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Sunday, May 27, 2012

Memorial Day Thoughts 2012

Christopher Columbus, after "Discovering America"
 "They do not bear arms, and do not know them, for I showed them a sword, they took it by the edge and cut themselves out of ignorance. They have no iron. Their spears are made of cane..."
What have we done? To ourselves? To each other? To our planet?
I'm actually leaving out the rest of that quote. It is:

"They would make fine servants... With fifty men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want."

This is an example of what civilizations have done worldwide since before the time of Ur, Uruk, and the Sumerians of Southern Mesopotamia. Take one look at these origins of what is now Iraq and you will see a peaceful marsh-dwelling people, full of respect for nature, dominated repeatedly by surrounding nomadic peoples for their prime fertile landscape. This 53 minute video link is a cool (though old) English documentary about the origins of this "cradle of civilization". There are several more in the series and they review other global cradles such as India, China, Egypt, and the Mayan civilization. I'm not sure how I feel about how it holds "The West" responsible for the total victory of liberal democracy or the end of civilization, but it's worth watching.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NXohegE-lBY


Civilization meant a process of forming organized groups of people and living in these societies, working together. Theoretically, somewhere along the way, our success at having a stick turned into envy for a bigger, better, cooler-looking stick. This caused all sorts of problems. Later, we came to rank civilizations according to writing, progress in agriculture, transportation, trade, culture, knowledge, legal systems, metallurgy, astronomy, and more. How about peace?

The amazing choral piece below is called Raua Needmine (Curse Upon Iron) by the Estonian composer Veljo Tormis (one of the greatest Estonian composers). It takes text about the mythological birth of iron from the great Finnish epic, the Kalevala, and combines it with modern text. The Kalevipoeg is similar and considered to be the great Estonian epic. I first learned of this piece as a member of the University of South Carolina's Concert Choir, under the direction of Dr. Larry Wyatt. My experience with this piece is actually one of the reasons why I am in choral music today, though it's not one of my favorite pieces. As it happened, we were singing it and thought the text was in Finnish. We didn't have the translation yet so I went to the professor on campus who taught Finnish and asked him about it. I learned it was not Finnish, but Estonian and contained text from the great Finn and Estonian epics. My eyes widened. I looked up the Kalevala and with it and the professor, found the text from which this piece came. Casually, I mentioned this later when discussing choir and ended up proudly speaking about the text and the piece at the concert. As an undergraduate, having your professor say wonderful things about your initiative and sing your praises was awesome, plus......I learned a few things and felt smart! :-)
Anyway, back to the piece itself. It's rather scary......lots of curses and shouts and a single pounding drum that is ever-present. I believe that all of humanity's barbarian actions resulting in war since the beginning of civilization on our planet are fearful. Why curse iron? Did they curse rocks before that? How did tools and knowledge end up as weapons? The writer of the Kalevala text from so long ago was 'spot on' when he recognized that there should be an incantation to preserve the good nature of the creation of iron......although....if it weren't iron, it would be something else. Is the constancy of the drum's return a warning that we, as humanity, cannot escape our need to own, to defeat, to act and even create in aggression?

Without regarding religious texts, who was the first aggressor? Nature or nurture? There is argument on either side of that coin.

Are we surviving our own technological age?  

I have no answer, but this Memorial Day, I encourage myself to examine this, to remember the fallen in mankind's past from time immemorial, and to bear in mind those who have yet to lose their lives....and certainly will, while striving for the principles they and their countries hold true. I will think not just of individuals, but of societies in whole, who lost not only lives, but their very innocent existence under assimilation or eradication as a by-product of progress....
Raua Needmine  by Veljo Tormis, arranged by Tauno Aints, published by FennicaGerman
From new CD "From the Baltic Coast", State Choir of Latvija, conductor Māris Sirmais

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=huQ_OcKwGwASee More

Ohoy, villain! Wretched iron!
Wretched iron! Cursed bog ore!
... You flesh-eater, Gnaver of bones!
You spiller of innocent blood!
Wicked, how did you get power?
Tell how you become so naughty!
Damn you, bastard! Wretched iron!
I know your birth, you purblind fool,
I know well your source, you evil!

Once there walked three nature spirits,
three fiery daughters of the sky.
They milked their swelling breasts to earth,
They squeezed their milk into the fens.

From the first maid spurted black milk,
this turned into soft wrought iron.
White milk squirted the second maid,
this was the source of tempered steel.
The third maid spouted blood-red milk,
This gave birth to bog iron ore.

I know your birth, you purblind fool,
I know well your source, you evil!
Then you were not high and mighty,
not yet mighty, not yet haughty,
when you moaned in the white-hot furnace,
Whined under baeting hammers.

Saliva was brought from a viper,
venom from a black snake!
For iron wouldn’t harbor evil
Without saliva from snakes.

Shelter us, supreme Creator!
Keep us safe, God Almighty!
So the mankind would not perish,
mother’s child vanish without trace.

This link has another textual version and more of the story of iron and other metals.
http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/kveng/kvrune09.htm

and here is the entire epic, translated by John Martin Crawford, 1888
http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/kveng/

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

New Orleans Summer Chorus 2012

YAY! I have finally had time to plan the
2012 New Orleans Summer Chorus! :-) This year's NOSC will be from Tuesday, June 4 to Tuesday, July 10th. It's a short one so I envision lighter repertoire, but will plan to include some Baroque and/or Classical selections. I always love working with this group. They really want to sing and it's so much fun! My MM student in Conducting, Ms. Tory Gordon, will also be conducting and our pianists are: Jieun Yun and Natalie True. Here is a picture of our flyer. (I converted PDF to JPG by using Zamzar. It took about 3 seconds and was free.)

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Places I've Been!

After my first "retro-post" covering my trip to South Korea in 2010, I began to wonder exactly how many times I have traveled outside of the United States. While I have always had an acute philosophical sense of time passing, Life still sort of slips up on me at times. Perhaps it does to us all. I was filing and organizing things in the music office at St. Paul's over the weekend with some lovely choir ladies and chatting with them at lunch about travels we'd had and that we wanted to make. I have been a great many places, but there are tons more I would love to explore! A partial list of those will probably be my next post. Here, there are a few details and some memorable stories, but the rest is just a list! :-)
Most of my trips have been choral performance tours, choral and orchestral workshops, and dissertation-related studies. Many of these have been reduced, partially-funded, and in the case of the England cathedral residencies: fully-funded. Sometimes, I've stayed with families and sometimes solo. I am very lucky indeed. I have also planned and penny-pinched for the rest :-) I always think of travel as part of the School of Life and as I like school..........and work in a university...........I need to continue to travel.........always..........wouldn't you say?  :-)
1990 Germany & Austria This was a fabulous two-week, packed performance tour with the Charleston Symphony Singers Guild (Emily Remington, conductor). It was my very first trip out of the country and it completely changed my life! I had gotten my first job in high school to be able to help raise money for myself to go and my parents funded the rest as a graduation present. Some of the cities we visited and sang in included: Mannheim, Heidelberg, Frankfurt, Kempten, Vienna, Salzburg (as part of the Salzburg Music Festival w/ Beethoven’s Choral Fantasy), Innsbruck, Hall im Tirol, Ulm, Friedrichshafen, Lindau, Augsburg, the amazing Wieskirche, and Munich. Some of my favorite memories are from Kempten and Ulm.

