N.A.T.S.

Today’s guest post is from Renee Boomgaarden.

Our town has a wonderful vocal teacher. “Kathy” (not her real name) is a conservatory trained soprano who found true love with a local backhoe operator and successfully blended marriage and motherhood with the work of a vocal performance major. She teaches on occasion at the local college, performs with regional operas and civic choruses, and has a private vocal studio.

Kathy is really gifted at nurturing young voices and picking just the right material to challenge and inspire her students. This April, three of her oldest high school students (my daughter, daughter’s best friend, and another local girl) participated in a juried competition sponsored by the state chapter of NATS, the National Association of Teachers of Singing. The event was held at NDSU in Fargo while the Red River was cresting. Kathy is a member of NATS and participated as one of the nine judges. I drove the three girls to Fargo, along with best friend’s mother who also was the girls’ accompanist.

The singers were divided into competitive categories based on gender and year in school. Our girls were lumped in the one high school category. Most of the singers were college undergraduates, with a few singers in the graduate student and adult categories. There were separate categories for those singing Broadway musical numbers. Most of the participants sang opera arias and oratorio solos, with a few art songs thrown in. All singers started performing at 8:00 am.

It’s quite something to hear and see about 60 anxious singers preparing to compete that early in the morning. Practice rooms were at a premium. Most of the women wore rather daring and flamboyant cocktail dresses and very high heeled shoes. (By the end of the day, most of the women were walking around in bare feet). The men wore somber suits and ties. Once the 8:00 round was completed, the judges decided who would go on to the 10:30 round in which more singers would be eliminated, and so on through the 2:30 round, until the 4:00 final round in which the three best singers in each category would perform and be evaluated by all nine judges.

At 8:00, our girls were judged by two men who wrote furiously while the girls sang. They were finished by about 8:30 and they fell asleep in the van in the parking lot for two hours. Tension runs high at these events and those few minutes of singing wore the girls out. Best friend’s mom and I spent nap time listening to other singers and watching the weeping of those who were eliminated and the excitement of those who were sent on to the other rounds.

Our girls were the only high school students at the competition. Best friend has a phenomenal voice and she was the only one we expected to make it to any of the other rounds. Much to our surprise and delight, the judges decided that since there were only three high school students, all of our girls were automatically forwarded to the final round held in a lovely and intimate recital hall.

The Steinway grand took up most of the stage. The voices in the final round were truly beautiful and I don’t know how the judges decided between them. My daughter was the youngest singer in the competition. She is an alto, aka mezzo soprano at these events. Her voice is just developing strength and range. It was so interesting to hear how the voices matured as the singers got older, even among the college-age singers.

The last singer was a graduate student, a huge, barrel-chested man who closely resembled Pavarotti and looked like he was quite ill. He struggled to the stage, got himself in role, and and filled the room with an enormous, powerful baritone. He then struggled back to his seat and looked like he was going to collapse.

Daughter was awarded $10 for making it to the final round. The judges’ comments were all encouraging and kind. I am informed that she wants to do this again next year and she insists she has to have a new cocktail dress for the event. She feels she is too tall and her ankles too wobbly to wear high heels.

What have been your experiences being judged?

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77 thoughts on “N.A.T.S.”

  1. Rise and Shine Baboons!

    Thanks Renee. This brings backs memories of High School.

    My memories are of 4-H and High School Music competitions. The yearly 4-H fair was rife with judging: cookies, cakes, breads, re-finished furniture, home-sewn clothing, and demonstrations. This judging produced the iconic white (3rd place), red (2nd place) and blue (1st place) ribbons. Somewhere in my “archival boxes” in the basement is my 4-H record book (an early form of now popular and elaborate scrapbooks) which documents all this. I should find that…..

    And then there were music competitions where I was a competitor in the clarinet and small groups. Full bands were judged in separate contests. Man, those were big deals. Apparently that has changed little. There we had ratings of III (3rd) II (2nd) and I (1st). Or if it was All-State competition, we were awarded a place in the All-State Band.

    It was in the music contests that I experienced my first real performance anxiety, a problem for the remainder of my music career. Inderol helped that greatly. But it all ended 11 years ago, a victim of TMJ which playing the clarinet exacerbated. So I took up visual art. A happy loss.

