Thursday, December 26, 2013

Day of Gratitude #11 – Norm Wendell and Veterans Day

Tuesday, November 11th was Veterans Day and I could not help but think about my high school choir teacher. The Taylorsville High School Concert Choir was under the direction of Mr. Norm Wendell for I’m sure close to twenty years. I have clear and distinct memories sitting in his class singing warm ups….me may ma may…me may ma may...while he took role moving his glass up and down so he could read the white painted numbers on the back of our hard plastic chairs. Our choir was well over one hundred people and this man should win a medal for putting up with us….our graduating class was no picnic and for the most part he remained professional, encouraging and principled while he successfully taught us how to sing. Our performance dresses were bright shiny purple with a huge lace collar that only rivaled our huge bangs and over stylized and teased premed hair. Looking back, I’m not exactly sure if this dress concepts and fabric choice was ever really in style for the time or if we just got a really good deal on a giant bolt of fabric. I think the guys wore navy blue suits and a quasi-matching tie and I think suspenders…but that detail is a bit hazy. We sang show tunes, spirituals, a handful of few classic madrigals, endless of Christmas songs, Mozart’s Requiem, Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus and what seemed like the entire cannon of American patriotic music. We sang all over the valley and throughout the school year but the concert that stands out in my mind the most was the Veterans Day concert held at the University of Utah. I remember the basketball arena was full of high school choirs from around the state who had all learned the same patriotic songs. There was a professional marching band, lots of American Flags and I’m sure some dramatic reading and remembrances celebrating those men and women who have served our country. Here is the thing…as a high school senior, I’m not sure I really understood or appreciated the opportunity to help celebrate the veterans of our community…but I will never forget how Mr. Wendell reverenced both the music we were singing and our intended audience. I’ll never consider myself a great or even good vocalist. I can’t sight read to save my life and I really should only sing while surrounded by a LARGE group of people. But every November, I think about Mr. Wendell and his determination to create an experience for a bunch of self-centered teenagers. I may not be able to successfully read and understand music but his leadership and example clearly made a difference in my life. Now, as an adult, I’ve become a bit of a news and political junky and I’ve come to understand and better appreciate the contribution of those serving in the armed forces. I’m grateful for their service and I’m grateful that they get a national day of recognition. Individually and collectively they have far more guts and courage than I could muster and I could not be more grateful for their sacrifice. God bless American! God bless our troops! And God bless all of those courageous music teachers who help plant seeds of patriotism that fully bloom later in life.

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