When we arrived in Kempten, I remember we were exhausted and it was late in the afternoon. I think everybody took showers and naps. When I awoke, it was evening twilight and chilly. I leaned out of our window onto the small town square below and just took a deep breath of the fresh air. As I looked out into the quiet and calm scene, a noise came from a small door on the side of the church. A little old man walked slowly across the square and took out a giant set of keys. He opened a box on the side of the stone wall and made a turn with his hand. Then, one by one, tiny hanging bulbs began to light.....slowly, until they lit up a string of lights around the square. The little man watched them, one by one, as I was watching, and when everything was lit, he closed the box and walked away. It was a beautiful, peaceful moment.

In Ulm, we were visiting the Ulm Minster, which has the tallest spire in all of Europe. It was about closing time and our choir began to sing. We performed "Holy, Holy, Holy" by Maxcine Woodbridge Posegate. It wasn't a very difficult piece, or a known pinnacle of choral literature, but the stacked chords and continuous dynamic intensity made for a moment of glory and it is one of my very favorite sacred pieces. Everyone stopped to hear us. I had never been in a place like this before and never imagined music could feel that alive in the very air we breathed. It was astounding and I was forever struck with a fever for sacred choral music written for such spaces!

1990 England  Salisbury Cathedral residency w/ Trinity Episcopal Cathedral choir in Columbia, SC, directed by John Haney. A small group took a van to Cardiff, Wales afterward, 1990 This trip was less than a week after my return from the above Austria/Germany trip! We sang evensong every day and stayed in the boychoir house. I remember that they had what I would call "straw ticks" for beds and there were a few pencil drawings behind a few of them. One of my favorite memories is of us sitting on the grass outside Salisbury cathedral and looking up at the enormous stone facades, lit by starlight and spotlghts around the side. It was a special and rare experience. Another memory is walking alongside the Avon river (Hampshire). The cathedral staff had provided bag lunches for us and inside were boiled hotdog sandwiches with butter. The ducks were very excited that day at their unexpected feast. Below is a famous painting of Salisbury Cathedral by John Constable (1776-1837).
1992 England  St. Paul’s Cathedral residency with Trinity Episcopal in Columbia, SC  1992 St. Paul's was amazing!! Getting to spend extra time in the building and below it was a treasured experience as was singing evensongs during the week and mass on Sunday. It was on this trip that I began to enjoy organ concerts and repertoire. We got to see partsof the cathedral gthat ordinary tourists do not see. During this trip, I finally saw The Phantom of the Opera and Cats. I also discovered English cider and that I liked it.....a lot!
1995 Poland & the Czech Republic with the Emory University Choir, where I had just finished my Masters degree in conducting. We began our tour in Prague for about four days. I loved the pedestrian places in Praha and the bridges. The Industrial Revolution had not been good to the face of the city and its environs, but it was still georgeous. I also loved Wenceslaus Square and the street musicians. Our group took a train from Prague to the beautiful Liberec where we observed a choir rehearsal and performed. Then, on to Czestochowa to see The Black Madonna at the Jasna Gora Monastery. through the Tatra Mountains (they were SO BEAUTIFUL!!!!) to Krakow, Poland. We visited Auschwitz the next day and I was completely overwhelmed. It was raining, cold, and dreary. Being in such a dreaded place of death and seeing what took place there was chilling. We took an overnight train back to Prague.
1996 France, Austria, Germany (stayed at a dear friend's apartment and had a blast while they were there and then took care of their place while they were away). We visited Freiburg and the Schwartzwald. After my visit, I took trains back through Switzerland & Germany to Austria to meet the USC choir for their Austria/Germany tour.
England  Yorkminster cathedral residency with Trinity Episcopal in Columbia, SC. This trip was a blast because several different Trinity choir generations mixed for the trip and I had friends from two different degree programs! We stayed in the stable house, where the jockeys stayed, about a mile and a half outside the walled city of York. LOTS of Viking history here and archeological interests. I saw a hedgehog in the grass for the first time! Each night, we would go to the horse pasture after dinner and give the horses sugar cubes
:-) We took over the local pub and made a lot of friends. We also were given special seats at a service at Yorkminster and the Queen herself attended. The music was GLORIOUS! I'm going to have to dig up my picture of the Queen mother in her green hat in her car. The picture below is of the tremendous minster.
1997 Austria & Italy: USC Concert Choir (as an alum) trip, over New Year’s. It was FOUR degrees on New Year's Eve and we were on the streets of Vienna drinking champagne. At the stroke of midnight, radios and TVs on large screens broadcast the pummerin - the gigantic bell of St. Stephen's Cathedral - you can hear it at this link www.stephansdom.at  Then, everyone began to dance Strauss' Blue Danube Waltz. Check out this YouTube of Ricardo Muti conducting it...interesting facial expressions. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=woWJqKznCSc The streets were packed with people dancing, exchanging small toy pigs (it's a Viennese tradition as well to exchange Glucksbringer, or lucky charms such as these) and then toasting. Some people began to toss bottles and champagne glasses on the ground. It echoed all around and sounded as loud as fireworks.
1999 England & France: USC Jazz band and Jazz choir to London and Paris to perform Duke Ellington’s Sacred Service. We sang in Notre Dame! One funny thing (well, NOW, it's funny), was that our group went to a restaurant underground for lunch one afternoon before leaving Paris for the village of Honfleurs in Normandy. The floor had tree roots all over it and the trees were growing right up through the top floor and out above it. I ordered French onion soup because I thought "we're in France.....so I should try French onion soup..." As one of the waitresses brought our foods, she tripped. CUE slow motion - a flying, swirling, disc of hot melted cheese and onion and bread flew across the way and landed directly upon my kneecap and molded itself onto my jeans. O U C H !! I have to say that I did sort of scream because it hurt so much and was so dang HOT. The worst part was having to get back on a hot bus for hours and smelling like stank onion.
1999 Bulgaria – My first trip to this magnificent country! It was at the end of a very hard spring semester and much was going on in my life as a whole. I was actually quite down about it all, but signed up for the choral workshop through what is now the Varna International company. It was a workshop to study the choral music and historical styles of American, Bulgarian, French, and Russian music. Larry Wyatt (The USC in SC), Helene Guy (Paris Conservatoire), Boris Tevlin (Moscow Conservatory), and Marin Tchonev (Bulgaria, the choir of Morski Zvutsi) were the clinicians. I loved my experience so much that I created a proposal to teach a course the following year! In another post this summer, I will expound on my beloved Bulgaria!

