The Recording is Here!

Here is a link to the live recording of “Lament Not, My Dearest,” from June 9th, 2013.

Hope you enjoy!

When I am dead, my dearest,
Sing no sad songs for me;
Plant thou no roses at my head,
Nor shady cypress tree:
Be the green grass above me
With showers and dewdrops wet;
And if thou wilt, remember,
And if thou wilt, forget.

I shall not see the shadows,
I shall not feel the rain;
I shall not hear the nightingale
Sing on, as if in pain:
And dreaming through the twilight
That doth not rise nor set,
Haply I may remember,
And haply may forget.


S.J. Ritter, Composer

I’ve, as expected, done a wonderfully horrible job at keeping my blog updated. The irony that I’m posting now, is a little much. I’m flying home in less than a month. My year is almost up. Before I recollect all the experiences that I’ve had here, I thought I’d talk a little bit about my trip home to the USA for the premier of a choral work that I submitted for competition.
I was so fortunate to have willing parents to bring me back for the experience, but also for a very generous church council – one that supplied funds for half the airfare. I couldn’t be more thankful to have opportunities like this – the beginning of the rest of my compositional career!
The flight home, amazingly, was direct! I didn’t have to connect anywhere, and that was a blessing in itself. I ended up sitting next to a believer on the plane – I didn’t know until he pulled out his bible and started reading. He had just graduated from a christian school in Florida.
I was picked up from the airport by the Conductor of the choir. This guy has done amazing things with the community in Dearborn, Michigan. He’s funny, well rounded, and really put together. He dropped me off at a homestay – the same woman that let me stay with her when I had to go to Detroit for my VISA! There was a choral rehearsal that night for me to attend, and since I was the only composer to arrive on Thursday, I was the only one there. It was so fun to hear the choir sing my piece, and for me to provide some feedback! The conductor asked me some “grand scheme” ideas about my piece… but since I was a little jetlagged, I told him that I needed to sleep on it. Was a little nervous to answer huge questions when I had been awake for 25 hours!
Friday was a free day, there were no rehearsals, so my host mom took me to see the new Star Trek movie, in I-MAX 3D… and let me tell you – it was breathtaking. I kept thinking that I never needed to see another film in all my life, for nothing could get better. After that, we were shown around Dearborn, which happens to be the city that Henry Ford is from, and where he started his industry. So, everything is “Henry Ford Performing Arts” or “Henry Ford Community Center”… you get the idea. My host mom had a party with all 70 choir members invited at her house that night. It was so cool to get one on one time with a bunch of the members. Since there were 5 winning pieces, I got to hear personal feedback, and a little favoritism, regarding the way they all enjoyed singing mine!
My piece was the most “tame” of all the pieces… the most structured, and lets just say, “hummable.” Since this is a competition honoring up and coming composers with contemporary ideas, there was some crazy stuff. But mine was very straight forward… I didn’t try anything radical, I just tried to write a beautiful piece of music. Since the text is about dealing with the death of loved ones, at LEAST 6 people came up to me and told me how much my piece helped them cope with death. Some had had best friends, or even parents, die while they were learning the piece. They said it was SO hard for them to sing at the beginning, but since there is a radical shift in the text I chose that switches from being sad in death, to remembering and being happy – they ended up in tears many times. That really affected me. I never would have thought something as causeless as my composition could affect so many people in so many ways. What an avenue to help people, and also to express my love for God! It was really mindblowing. The poem I chose, in case you’re curious, is called “Requiem” by Christina Rosetti – its in the public domain, so it can be found online.
Saturday was a day of rehearsals, and by this time, 3/5 composers were there. One was born in Hong Kong, Schooled in England, and then did his undergrad in Canada. The other was an American with a Doctorate, living in North Carolina, composing for a musical theatre company. The two composers that didnt make it consisted of a girl about my age, and an “old” guy (45) who is a Doctor at a school, but he’s doing a fulbright scholarship in Uganda, I believe.
There was a composer’s dinner that night – just the 3 of us, and all the staff involved with the choir. The treasurer, the president, the conductor, so on and so on. It was wonderful, we were able to nerd out and just talk music the whole time. That evening, my parents arrived in Michigan, and I went to stay with them. We stayed in this amazing bed and breakfast, a huge old house with wonderful caretakers.
Sunday was the day of the performance, and I just spent it talking with my parents. We arrived early to the concert hall for the performance, because there was a dress rehearsal – we needed to hear our pieces in that space and provide any last minute criticisms. The hall was beautiful, seated 1200 – the whole experience was surreal. My piece was performed first, and I think I held my breath the entire time. They had me come on stage, bow, and receive a big framed certificate regarding the competition. It was such a fun experience. They DID record it, but I don’t have the recording yet. Those have to be mastered and everything. But if you guys watch facebook, I’ll be sure to post it online as soon as I get it.
I flew back to Europe 4 days after I landed in the USA. And recovered quite easily. Now, I’ve only got 2 days of official work left before I leave for Switzerland on Saturday. I’m back in Rome for 4 days after we return, I’ll be at church for my last Sunday, and then I’m headed to the Netherlands and Sweden for my exiting travels. Back in Rome for 3 days, and then I fly home.
I fly home.