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    1. how about flute? or harmonica? or dulcimer?
      i guess yo have made it for all these years without the need to make music but i hate to see music brains go to dormant mode. pete fountain and richard stoltzman are among my favorites but here is a clarinet hall of fame led by benny goodman. it must have been a sad day to set down the old licorice stick.

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      1. Jacque – I can point you to my source for an inexpensive ukulele (green! yellow! blue! all sorts of colors)…TMJ won’t slow you down on a uke. :)

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      2. Give us the link Anna! Couple weeks ago when the son and I were out looking at guitars I played with the ukes at every store we went too. Son just shook his head at me but they were fun to play with.
        Martin (Martin Guitars) makes a uke: $450. For that price it should be bigger!

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      3. a good uke is 100 bucks but check ebay. for a relatively modest sum (under 300) you can get a hand made hawaiian cool one

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      4. http://www.twintown.com/Store/pc/home.asp
        This is a smallish guitar shop on the corner of Lyndale Ave and 34th street – it has the same sort of feel as Homestead Pickin’ Parlor, but for a more Uptown/hipster crowd. Less folkies and bluegrass, a little more indie rock, with a soupcon folk/bluegrass as “roots” music – but nice feel to the place. And they have ukes for $25. :) Added bonus, the owners have a kid that goes to Daughter’s school (which I found out because the mom was our Bravo Music coordinator this year).
        They have nicer/better ukes as well as the inexpensive ones – but for a beginner, the $25 ones work pretty well:
        http://www.twintown.com/Store/pc/Mahalo-U-30-Uke-w-gig-NEW-p613.htm

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      5. My first attempt to send a link to my uke source says it is “awaiting moderation…” I got my pink uke from Twin Town Guitars on Lyndale Ave in Minneapolis (easily found in a Google search). Sort of a hipster version of Homestead Pickin’ Parlor – nice folk. They sell higher end ukuleles, too – but the $25 have a pretty good sound, especially for a beginner.

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    2. Anna, i believe that in Canada,the uke is taught in elementary schools just like the recorder is in the US. Uke children’s choirs are popular in Canada, at least they were when we lived there.

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    3. The visual art has been a great trade off and a life goal. However, should the musical muse overtake me I’ll buy Uke or other something. Flute does not work–too much positioning of the jaw–used to play it a little.

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  2. Given my total lack of vocal skill I am so glad never to have gone anywhere near NATS. In high school I competed in competitive debate. I did well enough to win trophies at lower level tournaments but did not make the highest rung of debating. Given that I had friends who won Nationals I could see there was a way for me to go.
    The judges always looked bored-since we debated the same topic for a year at a time, it wasn’t surprising. Still the experience truly improved my ability to do research and speak on my feet.

    Happy Monday to all on the Trail!

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  3. I remember one high school band trip to Colorado for what was supposed to be a band and choir competition. Being an inner city school, our band director had opted for renting a bus rather than trying to fly us all there. It was a loooooong bus ride. When we arrived at the hotel where the competition was to take place (what sane hotel would take on/in several groups of high school students?…), we found out that there had been quite the snowstorm and the only other group that had made it was a choir from Texas. They had arrived ahead of the storm for a day of sightseeing – the rest of the bands and choirs were stuck in airports or stuck in buses somewhere in CO that was not Colorado Springs. It wound up being not much of a competition, though we did have grand fun setting up boom boxes in the large ballrooms where the competing was to have taken place and having impromptu dances (though there was a bit of a clash of cultures – our group mostly had New Wave music – The Police, Elvis Costello and the like – while the choir was heavy on Barry Manilow and other balladeers…). I also recall a snowball fight with everyone in shirtsleeves; we were delighted it was warm enough to play in the snow without jackets (we were Minnesota kids after all – snow usually means cold) – the Texas kids were delighted just by the snow.

    I did competitive speech in high school, too – and that, like the URTA auditions for grad school (which, when you are in theater design are less “audition” and more portfolio and personal interview), seemed to be somewhat arbitrary in judging based on the personality of the judge. One person would love my speech (or portfolio), the next would consider it “not up to snuff.” I’m still annoyed by the URTA judge who was rather snotty about my non-BFA background as “not good enough for graduate school”…a pox on you and your prejudices against small liberal arts colleges, I say. I got moved on to the national auditions anyway. ;)

