The Trials of a Busy Mom

Month: October 2018

New Beginnings (part 2 of the bell choir story)

As I prepared myself for my retirement from the Bells on Temple Square, I decided that I would like to start a community bell choir of my own. I asked the Highland City Arts Council if that was something I could do under their umbrella, and my contact agreed. I had already been doing a teen chimes group at the arts center building, so this would just replace that. My optimism was bright and shiny as I started writing grants and requests for donations. My friend on the arts council assured me that she would help me apply for funding, and that they had received several grants, and in fact had recently purchased a $30,000 piano with grant money. Wow!

After applying to over 50 businesses, and spending SO many hours writing grants and filling out paperwork, I was just done. All I got back were NO’s, or just no response at all. I came to the conclusion that I suck at grant writing, and that no one believes in or wants to support this project. But I was still determined, so I decided to just beg for money from regular people. I set up a crowd funding project and really just got to begging. Even though I did get about $1000 from friends, it was a bit humiliating to beg, and of course, I took it personally, and instead of just realizing that not everyone has money to give to support my dreams, I internalized it that people don’t like or support me. I KNOW that’s not the case, but discouragement is a tricky tool of the adversary, and if he can get me to doubt my worth in any way, he will certainly do that. I’m working on not taking rejection so personally, but it’s a process.

I did receive word that Wal-mart would donate $500. Hooray! With the money I had raised, along with money from teaching my chime choir last year, I started looking for used bells, since brand new is out of the question. I found a 2 octave set of Malmark bells on ebay that was at around $3000. There was 30 minutes left in the auction, and I quickly looked at the pictures, and just started bidding. Reckless. I was very nervous, but kept on bidding until the very last minute, and I ended up winning that auction with a bid for $3450. Then I got really nervous. What if they were in terrible shape? What if I had just wasted ALL my money? I beat myself up mentally for taking such a risk, while at the same time, I was nervously excited that I had taken the leap and made a purchase! When the bells arrived, they seemed to be in good working order. I started polishing, and was pleased that my money hadn’t been totally wasted. I did have a professional look at one of the bells, and he agreed that they were in good shape. I have discovered that two of the handles are wrong, and one of bells has already needed repair ($70), but I am relieved that they are playable and sound good.

Soon after, I found another box of bells on ebay and I bought those, as well.

So we are now 4 bells short of 3 octaves. Unfortunately, they are the c4,c#4,d4, and d#4, and they are around $500 each. I also haven’t seen any of these bells on ebay, so I’m not very optimistic about finding them used. So, I haven’t forked out the $2000 to buy them. I did receive another $500 in donation from Rocky Mt. Power, so that’s encouraging, but not it’s not enough to justify buying those 4 bells yet.

Sadly, there is much more to starting a bell choir than just acquiring the bells. I realized I needed foam pads, and foam pad covers. That was another $200 and a week of my life spent measuring and sewing the muslin covers for the foam I had bought. I started advertising in on the Highland Arts Council website that we were forming a new handbell choir. I decided on a name and made a facebook page for the Timpanogos Ringers. I started talking up this choir and inviting people to come and “audition”. I had met some people in the play I was doing, “Hunchback of Notre Dame”, who expressed interest in trying handbells, and a few people that I know also seemed interested. I started getting emails asking about the choir, and I had a list of about 10 people who had said they were going to come and try handbells. Things were starting to come together.

The beginning of September came, and I was excited to get started. However, only 4 people came to the first week.
Recruit, recruit!
The next week a couple more people came, but some of the first ones didn’t come. I emailed all the people who had been interested, and I heard back reasons why they couldn’t commit to a once a week activity at this time. It seems that my enthusiasm for something is not enough to compel others to commit. My Wednesday nights were not looked forward to with enthusiasm, but with dread. Discouragement raised it’s ugly head, and I thought about just giving up. Directing a choir is SO different than just showing up each week to play. A friend said to me, “why are you doing this? If it’s for you, and it’s not bringing you joy, then maybe it’s not worth it. If it’s for the community, then it’s a service you are doing.” Another friend said, “you could quit, but you aren’t a quitter, are you?” I wasn’t to the point of quitting, because I had 4 dedicated members who were excited about bells. One of them even asked if he could arrange a song for bells from a piano piece and if we could play it! I couldn’t give up yet. But I did tell myself that I only had to do this until Christmas, and then if I didn’t have enough interest, I would take a break for a while.

I came home and told my family that I needed their support. I needed 2 or 3 more people to come to bells and play bells, because I can’t direct AND play, even though I’d much rather play than direct. I also asked my sister if she would be willing to try. That night, Ryan came, Amy came, and Jenna and her friend Ryan came. It was awesome (even though I didn’t have enough bells for that many people)! Ryan and Amy actually had fun and have agreed to keep coming. Yay! And Ryan helps me carry the bell boxes to the car and back into the house each week, so that’s also a bonus.