2000 - Bulgaria – choral workshop, stayed to teach a week afterwards
2001 - Bulgaria – choral workshop, orchestral workshop, taught, then Rome afterwards
2002 - Bulgaria – orchestral workshop, taught, then Greece afterwards. After exploring Athens for two days straight, I walked to the pier and hopped on a boat to Paros for a week. I stayed in a small B&B, walked all over the island, and spent a whole day horseback riding from one end of the island to the uninhabited area on the other side and along the beach. I got BAD sunburn, but had a BLAST! :-)
2003 - Bulgaria & Scotland – I will write more on Scotland later this summer as well. I had quite an adventure. It began with my arriving in Aberdeen and staying six miles outside of the city. The next day, I walked into town, all over town, and walked back! WHEW! There was a giant cow munching grass outside my hotel (The Water Wheel) window. There were TONS of people with my EXACT same hair color in Scotland! I rented a car and spent a week driving all over northern Scotland via single track roads, crossing the Cairgnorms, and including the Isle of Skye. I got lost a few times, didn't make reservations, and almost ran out of gas. It was so much fun!!!
2004 - Bulgaria – orchestral workshop. This time, I stayed for a month, visited schools (including a folk high school in Varna), interviewed some conductors for my dissertation, and I got food poisoning about five days before I came back. I watched Ronald Reagan's funeral service from my apartment bed and ate ice chips I made from apple juice.
Bulgaria & Romania – took my students to participate in Brahms Requiem workshop. About seven of us took a van to Bucharest for a day and a half. Then, we took a train through the gorgeous Transylvanian Alps to the Medieval town of Sighishoara where Vlad Dracul was born. 2007 I will do a separate blog post on this over the summer. So....that makes THREE that I hope to remember to do!
South Korea  & the DMZ - “Fam” tour, January 2010  See previous blog post! :-)
Austria & Italy - In 2010 I taught music for the UNO Innsbruck program. For three weekends, I took train trips to Italy (weekend #1 - Bressanone/Bolzano, weekend # 2 – Rovereto, weekend # 3 - Padua/Venice), and for the final weekend my friend Kavita and I went to Salzburg and had a BLAST! I hope to teach for the Innsbruck program again. I will probably blog about a little of this trip and my weekend adventures! This picture is from my glacier hike!
Brasil & Argentina – July 2011 Spent three weeks working on a book with my colleague. In Brasil, I visited Curitiba, Blumenau, Jaragua do Sul, and Iguaçu. I visited the Argentine side of Igazu and the surrounding small town. Separate post, but that one might be about photography. I had a blast! I drank espresso and red wine and LOVED them for the very first time. I also learned to make pear risotto, understand some Portuguese, and ate pine nuts as giant as Brazil nuts. I was collaborating on a book project - which will be finished THIS SUMMER with my colleague maestro Daniel Bortholossi. The "88" butterfly below is from the Argentine side of the Iguazu falls natural reserve. The falls on both side were magnificent!!!
Mexico – 6 cruises (1 self, 1 w/ friend,  1 summer, 1 Nov., 1 w/ Mom, 1 w/ Jefferson Chorale) I’ve been able to see historically significant Mayan ruins at Uxmal, Chichen Itza, and Tuluum. I've been ablt to do so many because I had the great fortune to work with a wonderful company that helps plan choir trips and festivals. They sometimes need a judge for a group, based on national standards and sometimes they needed an escort for a group and called me. I am indebted to my friend Dawn N. for these opportunities! :-)

There! So, that's all I can think of a yap about for now. Wow, now I have tons more to blog about. I think I like blogging  :-) I will probably do a separate post on each one of these trips!!!!! So many terrific experiences!

Cheers!



Friday, May 11, 2012

Retro-post My Trip to S. Korea in 2010

In this "Retro blog", I would like to share my trip to South Korea in January, 2010. I think that all I did upon my return was to post one or two status updates on FB and my photo albums. This post will give lots more details of our trip and an online place to hold it! :-)

In January, 2010, I traveled to beautiful South Korea with ten choral conductors and five others on a "Fam" tour. Familiarization tours used to be fairly common for choral directors to test the waters in hopes that they would bring a choral group on the same tour with the promoting company at future time. I remember several people I know going on different Fam tours and I was always jealous of the low price and high levels of adventure they experienced. I almost missed the Korea opportunity because even though it was addressed to me, the invitation was in a pile of junk mail that had several travel advertisements and I was going through them quickly. The price was incredible and the trip itself amazing and unique....HOW could I refuse? It was all-inclusive (lodging, airfare, transportation, and some meals, etc.)

The trip was offered by the wonderful Accolades International Tours for the Arts out of Minnesota.