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  4. i hate judged stuff.
    my daughter who is the sunbeam kid plays basketball and fastpitch softball because her little sister wanted it and she went along. she does not make the a team because she s not willing to kill the other kids t get the audition behind her (younger daughter does this without thinking about it to the less talented little twits who come before her). we went to state tournaments this weekend where the older daughter was told she was relegated to third string catcher because some other girl who has the brains of a gnat but a great all in athletic atitude played catcher twice after not trying out at that position. my daughter was assigned catcher because when the other catchers get hurt or tired or start whining my daughter is the one they go to who never complains at all. she loves theater and writing and i told her we should go there instead of this jock system where you get whacked for not being olympic material by nazi coaches who care little about your well being but are out to say they won. then i remembered that she was crushed when she didn’t make the cut at children’s theater for an ensemble that we chose because they were taking 20 cast members and certainly she would make that cut… no dice. now she is studying writing at the loft and the pieces she turns in are critiqued. i hate it. the newport jazz festival doesn’t say this guy was best and the rest lose. they say wow what a bunch of good musicians. my son is vocal performer and when he went to school he sang with the innocent men an a capella group. each guy got the chance to sing and no one said you are best but the crowd was allowed to appreciate everyone on their own merits.

    makes you cry when you realize that he got bounced from one of those wanna be a star tv shows and it took the wind out of his sails pretty good. cant we celebrate effort without the prize. the ones who have it know it already and the ones who are working at it need encouragement not cold water thrown on them.
    glad your daughter has interest in singing as well as volin. classical competitions are old as time but… celebrate her enthusiasm.

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    1. Thanks, tim, we do celebrate with her. I am hoping I can celebrate her passing her drivers permit test today. It’s her third try. She does better at music competitions than remembering how many feet you have to park from a fire hydrant.

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      1. watch out what you wish for.
        where is the fire hydrant out there in north dakota? it’s near the tree isn’t it?

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      2. Oh dear. How many feet does one park from a fire hydrant? I figure not too close, and count on the paint stripes.

        (Congratulations Renee!)

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    2. Renee — your world will REALLY change when she gets the license and drives off for the first time on her own. It’s simply amazing. In fact, I got a ride from a co-worker today because the teenager has the car!

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    3. Congrats to your Daughter Renee! Hang on for the ride and fork out more for insurance but honestly, it’ll be OK. :-)

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  5. Morning–

    I hate being judged in things. Gives me hives all these shows that must sort people out.
    I was in 4H growing up so like Jacque, I have the box full of ribbons somewhere downstairs. Mostly Blue but it was heartbreaking to get a Red. I don’t think I ever got a White… maybe once. Mostly wood shop projects and Arts and Craft for me. Then I figured out ‘Aerospace’ meant I could build a model airplane and I was doing that anyway so I took models for several years.
    I got my start in theater doing the 4H one act plays. Later on I judged some plays and I’ve been suspicious of judged events ever since.

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  6. When I was in 4-H,the best ribbons were pink or purple affairs with a rosette at the top. Out here the FFA has a lot of range judging competitions, which I guess teaches people how to evaluate pasture and range.for grazing suitability. I never could figure out how they judged between prize pigs or cattle. Anybody ever raise a prize porker?

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      1. You are in fine form this morning, Tim. The fire hydrant is submerged by Souris river at the moment. It won’t be functional until the middle of August.

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      2. breakfast heck i am black tea guy, i just got a nights sleep for the first time in a week. down at 10 up at 6. need to do that once every week or two.

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  7. Great topic, Renee, and congratulations to your daughter. Hope she passes her driver’s test.

    I’m with tim and Ben on this one. As a senior in the Danish equivalent of high school, we had final oral exams, in front of a panel of three teachers, in a number of subjects. I was so nervous I could barely speak, and my mind went so blank during one of those exams that I couldn’t remember what the capital of Sweden was! Half a century later I can laugh at it, but at the time it was a disaster. These exams surely did NOT demonstrate the amount of knowledge we had accumulated over the years, yet they often determined whether or not you would be admitted to a college. In some subjects you could get lucky and draw a question that you knew a lot about, or that you could bullshit your way out of, other subjects were harder to fudge. That’s probably why I became an English major in college as opposed to a physics or chemistry major. Hard to bullshit your way through science! It’s also the reason I always detested formal, annual performance evaluations at work. I much preferred the occasional pat on the back for a job well done and a swift correction when it was needed.

    That said, I appreciate a good competition as much as anyone, but I prefer competitions where a score, a measure, or a time determines the winner. Tennis and Jeopardy! are two of
    my favorites.

