How in the world it's 2015 already, I have no clue. This whole year seems like one big blur...a good blur...but a blur! I had so many incredible opportunities to travel, meet people...and of course play violin...in 2014 that there's no way I can share about them all in one post! But the most musical portion of my year was actually just this past December. I felt like each week brought a new opportunity to make music and I absolutely ate it up. Here are the highlights....and accompanying photo collages. :)
I kicked off the month with a trip to New Jersey and New York for a few Christmas events with my fabulous boss Kelly Minter. It was amazing to hear her teach through Mary's Song (The Magnificat) from Luke chapter 1. I am encouraged and inspired every time I get to hear her speak and being reminded of the birth of Christ and the meaning of Advent in the midst of the business of the season was balm for my soul. And as an added bonus, I got to see my Uncle Bill and several dear friends, ate way too much great food, drove in downtown NYC for the first time ever, and frolicked a bit in Central Park. Who doesn't love the holidays in the City?
After a quick 48 hours at home, I headed back East to start a Christmas tour with Laura Story. We saw lots of snow and cold weather as we took the show on the road from Maryland to New Jersey to Massachusetts to New York....it was a whirlwind of Christmasy musical goodness. If you haven't already gotten Laura's Christmas record, might I recommend you grab it even though the holidays are over? I was thrilled to get to open the second half of the show with one of my fiddle tunes...(see the somewhat fuzzy video here...my mom was filming on her iPhone from the audience for this one). Getting to play one of my tunes with a full band and full string section was a once in a lifetime experience. (Photo credit for all the good photos: Gina Esposito)
I grabbed a crazy-early morning flight home from tour and got back to Nashville just in time to squeeze in a shower and an hour long nap before heading to the historic Ryman Auditorium for what has become one of the pillars of my Christmas season....Andrew Peterson's "Behold the Lamb of God" show. The all-star cast this year was amazing as usual and I was honored to be part of the string section for the 3rd straight year. Playing on that stage, with folks that I admire so highly both as people and as musicians....it's all still a bit surreal...and I'm just so grateful. (Photo Credits: Bob Boyd)
And as if all that wasn't enough....I had the immense honor to get to add some tracks to Kelly Minter's upcoming album. I absolutely cannot wait for you all to hear her new tunes and tasteful arrangements of a few classic hymns. Her voice and musical talent are immense and she is so lovely...to get to add my violin to such a fantastic project was incredible.
And as lovely as my December was, I'm thrilled to have a few weeks now to settle in before I head back out on the road to spend time with my husband, get organized, snuggle with the cat....I pray that your new year brings fresh goodness and blessings. Thank you for all your support and encouragement during 2014! I appreciate each and every one of you!
Part of what I so dearly love about the rich tapestry that is the music community of Nashville is how sometimes you find the richest of gems in unexpected places. When Keith and I began visiting and ultimately joined the congregation at St. Bartholemew's Church, I had decided to take a break from serving in the music ministry of my home church. While the previous few churches I'd been a member of were wonderful, wonderful places and I'd been welcomed heartily into their music ministries (and honestly, my career shaped and catapulted forward by those same ministries) they were also large communities with lots of worship services over the course of each weekend and plugging in meant a large sacrifice which became increasingly difficult given the amount of time I was already away from home for work.
Keith and I decided we needed a season to just go to church together.
Sit in the pew together.
Be a church members.
And so we did. Through two years of visiting and almost two years of being an official member, I went to church and sat next to my husband and savored every moment of getting to pray along side him. Get to church at the same time. Give him a big hug during the passing of the peace. But then this past December I felt a tug that it was time to start playing again in the church that has become so dear to both Keith and me. So now, once a month, I have the immense joy of curling up in the loft at the back of the room and playing my violin through the rich liturgy of the Anglican tradition; harmonizing along to ancient melodies as well as tunes written in recent weeks by our brilliant music director David Madeira.
And I never know who I'll find playing music alongside me on Sunday mornings...one morning the bass player is from a well-known-long-running Christian band, another day the head of a major music publishing company is strumming the guitar or a physician is singing on the praise team. But one of the lovliest discoveries of becoming part of the St. B's family has been the friendship of Norwegian singer Solveig Leithaug. She is as talented as she is kind and pure class through and through. For a while now we've been scheming when and how we could join musical forces. My beloved grandfather was also from Norway and I have a few early memories of he and his brothers singing traditional tunes in a language I couldn't understand but found impossibly beautiful. I crossed my fingers that an opportunity would arise one day to add my violin to some of Solveig's lilting tunes and celebrate not only fine music but part of my heritage.