roma est, ovindoli!

Ciao tutti! This past week has been pretty routine. Most of the weeks have been this way, I’ve fallen into a constant schedule, which is both good and bad! The weeks just tend to fly by, and I feel like the months are just slipping away.

This past week, I had the opportunity to go skiing just east of Rome. I was starting to feel a little bummed, becauseI brought my ski gear from the states, and I was starting to think that I 47813_4305491484506_1049828549_nwouldn’t be able to use it. Enough people wanted to go, so we did! The resort was about 1.5 hours away from Rome, in a surprisingly beautiful location. There hadn’t been any snow this season in Rome, but once we got to the top of the mountain, my mind was blown. Complete coverage, couldn’t see a single thing other than snow. Here’s a link to the website –

I skied both days, and was astounded constantly at how serene and perfect the mountains looked at that altitude. There’s such an overwhelming silence, too. If you’re alone in the woods, you can hear the leaves move, a few bugs. At the top of a mountain, when you’re away from the ski lift, its such a complete, dry silence. So wonderful.

26343_10200203012310110_1352466988_nOn Friday, my roommates were able to come, and that made the trip even better. I hadn’t been to a ski resort with so many runs and so much snow! On the second day, the top of the mountain started to become blanketed in a cloud. So, when we were on the difficult routes, it became so thick that we couldn’t see each other if we got more than 10 feet apart. We were really struggling to see the sides of the runs. We couldn’t even tell how fast were going, because it was so foggy. Though it was a little perilous, it made the ski trip a little more exciting.

Both nights, Thursday and Friday, I had to be back in the center by 7, for choir rehearsal, and the Night of Worship that I’ve been leading. Just so you know, you shouldn’t try to lead either event after skiing for 7 hours. I had such a great time. Memories to last a lifetime.


whoops, toots. my bad.

More than enough time has passed since my last blog post. Work in Rome has finally started to become BUSY. Before Christmas, I was tearing my hair out due to boredom and lack of direction… but now, I’m needing a few extra hours in each day. I’ll make this blog easy to read – a few bullet points in order to give an approximate summation of my past couple months.

– I’ve moved again. This time, for serious. I left my host family, with much sadness, to live with 2 Americans that are much closer to the church. I was spending almost 3 hours a day in commute with my homestay, and now it only takes me 25 minutes to get to work, from door to door. I know most of you may still think thats quite a while… but it takes 15 minutes to go ANYWHERE in Rome. I’m so thankful to be living with some solid guys.

– I’ve started taking Italian classes. These are free classes, sponsored by a church for immigrants and refugees. I’m the only white person in the class, the only native English speaker, and the only American. Lets talk about being a minority… I really enjoy the classes. They meet 3 times a week for 2 hours. Each day, I feel like I’m getting a firmer grasp on the language – but also, each day, I feel like there’s even MORE to learn than the day before.

– I’ve started two new musical programs at the church. One is a basic music class, which covers a broad scope of topics. Attendance has been great! I’ve had anywhere from 12-15 people each class. We’re moving pretty slowly through music theory, but I’m also trying to develop their ears and give them a better basic understanding in music. I’ve also started a “Night of Worship” that happens on the last Friday of each month. The first one, in January, was scary. Of course, there was a public transportation strike in Rome that day, so only about 30 people came. But that was enough for me! I had comment cards ready for everyone to fill out, but only 1 was returned to me saying, “include drums.” It was fun to be able to lead a huge worship service from the piano, with back-up vocalists, bass, and a slide show.

