Monday, June 15, 2015


In cajun country, "lagniappe" is a little something extra.  You followed us all week long.  You saw the pictures.  You knew we were doing good work.  But now you don't have to take my word for it.

Dear Mr. Cowden,
On behalf of the residents of Brighton Gardens Friendship Heights and myself, we'd like to thank you and the youth choir for a spectacular evening of beautiful music.  Our residents are still talking about your choir today.  They have expressed such appreciation and joy over the beautiful music your choir sang and the wonderful visits from the choir when finished.  We hope if you are ever up north again you will come back to see us.  Decatur United Methodist Church is always welcome!  Thanks so much again for your kindness and joyous music.
Activity and Volunteer Coordinator

Dear Mr. Cowden,
On behalf of the patients, families, and staff here at Levine Children's Hospital, I want to thank you and the members of the choir for coming to share your beautiful music.  To hear the lovely voices amongst the hustle and bustle of everyday hospital life was peaceful and uplifting.  We appreciate the long, hard practice hours you put into the success of the choir, but your efforts showed in your presentation.  Thank each of you for sharing with us, and we wish you and your loved ones a fun, safe summer.
Events Assistant

When I planned the program, I had imagined it was about God's worthiness of our praise.  As I gain some perspective on the week, I realize that is only a part of the truth.  God is worthy of our praise.  People are worthy of our time and attention.  We are worthy of answering God's call to service.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Friday Epic Post

We returned yesterday around 8:30pm.  I went home with good intentions of finishing up the final blog before I went to bed.  I went ahead and did the preliminary one.  Then while I was preparing to post the notice on Facebook, this happened:

That's right.  I woke up sitting at my laptop with the first part of the message and a whole bunch of equals signs.  Inspired by Hudson's persistence in the face of adversity the day before, I went ahead and finished up the entry and then went to bed.

Had a few things to do today, so despite actually being in town all day, I find myself writing on the blog around midnight.  At least that should lend it an air of familiarity since that's when I write a lot of them it seems.

We begin with breakfast and the minor miracle that is Xander choosing fruit over any of the sweet items that are available.  I really thought the world was coming to an end!  Have no fear, though.  Adrian took one for the team and made a waffle.  I wasn't sure what the green stuff on it is.  She said it was just something they had over there.  Maybe it's ooze.

After breakfast we made the short drive to the concert venue.  We had time for a proper warmup...and then we sat to wait for the concert time to arrive.  Well, most of us sat.  You can see here that it's been something of a long week, and choir members continue to fall ill.

Things go from bad to worse, and the singers started making all kinds of strange expressions.  Just get us to the end of tour.  Just get us to the end of tour.  Just get us to the end of tour.

Even this.  It looks like an innocent picture of three altos.  But Jerry.  What is that all about?  Well at least he's smiling.  Jerry has an impressive smile.

Family joining us once again.  Katie wins the award for most family at concerts.  It was nice to see Eric too!

And my grandparents came to this concert as well.  I'm a little nervous that she was telling stories the youth found funny.  No telling what she was saying.  Probably something about how cute I was when I was five.

My grandmother's estimation of the concert was that it was better than the night before, and I agree with her.  It was probably the best of the week.  And of course we visited after the concert.

Clearly the got the message that music ministry concerts require special preparation!

Before the last concert, I make it a point to tell the youth this truth: this is the last time this choir will ever sing.  The next time the youth choir sings, some will be gone while others will have joined.  It is a last chance for us to make music together, and it will never be the same again.  They took this message to heart and delivered the best concert of the tour.

For one reason or another the concert wasn't well attended.  Courtney counted 21.  When the youth got downstairs, this nice lady found them and said she was sorry to have missed it; she was looking forward to hearing it.  So the youth took it upon themselves to sing a concert for her (I was in the facility talking to management at the time).  This is great.  It tells me the kids really get what we're doing and why we're doing it.  She was very impressed with their sound and also their compassion.  I am too.  I had thought an audience of 21 might be too small for them, but they were just as happy to sing to an audience of 1.

When we stopped for lunch, they gave Mitch this bottle of Coke.  It had his name all over it.  While I'm on the subject, please notify the North that "Coke" does not mean "Pepsi," and I am offended by that substitution.  Coke is Coke.  Pepsi is wrong.  That is all.

We made our usual rest stop for writing, this year including postcards for people I hope will sing with us next year.

When we arrived at the church, Theresa and Adrian presented Wesley with his tour tshirt and tip.  I've said it before and I'll say it again: the bus driver can make or break the tour.  This is now the 4th tour in a row that we've had Wesley, and I am thankful to have him.  Love working with him.  Looking forward to the next one!

And that's all she wrote.  We unloaded the bus, and the youth left.