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    1. It may be less obvious than non-science, but there is a considerable amount of bullshit in science publishing.

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      1. MN in Sudbury-I can only say, yep. It’s even worse in paper presentations.

        During my ill-fated bid for an Anatomy Ph.D., I had to give a seminar (all grad students were required). I researched and researched the topic I had been given that was way over my head and put something together-I have no idea what I was talking about, but many of the more senior grad students thought I was amazing because my delivery was so calm. Nothing but acting going on there, I assure you.

        I did see what they meant later, as it was purely painful to watch people who actually knew what they were taking about stumble and mumble through the thing.

        Give ‘em the old Razzle Dazzle from Gypsy has more truth to it than most people realize.

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      2. Then I will congratulate you MIG for the failed PhD bid, because from having hung around a fair number of MD/PhDs (and plain PhDs) they considered those years as the most self-flagellating of their life — not to mention acquiring more debt, and not any more pay.

        As I age I’m more and more convinced that the things that make people good (or at least, “successful” by whatever arbitrary criteria) at what they do are the same across all fields (“stick-to-itness”?)

        I never did any basic science research (and no longer regret it). It’s also my experience that the most complex cutting-edge molecular tests have the most elaborate and angst-ridden paper trail workflow and organization (primarily because they are recent enough that computer systems to address the issues have not matured).

        Do I really have to trot out another parody video? Here you go:

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      3. fun having you back mn in sudbury. those are the geekiest video’s i have ever seen. i hope you have better stuff to do in real life. sudbury may not be the fast lane but man…

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      4. MN in S, That was a fun one.
        Back to Pathology docs, did you ever know a guy with the nickname ‘Strick’? He was a Mayo Doc that moved up to MSP. Kelly, my wife, was his secretary for several years down here and he’s still one of her favorites.

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      5. tim – with the Internet, it’s all the fast lane ;) Or perhaps more accurately, it’s as fast or as slow as you want it to be. Yesterday I swam in the lake and found the bass hubby was talking about (probably a bigmouth) under our dock. That is the “better stuff” I do in “real life”.

        Ben – yes! I forgot him when making my mental list. He does mostly administrative work now, not so much diagnosis. The group he is with in MSP, I conceptualize as a place for Mayo pathologists looking to dial down the intensity as a step before going out to pasture… It is a still very busy place.

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    2. This is a fun topic, Renee, and I’m enjoying everyone’s stories.

      I grew up in a time and place that was afraid to push kids into competition because it was considered dangerous to “single out” any child. Thus we had no valedictorian (or rather we did, but we didn’t acknowledge that kid). Oddly enough, my Midwestern culture felt comfortable singling out athletes for special attention, but not kids who did well in the arts, academics, speech, theater, music, etc.

      The only competition I’ve entered was a writing contest run by a fishing reel company, a contest in which we were supposed to sing the praises of fishing with kids. The reward was a free vacation in the Florida Keys with guides who would take us to bonefish and tarpon. The irony here is that no children were allowed on this reward trip, and the whole thing was run by an executive who wanted to go fish the Keys himself, so he created the contest as an excuse. I sensed the inherent cynicism of the contest and so wrote a carefully crafted story that was sure to appeal to them. I think that’s the only competition I’ve ever won.

      My home town’s dread of rewarding excellence in music and other areas was silly, but on the other hand I feel sorry for parents and kids in cultures where they take some big test that determines who gets to go on for more schooling (and thus have a chance at a good life).

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      1. Steve, when I was in school you could only letter in sports. A year or two after I graduated they started giving letters for EVERYTHING including band and theater. I am still bitter I don’t have a letter jacket but I’m trying to get over it…

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      2. Sort of OT, but Steve, the “fishing with kids” think has given me my opening…..I have bluegills, leaf lettuce, strawberries, and new potatoes for supper tonight. If the peas weren’t being such slackers, I would have the idea early summer meal of my childhood.

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  8. When I was at the NATS competition, i wondered how many of these college singers would stay with their choice of major. The professional life for a vocal performance major is nasty, brutish, and short for the majority. My daughter in law started out as a voice major but quickly shifted to Communications. I wonder how hard it is to have a voice and not feel there is a professional place for you as a singer.

