For those who missed my Tweet at the beginning of the week, here’s the skibbies – no, I did not go incommunicado this week! I arrived at the University to find that they did not have internet in the rooms as they did last year! So, there went my plans for blogging daily. *** BIG FROWN*** Sorry, I had every intention to be able to blog nightly during the week. This I do know, that God has a plan, and so there is a reason for everything that happens ….
I rolled into the Lee University Campus at roughly one o’clock in the afternoon on Sunday. Though it was still considered early for check in at the Steve Hurst School of Music (SHS), students in Dixon Auditorium were buzzing with excitement and anticipation for the week to come. Collecting my schedule for the week, room keys, and name tag, I was ready to lug my stuff into the dorm and get this week started!
While I was waiting for Orientation (the first official gathering of the school) I scanned over my private lesson schedule to see who would be my instructors this year. SHS offers five “schools” – group, vocal, piano, sound and songwriting. I was in the “piano school,” which consisted of a group class twice a day, five private piano lessons and piano lab (the place where you practice what you learn)! I was also able to take three private songwriting lessons and cross over into the Songwriting sessions when my schedule allowed. “Crossing over” is a term we use at school when a student attends a class they didn’t sign up for, and I’m so glad that Steve and the staff allow and encourage students to go to all the classes possible and learn as much as they can. As I checked who my private lessons were going to be with, I was delighted to see both teachers I had last year and some new ones! My first piano lesson was to be with Channing Eleton (former pianist for Gold City), also, Matthew Holt, Stephan Butler and Larry Buchanan. For songwriting lessons, I was over the moon to see Jim Brady on my list, along with Sheri Thrower and Jared Meyers. (I had Jared last year too!)
This year was also special because my sister came as a student in the sound school! She always had an ear for “sound” and the “techy” things that go along with it, and was excited for the opportunity to learn more about that intriguing subject. I’ll be adding some of her experiences in my posts too, so ya’ll can get a feel for that and not just piano! Since my sister and I were going together, we decided we might as well add Mom to the bunch too! ~ She came as a guest and loved every minute of it!
“Enjoy this, it’s gonna’ be great,” Steve Hurst said at Orientation that night. This would be my second year sitting in the School of Religion Building watching students and teachers stream in for the introduction Steve gives every year for school. As Steve continued outlining the week’s classes, he encouraged the students and briefed everyone on the “do’s” and “don’ts” of the campus. All in all, a great week was ahead of us! This year, Steve had 51 staff members and 24 organized singing groups, 14 of which were at school for the very first time. “Whatever it is that He has brought you here for – be open to that,” – were the encouraging words of the school’s administrator Joyce Reid. (That one phrase, I dare say, set the theme for the whole week!) Though, there was one thing that Steve said in orientation that bothered me greatly…he said that this year there will not be internet access in the dorm rooms! So my plan for blogging on the spot was slightly…um, greatly stifled! LOL! (Though, when I looked at my schedule, I’m not sure I would have had the time to blog in detail about the week if I tried to cram it into my small amount of free time anyway). Steve talked about some practical things we need to be aware of to get the most out of the week, two of which were basic, but of the utmost importance: 1. Don’t miss your private lesson! (This may seem obvious, but you would be surprised how easy it is to do with all that is going on at the school…one minute you are having lunch, and the next minute it is one o’clock and you missed your twelve forty-five to one thirty lesson!) 2. Always take your notebook to class! Without notes, you won’t remember a thing! (Your brain gets overloaded so quickly!) Another thing Steve mentioned stood out to me, he warned against the thought of not getting the teacher you wanted this year. He said, “Your lessons were chosen after weeks of fasting and prayer.” Basically, you will be with the teacher that the Lord knows you need this week. I personally found that to be true with my lessons and in the lessons of others as well. Orientation ended with the hymn Have Thine Own Way, Lord. From there we all headed over to the Dixon Auditorium for the concert with the Talley Trio!
Steve Hurst gave a rundown of the concert schedule for the week before he introduced the Talley’s. Monday night we would have a few songs with Jim Brady, then, Sheri Thrower would direct her choir Sing Academy, Tuesday night – the Piano Fan Fair, Wednesday night – the Anniversary Choir, Thursday night with Gold City and Friday would finish off the week with Tribute Quartet. Steve said that he tried very hard to get the Booth Brothers this year, but it didn’t work out. He made a joke about “Jim and the two that never show up.” (That’s an inside joke at school. In 2009 the BB’s were to sing at school and didn’t show up because they forgot, and last year, Ronnie was off the road during that time, so it was just Michael and Jim, and a fill in). The good news for all the students is Steve already has the BB’s booked for next year – so it’s final! (Ya’ never know – maybe they all will show up)! LOL! Anyway…
The school did something new this year and gave teachers and students opportunities to sing before the concert. That way, visitors would also get to hear the students perform and not just the nationally recognized groups. The first congregational of the night was Blessed Assurance, then The Blood Will Never Loose It’s Power. Everyone sang the chorus together and Sheri Thrower had a solo on the verse. Kathy Woodward(vocal teacher) sang next, Steve said that she attended school for 15 years before she began teaching. She did an excellent job on her up-tempo solo, The Other Side Of Grace.