Wed. Jan. 6 We all met in Chicago to board Asiana Airlines that evening for a non-stop flight to Seoul, S. Korea. It was a LOOOONG 14-hr flight! At 6:00 a.m. the next day:  Annyeonghaseyo! (Hello!) we had arrived. The runway was completely white with snow and I was wondering how the pilots could even see it at all! It was also about 10 degrees that morning, a big leap from the NOLA temperatures I had left behind. Straight away, we boarded our tour bus at Incheon airport and watched the sun rise over icy lakes and trees on our way to Ansan City. Here, we attended the rehearsal of the wonderful Ansan City Choir, directed by Shin-Hwa Park. They were very good and were working on the Durufle Requiem. Mr. Park was a masterful conductor and the beautiful bel canto singing was amazing! All of us were super tired and it was very warm inside so we were struggling to stay bright-eyed :-) but we were certainly excited to be there and happy to meet the singers and Mr. Park.  Later, we also got to hear the Ansan City Children's Choir. They gave us CDs of their performances and had snacks for us in a separate room where we got to speak with their board and the director.
After a very brief hotel stop, we headed out again to see a rehearsal of the Korean Children's Choir, directed by Mr. Heecheul Kim (pictured above). They were fabulous! Mr. Park is dynamic and their sound was vibrant. That night, we had a welcome dinner with several Korean choral directors at a Korean BBQ restaurant. YUM! It was awesome and I got to try several different kinds of Kimchi. I learned that pots of various marinades of cabbage and other vegetables are buried underground for the duration of the winter to make the kimchi and that there are several hundred varieties of it! For the rest of the tour, I noticed pots in practically every backyard. My favorite kind of kimchi was one that remotely tasted like a bean chili and it was not so vinegar-y.
A big after dinner shock was when everyone needed to head to the restrooms. After being in the nice, warm restaurant, gathered around BBQ over coals and hot soups...the restrooms were located outside a door and in another portion of the building.......that happened to be UNheated. It was ICY cold and I could see my breath. WOW and washing my hands in more icy water was not an experience I want to repeat!
What a terrific first day!! The next day, we had the opportunity to visit the DMZ (Demilitarized Zone), the 6th Division of the ROK Army, the Peace Center, and the 2nd Infiltration tunnel. I never really thought that I would get to see these highly volatile places so I was extremely glad to be given the chance. I had the interest in seeing/observing the DMZ ever since a friend went in 2007 as part of TOPIK (Toward Peace in Korea). Later in the trip, one of our guides, Laura, told us how hard it was for so many in South Korea to live without knowing if relatives across the border were ok or in some cases, alive. Her grandparents were in North Korea. In my opinion, the whole realization of this border is traumatic and sad. It is an exercise in futility, of pride and of war. Nonetheless, I am glad that I had this chance to observe it. On the way to the DMZ, we drove through the Gangwan province and the area of Cheorwon. It was snowy and full of wildlife between the small villages and towns. I saw several different varieties of endangered cranes. They are beautiful, noble birds and are featured throughout Korean history, myth and lore since before the Silla kingdom. Cheorwon is known for its high crane population and has an annual crane festival. You could say that we were CRANING our necks to see them out of the bus windows :-)  Some of the street lamps were even shaped like crane necks! Because the bus windows were frosting over on the inside from condensation, I wasn't able to get any superb pictures along the route, but here is one decent one...

The whole of Cheorwon is located at the border with North Korea so there were frequent military stops, heavily-armed gates, and lots of long, empty roads connecting poor and rather desolate small towns and farmlands.
It was clear when we were getting close - air space was also being guarded and no fly zones were marked. We stopped at a place to use the restroom and were watched to & from the bus. I noticed that no one else was around and it was eerily quiet. I'm sure the icy temperatures helped with that, but it was still a little odd. I also suppose there are not many tourists, especially Americans, during the harsh winters. We arrived at the lower level of the Peace Center, Woljeong Station. This location can actually be used as a performance venue.
We took a cable car up the side of the small mountain to the main building of the center. There were tons of deer down below our car and you could see a monorail coming up after us.
Once inside, we could look out a large window onto the landscape of the border between South and North Korea. There, we could see electric fences, guard towers, and a mix of forest and small rolling hills. Funny that the Demilitarization Zone is among the most heavily militarized zones on our planet. The whole DMZ is 155 miles and now considered a wildlife habitat because rare plants and animals have been able to flourish where humans cannot due to the insanity of war. There are listening towers and hidden land mines throughout the countryside. We toured the center and then were escorted to another part of the DMZ area. Here, we were told that we could go directly to see the tunnel and that we were not to take pictures unless directed in certain areas. A tour guide met us and explained how this tunnel was twice as large as the first "Infiltration" tunnel, had three exits, and was about eight miles. The tunnels are thought to have been built to sneak an army of North Koreans into South Korea for invasion. They were masked as "coal mining tunnels". You can only visit this tunnel # 2 as part of a touring group. Initially, it was dark, damp, and COLD in there, but after we began our descent, it warmed up considerably. It was a fascinating tour and an insight into an historical and present situation that I knew very little about. I do not often think about this area of the world or this tenuous "peace" between North and South Korea and how many of us do? The recent death of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Il in December 2011 and his third son Kim Jong Un becoming successor......has it changed North Korea's direction, outlook, humanitarianism, structure etc.? It brought the country temporarily into the political spotlight light.....just as recent news of North Korea's continuing vows to further strengthen its nuclear arsenal and defense capabilities understandably will keep it there.

The second Infiltration tunnel was very deep and the hardest part was climbing back up the slipery and steep steps. I had a lot of trouble, BUT I made it. They let me take a picture here because it was a triumph that I made it back up. My legs were jelly for the rest of the afternoon!
On the way back to our hotel, we stopped and were able to visit with a family inside their home. For choral tours, the Korean directors work with Accolades to have students staying in homes for a few days while they are on tour. The family was so nice and they had laid out snacks and teas for our group. Later that evening, we had dinner together and were able to meet the reknowned Hak Won Yoon of the Incheon City Chorale. He is a legend! His choirs ROCKED the house at the national ACDA convention in 2009 and he is both a famous teacher and clinician. Here's a YouTube of one of his choir performances of a cool piece called "Eight Laughters":


It was a tiny little restaurant, but we all took turns talking to him and sitting together. He is SO NICE and has a good sense of humor. He also was patient with all of us as we all wanted pictures with him.
After dinner, we got to attend a performance of NANTA, the amazing performing chefs. It was HILARIOUS! I have never seen vegetables chopped so fast!

The next day was full of church visits. This was for possible venues and to also hear choirs in action. The Doore Church was our first stop.It was gigantic and featured services throughout the day. It had a choir of about 150 members. We were seated together and greeted as special guests. After this service, we attend one at the Myungsung Presbyterian Church. The director of music is Mr. Heechul Kim. This church is absolutely enormous and is the largest church in the world. I can believe it! The choir was easily 300 people. The orchestra was easily over 100 members. I heard that they have four other adult choirs, four or five children's choirs of at least 300 each and two more large professional orchestras over 100 each. We sat in special guest areas and were greeted and stood to a welcome of thunderous applause. THE WHOLE CONGREGATION SANG BEAUTIFULLY! I was impressed beyond words.
The last church we visited was the Haeorum Church with music mission pastor Hyungsoo Kim.

We had a tremendous vist with World Vision and heard their children's choir. It was here that I saw an old colleague and fellow singer from the Atlanta Symphony Chorus - Heechurl Kim, who was doing some directing with the World Vision choirs.
They were phenomenal. They presented a video of the World Vision program to us and then we were treated to a choral performance which included native Korean dances.