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    1. Renee, one of my milk customers is making her living singing. it sounds so very difficult! always someone right behind her, waiting to take her place, she says. but she and her husband (after the death of a dear friend) recently took over the leadership of the Lyric Opera of the North (LOON) in Duluth and are doing wonderful things with it! her name is Sarah Lawrence – her husband is Cal Mets – both fantastic performers in their own right. but also seeking and cultivating local talent. very nice. but not easy.

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  9. in high school – either freshman or soph. year, i scored highest in district instrumental performance – clarinet. so i “got” to play the Mozart clarinet concerto (this movement attached) in front of a whole bunch of people. didn’t faze me. something happened in that next year’s time, because the next state contest i couldn’t hold my mouth on the mouthpiece, i squeaked and trembled and i got a C grade. at my Mom’s funeral a couple weeks ago, a friend from HS reminded me of that terrible day (as if i’d ever forget :-) and since that year i have not wanted to do anything alone – combos, accompaniment, other stuff was fine.

    thanks, Renee for sharing your daughter and friends’ triumph! fun to read all comments.

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    1. Interesting, biB. I always had a level of stage fright, but for many years, was able to master it. I’m told that during State music contest in Iowa (same on referred to by Jacque), my face and voice were just fine, but the hem of my dress was shaking (young women most certainly did not wear cocktail dresses for competition in those days-even for Prom, it was mostly Jessica’s Gunne Sax).

      Same thing with taking a test-I walked in and took the thing, end of story. Junior year of college, I completely “lost it” I don’t know why, but it was like everything just suddenly stopped. Of course, I’ve just kept slogging away, but have never quite gotten back on the pony. I haven’t competed in or auditioned for anything since.

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    2. hey biB, sorry to hear about your mom, i know you said she couldn’t believe you made somehing out of yourself or something like that, so it will be nice to be able to nod from an added distance. hope all is well in blackhoof. good story about the delayed choke syndrome. tell your friend you remember some awful stuff about them too but are too good to remind them. then don’t. they will play back all the terrible stuff wondering which you meant.

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      1. ha! thanks, tim – good idea. i don’t ever have to go back to that town again, except for my Aunt’s funeral and she’s planning to live a loooong time yet. and i know you kind Baboons will not hold that failure against me. but don’t tell the goats – they are looking for any little thing in order to gain the upper hand.

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  10. I remember being judged because I was short, pimply and had the wrong accent – does that count?

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  11. Good morning to all:

    I was asked to do 4H judging once when they didn’t have enough judges. I gave out a lot of blue ribbons. I was told that was okay, but I never was asked again to do 4H judging.

    Good story, Renee, and I am glad the competition worked out well for your daughter. My daughter got an award for her saxaphone playing in high school. That was good. It wasn’t good when she wasn’t picked to be in a play. Some more popular kids were picked. I agree with those who have said there tends to be a lot of problems with competitions and sometimes it would be better not to have them.

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    1. JinCG, one of the finest bits of drama ever created on the topic of that kind of judging was the All Creatures Great and Small show, Season 2, Episode 5. Siegfried cons Jim Herriot into judging the local Fair, which earns him the hatred of everyone with a dog, cat, sheep or whatever in the contest. It is a pitch-perfect story about how incredibly ugly people become when engaged in certain kinds of competitions.

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      1. I liked that show quite a bit. Years later, I read the books, which were all very touching and enjoyable!

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      2. I have some of the books from All Creatures Great and Small and saw some of time shows. The books and the show were favorites of my mother who was proud of her English heritage. I don’t remember the story about judging at a local fair. I liked judging the 4H projects. Maybe I wasn’t asked to do it again because they didn’t need me. I do kind of think that they thought I was giving out too many blue ribbons, but they didn’t want to tell me that was the case.

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      3. Jim,
        Mostly 4H is about the learning experience, so I always felt like most of the kids should get blue ribbons.
        The red’s came in if you were clearly not even trying to challenge yourself or did something well beneath your age. (And from what I remember that was a learning experience too; that trying to take the easy route didn’t help). If I was judging I’d have given lots of Blues too.
        People, do you realize there was money tied to this? Way back when I was there, a Blue ribbon got you $2, Red was $1.50 (maybe?) and White was about $.75… so again, cash initiative!

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  12. Great piece, Renee. Piano recitals made you feel like you were being judged, but there were no ribbons, only relief when it was over and you took your little bow. I think Husband and I once won a cribbage tournament on the one short cruise we’ve done.

