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There are, of course, many reasons that performers perform. When I was growing up, my dear mother invested much time and money on piano and dance (and yes, even a little bit of violin and voice). So when people came over to visit, she naturally wanted me to play piano for them. I would resist and put up a big fuss - I REALLY did not want to play for anyone. But once I was finally pressed into duty, my audience would give me the obligatory compliments and I would respond by telling them everything that was wrong about what they just heard. What a joy that must have been for everyone!

In high school, I ended up in choirs and performing groups. We were unstoppable, singing everywhere we went. We’d line the aisle at McDonalds and do our choreography, and walk the mall singing all our songs.

Much of the differences in attitude and experience can be attributed, at least in my case, to the group versus individual performing experience. As a pianist in the living room, all eyes were on me. As a singer on stage or on the street, I was part of a group experience and it was about “us.” Now as a teacher, of course I have a different “perspective” (nod to the Vessels of GOLD theme for 18-19). For my individual students, I don’t want to emphasize that it’s about “making dad proud” or “showing off” or “getting attention.” Instead, I believe it’s important to give what you have and share what you’ve learned. Think of the “little drummer boy.” He shared what he had. He played the best he could. He gave all of it back to the One who gifted the boy in the first place.

As a group, it’s more complex because it involves all of the above, but you’re working as a team. From what I see in the movies, it’s not that different from the football or mighty ducks or baseball team. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses, and they practice together to the point that they know a lot about each other. They know how to work together, and when the pressure’s on, they know what needs to be said and done to get the job done.

But again, why? Why perform? Certainly, to show what you’ve learned together, what you’ve accomplished after all those hours in rehearsal. What else? To entertain. Laughter is good like medicine. Entertainment (without debauchery) is healthy for the soul. Sometimes a “performance” reaches another level as music or a story will sometimes shock us with its impact by discovering some buried treasure of thought or emotion. There are stories to be told. We learn from stories. From historic accounts to parables to a personal story about the stray dog we encountered, we share our stories and our world is broadened and enriched.

As an individual performer, we stand exposed. That’s not a bad thing. Here I am. Just me. And I have something to “say.” In a group, it certainly feels safer, but it’s not necessarily easier. You can control yourself, but not a group. If you mess up, you let the whole group down. If someone else messes up, they let you down.

It’s like life! How often do we say, or at least think, that life would be a whole lot easier if everyone would just do it the way I do it and think the way I think? So rehearsing and then performing together, we learn that people mess up and do things differently. How are we going to handle it?

So these random bits and pieces float around out there as part of the overall experience of “performing.” But we haven’t really gotten to the root. As a director of performing groups, I feel like I’m constantly trying to convince people (through ads, social media, pictures, video, etc.) to come and see what we’re doing. Why? Because I want them to see how good we are so we can get more people and build more programs and become famous? God forbid. Does pride ever sneak in? Absolutely. But that’s a temptation that any performer will need to struggle with at least occasionally.

But, keeping our eyes on the goal - why do we want to invite and perform? Because we want to share. It goes back to why we sang in the mall and everywhere we went. We want to share something that brings joy to us. You don’t hide a light under a bucket (Deb’s book of paraphrases). You turn on a light because you want light! You practice and learn so that you can share the joy and experience with others.

As parents, do you invite because you want someone to see your talented son or daughter? That is definitely a tempting factor (says the parent of four talented children...let me tell you...oops, I digress). But maybe we have a hard time (sometimes) finding venues and coercing people to come because they are not as interested in your children as you are. They assume (wrongly) that time and money is best spent seeing professionals tell a slick and edited story on a movie screen than seeing a “bunch of amateurs try to emulate them.” But that’s not what we’re about. We tell our own stories in our own way. Our shows become a unique contribution to the stories of life because we have worked together to form and tell them.

We’re not “professionals” and we’re not about trying to make movie and Broadway stars. We’re not a talent agency. We are about “Growth Opportunities for Learning and Development.” GOLD. Gold in life is searched for, treasured, refined, shaped and set aside for special purposes. Each individual that comes through our doors comes with gifts and talents that can be found, treasured, refined and shaped - and then NOT hidden under a bucket. We share what we have. We practice. We do our best. We share our stories and our songs. We share with our families and our community and anyone that will listen. And we hope many will listen and learn and grow.

So “performing” is “sharing.” We should do it graciously, thankful for the opportunity. It is not so the spotlight will be on us, but it is for us to turn on the light and let it shine into darkness.

When we finish sharing what we’ve done, we hope our audience will say thank you from their hearts (usually indicated with applause), and we teach that our bows are a simple indication of “you’re welcome.”

