Dear Mr. Dengler…with much love

Two weeks ago, I called my dear high school music teacher, Mr. Dengler, to tell him that I have been appointed as the new Director of Vocal Music at the Hill School. Instead of the usual lively greeting, “Hello?~”, I got the answering machine. I left him a message. Four days later, I heard back from Mrs. Dengler; she said Mr. D had been sick for the past seven months. She paused and said, “He is really sick.” After our brief conversation,  I contacted several of my classmates who were part of our singing group and we decided on a date to go visit him. 

A day before our visiting day, we found out he had passed. Tomorrow, I will be driving to Mr. Dengler’s memorial service to join Mrs. Dengler and many people who had been touched by his life. I am writing a letter to my dear teacher and friend. I wanted to say these words to him… 

 

Dear Mr. D,

As I drove home today, feeling a little numb and thinking about the drive tomorrow to your memorial service, I saw a car with the plate, “BUD5734” (OK, I can’t remember the 4 numbers, but the first three letters spelled out your name). Yes, I have been thinking of you – a lot. And missing you. I know that you are alive and well in heaven, conducting choirs of angels. Although my heart is heavy and sad, the thought of you makes me smile.

When we first met at AIS, I was an awkward new 7th grader (by the way, today’s teens would use the term, “fetus” to point out how young a student is), you immediately became my fan. Hearing my piano playing, you gave me opportunities to accompany the Upper School Glee Club and the Bel Cantos. Although I was in middle school, you let me mingle with the big girls to make serious music. It wasn’t a big deal that there were schedule differences in the two divisions – made the schedule to work for me. Who does that? Seriously, what did you see in me back then?

You let me learn through two different major tours with the Bels, one in Ohio and the other in Texas. How did you manage the logistics and bring Mrs. Dengler along to travel with a group of teenage girls? How did you deal with girl-dramas and keep your cool? How did you make such beautiful music every day? How is it that we ALL learned to love music and sing as much our hearts can possibly experience?

My favorite memories of you are the times you talked to me. Remember how I was the only student in AP Music?  You sure talked my ear offand thank you, I got a 5 for that exam because of you… But more than many classes or music theory discussions (or even the analysis of the most intricate classical piece you and I loved), I remember our conversations. I was surprised when you made a series of dot matrix paper banner that spread across the whole side of the music room that read: “The Pursuit of Excellence”. You knew I was falling apart as a passionate, but naive perfectionist. You listened. You let me make mistakes, and showed me how to keep working.

I don’t know if I ever told you: I loved every early rehearsal we had. You were dedicated to the music you introduced to us. You were more dedicated to us as young people and that drew us in. I loved that Bach, Mendelssohn, Mozart, Porter, Gershwin, Berlin, and the hottest pop songs of the 80’s were our repertoire. You set the bar high, so we were never bored. And you let us know that you were proud of us.

I loved that we met up at an ACDA conference when I was in grad school as a conducting major. Although you didn’t see me conduct, you saw me singing. You said that I improved in my breathing and that my posture got better! I felt so grown up hearing you said that.

I am so thankful that my family got to meet you and Mrs. D. I loved writing you letters or telling you our family updates over the phone. It was such an honor to tell people how you, my high school music teacher, still called me on my birthday. That’s a lot of birthday phone calls!

I am sorry the 93′ Bel Canto girls – Jenn, Meredith, Kelly, Meggin, Laura, Ellen, Tanya – and I missed visiting you. We wanted to sing you a song or two. The spiritual, “Every Time I Feel the Spirit” would have been one definite selection. We remember how vibrant and full of life you were – smiling, directing us, convicting us. But the lyrics to “Every Time We Say Goodbye” lingers in my mind right now and will not go away…

Mr. D., I hope I make you proud. I still feel like I need to learn so much as a teacher – to give selflessly, to always care for more than what is required, to love people boundlessly. I know that many will come tomorrow to pay tribute to you. You shared a beautiful life with us. Thank you so much, we celebrate you.

 

I hope you know that you will always live on in the music I make.

God bless you, Mr. D!

With much love and appreciation,

Yoon

Thoughts on December #2

Christmas gifts.