After this, we had a Seoul city tour and a fancy dinner with members of the Korean Ministry of Tourism and past presidents of Korean ACDA. Now, I must tell you here that I do not like certain foods and any friends reading this may have a chuckle : p but I have tried the foods I disliked....some even several times, in hopes that my tastes would change. This meal was to impress us all. It was SIXTEEN courses.
Yep, trays of delicacies and beautifully-decorated foods were brought out to each section of the long table and we all shared. It was great, but lasted a long, long time and we were all super stuffed afterwards! I tried two kinds of eel. I loved the BBQ eel. Then, I tried squid (dislike), calamari (dislike), and JELLYFISH (bland and like a rice noodle). We also tried the rice wine, Soju, and I found that this was very tasty. Our section of the table enjoyed several small bottles of it....
After dinner and a brisk walk, we attended a fantastic performance by MISO. It was my favorite performance. This group played native Korean and Chinese instruments and we heard several different folk singers. Different members danced symbolic dances while others sang/played. The last portion of the evening was an acrobatics show. I have only seen such things at the circus. The performers were amazing! They had the audience involved and up out of their seats!!!     For the next day, we visisted possible performance venues out in the suburbs of Gwachon, Ilsan (in Goyang province), and Bundang. In the afternoon, we left for Daegu and had dinner at the Grand Hotel. Daegu is a gorgeous city and is the fourth largest city in S. Korea. It has ruins of prehistoric pit-houses, agricultural fields, and megalithic burials (dolmens) and was thought to be a walled city. Today, we took a tour of the Daegu Opera House. It has four floors and seats 1,500. It's shaped like a grand piano! Afterwards,we visited the Pilgrim Mission Choir, conducted by Lee Jae-joon. This choir won the Grand Prix in the International Festival of Choirs in 2010. During the break in watching their rehearsal, we were each given the chance to introduce ourselves, tell about our jobs and schools, and to say something about choral music. Then, one of the American conductors, Brady Allred from Utah, worked a piece with them. Afterwards, we had a grand reception and were able to interact with the singers and lots of Korean choral conductors who had come to meet us. It was a marvelous time, but a little overhwelming and humbling that they had come to meet and talk with us!
The next morning, we went to a church on the US Army base and then met with some people at the Daegu Culture and Art Center and the Keimyung Art Center. Both are state of the art theatres which house performances of all kinds for the city, region, and country.
Somewhere on the tour, and I honestly cannot remember which day, we were able to visit a homeopathic type of museum. We saw the history of healing medicines and were able to buy authentic Ginseng teas and candies. It was in a community that had tons of shops, most for a specific item to be ground, used in cooking, or used another way. I've never seen so many dried mushrooms in my life!
After our tours, we movd to the amazing city of Gyeongju, passing the World Cup soccer stadium along the way. An unexpected treat (it was planned, but we just didn't have it on our itinerary :-)also happened on the way: we stopped by the construction of a new performance hall which is set to be completed by 2014 in time for the World Choral Olympics. We were invited to talk with the engineers about how they were constructing it, the acoustic details, and saw a video presentation about this venue for the future. This picture is what they had set out for our visit :-)
The next day was our last day, but it was one of my absolute favorites! We visited the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage sites and the EXPO center. The first site was an historic center with a wealth of Silla Kingdom history, statues, pagodas, artworks, and more! It also had a gift shop (YAY!) Gyeongju was the "capitol" of the Silla clan and has ruins of ancient temples from the 7th through the 10th century. My favorite artifact was the giant Silla bell.

Our last stop was another UNESCO site - the gorgeous Bulguksa Buddist temple on a small mountain. It was the last light of the day and the temple, adorned with designs, carvings, left-facing Buddhist swastikas, and art, gave us a sense of eternal peace. 
In the freezing 6-degree cold, we explored the grounds and then peeked into the temple. One last look at Korean countryside came with the sunset and is my favorite picture that I took while there.
Our farewell dinner was super delicious and we all sat on floor pillows. It included a Korean cake for me since it was my birthday.

That was SO SWEET of the whole group! I had a blast and met some fantastic people. I also recommend Accolades very highly. They were professional, organized, and terrific hosts. They also have THE connections in Korea and worked hand in hand with the Ministry of Tourism. Korea is an amazing country and its people are smart, gracious, and hospitable

Here are some links to my Facebook albums if you're interested in seeing more pictures of my adventure in South Korea:


Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Mission Trip to Haiti this July!

So, I guess I should announce this at some point since I am doing some fundraising.........
I applied and was accepted to be a counselor/teacher for one week in Haiti through the non-profit organization The Red Thread Promise (they also have a blogspot!) Provided I can finally get my blood-typing test ordered from my doctor (it's taking FOREVER), I will be going to Haiti from July 11-22 and working with kids who are handicapped, blind, or deaf. I'll hopefully get to do some storytelling and some music with them and anything else that is needed. I'm very excited!
The last mission trip that I went on was to Izvorsko, Bulgaria as part of my trip for a choral and orchestral workshop in the following week. It was an extremely rewarding experience. The village was a small Roma (Gypsy) village near Varna, Bulgaria. We mainly helped with food items and delivering them.

The last time I worked with my own class of youth was in Milledgeville, GA as music director at First Presbyterian Church. That was also very rewarding and many of them sang in the youth choir there. Later, some went on mission trips to Piedras Negras, MX.

A couple of years ago when Fr. Albergate came to St. Paul's Episcopal, his wife, Kathy, brought The Red Thread Promise and its outreach to our attention and it was a terrific match with our congregation. Members of the church had the opportunity to contribute funds or to actually go to Haiti and help out. Our Sexton, Mr. John Joseph, went last year. He helped assemble and distribute badly-needed wheelchairs there. Once, Inconspicuous 8, a professional women's ensemble in which our organist and I sing, gave a fundraising concert for this organization. Now I will get to go and help out in person!

Check out this video that describes work with orphans and children with disabilities in Haiti.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=17IQ4XTUQ30

"Our mission is to provide hope and healing for these precious children. It is an open invitation to all viewers to get involved in our work through donations and volunteerism. For additional information, please see our website: www.redthreadpromise.org  or find us on Facebook at The Red Thread Promise."

I will serve as a counselor at Camp Jake, an annual summer camp designed to meet the special needs of handicapped children from the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Our team consists of 10-15 counselors who will be working with 30-35 campers—who are blind, deaf or non-ambulatory—for a week on the Haitian coast. Here is a great article about Camp Jake by the Physicians for Peace organization. http://www.physiciansforpeace.org/news/sep-07-11/camp-gives-haitian-children-chance-play-learn-and-heal.html

If you would like to support my trip or the organization, please donate at the link below, directly to The Red Thread. All donations are tax deductible. Electronic donations are simple and can be made via PayPal at: www.redthreadpromise.org. Please be sure to put “CAMP – CARSON" in the memo line so I receive credit toward my trip. If you prefer to donate by check, checks should be made out to The Red Thread Promise and mailed to The Red Thread Promise, ATTN: Kathy Korge Albergate, 20 Brookfield Avenue, Glen Rock, NJ 07452. Again, please be sure to put “CAMP – CARSON" in the memo line.

Check our their blog where you can read updates on the organization’s work on Camp Jake and other great projects. You can also read about the first Camp in the January 2012 archives on their blog at www.redthreadpromise.org.

Thank you so much for your support. I know this will be a life-changing experience for me!

