You Knew Me When I Was Young

Why is this so important?  What is so fundamentally important about reconnecting with people who knew you when you were young, (younger)?  

This past weekend was a gift.  

Old wounds seemed insignificant.  Old friendships seemed vibrant.  The rhythms and pace of our collective experience re-clicked into place like dismantled yet interlocking parts cut to precise tolerances.  I have often said that the friendships that mean the most to me are the ones that can simply be resumed after years and months of separation, without any passive/aggressive subtext.  I had that experience over and over this past weekend.  

Most of my friends have sharpened their musical chops in ten years.  I have never heard a University Choir with the vocal horsepower present in that room.  Ever.  Not in Bonner’s heyday, not when we were there.  Rod Cathey’s comment was, “You guys came ready to peel the paint off of these walls.”  

When Steven Reineke came into the Friday rehearsal and hit the first downbeat of the first tune, there was a moment of unmistakable, unfakable delight that crossed his face.  Surely, hearing that he was getting a pick-up choir of alums wasn’t the best news of his year.  He didn’t know we were coming to play.  He didn’t know he was getting the all-star team.    

We actually ran into him, hours after the concert, late on Saturday night (Sunday morning) in the hotel lobby.  He said we were one of the most delightful choral experiences of his career.  I don’t think he was blowing sunshine.  He gave some very specific thoughts about the ethic that we displayed.  People blowing sunshine lack specificity.  

But still, I keep coming back to this:  Why is it so important to know, and be known by those who knew you when you were young?  Does is somehow validate your adult life?  Is there something in our minds that wants to reaffirm that friendships forged as young men and women are still valid 10 years (or more) up the road?  This is not me in ironic, detached mode, in case the intertubes aren’t helping me translate my tone.  I was genuinely struck by the sincerity of the experience.  

Nearly everyone I spoke with said the same thing…  I wasn’t sure how this was going to be, but the second I got here, I just started having so much fun.  Perhaps it was because we got to actually do the thing we used to do together, rather than just sitting around and talking about the thing we used to do together.  Perhaps that’s the secret to a good reunion.  

I’d sing with these people anytime, even you babies that call yourselves college students.  I will refrain from attempting to give too much advice to you all, but I will say this:  Forget the drama.  Forget the sniping.  Forget the politics.  Ten years from now, you won’t care, Lord willing.  Embrace your friends.  Love on them.  Try not to wound them, for it does take time for those wounds to heal, and you’ll profoundly regret inflicting them when you see your friends again.  

Finally, young bucks, I will say one more thing.  You aren’t as good as you think you are, and this is a good thing.  I can tell you with complete and utter clarity that there are few things in life more satisfying than knowing that you have been allowed to become more competent at your craft as the years pass, rather then settling into a “Glory Days” mentality.  Keep getting better.  There are rewards coming that you cannot yet understand.  

This was a gift.  Thanks, Rod.  Thanks APU.

43 thoughts on “You Knew Me When I Was Young

  1. Chad Post author

    I’d just like to add a little context to my last comment. “You’re not as good as you think you are, ” is not some kind of direct assault on anyone’s musicianship or attitude, but more of a philosophical statement directed at the universe.

    Everyone sang really, really well.

  2. Sharolyn

    The whole first song of rehearsal I was crying/laughing in the back row. To see one of these people would make my whole day, any day. To have 100 of them together was completely overwhelming.

    Last April Rod began to seizure at a birthday dinner for his son and didn’t stop for four days. He has a brain tumor. It has been an helpless feeling to worry about and pray for him across the miles, hearing updates from friends. It was, to use the word again, overwhelming to be able to talk with him and hug him, hang out with his family and sing under his direction. He looks so different that I would not have recognized him had I passed him on the street. He has lost at least 80 pounds and his hair on top, and has added facial hair. It took a while for me to look into this man and recognize the friend I once knew. He still has his wit and when Chad said, “I think we need to groove more,” he said with a smile, “I think they took that part out of my brain.” At one point when we were talking I was saying (trying not to cry), “THANK YOU so much for doing this. You could say, ‘School is out’, ‘I’m sick’, ‘There’s no budget for this’, ‘This is not in my contract’…. there were more reasons for this weekend NOT to happen.

    And he simply said, “It’s never been about that.” (Okay, now I am crying!…)

    This family of people is seared on my heart.

  3. Christy Semsen

    Great. Now I’m crying. And I’m in a theology class. Good, no one is looking at me…

    Thank you for this post, Chad. It was a very moving experience and the things you wrote help to capture that.

    I loved the part about being fulfilled that we have worked to get better at our craft, rather than to relive a glory days mentality. I know that is something I have worked toward, and I’m pretty sure many of us would fit that description. When I did those crazy little bows, I was actually kind of proud and appreciated the audiences reaction a lot more than I used to in the past.