I can breathe now. The Holiday Concert is over, comments (for student reports) are finished, and my Middle School Choir has visited three senior homes. In the midst of busyness, our school community was fortunate to receive an important message on Wednesday morning.

It was Mrs. B’s 5th grade class giving a chapel on generosity. The students walked us through their thoughts of tangible gifts (iPad, games, iPhone etc.) and abstract gifts.

Hold it, right here. Abstract gifts?

I have to admit, as an adult, I worry about buying the right gift for families and friends (I am extremely behind because of work). When was it when I thought about abstract gifts – gifts of thought and mind?

Remarkably, the 5th graders exchanged the following gifts with one another:

Love 

Friendship

Compassion

Philanthropy

Kindness

Time

Charity

Encouragement

Hope

Support

Hospitality

Laughter

Courage

Respect

Peace

Caring

Appreciation

Smiling

Some beautifully created posters from the 5th grade:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

This simple yet profound message touched me and our community. I’m grateful – especially during the height of commercialized-I-want-this-and-that holiday season, it is SO good to focus on the heart-felt love we can give throughout the year.

I love that these young people are mindful.

I love that I learn from my students.

What gifts from the heart will you choose today and share with your loved ones?

So Put a Little Love in Your Heart, y’all!

A huge thanks to my friend Ro and her great love for her students. She models kindness and care for those around her. I’m so blessed to work with her!

~@Doremigirl

Sounds of Music #5: December 16th

Singing Peanuts Gang

Happy birthday to Herr Beethoven, Miss Jane Austen, and my best friend (DH)!

Here is one of my favorite Beethoven pianists, Alfred Brendel playing Beethoven Piano Sonatas:

Jane Austen!

My DH and I love her works. Here are some great links for your reading and viewing pleasure.

2005 version of Pride and Prejudice soundtrack are just gorgeous. Enjoy listening to them, too!

~@Doremigirl

Sounds of Music #4: Mandela Tributes

I found these two tribute songs for Mandela. First video features the Soweto Gospel Choir. The Choir’s flashmob performance at Parkview Woolworths is beautiful. Read more about it here.

The second song is by the students and teachers of Playing for Change. The song “Strong” was inspired by Nelson Mandela, Steve Biko, Myriam Makeeba,  heroes of South Africa.

These are the beautiful sounds of music I’m hearing. What are you hearing?

~@Doremigirl

Simply Take as Much as You Require

Happy New Year!

As we usher in the new year, I stop to think about all that has happened in the past year. I am grateful for all the triumphs and struggles I have experienced. With each passing year, I am learning to see how precious life is and no matter how I feel about this crazy world, much grace shown to me.

I am thankful!

So let’s ring in the new year!

My hope for 2013 as a teacher, mom, and wife is to

1. lead with my ears,

2. follow kindness with my words,

3. and not react immediately.

Listening is probably the most important musical skill I teach each day. I would love to listen to those in my care with purpose. I need to do this!

Kind words can abate sticky situations and bring life to even the young. I want to practice kindness!

Not reacting immediately will be the hardest, for sure. I want my anger to straggle along….ever slowly. I want to live a grace-filled life!

I will leave you with a musical (really, life) thought from Edward Elgar:

“My idea is that there is music in the air, music all around us;

the world is full of it,

and you simply take as much as you require.”

Take time to listen to the music around you. Let the music move you. Share the good and help those around you. Best wishes for 2013!

Yoon

Start the New Year!

Songs for Japan

Since my last post, my students have been busy thinking about making song collections to bring hope and encouragement to all in Japan. We dedicate these songs to @barbsaka, @m_yam, @captainC, @johnstonb, @mscofino, and their students.

My students were to think of a song that would bring healing, encouragement and hope to people facing hardships in Japan. They wrote out their reasons on GoogleDocs and shared the links.

We send our love to you! May these songs lift you up and bring you healing.

~ Yoon

PS: I’m encouraging teachers and school elsewhere to add their songs and messages here or make their own playlst! Also check out Paper Cranes for Japan project. My school will get busy with crane-making after our Spring Break.

UPDATE:

1) We will be adding our message posted on the gloster and linoit sticky notes to We Love Japan message board as mentioned by Barbara. It’s really simple way to raise money – I hope YOU will also take a part!

2) Messages added to We Love Japan site!    ~ ysl