“Twenty years ago this school started with this group,” Steve began, “Lauren was about 11 years old. At the National Quartet Convention that same year, Roger came up to me and said, ‘I don’t know what happened to my wife and daughter at your school, but as long as you have one, we will be there.” – They haven’t missed school since then!
The Talley Concert:
The Talley Trio kicked off the School of Music with a fast number called Good Things featuring Lauren. The audience clapped to the beat the whole way through the song. The Healer was next, showcasing Debra’s strong alto voice. By the chorus, there were so many hands raised in the air you couldn’t count them! You could tell that the message of this song really touched lives that night. Lauren greeted the audience and let everyone know that they were glad to be there. The following song also featured Lauren, it was the up-beat, There’s A Promise Coming Down That Dusty Road. The Talley’s went on to introduce each other, Roger introduced Debra, Debra introduced Lauren, and Lauren, Roger. Debra was cute with Lauren, she said, “We use to have a girl named Lauren Talley singing with us, but now we have a new girl, and her name is Lauren Talley Alvey!” Lauren has been married a month now, and you can tell that she is really happy…so is Roger and Debra! Lauren shared that SHSM holds a special place in her heart because that’s where she met her husband, Brian. After that, she sang The Broken Ones. The first song of the night to give Roger a solo was Hands Of Grace. This fast song about all the things Christ did with His hands in New Testament. Roger introduced the next song by asking the question, “How many like that lush music from the 40’s?” Well, he found a song that sounded like it and recorded it on their new Cd, so…. “If you don’t like it,” Roger said, “it’s only going to last about four minutes!” The song was I Heard The Voice Of Jesus Say. On the slow turn around Roger attempted to get Debra to dance with him, Debra exclaimed, “Roger! You can’t do that, we’re in church! You know what your mama said, ‘A dancin’ foot and a prayin’ knee don’t belong on the same leg!’” By way of introduction to the next song, Debra told of all the people who have impacted her life. She said that those people were never in the spotlight, the world never knew their name, and though they seemed ordinary, had a huge part in shaping her life. These thoughts opened for The Applause, a ballad about that very subject. (Roger played the keyboard on this one). After that, Lauren continued talking about the meaning of that song. She said, “We are here this week to hopefully get better at our craft.” She encouraged the students, “To everyone who stands on the stage, applause or standing ovation from the audience is nice – but an ovation from Him is much better!” Lauren went on to talk about how she met her husband at SHS in 2008, she said, “The first thing that I thought was, ‘Awwwww, he is soooo cute!’” The audience exploded with laughter! Lauren giggled and asked, “Ya’ll thought I was going to say something spiritual, didn’t you?” Brian Alvey came out just then and shared his testimony, how he left home at the age of 15. He said he had a lot of “why me Lord” in his life at that time, but now, years later, after many blessings, he still asks “why me Lord?” – only for different reasons! At first, he asked because he didn’t feel worthy of the hardships, now he asked because he felt unworthy of the blessings. That was a perfect set up for his solo Lord Help Me Jesus. It received a standing ovation. After that Lauren stepped up to sing He’s Alive, you could see Roger ask Brian to stay on stage and sing it with them. By the chorus, the whole audience popped out of their seats and stayed standing throughout the rest of the song and through the encore. The CD pitch was next, then Roger made a special announcement. He called it a “scoop” – we were the first audience to hear this in concert! Brian will be joining the Talley’s on stage, making this successful trio a quartet!
The closing song was a psalm set to music, called, For Thou Oh Lord, and Brian stayed on stage to sing this it with the Talley’s also. After the song, Roger just had to tell this story! He said, “I asked Brian to stay out and sing that last song with us and he asked me, ‘What part do I sing?’ I answered, ‘Whichever one the Lord gives you.’ He said, ‘I think He’s given me yours.’” Everyone cracked up laughing! Lauren added, “I think he (Brian) is going to fit in just fine!”
Conclusion: The Talley’s did a great job! The one thing that I noticed about the first couple songs of their set, was that the lyrics all spoke of the same message – healing. I saw this in songs like The Healer, The Promise Coming Down That Dusty Road, Broken Ones, and Good Things. Really, it was the theme of the whole week.