    But I do remember auditioning for various choruses. Got into the San Francisco CIvic Chorale, didn’t get into the Minnesota Chorale, and got into the Oratorio Chorus (Twin Cities) by the skin of my teeth. We were supposed to prepare a song… the only thing I felt confident singing that was in my range was the Homage March from Grieg’s Sigurd Jorsalfar, which I’d been singing around the house because Garrison had done a parody of it… These were the only lyrics I had, so I sang those lyrics* and accompanied myself, since I had transposed it to my own (lower) key. I believe I got in because he thought I could play piano and transpose anything – be a back-up accompanist in an emergency, or something like that. Luckily, the guy had a sense of humor.
    * <i?Sons of Knute we are marching for Freedom
    Looking for our friends, hopin' to meet 'em.
    Saturday morning, we're in our glory,
    We're up at 5:00 for northerns…

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  13. When I was in junior high we were all required to participate in the Vicariate Literary contest. It lasted all morning. The Reverend Mother came into the room and read us the topic for our essay. We then had to write for a certain length of time. At the signal we took out our fountain pens and wrote final drafts. They were ranked anonymously and the best in each grade was sent to compete against other essays from students taught by the same order of nuns up and down the East Coast. The winner was announced on the last day of school. I won in both 7th and 8th grade and my name was put on a trophy. That was the only time I have been recognzed on a big hunk of metal. Still, the nun who taught my English class said, “Don’t take it too seriously. You don’t write that well. Nobody else tried very hard.”

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    1. those nuns were the best example of stone cold meanies i have ever experienced. my mom hung with the poor claires in bloomington and loved them. maybe a st joseph trait to be detached and bitchy. in the name of the father…

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      1. I object! My boarding school were St. Joseph’s, and all, except one, were very sweet and patient. And the mean one, died while I was the school….I didn’t have anything to do with it, but remember thinking good riddance.

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  14. bill kling was on mpr talking his usual talk and someone called up ( i missed the comment but heard the response) that it was a shame dale connelly had to go. bill basically said classic music had to have its own station and dale didn’t belong on kid radio. good luck dale. he is such an ass. did anyone read the article on bill kling in the tc reader? it showed him to be such a cut throat person that it explained a lot about how mpr is profitable but the way he has stepped on everyone every chance he got to get his. great model for how to do it not.

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    1. It was in our local paper last week that MPR is flipping the News and Music stations because they want to focus more on news. What that means around Rochester is 91.7 (currently music) has a larger signal than 90.7 (news) so more people will be able to get the news, but less will get music.
      I remember when we just had the one combined station. Would be news until 9:00 AM (so never got to hear the Morning Show) and then played classical music until maybe 4 or 5:00 PM, then back to music I think.

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    2. Next week, after Bill is gone, MPR will get a little of my money again. Although I will be very clear when I call that I’m only coughing up cash because Bill is gone. They won’t get as much as they used to however, since KFAI is now getting some!

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  15. I heard Bill Kling say that he was on the committee to find his replacement and he suggested that he would see to it that someone just like him was hired. I think it was his second in command that was hired. I do hear some good things on MPR, but I think they are very careful not to stray too far from a more or less big business approach if you know what I mean.

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    1. While Bill Kling is certainly not my favorite person in the world, I do give him credit for having built up an impressive organization. MPR is a strong and vital organization, a leader in its field. I recognize that Garrison has probably been a major factor in MPR’s success, but I also give a lot of the credit to sound business decisions. It’s really regrettable that Dale fell victim to a strategic move on MPR’s part that no baboon approves of. We expect a more humane approach to dealing with a long-term employee who has served well, so Dale’s termination really smarts. There, I’ve said it, and you may all hate me for it, but MPR has served this community well for a long time. I continue to support them, but I no longer shop at Target if that’s any consolation.

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      1. Target has nothing to do with MPR (so far as I know). But Target is one of the big corporations that has been supporting anti-gay political candidates. Target has a long history of being good corporate citizens, but they’re now supporting candidates with a conservative agenda. I can live without Target, MPR I’d miss terribly if it went away.

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  16. Thanks to everyone who commented today. I will be off the trail for a few days, traveling with my husband and his gospel group to Pine Ridge, SD. Given that we are quiet Lutherans and we will be hanging out with some pretty hard core Baptists, I expect I will have lots to share when I get back.

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    1. From classical to gospel – you’re sort of running the gamut. Renee, I’m sure you’ve told this before, but what instrument(s) do you play?

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