– I’ve been singing like crazy all over Rome. Just this year, so far, I think I’ve already been in 10 concerts! Some of them have been actual concerts, the others have been church services. Who’d have thought I’d be a soloist for an Anglican service in the 2nd biggest church in Rome.

– I’ve been able to make a little money of my own… (I get paid a dismal amount here, so I don’t really have any spending money) I’ve been editing papers written in English by non-english speakers. The longest one has been 80 pages, double spaced. Its hard, boring work – especially when the topic is about the developments of Nigerian politics and elections. But, It pays really well. I can work for 3 hours and make 50 euro.

– Of course, I’ve been keeping myself busy with composing. Right now, I’m working on a few pieces.
– Invictus: a men’s TTBB arrangement of the poem
– Silence: the 3rd and final piece to a cycle called “Songs of Silence.” This particular song
   includes piano accompaniment and a soloist
– Morning: an a cappella SATB arrangement of a contemporary poem
– Hope is the Thing With Feathers : also an a cappella arrangement of a poem.

– Paul will be coming to visit at the end of March! He’ll be here for Easter, and possibly the election of the new pope. We hope to travel to Ireland, England, Venice, and Cinque Terre.

– Going skiing next week in the Dolomites. I’m pretty excited about it.

And here – the usual promise that I’ll try to keep updating. I really miss you all, and I can’t wait to be home. That being said, I’m trying to cherish the time I have left here all the more.

mind the gap.

I’ll start off with the usual apology for not blogging as I should have. This time, I really think that I’ve got a better reason other than laziness. This past month or so has been different. Different from the others, in a way that I can’t really describe. My thoughts about a lot of things have been cynical almost… towards the workings of the church, towards the poverty I’ve been seeing here… to name a few. So, I didn’t have anything uplifting to blog about – I kept some thoughts to myself, so I could really steep over some things and figure them out. I’ll give you just a brief version of whats been going on, and then tell all about my London trip!

Its been difficult to see Italian culture and livelihood through the eyes of a ‘regular inhabitant.’ I’ve seen beggars using the restroom in the middle of the street, ladies bent down over a sewer, men throwing up on the steps of churches. These aren’t rare occurrences. I see things like this weekly, as I walk past on my way to work. People come here for a “better life,” but it seems like the culture – devoid of any opportunities for growth, installment, and the pursuance of dreams just stifles and kicks ambition to the side. Sometimes, it feels hopeless. That the homeless will always be homeless. That the poor will always be poor. That the emigrants will always be shunned and disrespected. As a Christian, what am I to do and think? How do I go back to America – the place that has EVERYTHING they don’t – without feeling guilty? Yes, I’ve been severely blessed with a loving, wise, and frugal family – but why weren’t they? Its a tough city to live in.

On a positive note, I’ve submitted another piece to competition. The theme of the contest was “Myths and Legends.” I wrote a piece called “Phoenix,” and it portrays the mysticism and beauty of this fantasy-bird. I’m finishing up some things, and starting some others. Its always a gratifying adventure.

On December 9th, the church choir put on the Christmas program. It went really well – surprisingly well, even. We had a huge international potluck after (HEAVEN), and then a church-wide sing-a-long. I was impressed at the Choir’s output for the program!

On to the fun part. I just got back from a trip to London. I left Monday morning, and came back on Saturday. The absolute worst thing could have happened before I left. While I was packing the night before, and doing laundry, the electricity went out at my house. My clothes, including all my underwear I needed for the trip, was sopping wet. I couldn’t dry ANY of it to take to London. I left with 1 extra pair in my backpack, and a completely dead phone. That wouldn’t have been a problem, if I hadn’t been needing to meet J once I arrived in England.

Other than that little snag, the trip was pretty awesome. On Tuesday night, I heard the choir of Westminster Cathedral sing Benjamin Britten’s ‘Ceremony of Carols.’ It was unbelievable. 23 boys ages 8-13. I just don’t understand the discipline and attention span… On Wednesday, I saw Les Mis with J, and Thursday I saw Wicked by myself. Finally, I’m able to say that I’ve seen the show. On Friday, I went to Evensong at Westminster Abbey, so I could hear the choir. It was a great service… only, the man in front of me was humming along while the choir was singing. Not a huge problem, except for the fact that it was the SAME PITCH THE ENTIRE TIME. I was so close to smacking him in the head with my order of service. Try to ruin MY experience in the Abbey.