So with all this in mind, I'm so thrilled to get to invite each of you to join us....Solveig, me, a host of other incredible Nashville musicians and the breathtaking Voices of Joy choir (on tour all the way from Norway) to "Summer Nights, Northern Lights," an evening of music (and Scandanavian pastries) benefitting my favorite non-profit, Compassion International. (We even got some press in the Gaither Homecoming magazine this week!) I'd be honored to have you in my church, celebrating with my people and enjoying some beautiful music. What better way to spend a summer night?
So after months of having to say "no" when asked if my album was available for download, I'm thrilled to tell you that yes! You CAN download my album now from iTUNES or from Amazon MP3! So that's kind of fun! Of course you can still order a hard copy through the mail from my SquareMarketplace page. Thank you so much for your kind support! Happy Listening!
This afternoon I got an email from my friend Andrew Greer that simply said "FYI. Flip to the "Reviews" section" ...followed by a link. I clicked on the link and flipped as instructed, not knowing what I was looking for. And then, low and behold, there was MY album cover staring up at me from my computer screen along with one of the kindest reviews I've ever read. The biggest thank you to Andrew and CCM for giving my little album some big love (and four stars!!)
Read The Review By Clicking Here!
See the full issue by clicking here! (The reviews are near the end!)
And can you believe it? This actually isn't the first time my record has gotten some press! Check out my post about it's appearance in Catfish Alley Magazine HERE!
I love getting to meet people on the road and talk and hear their stories and questions. Often times I get asked how I started playing violin as a career, my stance on music education, etc. But then sometimes I meet moms of tiny violinists and the question comes up..."If my child isn't as excited about lessons as they used to be, do I make them keep going? Do I let them quit?" I always share my experience as best I can to encourage them.
Then a few weeks ago, a mom sent me a message on Facebook. I'd met them at an event a few years ago and we had talked...I'd encouraged her that violin could be a great thing for her then 6 year old daughter and she and her husband had felt that it might be exactly what the Lord had for them and their little girl. And apparently the little girl had the same idea. Lessons were begun with a beloved teacher and it was a great experience all around. Well, for a while. Then she'd been moved to write me a letter. Her daughter is now on the verge of turning 12 and they feel at a crossroads. To quote her letter, "She has a natural gifting so there's not that desire to practice, which I'm sure that's totally normal for her age. But we aren't going to let her quit because at this point we feel like we'd be letting her out of what we know God spoke. But I don't want it to be miserable for her!!! My question is, did you ever go through that? How did your parents encourage you to stay the course? What could I be doing to really make the violin something she loves?"
I felt a tiny bit at a loss. I can cheerlead for music education all day long as I've been both a student and a teacher. I know the impact it's made on my life. But there was a key element missing here as I've never parented a child at ALL, let alone through the decision to persevere or call it quits with an activity. But fortunately, I DID know someone who had been through this, not only with violin lessons, but with a myriad of extra curricular activities that I chose to be a part of as a child, adolescent and young adult. My own mom. So I emailed her asking if she'd be willing to sit down and write a response. Fortunately not only was she willing, but the letter she wrote was excellent. So excellent that it seemed a shame not to share it with you all.
Dear Fellow "Violin Mom",
I’m Bethany’s Mom. Bethany passed your message on to me, thinking that perhaps I could give you some feedback from the point of view of a Mom whose “been there, done that.”
Now, believe me, I’m not claiming to possess the wisdom of the ages, just a little bit that comes from experience. Here are some things I’d consider, although you may already be aware of all these:
I sure hope your daughter will hang in there – not necessarily to become a professional (that was not our goal with Bethany – just that music would be beneficial to her overall development) – but to have a skill she can enjoy throughout her whole life – and use to the Glory of God on many occasions.
Best wishes to you both!
Stories and thoughts and current happenings in music and life
Bethany is a freelance violinist/fiddler and tour manager who works with artists & events such as Kelly Minter, Cultivate: A Gathering Around The Word and Laura Story. She and her husband Keith live in Nashville, TN with their daughter Clare, cat & 6 backyard chickens. For more info on Bethany, visit her bio page!!