We now have 9 ringers, which is perfect! If all of them would just keep coming every week, that would be great! They sight read very well, they are all good musicians who understand counting and notes because they have all had music lessons of some kind (even if they were kids, it helps!). I do not dread Wednesday nights! I’m having fun, and I think that they are having fun. I took a week off the week of fall break because I wanted to attend the wedding reception of a dear friend, and we are taking off Halloween. But I’ve scheduled us for a concert on December 12 at the community center, plus a couple of parties and the festival of trees. We will not be perfect, but I hope that everyone has fun. I’m hoping to get 9-10 songs ready, but if we don’t have that many songs ready, that’s ok, too.

I will still look for funding options so that we can get those bells we need, but it’s not urgent. I feel like my efforts of the past 10 months are finally starting to pay off and this crazy venture of mine might actually work. Will it replace the choir I’ve loved for the last decade? No. But this will allow me to express my love of bells and music in a new way, while hopefully instilling that love with new people. I hope that as we perform this Christmas and into next year, we will become more confident, and ready for new challenges. I also hope that we will grow as friends in the group and that it can be a safe and happy place for all who come, and that we can have joy in making music.

Breaking up is hard to do

I just removed myself from the Mormon Tabernacle Choir facebook group. It’s just a group for members of the choir and orchestra. While no one says you have to leave the group when you retire, it’s just not so applicable to non choir members. But, after my social media fast, I realize that there are things I can let go.

I’m still having a hard time NOT being in Bells on Temple Square. It’s been 4 months, so I should be over it, right? Well, I’m not. I think I haven’t finished the grieving process, and I need to go through a few more emotions before I can be done with that. So, I’m writing this for me. To help me work through. You can read it if you want, or not.

It’s hard to let go of something that was so amazing. This group was like a family to me. I know people say that about lots of groups, but really it was. It’s not a huge group like the Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square (hard to type that, and it doesn’t really roll off the tongue just yet), but only about 30-35 people in the bell choir at any given time. Some of us have been there since the beginning, so 13 years. But, as we age out, that number is getting smaller.

This is our original group picture, and from that group, there are still 11 charter members. Some of them have taken breaks for babies, illness or personal reasons. I never took any seasons off, although I did miss one Christmas with the Tabernacle Choir concert. I won a trip to Cancun from a radio contest, and so I had to miss performing with the group for the Sissel concert, but I still did come to the concert and watch it.

We rejoice with people when they got married or had babies, we support each other when our kids leave on their missions, and honestly care about each other. We are sad when one of our own gets divorced, and we rejoice when they get married. While we don’t see each other outside of choir things too often, some of us do socialize in other areas. I’ve had bell friends come over for different occasions, we go to wedding receptions. But really, since we see each other once or twice a week, we do keep in touch. I can’t say that I was super close to every ringer, but I do have some very close friends. We have shared hotel rooms, shared lunches, dinners, shared folders, shared music, and shared each other’s lives.

It’s hard to let go.

I’m not saying it was perfect. It was not. My time in the choir was also hard. I missed out on a lot of things because I had rehearsal. I missed many of my kids’ concerts, I missed my family Christmas party nearly every year, I missed any ward activity that was on a Wednesday night. There were many things I couldn’t do because they were on Wednesday. But I was blessed so much, that it hardly seemed like a sacrifice. Wednesday night was my time. I knew that I would get to talk with my carpool, chat about what’s going on in our lives, see my friends, and then I would work really hard for two hours sight reading or learning music, working out hard passages, and just playing. To be bathed in and surrounded by beautiful and often very spiritual music for two hours every single week is a rare gift. Yes, when the time was over, I was spent. My brain was tired, my back would be aching and my feet might hurt. But I knew that my brain and my body had worked hard and it was a good feeling. To work hard on a common goal together and to rejoice together when we finally got things right was amazing. And I’m not trying to brag too much here, but this group really is amazing. I mean, if you think about how many hours we practice to get to that level, it makes sense (at least 1352 hours in the 13 years I was in the choir, by the way, and that’s a pretty conservative estimate of 2 hours per week. Many weeks we had rehearsal twice a week). Like, we’re kind of a big deal. Well, they are kind of a big deal. Now, I’m just a person that USED to be in the Bells on Temple Square.

It’s like that song, “Now you’re just somebody that I used to know”. That’s kind of how I feel. Like I’ve been dumped by a boyfriend.

Overdramatic? Yes.

I’m trying not to overglamorize my time spent with the group. There were times I felt like quitting. Seriously. There were times I was very frustrated, and times I would come home and cry. And not just at the very beginning, either. When we started, I was sure I was not good enough for the group and that I would NEVER be good enough. In fact, I know that I was not the best ringer there. I struggle with complex rhythm and my sight reading is not the best. I would see others around me playing perfectly while I struggled. At one point, I was told that I should not switch spots to ringing 4 in hand. I went home and cried and considered quitting. The next week I made some other obvious mistake and was so embarrassed I came home and cried again. I got reprimanded when I decided to do a play and had to miss 3 weeks of rehearsal. So, no, it wasn’t all just glam and roses. But, I got to perform with the most amazing musicians, got to be on tv with the choir, even got to go to the National Handbell Association Convention and perform in their closing concert.

June was the end of my service, and I was already in the midst of rehearsing a play that ended up being a wonderful experience, and kept me busy for July. Right after that there was a vacation, but when school started, and I didn’t go back to bells, the sadness hit me full force.

–To be continued.

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