On Tuesday, J and I caught a train from King’s Cross to head to Cambridge. It was such a beautiful ride through England – there was a little snow on the ground, and there was a light fog. It cleared up for us during the morning, so we were able to get some pictures when we first got there. We ended up talking to a girl on the train, asking for suggestions of what to do while were in Cambridge. She told us that we needed to see the Colleges, of course, but there was an entrance fee. She assured us that if we just walked past the guards and acted like we belonged, we could get through. We took her advice. About 50 yards away from the entrance, we put my camera away, tucked in out shirts, and pulled out a few books to put under our arms. I told J that I was about to give him a detailed rendition of my senior thesis, conversationally, so we’d look and sound the academic part. As I talked animatedly about Brahms, we quickly walked past the guard and were free in the middle of King’s College to do as we please. It was especially victorious, because it was closed for visitors. Score 1.

On Wednesday, we ‘hit up’ the Museum of Natural History. It really was great – we were able to be kids again… I loved it. After the matinee of Les Mis, we happened to stroll into the premier of the Hobbit. The entire cast was there in Leicester Square, being interviewed on Jumbo-trons before the screening. Score number 2.

Thursday was the last day before J left – but he also had to work in the morning. I went back to the Natural History museum because I, for some reason, wanted to look at the rocks again. I ended up finding a whole ‘nother rock room, and literally spent an hour and a half in there. Who knew I liked rocks so much! Then, I went to the Science Museum by myself and acted like a kid there, too. Only, this time, I was alone. I casually showed all the crazy kids how the experiments worked, while I was really only wanting to do them for myself. It had a bunch of cool exhibits. London “rocks.”

Friday was to myself. I went to the main shopping area, found the H&M, the Apple store, the Abercrombie. All for sheer amusement, since I didn’t have much money. After that, I just decided to get lost. And boy, did I get lost. I ended up finding some really awesome Coffee bars though….

My hostel experience was not the best… When I arrived, I wasn’t given a comforter to sleep with – only a sheet. When I came back after seeing everyone in my room with one to ask, the clerk replied with “We have one comforter for every person.” I asked him why he didn’t think that I was a real live person. He came into my room and yanked a comforter off of someones bed and told me to “give them words if they had a problem.” After 3 nights, 2 Italians moved in. Whoopee. The came in at 2:30AM… turned the lights on, talked loud, took showers, unpacked. I came back the next night to all their wet clothes hanging to dry in the bathroom. Never have I smelled a smell so horrible in my whole life. Great thing was, I had to bathe in that room for 3 more nights! Then, the next night, I found my bedding taken off of my bed, the few things I had hidden under my sheets in the middle of the floor, and one of the Italian guys sleeping in my bed. Not really a big deal, but I didn’t know where my sheets were, and more importantly, my difficultly obtained comforter. So, I had to pick a new bed, hoping it didn’t already belong to someone. That night, we were greeted by a 3:00AM arrival of the Italians, and were also blessed by incessant phone alarms going off – of which the guys were drunkenly incapable of turning off.

Saturday morning ended the trip. Met some friends from Paris for coffee and breakfast before I headed back to Rome. Now that I’ve had more than a week to reflect on the trip, and organize some thoughts, I think I can provide a succinct impression of the city. I loved it, more than any European city I’ve been to. I think, being in Rome for 6 months (can you believe it! six months!!) really influenced the way that I took in London. Rome is dysfunctional, rude, dirty. London works like a dream, people are considerate and helpful, and clean. I feel like my eyes were wide open the entire time. I really can’t wait to visit again.

For those of you that don’t have access to Facebook, here is a link to my London photo album. It should take you straight there and let you look through some pictures.

Merry Christmas to all! Hoping that your time is filled with Mariah Carey’s Christmas Album and plenty of wonderful memories.

across the vast eternal sky

Sometimes I think I’m going to wake up. That this portion of my life, however real and influential, is all a dream. I can just hardly believe the opportunity that I’ve been given. People throughout our lives are continually investing us, and I can’t but remember that constantly.

