Tag Archives: Azusa Pacific University

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.

Stuff I Learned from UC&O…

This weekend, something special happens.   It’s the closest many of us will get to a 10 year reunion, and we play a gig to boot.  

See, back in the day, The Azusa Pacific University Choir and Orchestra used to sing from time to time with the Long Beach Symphony Orchestra.  I think it happened twice when I was in school.  We’d do an Americana concert, or a Disney night, or something.  It was sort of a pain in the rear, back then, if I’m being honest.  Lots of new music to learn.  A Saturday night out… in choir outfits.  

This year, they called again.  Turns out the concert was on May 31st, about three full weeks after the end of the school year.  The choir has disbanded, so someone (I’m assuming Rod Cathey) got the hot idea of inviting alumni to participate.  

University Choir was a quite a thing in many of our lives.  We devoted years to it.  It was (in many respects) our social world during the time we were at school.  It was a little cult-like.  When I saw the list of who was participating, I got all giggly.  It was like reading a roster of all the people I liked and hung out with during those years.  The thing about reunions, is that you basically spend the whole time talking about old times, and the things you used to do.  The cool thing about this, is that we actually get to go do the thing we used to do, including making fun of the music.  (Hey Alan Jackson, don’t know the difference between Iraq and Iran?  Read a book, hillbilly!)

So, in honor of our upcoming weekend, a random list of stuff I learned in UC&O, circa ’95-’98.  

  1. If it’s rehearsing once, it’s worth rehearsing 5,643 times.  
  2. Women who love Jesus also must have huge, teased hair.
  3. Men who love Jesus shall not be scruffy, earringed, or have a mullet.  
  4. The closer you stand to the middle, the closer you are to heaven.  
  5. Whitey can’t groove.  He tries.  He can’t.
  6. Always, always watch the conductor.  If Jesus Himself descends behind the conductor, still, you shall not look away from the conductor.   
  7. When we modulate, it makes Baby Jesus smile.
  8. Cymbals, however, make Baby Jesus cry.  He much prefers the Tom-Toms.    
  9. 6/8 time makes any old white dude shake his rear end.  
  10. Practice doesn’t make perfect, it builds flexibility.  (also true in Yoga… although I didn’t know this at the time… because I was a fatass)
  11. The notes on the page and improvisation are two sides of the same coin.  You must be ready to flip it at any given moment.  
  12. Never, under any circumstances, sing louder than the lead soprano.  She, along with her mellifluous tone, has laser beams behind her eyes.  They’re issued with the dress.   
  13. (for Ash) Remember people, Moses did NOT fit the battle of Jericho.  
  14. Fear the host home.  
  15. A functional Christ-centered community does better when it has a clear purpose.  Even in all it’s dysfunction, UC&O was more of a real church body than most “real” church bodies.  (Hey ABF, where the hell are we going?)
  16. You should know every solo, because you never know if he’s gonna point to you.  At the same time, don’t get too attached to a solo, because he may not point to you.
  17. (for Bobby) The universally recognized word for a French Horn mistake is “SPEEE-AAAAH!!!!”
  18. (for Mike and Rach) Splitting the chair?  You’ll survive.  
  19. The Holy Spirit is a “Him,” not an “It.”
  20. Singing in the round is one of the coolest things ever.  
  21. If it’s worth rehearsing once, it’s worth rehearsing 5,644 times.  


Those who are in the know, feel free to add to my list.  See everyone Friday!