Great perseverance with God's blessing enabled me to overcome seven years of work related difficulties to begin my accelerating glorious roller coaster ride to "success." Finally after transferring to a new school in 2003, I was blessed to be working with an enthusiastic student body, supportive parents, and an empowering administration. I taught every class from kindergarten to fifth grade as if they were my choir so that when I began an after school chorus, they were already "on board" with my expectations. Once we gained command of many Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa songs we began singing at the local Palm Beach County, FL shopping malls.
The following Spring, the school board offered "Service-Learning Project" grants. Upon winning one, I contracted a bus and driver to transport my choir to the local nursing home fellowship hall for weekly visits to sing and interact with the residents. The students were required to record their experiences in a journal. Many of them befriended one or two residents so well that they knew their names well enough to inform us whenever the resident was not present in the hall. When it was appropriate and possible, the manager would then escort a couple of the children to visit in the resident's room.
One particular child did not realize until the program was over that he had actually chronicled the last days of a World War Two veteran. The first few weeks, the man was chipper and interacted well with the boy, telling him about some of his (less gruesome, to be sure) war experiences. Then on about week four, the student's writing began to include his observation that the soldier was not feeling well. In each successive week the boy more emphatically noted the man's health as worsening exponentially until eventually, the manager had to escort the child to the veteran's room for a visit. Ultimately and sadly, the student learned in a subsequent return that the patriot he came to endear had passed away. To see a youth's development of such intrinsic empathy for a stranger was overwhelmingly powerful, delivering in me an immeasurable satisfaction that cannot be gained in any other manner.
Finally, the "Service-Learning Project" ended. This also ended our ability to travel as a group. But then, I happened to overhear two coaches talking somewhere about how they could have a school bus assigned just to them if they earned a class C or class B license through the transportation department. So I sneaked into the meeting and signed up.
A few months later, upon my successful completion of the course, the director was stunned when I went forward to receive the key to my assigned bus. He thought that everyone in the course was a "coach." I told him that I was in desperate need for a bus for my chorus. The expression on his face revealed that he would have laughed out loud, but he had momentarily lost his breath as he choked in amazement of my stealthiness. After composing himself, with a sigh of resign while handing me a key, he conceded that he did have an understandably rejected old twenty-nine passenger bus in the far corner of the compound. My chorus was fourty-four members strong, but feeling the focused intensity of a hundred perplexed coaches, with a hearty hand shake I heralded my most enthusiastic, "Yessir! I'll take it, Thank you!" Then I sprightly got my unathletic rear end out the closest exit doorway.
The length of my trek out to the relic gave my apprehension a generous portion of time to develop, approaching as cautiously as a superstitious child before a haunted house on a dare. I was slightly relieved to find a discarded broom nearby to clear the cobwebs that would have prevented even Big Foot from scaling the steps to the driver's seat. "My wife is going to kill me!" I muttered as I cautiously positioned myself in the dust covered driver's seat with a crack that exposed a rusty spring vying to ensure that this first ride would be my last. Without even doing a "pre-trip inspection," I mean anyone within a hundred yards would agree that this jalopy would fail miserably. * But it did barely manage to start up and I limped it home for a wash down, all the while squashing panicking pests that scurried about the seat base.
Understandably, my students, abhorrent at the thought of it, adamantly refused to get on the "roach mobile." But it was now ours and I did work so hard to get it! They were unmoved. Since I was required to return the bus for its monthly servicing, I put very few miles on it. Then as I was passing a department head's doorway I overheard him say, "We're going to have to take coach Bill's bus back because he's just not getting the miles on it." BINGO! Now I knew what I had to do to get a bigger bus.
Since my school was just off of Interstate 95, I began to make several afternoon trips (empty of course) up and down the highway on a weekly basis. After a couple of months of doing this the director caught me walking very slowly past his doorway to say, "Hey, you are really using that bus, aren't you." "Well sir, I AM getting the MILES on it for sure! I cheerfully countered. He inquired if I would be interested in a forty-five passenger bus... I cut him off with a cheerful, "Yessir! I would love to have it." Now I really will be able to transport my students because it was bigger and it lacked the rust, cracked upholstery stuffed full of sticky candy wrappers, and ancient carcasses abandoned by generations of various critters.
Rolling down the road like the Partridge Family, we performed at every available venue. Our singing reputation provided invitations to perform in malls, hotels, convention centers, nursing homes, and several times before the school board. Performing is a great motivator for more productive rehearsals and the students were proud of our accomplishments. Some even joined just for the ride (and probably to get out of class).
Desiring to reinforce our momentum I mused about what the next level could be. Then I saw an advertisement for the spring "Music USA Festivals," a musical competition at Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida. With my principal's endorsement I completed all the necessary steps for my students to enjoy their first studio competition via a classy charter bus (that included movie screens, Yaaay!). "Road trip, everybody!"
As we disembarked we were awed by entering through a special gate used only by the performers. Our matching navy blue polo shirts with "South Olive Elementary Tiger Chorus" proudly embroidered on them in gold and our nervous demeanor singled us out from the regulars.
Once inside the studio, the professionalism of the staff and the venue intimidated everyone (including me) to behave themselves better than ever before. The performance was well received by the judges and our pent up stress was well relieved as we were released to explore the park.
The climax for our trip came when we returned to the "Animal Planet" arena to be surprisingly awarded a "Superior" rating for mixed voices and to receive a huge trophy. A sense of accomplishment and wonder permeated my thoughts. I mused about how this experience was going to affect these students (and me) for the next school year.
Some momentum was lost in the next year because of administrative and policy changes within the county, but everyone was still enthusiastic about preparing for our next trip. We were able to continue traveling in our newer sixty-five passenger bus. We returned annually two more times to compete, but we were only able to earn an "Excellent" rating. Then our school suffered administrative problems in the Fall following our third performance and we were unable to continue our choral progress.
Early in all this adventure (2003) I purchased a domain so that I could publish the students' performances and singalong songs that we performed in class so that they would be able to work on them at home. Back then, I was not aware of there being much fear in society about child predators on the internet. I was careful not to give their last names or any other personal information, but eventually I was strongly advised to stop all publishing of students' performances. Subsequently, that meant that I found myself as the owner of a website without a purpose.
So I chose to promote my own music. This website will always be a work in progress. It is a type of extended presentation of my profile as a composer, performer, and teacher. I have been happy with Network Solutions products and service. I would recommend that you check them out.
I am not a programmer or web designer. I built this entire site from the Network Solutions site builder template. If you have never owned a website please be advised that there is more that you need to have than just a domain name. The internet has become a dangerous place for the vulnerable and you will need to purchase additional security products to keep the bad guys at bay.
Network Solutions has a variety of packages from which to choose. Someday I would like to be able to afford to upgrade this website to eCommerce level so that I can offer free and purchased music downloads. That is a chapter waiting to be written.
* CORRECTION: I actually did complete a pre-trip inspection. I just wrote that for dramatic effect. You know, "poetic license."