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

"May you live all the days of your life.."

"I’ve been terrified every day of my life but that’s never stopped me
from doing everything I wanted to do."
- Georgia O’Keefe (1887-1986)

I love this quote. It has long been one of my favorites, not necessarily because I am a Georgia O'Keefe enthusiast (although I do admire her work and how she moved away from irony and crticism in art and towards a freedom of expression and rich, sensuous images), but I love it because I resemble it. Having finished a portion of the New Orleans Civic Symphony rehearsal this evening, I'm aware that this is a perfect example of what I always dreamed of, yet never thought I would be able to accomplish. I'm kind of proud of myself, woohoo! Why? I have social anxiety and sometimes, being up in front of groups can be terrifying. Most folks tell me they would never have known that. I think I hide it relatively well for at least 50% of the time....

My mentor Larry Wyatt used to call me his "favorite shrinking violet"and I was so shy I would turn beet red when spoken to. I still deal with that occasionally and I still get nervous in large or new groups, but it is so much better than it used to be. I believe a certain amount of that is due to the fact that I take risks more now. I go ahead and jump in with both feet. I have lived long enough to make enough mistakes that trial and error doesn't scare me as much any more. I also have come to note that sometimes my sense of humor helps me "entertain" a large group. There is actually a fine line between extreme shyness and want of attention (center attention). I have met other conductors with this same set of circumstance.

So, how did I get over this? Quite simply....I haven't. I just keep on keeping on. I try my hardest not to let it stop me from doing things. Though I've been able to handle a career in teaching and conducting, have traveled in tons of countries by myself, and attend concert regularly by myself, I still am not comfortable with eating out by myself as often as other people seem to. One of my summer goals is to work on that. Having had some pretty awful experiences dining out solo, I prefer to eat with friends or to cook at home.

I live by "if you don't ask or try then you'll never know or experience" I also live by the belief that we are better for our experiences, good and bad. Life is what you make of it and I choose to make an adventure!  :-)   I know that I have this one life so I simply go forth since I cannot physically go backwards.....until certain aspects of Star Trek become available. (I would also like a Transporter and  Replicator) Don't we all have a responsibility to use as much of this one life as humanly possible? Also, I see it as a point of logic. It makes more sense to do and /or try what you want to experience rather than not to do or try it. It makes me sad when people choose not to follow their dreams because they lack motivation or are too bound by what others will think of them. I've lived through that and it STINKS.

So, hurrah for triumphs! Hurrah for symphony orchestra! Hurrah for opportunities! I'll sign off with three more quotes I love and try to live by!

"May you live all the days of your life" - Jonathan Swift (1667-1745)

"Every man dies; not every man truly lives..." William Ross Wallace (1819-1881)

from Braveheart (Wallace's father) interestingly enough, after the earlier Wallace using the later Wallace's quote (above) "Your heart is free, have the courage to follow it"

Saturday, May 05, 2012

To Tweet or Not to Tweet.....How Social Media Became My Friend

Tweet. Definitely Tweet....or Facebook....or Pin, Flickr, Instagram, Digg, Blog, or whatever you prefer from the wealth of options waiting to grab your registration, email, or address. It can be fun, helpful, and informative. As stated by its title....SOCIAL media is especially for the purpose of connecting with people, organizations, and/or content. Choose one (or two) and establish a comfort level. This is obviously just my opinion and one I have gathered from personal good experiences. There are plenty of reasons for using social media and plenty of reasons for avoiding it. I choose to use it daily and I'm excited about it! :-)

1. CHOOSE A SOCIAL NETWORK & ACHIEVE A COMFORT LEVEL USING IT

2. DON'T TRY TO READ OR DO EVERYTHING (CONTENT CHOICES)
        2a. STAND YOUR GROUND

But why???
You would not be alone in asking this question or perhaps in the eye-rolling I get when I talk about using Twitter or using some techno slang relevent only to Facebook. I learned quickly not to ask certain people about social media or to talk about things I find interesting - lest I risk the generalized and unfounded disdain of those who do not know how to use media properly. I remember someone asking "What's with all the science posts?" in a tone I'd rather not comment upon. It struck me that not only had I found content interesting and informative, but I had assumed others would be interested. Since the content was also on the evening network news, I considered it to be relatively the same value. Still, I became more conscious of the types of posts I used on various media systems after that comment. I decided to post the more understandable and "user-friendly" ones on Facebook whilst leaving the nitty gritty hard core science posts that were über-specfic onto my Twitter account. There is some crossover because I am finding that I do indeed have several colleagues who appreciate, want to read, and can understand scientific articles even though they are also non-scientists. It's all in the decisions of what to skip over and what to read.

3. CUSTOMIZE YOUR PRIVACY SETTINGS & LEARN TO USE LISTS

I have also experienced friends commenting that people using certain social media oulets need to "get a life". I find this particularly interesting because I actually do more, travel more, and read more than some of them ; ) One of my favorite things about the initiation of the Facebook ticker was to see other folks who professed not to use Facebook much or to play games, using it and playing games like mad. GOTCHA! One of the primary complaints that Facebook users have is that game players "spam" their feed or send them gifts. I am a Farmville nut myself, but I created lists specifically for my Farmville friends so most people do not realize I play the game. Most people now know how to block spammy posts or games, but they still do not have their privacy settings fully set. I recommend learning the system, even if it takes you days or even if you have to ask someone else for help. It will save lots of trouble in the long run.

Others, like myself, are addicts of one or more sharing systems with the world and don't mind posting all kinds of things ranging from the trivial to the educational to the silly. There is literally a universe of information and interests out there. For me personally, I began with Blogger all the way back in 2002 and then didn't use it. I re-visited it again in 2007. I began in earnest by using Facebook while I was in Milledgeville, GA and had about 35 friends. Then, it may have gone up to 45. I hardly used it and did not really understand why I was using it. Then, the social media revolution happened at the same time I moved to New Orleans in 2006. I gained friends on Facebook, but I still had not given over to Twitter. Gradually, I began to use Facebook to create events, attend events, read articles, re-connect with friends, and vent. As someone who kept everything inside and rarely felt like talking about things, this was a stress reliever! Now I've used Twitter for a couple of years and it has also completely changed my reading habits. I read a LOT more now than just two years ago. In fact, the only time I read more was in Graduate School or when I was a child (making forts in my room and reading all day long!) Granted, most of my article is online, but it's complete with pictures and more links for further investigating. I can safely say that using Facebook has reunited me with family I've only seen at weddings and funerals. That has indeed been a blessing! I can say that it has made me braver. I am more confident knowing I have read the news and because I am interacting with people more. I grew up under the mantra: speak when spoken to. It was hard sometimes to know that things i wanted to say were valid. I am much more connected to other musicians, organzations, and friends than I ever have been before. I now run six Facebook pages and have a blast doing it. It hardly takes any time for me at all and I have discovered that my graphics, organization, and publicity skills have become fast and successful!