Before I close the books on this tour, a shout out to Tait and Katherine.  These were our two rookie chaperones, and they did an excellent job!  Returning chaperones Michele, Beth, Amanda, Brittany, Cindy, Paul, and Curt did as well.  And of course Mitch played well all week!

As is usually the case, I experienced an interesting array of emotions when the tour is over.  There is intense relief when I am no longer responsible for 50 souls.  And there is a sense of melancholy as well, a sadness that this good thing has come to an end.  I am, of course, already thinking about the next one.

Fare well, youth choir of 2014-2015.  Together you achieved great things.  I will miss you.

People Served Today: 22
Cumulative Total: 309 + unknown millions

Friday, June 12, 2015

Friday Preliminary Post

A concert this morning and a long trip home.  We're here.  All present and accounted for.  Not a moment too soon either--we were dropping like flies!  It seems we were passing a viral throat infection around the bus.  That's a bummer.

Tomorrow I will post the final post for this mission.

Fewer quotes today:

1. Stop eating when your mouth starts itching.
2. Why isn't the room where I left it?
3. You can kill me but you can't buy fireworks.
4. It doesn't fill you up; it fills you out.

Check back tomorrow!

Thursday Epic Post

I shall tell you a tale of honor and valor.  I shall tell you a tale of true sacrifice and unconditional love.  I shall tell you the tale of the mission impossible and the brave souls that proved it possible after all.  This is the tale of the Impossible Mission Force.  The target: tickets to ascend the Washington Monument.

At 0130 hours, the team landed at Fairfax Command and bedded down for the night.  They awakened again between 0430 and 0500 for an 0530 departure from the hotel (therein lies the better part of the valor).  Split into 3 squads, they boarded small-scale assault vehicles (cabs) and made for the primary rail line.  There the team reunited and boarded rail-borne logistics.  They exited rail logistics in 3x3x3 cover formation with Agent Anberg on point and Agent Cowden covering the rear.  After traversing the national mall, they arrived at the ticket office at 0630, establishing their place in line.

After some adjustment, the team settled in to wait for the objective to come into range (meaning the office doesn't open until 0830).  Agent Warren proceeded as most self-respecting field agents would: she adjusted her mascara.  Agent Hudspeth gave instructions for securing the perimeter.

Man down!  Man down!  Man down!  Agent Biccum 1 falls with mystery symptoms.  He is attended by Agent Biccum 2 in possibly the cutest picture ever posted on the Music Mission blog.

By 0830, the line stretches...a long way.  It is so long that those at the end may not receive tickets.  But the Impossible Mission Force perseveres.

Impossible Mission Accomplished!  Tickets secured.  IMForce proceeds to dustoff zone for extraction a short time later.

"Fairfax command, fairfax command, this is IMForce requesting immediate extraction."
"Copy that IMForce.  Proceed immediately to Old Ebbitt's Grill for breakfast."
"Confirmed, command."
The team evacuated to Old Ebbitts as instructed.  They did not leave their fallen behind.  If you look carefully, you can see him sleeping on the bench at the back of this picture.

The fruit of their labor is a remarkable view of the Washington area from 550 feet.

The end.

Unfortunately, it's absolutely true that Hudson was sick.  He was the last holdout in his room: all 3 of his roommates have been sick.  Now others have fallen as well.  Some have sore throats, some sore bellies.  One toe gashed at the Iwo Jima Memorial.  Two prone to nosebleeds.  Note to self: next year recruit a flight surgeon for the trip.  Here are some of the folks who have been in sick bay this week.

Some were able to sing the concert.  Some did not attempt it. Others began the concert but stepped out during.  That condition will persist for the rest of tour. Unfortunately, due to some unexpected traffic shenanigans, we were late to the concert, but most of the crowd stayed around anyway, and it was our best concert so far.


Always love it when family shows up!  Katie, Madeleine, and I all had family there for the oncert.

 After the concert we headed to the Pit for dinner.  If you're ever in Raleigh, I highly recommended it.  Good food, and perfect for our event.  We designated one table the infirmary for those who had been ill.  Dinner was great!


Looks like these guys are enjoying themselves...

And of course it was senior night.  So many seniors this year.  I'll miss you all!  Note in the photo Andrew has taken up his usual picture in front and invited Daniel to join him.  Then the obligatory crazy photo...

Senior night is always bitter sweet. It's a joy and a privilege to know them and be a part of their lives.  They are my friends, and I will miss them next year.  I'll miss their voices, their laughs, and their smiles.  But endings are only beginnings in disguise, and each is beginning a new adventure.  Good luck, guys.  Knock 'em dead.  Make your lives extraordinary.

People Served Today: 57
Cumulative Total: 287 + unknown millions