This past weekend, I played my first wedding in Rome. Funnily enough, an Irish couple was getting married by an American pastor and having an American musician IN Rome. Unreal to think of the people I’ve been introduced to in my short 4 months here already. As opposed to a typical Southern Baptist wedding -what I’ve been used to for the past 4 years,  this wedding was calm, cool, reverent, and low-key. The bride was so thoughtful and considerate. She had me pick out prelude music, and added a few suggestions of her own. She also had me pick a few songs to sing – I sang “Captivate Us” by Watermark, and “Home” by Dave Barnes. It was such a great experience, to play for a wedding that required so little stress.
Afterwards, we were driven in a coach to the Hotel for a reception. We were taken to the terrace on the roof of the building, where a grand piano had been set up for me to play. The unbelievable thing was the view. We were able to see the whole of Rome. I’ve attached a video that I took, but it really doesn’t do it justice. I played for about an hour and a half, and watched the sun set of the Eternal City’s sky. I couldn’t thank them enough for the experience, but also the story to tell. Livin’ the dream, you guys.

Work has been mildly uneventful. Just trying to keep myself busy. I’ve been coming in every day 2 hours early to practice and compose. My initial desire to get back into a routine was not too strong, but I soon realized how valuable and necessary  my devotion is and needs to be. I’ve been working on a few pieces to build some technical strength in my left hand, and also some works to build independence in voicing chords. Composing has been a different story. It seems like I just can’t get enough. I find myself sneaking down to the sanctuary during my work day to finish a section that I’ve been trying to get through… I’m also constantly surprised at how quickly time flies when I’m writing. An hour honestly feels like 15 minutes most of the time. I’m working on 3 new pieces, in addition to continually refining the 4 that I finished before my trip home. I’ve decided that I’m going to devote the first 6 months here to a cappella works, and the following 6 months to choral works with accompaniment.
Getting excited about my trip to London in December, but starting to feel a little homesick for Christmas time. It’ll be an experience for sure, to be here and not there! I hear Rome is wonderful during the Holidays, anyway.

I’ve attached two videos… the other is a piece I’m really addicted to listening to. A young contemporary composer named Ola Gleilo… right now, he’s beating out Paul Mealor’s music on my iTunes library. You should listen to the choral piece while you watch the muted video above it. Ha.

You all are missed.

the dream life.

It has been quite a while since my last update… But believe me, there is reason for it.

As most of you know, I was in the USA for three weeks. Leading up to this journey was difficult, because I was keeping it a secret from my friends. I didn’t really want anyone to know apart from my direct family, so I took some pretty careful precautions. I changed some privacy settings on my Facebook, so the inadvertent Rome Baptist member wouldn’t accidentally write a “hope you have a great time in the US!” post on my wall. For about a week or two before I left for home, I was very conscious of what I was saying to friends on the Internet. I even tricked a few and led them to believe that I had concerts and commitments in Rome while I would actually be in the USA.

On return, I was scheduled to fly into Detroit, where the Italian consulate was. Coming from Rome, a city with such a strong focus in public transportation, I was over justifying my need to use the DETROIT public transport. You’d think that when airport workers answered my “where is the public bus depot” question with “why… where are you going? Good Luck…..” I may have considered getting into town another way. But no, I decided to brave Detroit’s bus system. During the transit, I was advised, after telling the “bros” that I was from Italy, on the tactics on conquering Detroit. “Don’t look at ’em in da eyes” “Don’t look confoosed” “don’ be scarred to cuss somBODY out.” These were the first conversations I had in Detroit. Needless to say, I eventually made it to my hotel right outside the city.

I made the mistake of arriving a day early, because I had planned to go to the consulate on a day that it wasn’t open. (Stupid non-refundable plane tickets!!!) I had a whole day to explore Detroit alone. Whoopee. I walked into town to find the Consulate, went to the post office, and got a Starbucks… or two. Since I knew I was going to have a day to do nothing, I emailed the conductor of the Vanguard Voices, the choir that is going to premier my composition. I only asked if he would like to grab a meal, but he, along with numerous choir members, took me out to dinner, showed me the hall where the piece will be performed, and gave me a tour of Detroit!

the premier hall!