I am also less prone to sinking into a bout of lonely depression because I can always find items to read or interact with people if I want to - even late at night. I can clearly remember my annual Christmas card writing fest. I would send about 100 individually-written and beautifully chosen cards with pictures and more. NOT A SINGLE RESPONSE. It broke me after a few years of going to all of that effort. As a shy child and teen, I had struggled to make these friends and connections and yet....to no avail. I was deeply depressed and considered myself "forgotten" for several years. I eventually used Social media to find others like myself and then re-connect and re-establish friendships.

4. COMMIT: REAP THE BENEFITS OFFERED

I'm glad I made the commitment to using it. At first, I had the attitude, straight from the nay-sayers, that Twitter was stupid and all people did was post about their lunch or their pets. That may have been a phase and admittedly, I resembled that remark when I first began using the Twitter. Then, my posts matured and I began to learn how and why Twitter was so popular with academicians and scientists as well as famous folks. I began to follow NASA, its missions, conductors, symphonies, churches, and so much more. Then, I learned to retweet and to post links and pictures! It was a brave new world. Now, I'm still no expert, but I use Twitter more than ever before and I am interacting with interesting and wonderful people. I have also won contests and have been selected for two Tweetups (see posts below) so Twitter has been very good to me! "How did you get so lucky?" and my answer was "Twitter".

5. TO EACH HIS OWN

Also, each and every person on our planet is unique and all are worthy of dignity and peace. Try not to judge how others use or do not use social media. One person may have 3,000 contacts and they do not know them all, but they are using the site in a different way. One person may never use social media after they sign up and that is FINE, let them be! Another may post all of the time and that is also FINE, let them be! Find a way of dealing with it that does not involve criticism. Realize that for some people, social media has brought them out of introversion and into the light. Realize that others use it to cope, to rejoice, to mourn, to laugh, or to promote. Social media goes right along with our bulleted attention spans of today's global television, radio, and ad problems. At least it connects us even if it does distract us.

I would like to add that services such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Google+ are FREE. We choose to use them. I am guilty of complaining about changes etc. from time to time, but at least I catch myself in the act.

6. KNOW WHEN TO STOP FOR THE DAY

Lastly, once you begin using social networks, it can become addicting. Know when to turn it off  for the day. For me, I have my phone off a decent percentage of the time on weekends or times when I need some peace. I'd also advise not assuming that you know how much a person uses social media. It is their business and concern. There are some people who are as or more comfortable in the virtual and social media realm than with people in groups in person. I believe that is A-OK.

Be open, take risks, and I think you will find that it is worth it!


Friday, May 04, 2012

Lockheed Martin Tweetup Adventure! May 1&2, 2012

A couple of weeks ago, on a seemingly calm Thursday, I was on my way to work at UNO as usual. I arrived, parked my car and stepped out. I suddenly heard a VERY loud noise overhead, made by none other than The Blue Angels who were practicing on our campus for the weekend airshows as part of NOLA Navy Week! (picture is of me with Navy Chaplain Holiman of the USS Wasp. He came to St. Paul's on Sunday morning and spoke to us about how sailors from various ships and
countries were volunteering to bring back our NOLA Lakefront)
WOW! I know they are amazing and have childhood memories from an airshow in SC that made my adrenaline rush. I went inside and to my office. Straight away, I completely opened and raised the blinds and got out my camera. I could NOT get anything done at all that day! It was so tantalizingly distracting to have them buzzing our building and flying all around. A few folks were giggling at me walking between offices trying to catch a glimpse of them through the windows. Then, it was time for my giganto music appreciation class. Today's class was being held in the UNO Recital Hall instead of the often-messy Liberal Arts room 140 and I was having two special guests talk to my class: Dr. Juliette Ioup, physicist, and Bobby Skinner a UNO graduate of our MM program who is a Theramin expert and Big Easy award performance winner!

So, after the class was finished and students were getting to try their hands at playing the "Instrument of Psychosis", I was cringing because the Blue Angels were beginning to practice again and I wanted to be out at the Lakeshore watching them! I sat in the hall playing with my iPhone and wondering how long it would take to straighten the hall up and BUZZZZZ, a bird flew by. I wondered: What kind of planes are those? As I googled, I found they were F/A 18s made my Boeing and also the C-130 Hercules by Lockheed Martin. Then, as I was sifting through the Lockheed Martin website, I remembered an INSANELY COOL picture I had seen back in February of a plane flying next to a MISSILE. The image had't left me, so amazing!!! I continued to explore their website and found the Lockheed Martin Tweetup page! I just happened to notice that the deadline for a Tweetup on May 1 & 2 was in 35 minutes!!! Quickly, I decided whether or not I could attend and how I'd shift one class assignment.......I decided to register. I saw that the Tweetup was about the F-22 Raptor (total air domination) being delivered to the US Air Force and the history of fighter jets.
Now, Here I must intersperse that my father: Ashmead Courtenay Carson, Jr. was a bomber pilot in WWII and he would have loved this. As an Army Air Corps and then an Air Force pilot, he was my hero! Then, I noticed it was about 25 minutes til 5:00 EST and that I'd better start applying. During my iPhone typing, I realized that it must be 22 minutes til the hour and since it was a Tweetup for the F-22, this must be good luck. They were to let us know the very next day whether or not we would be selected and I decided that I needed something else to concentrate on besides waiting for the Bariatric lottery (another post coming soon)!
The next day, I left work and went out to the Lake Ponchartrain, hoping to find the Angels practicing, but....no luck....sitting in the hot sun for 30 minutes and ....nothing. Then, I decdied to drive home rather than wait two hours. Halfway home, I just had this feeling and turned back aroung to go to the lakeshore. I passed through security by telling the officer I was going to "the left" instead of the right when she asked and also that I was UNO  faculty and "They" had said were were ok to be in the area. I parked my car at the UNO Foundation and stayed in the air conditioning with my gatorade. About 30 min later, The Blue Angels started flying overhead and I was able to see a FANTASTIC air show. This turned out to be super fortunate because they ended up canceling BOTH of their NOLA Navy Week shows.
I got LOTS of great photographs and found myself beaming and smiling from ear to ear for over an hour. I stood under a tree in the shade with two sweet older gentlemen and we just gt silly every time they did a flip in the air or went straight up!
Here is a link to my Facebook photo album of their practice!https://www.facebook.com/media/set/set=a.962750807527.2295771.2613080&type=3&l=7de5a4bcb2
Nearing the end of the air show, I received an email saying I had been selected for the Lockheed Martin Tweetup!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I was jumping up & down again!!!!!!!!

