it'll be the second chapter, but it's the first one I've written) by the end of this week! On top of it all, I leave on Thursday morning for the Chorus America Masterclass in Houston, so I have to have the first chapter written by tomorrow!

I started writing today (I spent a whole week reading up on the last bit of the books I needed). I started off great! the first couple of pages turned out great, but as the day went on it just got worse and worse and it became more difficult to have something worthwhile to say.

BUT! The accomplishment is, I have 14 pages written! That's more than 1/10th of my paper! I'm all about that!

I'll finish up the first (er...second) chapter tomorrow, and hopefully it comes out better!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010


I gave it up.

Perhaps crazy, perhaps not, but I think I got tired of being perpetually connected to a bunch of people who I don't really know. Anyway, this is perhaps my new place to post my stories. So follow me HERE, not on facebook!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Woodworking!?! many of you may have noticed, I have been in desperate need of a hobby. However much I love school, teaching voice lessons, and reading a lot of books every day in preparation for writing every day. (BTW, May 1st is my goal to have a first draft of my dissertation done! Crazy, you say? I agree!). I decided that I would probably really like woodworking, my grandpa on my mom's side made all sorts of awesome gadgets and gifts for us, and I would love to follow the tradition. So my big requests for this Christmas included tools. I got an awesome set of basic tools from my brother, and my father-in-law gave me some absolutely awesome tools. That, together with a great gift card to Home Depot from Santa, prompted me to use the rest of my break to start my (hopefully) long career as a woodworker!

We needed a shoe bench, particularly with the crazy snow and the salt that got tracked regularly into our living room. I decided that would be a good place to start. Its basically a one shelf bookshelf, right? It turned out pretty awesome, if I do say so myself. You can't quite sit on it, but it holds shoes fantastically!

The unfinished shoe bench

Another angle: I added a little lip halfway through construction!
(actually the result of my not being able to cut straight on the other shelf pieces)

After I had built this one, we decided that we needed another end-table/bookshelf typed thing to go between our new chair (purchased on New Year's Eve) and the couch. So I used the same
plans, made it about half as long and a 1/2 foot shorter.

The great story behind all of this was the things that I learned about staining. I only remember staining one other time in my life (I think it was a door with Dusty) and I'm thinking I wasn't very successful at it. So I was excited to try again with my new 28-year-old sensibilities. Turns out they're not all that sensible:

Lesson 1: No matter how cold it is outside - even if you don't have a garage, or a back porch, or a basement - DO NOT stain in your kitchen. Even with all the windows open, you and your wife will end up with really bad headaches and not be in very good moods. Your wife may even retreat to the bedroom, shut the door, and fall asleep for several hours. (You'll be glad to know I came up with a way to make our laundry room - a small hut at the back end of our complex - into a "garage" without causing too many problems for the launderers in our complex.)

Lesson 2: When the can says to wait until the first coat has completely dried before adding another coat, they mean it. I got a bit impatient with the shoe bench and did the second coat while it was still a bit sticky. We ended up with some REALLY uneven spots (see pictures below) and an overly dark color, but it still looks very nice!

This is a close up of the horribly uneven part of the stain. Looks pretty bad! Fortunately a pair of shoes is always on top of it!

The smaller one. This is how it should actually look when one waits the entire time before doing the second coat of stain!

I'm going slow, and doing things that actually make sense for us (seeing as we don't actually own a home yet), but I think I'm going for a kitchen table next! I've got some ideas for how to do it, and it doesn't seem TOO horrible! Here's hoping!