  4. Allan

    Well put, Chad. It was wonderful seeing everyone again. I suspected it would be a fun experience, but I didn’t think it would reset my general outlook on life. It sent me back to work today with a renewed energy. I miss the group, and I miss singing with the group. Only took me about 12 years to be reminded of that. To those of you (esp. Chad) who are making a go of it in music and other artistic pursuits, I’m jealous and proud of your willingness to take on risk to follow your dreams. Thanks so much for letting this deadbeat lawyer back in the fold for a great weekend. I truly hope we (read: I) can see each other a bit more often. At the very least, perhaps I will start chiming in on this blog once in a while rather than silently stalking all of you through your posts. And I wouldn’t mind finding an excuse to sing once and a while if anyone has a gig that I would fit into. I’d be happy to return the favor with some free (or at least heavily discounted) legal advice….

  5. Melody

    Now I’m really sad to have missed the gig. While I admit that Rod looked different when I saw him on the first night of UCO tour three weeks ago, the facial hair goes back to the ’70′s. He was sporting a ‘fu- manchu’ the first time I met him. He did have long hair to go with it, though. Glad you all had a wonderful time!

  6. michael lee

    It was an amazing weekend, and well summarized by those who commented before me.

    I’ll just add that this weekend reminded me how many little pieces of my personality are borrowed from those friends I was surrounded by at school.

  7. Darren

    Walking through that door into the room I hadn’t darkened in 10 years was a nostalgic and emotional experience. To be honest I committed to this for Rod… not really expecting what occurred. I knew it would be fun,challenging,and memorable…what hit me as I lay awake saturday night was the reminder of who I was when I walked through those doors the first time… and who I am (and yet to become) as I walked through it 10 years later. There were so many memories that flooded my brain..the friends I had, the people that bugged, the songs I hated, the songs I loved, the girls I dated, the times I conducted, from Rod to Al that room was a huge part of my life and it was a gift to re-visit those times with all of you.

    Thanks for that.


  8. Pauline

    I guess I’m one of those babies that calls myself a college student, but I wanted to say that I thoroughly enjoyed this weekend, even if we did have to sing some cheesy songs. From my standpoint…and I’m not tall, so it’s not a whole lot…I loved that it became an alumni choir. It was great to be surrounded by all of you and hear your stories of how UCO, or should I say UC, was back in your days. It’s great, and somewhat encouraging, to see what things have and have not changed. Going on to my 5th year in UCO, I’m glad that I’ve been able to be a part of this family and the traditions.

    Chad, thanks for this blog. It’s actually very encouraging.

  9. Paul Reisser

    From what we could hear on the Arena floor, you sounded terrific – more mature and tight vocally, without the wobbling around the note that becomes more of an issue as the decades pass (at least in somewhat more, er, senior groups). I would love to hear this group sing a capella – it should be a requirement for the next get-together – and better yet sing in a less squirrely venue, sonically speaking.

  10. Chad Post author


    You should say hi to him. I have $20 that says he can’t remember when he ran into us.

  11. sharolyn

    Turns out Steve Reineke wasn’t there. I guess when you get your second Tony Award, you get to bring your own conductor wherever you go.

  12. sharolyn

    You’re not kidding. The judge said it was the first time anyone had sworn in to the tune of “There’s No Business Like Show Business”.

  13. Sharolyn

    Tonight Jason asked him, “Do remember meeting my wife in the hotel after the concert?” Without hesitation (Jason’s words) he said “Yes”, and fodder for the brass section had been provided for the evening.

  14. Sharolyn's Husband

    He also said that he had never worked with a more pretentious, self-absorbed, and thin-toned group of singers.

  15. Sharolyn's Husband

    No he actually said that APU was not bad for a bunch of has been weekend warrior singers.

  16. Chad

    Weekend Warriors!?!

    Doesn’t he know that one of his “Warriors” sang for boyfriend #3 in the latest Cheetah Girls picture. Umm… hello… ?

    Yeah. He’s not talking now, is he?

  17. sharolyn

    I’m just reminiscing that a year ago I was sitting at a Starbucks in Long Beach with Chad, Erica, and Gretchen. (Sometimes I remember dates.) – While Mike was leading worship on very little sleep.

    Happy sigh.

  18. michael lee

    Speaking of nostalgia, I’m currently doing a takedown of “Drenched” for summer small group, and may I just say, good god, you people can sing! Aly, Bryan, Chad, and Erica, hitting laser sharp stacks (pre-autotune) that just jump off the speakers.

  19. Chad Post author


    Thanks for your kind words. That’s a good song, even still.

  20. sharolyn

    I think Jason is spending more time with Steve Reineke this week than he is with me. Should I be worried?

  21. sharolyn

    Rumor has it that in Northern Cal he dresses like a lumberjack and gives the three-pat “I’m-not-gay” hug.

  22. Sharolyn

    2 stories from the rehearsal last night.

    1. With a kids choir standing in the front of the stage (behind Reineke) he said, “Can we get a car horn, like the kind on a bike, with a squeezy ball…did I just say squeezy ball from the podium?” Then he turned around and remembered all the kids behind him.

    2. “We will do the normal ending, not the gag ending. The gag ending needs a bunch of beautiful women…(long pause)…and all the beautiful women are busy playing in the orchestra.”

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