The familiar tune of Mansion Over The Hilltop greeted me as I walked into Chapel on Wednesday morning. Jeff Stice was on stage at the piano creating those beautiful chords and phrases. (Warning: musical terms!) Once everyone came in and was settled, we enjoyed a solo from Mary Anne, one of the vocal teachers. She sang I’m So Glad Jesus Lifted Me and read Psalm 121 from Scripture. It was a perfect way to start the day! Concerning the Bible verses, Steve commented, “When the mind is gone – the heart and soul are still there.”
The Promise Trio had the first group slot of the morning, singing a well known classic I’ve Come To Far To Look Back. The song was a perfect fit for them, considering the trials they faced just to come to school. Rich Blessing of the trio, called Steve on Sunday and explained that he was going to have to cancel for school. He and his wife just found out that week that she had cancer and had to begin treatments right away. If that wasn’t enough, they run a restaurant, and the person who said they would take care of the business while he was at school called and said that they couldn’t do it anymore. Rich told Steve that he needed to stay home, though his wife insisted that he go to SHS. Steve told Rich to pack up, get in his car and begin driving here, and he would have the whole school pray for someone to be available to run the restaurant. Well, they prayed, and here Rich was, singing with his trio on Wednesday morning!
Jason Waldrop came to the stage next, singing I Will Glorify The Lord and receiving a standing ovation for the same. Jason told the story of how he came to sing with Greater Vision. He sang Victory In Jesus acappella for Gerald many years ago at NQC, and landed the job! This next song, he told us, became his “testimony” song. It was a beautiful ballad called Without Jesus. (Many may remember it from the Kingsmen’s Proven Time & Time Again album).
Classes took me once again to the Curtsinger building, ready for a question and answer session with Channing Eleton. Andrew Ishee was present in class again too, which ended up being a really good thing! Around ten minutes into class time and Channing was no where to be seen! So, Andrew took it upon himself to be our “substitute teacher.” (He did a fine job too!)
After piano class, I slipped into the group songwriting class, and before I knew it, it was time for lunch!
Today would be the first time to have two piano lessons in the same day. (Previous days I had a piano lesson and a songwriting lesson….but somehow, that’s just different! Switching gears is easier than overload! LOL) So after lunch I skedaddled over to Curtsinger and into the “cell block” for my private lesson with Larry Buchanan. It’s kind of funny, among the piano students, there is a “fear” of Larry because he has a Master’s degree in Theory and Composition. When it comes time for a lesson with him, it is common to hear students talk about being nervous for it. But the truth is, Larry is one of the most down to earth people you will ever meet! ~ and he gives a lot of good advise, though sometimes he can get a little deep! He’s a great teacher and I feel like I walked away from his lesson with a different way to look at playing.
I had time for about forty minutes in the piano lab before my next lesson … so I went in to see if I could put my lesson with Larry into practice. One of the “rules” that Lee University is very strict about is that no one is allowed in the piano lab UNLESS there is a teacher or staff member present. Well, the minute I walked into lab, the teacher, Andrew, had to leave. Everyone who was already in lab kind of sighed like they didn’t want to leave and reached for their things. Andrew, on the other hand, had something else in mind! He said, “I have to go to a lesson but I don’t want anyone to leave! Here is what we are going to do…Elliot, I want you to come in the front here and play on this keyboard…if anyone asks, tell them that Andrew Ishee made you the substitute teacher!” …so he did, and everyone kept on playing!
My private lesson with Stephen Butler was next. I was very excited about this lesson, because from what I’ve heard, Stephan is the king of church music, which was exactly what I was looking for! He took me to a hymnbook and showed me the things that he teaches all of his students when learning to play this style. Also, he gave me some exercises to stretch my fingers so I can reach farther on the keys! (Watch out tenths – here I come!)
The afternoon piano class was also taught by Stephen Butler. He showed us a cool way to arrange the hymn My Jesus I Love Thee using the Circle of 5ths. The principle will work in all songs, and if used correctly, we will be on our way to arranging too!
Evening Concert – Homecoming Style!
Steve brought the staff up on stage and arranged a choir for us to enjoy during the evening concert. That night, not only was there great music to enjoy, but a lot of interesting stories from years past! First, the great ballad Because He Lives opened the night. Gary Casto took the lead on the first verse, everyone sang the chorus together, and Sheree Ishee had a solo on the next verse. Steve had a lady come and share her testimony from the tornado that hit the AL area earlier this year. Many lives were claimed in that tragedy, and faithful followers of the cross were not exempt. John Rowsey took us on a bluesy I’ll Fly Away – as Steve said, “No one can do it like Rowsey!” Brent Brunson was the next one to be put on the spotlight, he led us in a Praise and Worship tune called Welcome Into This Place. Before Brent could escape the stage, Steve told a story on him…one worth repeating! Brent started coming to SHS when he was around eleven/twelve years old. On the campus where the school was held back then, if you didn’t get into your dorm by midnight – you were locked out until morning. Well, Brent found a window to what he thought was the janitor’s room, and left it open to crawl through, whenever he decided to go to bed. Well, as you can imagine…that window did not lead to the janitor’s room, but to the room of one of the lady teachers in the dorm! Boy, was Brent surprised when he hopped through that window! Side splitting laughter filled the auditorium as Steve continued to tease Brent. The Talley’s followed next, singing I’ll Hasten To Your Throne, and Mary Anne did a powerful, slow song called When God Has Another Plan. Gentle Savior, Lead Me On, featured Aaron Unthank. Every year, Joyce’s Dad plays a solo on his harmonica, and this year was no exception! He played Count Your Blessings while Eric Ollis accompanied on the keys. Sheree Ishee told a story about their two daughters as an introduction to her solo. She told of a day when she just finished folding a load of laundry, and went to check on their girls…whom she found in their living room watching a Praise Veggie Tales video. Both of the girls had their hands in the air and eyes closed worshiping…then she realized that one of their girls was standing on Andrew’s piano! She said that her first reaction was to tell her daughter to get down from the piano immediately, but instead, when she saw the way her child was worshiping the Lord, went on a different course of action. She crept up behind and put her arms around her little girl and whispered, “I think we need to get down from daddy’s piano.” Her daughter replied to her in a whisper, “Okay.“ Sheree’s solo, A Whisper Is Enough, illustrated how the Lord deals with us, so many times when we need shouted at, He just comes up behind us and whispers in our ear. Tribute was up next with the classic Who Am I? and Jason Waldrop, Debra Talley and Mary Anne all shared the verses of How Great Thou Art. Steve had Brian Alvey sing Beulah Land, and the evening closed with John Rowsey singing an up tempo number called Ain’t No Grave.