So, I made the class arrangements and made absolutely sure my students were prepared and had assignments and made hotel reservations as soon as I went home. This past Monday, after the voice class recital (which went very well), I left and drove to Atlanta. It was an uneventful drive and I was pretty exhausted when I got there. The hotel was a Quality Inn about five minutes from Lockheed Martin in Marietta, GA. It was clean and the King bed was indeed a K I N G bed, GIANT! I got some Coca Cola and read a little bit before falling asleep.
The next day, I was nervous, as I always am when meeting new people or approaching a new situation, but I pressed onward! I arrived and met the social media team and fellow tweeps from Twitterverse. It was very nice! We were badged and checked out and then taken via bus (into which I checked using Foursquare so that the next day I'd be the mayor, HA!) to a conference room where we introduced each other and met some administation as well as wonderful volunteers who were with us for the two days. We met Fighter pilots Brett Luedke and "Trigger" Jeff Wallace and talked with them about flying the F-22. Then, we saw a video presentation on the F-22 and the evolution of fighter jets and aviation defense. I learned a lot! Pilot Brett said his father was also a WWII bomber pilot so I talked with him a little about what kinds of planes Dad must have flown and where he was stationed as well as flight paths up to Italy from Africa.
I learned that if "Trigger" approves the F-22, the gov't will shell out $150 million for it! WHOA! What a position to be in! Brett is actually the record holder for altitude - he got to 68,000 feet with the F-22 Raptor! Yikes!
The Raptor is fairly robust in its life cycle. There are rarely problems with its systems. Most issues are with avionics, core processors, or computers. This 5th generation aircraft features Air-Air, Air-Ground, ISR Range and persistence, sensor flexibility, and stealth. We all were in agreement that if we have such technology, we have the responsibility to put it in the hands of our nation's defense. Keith Bilyeu of LM talked to us at length about air defense and safety. We discussed growing technologies and budgets. It was so interesting to be a part of all of this. Definitely, it's something I have thought of before, but that I have never had access to see or opportunities to discuss with fellow music peeps. They mostly must roll their eyes at me for anything science. My opinions I keep to myself many times because environments in which I often speak are not often as open as they say they are. I always remember the line from the movie Contact "we will not be supressing any opinions here today" and I strive to abide by that. Much has been said about our nation's defense and air stealth. Many people are uncomfortable with talking about weapons and warfare even though it's very present in today's world. When we slack off on technology to save money, we are often surprised by other countries' improvements. It's short-sighted not to invest in technology and I firmly believe that it is also the responsibility of the average person to be aware of basic scientific and technological advances. Call me crazy : P
Both Brett and Trigger began as pilots as a gateway to NASA.
Then, lunch was served and we had group discussion. After this, we got a tour of the factory. Lockheed Martin is 76 football fields long! Because of security and protocols, we were not allowed to take photos in many places or facing certain directions. LM actually had two photographers follow us around and take pictures for us. They're posted on their Flickr feed, but they also said we could download them and use some as we saw fit so I integrated them into my Facebook album from the Tweetup which will be at the bottom of this post.
Now came the tour, led by Mike Fox, Dir of Operations. It was awesome to see many 1,000's of pieces of planes at every stage! They can rotate stations every seven days and produce about 36 aircraft every year! Inside, there were flags from many countries and signs everywhere about safety. One sign reads "One covered up mistake is the life of a brave pilot". Many signs were for FOD (Foreign Object Debris) "FOD Stops Now" and there were FOD stations everywhere. FOD can get sucked up into air ducts and jets and in places that would cause a lethal technical and/or mechanical failure. Even our bus had to stop and check the tires for FOD. Then, he rolled forward by 5 inches and checked them again after their partial roll.
Only the rudder of a plane is painted before assembly because it must be extremely aerodynamically sound! There are about 300 opportunities for inspection along the way and many times, the customer of a certain aircraft will come and visit. Tons of military work at Lockheed Martin and about 800 people work in the factory pictured. They have a Union and I noticed a lot of smiling face and a great deal of personal pride that they worked here! It was wonderful to see. I headr over and over from different people that it was like a family, especially on individual plane and series projects. Employees we talked to got teary-eyed talking about how they were delivering the last Raptor F-22 and that it was hard to do. This is how I feel about my job in choral music and it was so refreshing to see their enthusiasm for all aspects of what they do!
After the tour we got to try out the flight simulator!!!!! This was a lot of fun. Glad I had thought ahead and taken my motion sickness meds that morning :-)
This is a pic of me in the simulator. I was able to take out two ground targets, switch to Air-Air and then get two mlore moving targets. There were lots of screens and radars and buttons. I probably owe my success to our guide.....or perhaps pre-programming.
After the sim, we got the "Windshield Tour" of the Flight Line and went to the "Boneyard". There, we saw older planes, including eight Libyan planes that were embargoed after made and had to remain in the US.
That night, we had diner together at Taco Mac in Kennesaw. I liked the group very much! I always feel so dang awkward in new groups, but at least I didn't spill anything on myself.
The next day, we were badged and given photo press passes. Then we took our bus to the other side of the facility and were led through giant lines of people waiting to be let in. There was a veritable paparazzi of people snapping our pictures as we walked through to our seats. It was cool. :-)  Our seats were terrific and we sat to await the delivery ceremony. They opened with a moment of silence for Lt. Walsh, a fallen American solider who was finally coming home. Then, we stood as the colors were being presented and the official party was entering. The USAF Reserve Brass Quintet played. Shan Cooper, VP Aeronautics, Larry Lawson, Gen Mgr, Sen Johnny Isackson (GA), and General Norton Schwartz - Chief of Staff of the USAF spoke. They exchanged symbolic keys to the craft and saluted. Then, a cool video of aircaft in war was shown and the hangar began to open. Bit by bit, it was raised until the crowd could see the Raptor! Cheering!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 
We all went outside for a GIANT group picture in the blazing sun and after we had gotten lots of photos of the "Baddest Bird in the Air", we were served a light lunch. I didn't eat much b/c I was meeting brother Neville and his wife Julie on my way home! It was sad to go, but wow, what a tremendous piece of aviation I got to know! It was a FABULOUS experience and kudos to Lockheed Martin on all that they do. They are a stellar company and marvelous hosts. Everyone was genuinely open and excited about what they do. The company is amazingly well-managed and run. This Tweetup helped put a face on a company and helped me understand a part of what my father was part of as a pilot in the defense of our country's freedom. I think he would have been happy and proud that I was interested in this and that I was lucky enough to attend! Thank you Lockheed Martin, for such a grand and informative time and for the fun gifts you gave us!
Facebook album for the #LMTweetup pictures!