The next day, they even took me to the airport! They treated me like a celebrity, it was so unreal. I was taken to three different houses to play really nice pianos…. of people that I had never met, I was required to autograph my mock-up of the piece. The disappointing thing is that I may not be able to make it to Detroit for the premier in June. It sounds like such an awesome experience. The composers hold masterclasses about our pieces, we sit in on rehearsals and provide commentary, we attend “composer only” dinners where we can talk about music. It lasts awhile, and I hope I can go.

Everything went smoothly at the consulate. I had such visions of grandeur for the place. A big, open office, where I would sit at a lavish desk while someone talked things over with me. Not true at all. The place was on the 18th floor of a skyscraper, and looked like a dentist’s office. I sat in a waiting room, and did all the paperwork from behind a glass partition. Luckily, I had everything I needed THIS time, and was able to apply without incident. Even though my hands were shaking. (So nervous to “bump into” Claudia)

I flew to Nashville and spent about a week at home before I headed to Union. It was such a fun thing to surprise everyone. Here’s a few of the ordeals I went through.

1. Went to Englewood to surprise Bradford. He came down the stairs of his office and fell backwards. Literally.
2. Casually walked into singers rehearsal… everyone gasped and yelled and couldn’t believe it was me.
3. Scheduled a skype date with Cassie… while I was in a closet nearby. She couldn’t find me online, so I walked out of the closet and surprised her with a real live skype date.
4. Surprised J at his apartment. Prefaced this one with a “don’t ask who this is where are you” text. He thought it was gonna be some crazy girl.
5. Knocked on Sutton’s door and had to deal with a speechless friend for at least half an hour.

It was such a great time. So good to be able to pick up where I left of in college for just a week. We played 2 games of soccer, we went to the movies, we played for each other in Hartley, we carved pumpkins, we just did things that we would have done during college.

Seeing everyone there made it difficult to adjust AGAIN to being back in Rome. My sleeping schedule was completely wack for a week… but per usual, I was thrown into a bajillion situations that I had to act quickly and calmly. The pastor and his wife left right after I got back for a week, a few things at church needed MY attention… also known as “music falling apart.” Its been good, though. Especially to know that I am legally, surely, going to be here for a year.

I’ve had 3 concerts with the New Chamber Singers, a group that I’m singing with. We sang at a Baroque festival, at the Anglican Church, and today we’re singing in the crypt of the Anglican Church. They’re not a university level choir, but its something to do and keep me singing, which I enjoy very much.

The Christmas program here at RBC is coming along. I’m not nervous yet, I’m pretty sure we’ll be ready.

I bought a ticket to go to London for 5 days in the middle of December. So excited to be there, more so because I’ll get to hear Britten’s Ceremony of Carols in Westminster.

I’m going to add a few photos, some completely unrelated to this post, but please enjoy. Until next week!

Friends, Food, & Future

I know. Listen, I know. I haven’t been too good on keeping up on the blog. I’m sorry.

What’s been going on? Well, the pastor has been gone for 2 weeks. I’m staying up in their apartment once again, attempting to keep my sanity while the month of August ticks by. Closer and closer comes the cooler weather.

Since my last post, a good deal has happened. I led Sunday school to the youth for the first time in my LIFE. It went really well. I talked about media, how it dominates and manipulates our culture. I think it was well received. Then, I was pretty much leading the entire service, minus the guest sermon! A few funny things happened. The woman that was supposed to lead the children’s sermon wasn’t there. So, I’m on stage, asking if “Jill Cooper” was around. She wasn’t. The kids started filing up for the lesson, and there was no one to lead! We sing “Jesus Loves the Little Children” to them AFTER the sermon is over… but since there wasn’t anyone to teach, I said, “Well, I guess we’ll just sing em back to their seats!!” …the pianist responded with, “really?” And I said “uhhhh, YES.” Then some woman shouted from the congregation and came to make up a childrens sermon. Then, after I prayed for the offering, I looked up to see that the ushers for the day weren’t standing in front of me. The ushers for the day were from my youth group. I scanned the congregation for them, and there they are, in the back row, clearly enthralled with an iTouch. Good thing Sunday School was about media, right? Not discouraging, just ironic.

After service, I finally had a meeting for all the musicians, so we could talk about worship. Why we worship, how we worship, and our expectations in worship. Then, I was able to gain some organization by getting their information, and what they’re interested in being involved in. Since that meeting, choir attendance has gone from 11 to 19. So great! We also went from 1 guy to 9 guys!