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Many who have been around awhile know that I lovingly refer to performance season as going through labor and delivery (the birth of a "show"). For those who can't relate, we could also think about the first big dive on a roller coaster. That long, uphill climb. Some of us are thrilled with anticipation, and some with dread. From "I can't wait" to "Let me off, I'm going to DIE!!" I feel that thoughts like that spoken and unspoken are floating around in the air at the studio these days, like the little ghost dust particles we see on the infrared cameras when it's quiet and everyone has gone home.

After all of the work and preparation - we are still not ready. News flash: You will never feel ready. Not completely. You MAY know lines, notes, choreography, entrances, exits, blocking...have your costume changes down to 6 seconds flat, have your personal props and costumes organized, labeled and in perfect order. Or you may not. You may be stressed over every detail of not only your own part, but the parts that other cast members play and their own preparation, or lack thereof.

If you feel you've got YOUR act together, then you have learned a valuable life lesson. Now the next lesson - not all of us CAN or WILL do what you do. Or maybe you're one that struggles to keep it together. Need help? Ask. Who will answer? I don't really know, but hope and pray that part of what is learned here is that to work as a team, you all have to work as a team. Profound, huh? Probably no surprise that I was never very good at sports, but I always hear how important it is to work together. Some of these hot-shot athletes try to be humble and say stuff like, "it takes a team." Well, I don't know sports, but I get that! You can't do it alone. God has indeed given us different strengths and talents - and even, yes, weaknesses. Work together.

Why are you doing this? For glory? I hope not. It's fun to be on stage and delight and entertain audiences. That is truly a gift. To offer wholesome fun, laughter and entertainment is not to be taken lightly. What else? You offer a story. We laugh when we recognize ourselves and our situations. Tell the story well and sometimes it offers a little life lesson - or just a good laugh that momentarily dries someone's tears. In the process hopefully you've learned to appreciate what it takes to be on stage or on film; to write a good story or put together a good song with harmony. Hopefully you've gained some confidence and learned some skills. More importantly, I hope you've discovered gifts that God has given you. Not just "singer, dancer, actor" (certainly, those are great!) but also "peacemaker, helper, encourager, organizer, director, writer..." there is no end to the list.

So we're on this roller coaster...going uphill...and the fact is, it's GOING to go over the top - ready or not. After the first big plunge, there will be more ups and downs. Some big, some small, some unexpected turns. And when it's all over, some will say, that was great! Let's do it again! (Even some who were terrified at the climb, and will be so again.) Others will say, "OK, now I've done it. Don't ever ask me to do that again!" That's OK. But we're going to do it! Together! Hang on to your seats and hold hands and pray! Most likely, you will live through it. :-)

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I think when I first saw Emily, she was still in diapers. She was just "there" while her mom and I worked together on some home school projects with our older kids. They lived just down the street.

Vessels of GOLD began in 2001, about a week before 9/11, and functioned a couple of years before Emily, now almost 8, and her sister Anaily, a home school senior, joined us. That show, Parables, is the one that the Vessels Vault will bring out and present this year, and some of our members have requested to have one of Emily's small parts.

Over the years, Emily grew to be a faithful and active member in Vessels of GOLD - through the year of only 7 members, the year of 18 and so many in between. Some of you have heard crazy stories about experiences before, during and after that all revolve around the groups.

She took piano and then voice and slowly got more involved in writing scripts, suggesting direction and doing choreography. It was a very gradual transition, and I'm not sure I can exactly pinpoint where the crossover was. One point was the choreography she did for her own "Sixteen" (which looked a lot like a quince, but a year later). I remember identifying then that I wanted her to take charge of more choreography in the coming year. She got to the point that she was kind of an actor/director, and then crossed over to staying off the stage - except for some noteworthy emergencies (more fun stories).

It was a good thing to get her off the stage, because then Aureus was started and she went back on the stage, but with a different format and emphasis.

Chrysos and Aureus began the same fall that we moved into the studio - lots of changes that year! Carolyn Diez helped with Chrysos that year, and then directed it the following. Emily then stepped in as an assistant/co-director, and now is the director of that group. She then planned to go off to college with possibly a musical theater emphasis, but alas, she couldn't/wouldn't leave us. I hope and pray that the education she's getting with us will reward her as much as it has us.

Emily learned a lot from her voice lessons with two excellent teachers, and now passes on that understanding in a fun and personal way. She is equally energizing to Chrysos, Vessels of GOLD, and now the Vessels Vault of GOLD groups, as she continues to perform when we can put an Aureus show together.

She has also moved FARTHER away - up to Broward - in order to fulfill a part-time Nanny role for her baby nephew.

So why this little history? Just to catch you up - in case you don't know how things work around here. Yesterday was a big day. We went to bid Carolyn farewell as she goes off to Honduras for (at least) a year for ministry, and Emily today (9/12) has reached the usually-significant 21 year mark.