A big shout out to Stephen F. Austin State University and a few wonderful days in Texas catching up with former professors and friends. It all felt like home and brought back a lot of nice memories.
I flew down to Houston on Tuesday evening and drove up to Nacogdoches the next morning. In spite of all the neck and shoulder pain, the trip went well and the pain was a constant reminder that I had brought this all upon myself thanks to my mountain bike racing. I caught two student recitals on Wednesday evening before turning in for the night. I rehearsed my music Thursday morning with accompanist Ron Petti. Following that, I took a quick tour of the parts of campus I frequented the most to see how things had changed over the past 27 years. Before lunch, I spoke with John Roberts, the Director of the School of Music. I took a walk (slow walk - that is in my physical condition) in a new park with a trail system near campus. After that, I headed for some lunch and then back to my room for a nap.
The evening's Extravaganza began at 6 pm in the Grand Ball Room. I met Ric Berry who was going to introduce me later in the evening for the alumni award. There were plenty of memories in that Ball Room as Ric and I had sung Madama Butterfly together there 28 years ago. The evening was a recognition event for outstanding music students with scholarship awards and prizes being handed out by the faculty. The major ensembles performed, the recitalists of the year performed, there was an opera scene from The Merry Widow, and near the end of the evenings program is when I was introduced by Ric Berry who said many kind things about me and what I have done since graduating in 1985.
It was a very humbling experience to be recognized for my accomplishments to date as all I've tried to do in my career is use what I learned whilst a student at SFA from my mentors such as David Jones, Ron Anderson, Tim King, and Shirley Watterston. They were all passionate about their music and music making and lit a fire under me to be the same. At least that is what I came away from SFA with as my modus operandi. Give yourself fully to the music with full passion. I've done that throughout my career singing opera, and now I do it with my own students in the voice studio and as stage director for the operas.
I am proud to be an alum of SFASU as the skills I learned prepared me quite well for a career in music. My only embarrassment of the evening was having to sing without my normal voice being with me. All I could eek out was a cotton ball puff of an air filled tone as my neck and voice wouldn't really allow me to make my typical pressurized sound due to all the pulled muscles and poor posture. It'll bounce back in time as I heal, but that's all I had in my singing bag thanks to the bike wreck. Again, it's my own fault. In spite of that, I had a very nice visit with everyone and feel very honored and humbled to have been recognized. But I also feel proud for a school that is thriving and doing so well preparing future generations of singers. Perhaps sometime in the future I can redeem myself by going back to sing with my normal voice to make up for it.
Friday morning, after having coffee with Tim King, David Howard and a couple of students, I headed back to Houston and had a mid-afternoon lunch at the Goode Company BBQ before heading to the airport for the flight home. Driving the car was not easy with my shoulder and neck as every bump jiggled it. And every time I had to stop at a light and then go, the neck was not happy. Dozing on the plane wasn't too good for the neck either, nor was the bumpy descent during a thunderstorm into Des Moines, but I made it home by 10 pm and put the heating pad on the neck.
Thanks again to Ric Berry, Debbie Berry, John Roberts, Ron Anderson, Tim King, Shirley Watterston, Missy Devine, Ron Petti, Nita Hudson, etc... for a wonderful experience and visit. I am very excited to have one of my senior mezzo's attend SFA next year in the graduate program. And I will be sending more to audition next year as well!!!