On the Monday night before my birthday, my American friends threw me a little party. Nothing too special. We had dinner and a cake. With candles. It was great. My actual BIRTHDAY birthday was pretty normal. I slept in, went to the movies, and then cooked for two friends. Thats about it! It was good. 22 feels the same.

I hit a milestone these past two weeks. I have not been the biggest fan of living in Rome. I wasn’t impressed with the Italians. They’re rude, inconsiderate, and lazy. And it gets really old, really fast to someone who has spent 10+ years in the American south. They don’t care if you buy their stuff, they just want to go home. In fact, if you come 10 minutes before close, they straight up WONT let you buy anything, because they counted their change 40 minutes ago. You buy something for 1.10? Give them 2? They KILL you with their eyes because they have to count out .90 cents change. Its just little things like that. The people, the transportation, the standards of living… are just disfunctional. And it gets on my nerves. BUT, recently, I was out walking to the store, and my disposition changed. I realized that I was really glad and thankful that I was here. I’d spent a lot of time being unimpressed, and then it just fell on me. I finally just accepted that this is how they act, this is their life, and mine doesn’t have to be anything like it. I just get the privilege of being with them for a year.

I think that the impending weather waning and my recent influx of friendships had a part to play in that.

Tomorrow night, I’m finally moving into permanent residence. An american family has offered me their entire bottom floor, equipped with a kitchen and bathroom, to live in for free. Not only is the space HUGE, but its also filled with leftover furniture from the man who USED to own the place. None of it is IKEA or anything, its all wooden and old… but who cares! I have all this stuff for free! And I get to save the church 500+ euros a month! The ONLY downside, is that it sits on the outskirts of Rome. Not outside the city, but just far enough away for it to be a little annoying. Commute will take 45mins to an hour. But its ok, its all metro – and I’ll get to study Italian. I’m sitting here looking at my still not unpacked suitcase and feeling pretty excited that it won’t be that way anymore.

I’m missing Union, of course. Seeing statuses and updates makes me remember and be humbled by the experience that I was given at that place. So jealous of everyone there – but thats to be expected. Time to move on, “ya’ll.”

Here’s just a few pictures of a dinner party last night. It was kindof a meshing of friends. The journeymen, the American friends that I’ve made, invited all their Christian friends AND nonchristian friends to the party. With no intention other than to hang out. It was a little strange, because I didn’t know at least half the people… but the food was amazing and the company even better. Also, we made cinnamon rolls from scratch, and I died.

As to the “future” section of the title, I’m just thinking out loud. I’m thinking about what I’m going to do once my year is up here. I definitely still want to go to school. And I still want to go in the states. But I’m at the same point I was at when I was finishing up high school. Then, it was clarinet or piano. Now, its piano or choral conducting. Right now, I’m really feeling pulled and drawn to pursue conducting. For a number of reasons. Let me explain a little bit. Piano studies for advanced degrees are one of three options. Piano Performance, for gods, piano pedagogy, for teachers, and collaborative piano, for accompanists. None of those are really resonating with me. I don’t want to devote my life to practicing. The time needed to put away for performance is so great. I already know how to teach, who needs to learn how to be a teacher? 😉 And, collaborative piano?…. I already have dealt with enough solo divas to last a lifetime. Keep in mind, I’m completely aware of the fact that in any of those fields I could still learn and grow exponentially. Piano, is, and always will be, my foundation, passion, and escape. I love to play, and I’ll always BE playing and practicing. I’m content with the schooling I’ve had.

Now, on the other hand, I’ve only recently been exposed to conducting. I’ve done some study, and had some practice, but I’m nowhere near where I could be. I’m just completely infatuated with the choral sound. I could listen to choirs sing and rehearse all day long. I get the biggest goosebumps from choral music. I WANT to listen to choral music all the time. I want to be around the atmosphere that choral music invokes, in rehearsal and in performance. I feel like all these things are shouting out at me – GO DO IT. In rehearsal, I’d constantly be playing piano. Parts, accompaniments… and especially if I keep writing, then I’ll always be doing it.

Like I said, thinking out loud. If you have any feedback, please don’t hesitate to send it my way. As always, I’m excited to see where this life leads me. Pray that I follow the Lord’s will continually.