A Second Wedding: Eastern Orthodox Style

My second wedding photography experience was with one of my SAI sisters and roommates from our senior year. Kristi is a small but cute and very kind, loving person and I was very honored when she asked me to be the photographer for their wedding as well. With our busy schedules I didn’t get to see Brandon too often because I was off at the music and art buildings or they were studying in the library but from the times I got to see them together I could tell that they were in love.

Although I had a little experience photographing a wedding, this one was different. Brandon and Kristi are part of the Eastern Orthodox Christian Church and their wedding ceremony is quite a bit different than your standard wedding ceremony. There’s an altar in the middle of the room and everyone stood around the bride and groom. There was lots of chanting, repeating sayings three times (to symbolize The Trinity), circles, crowns, and more. I had been to one other Orthodox wedding as a guest so I remembered most of the procedure, but due to the setup of the ceremony this wedding was more of a challenge to photograph with the movement of the priests and the couple. (Oh, and this time I was photographing on my own!)

Things went well though and the priest was very nice to me about letting me take pictures throughout the whole ceremony (as some churches don’t allow that). The church was UN-air-conditioned though so it was a VERY warm service but everyone made it through without any major problems. One of the things I loved about taking pictures in this church was the amount of iconic imagery. There were bright colored images all over the place (as you’ll see in a couple photos) which gave a lot of color and extra personality to church and the photos taken there. The reception was great too with live folk music and a very joyful, cheery atmosphere. (The kids dancing to the music was also pretty heart-warming and fun.)

Thanks Brandon and Kristi for letting me take part in your special day with you. I wish you two a very blessed marriage and the best in your life in Nebraska!


String Festival

In my musical career, I’ve never aspired to be a professional musician.  I’m not competitive enough and I get too nervous for audition and performance situations.  Within music however, I’ve always loved playing and teaching violin lessons.  The students who are passionate about learning make it an easy job.  I’m very excited to share my knowledge of violin and music with them (in fact most of our lessons go at least 5-10 minutes longer than they’re supposed to.)

This week I have a ‘test run’ at being a full-time music teacher.  As a part of the Hillsdale County Community School of the Arts (HCCSA)’s String Festival I get the opportunity to teach local students about music.  The range of students varies from beginners (only a few weeks into learning violin) to high school students who’ve been playing for many years.  There’s a morning group consisting of two orchestras, mostly middle school and high school kids.  Then the afternoon session is for the beginners and those who have some experience but not enough to be in an orchestra.  As a violin (and viola) teacher I’m used to teaching individual lessons and working as an assistant in group lessons.  Many people have told me that I should be a string orchestra teacher and I’ve always protested and thought that it wasn’t really for me.  I thought it would be a lot of work (and it is) but I didn’t really believe that I could handle a group setting because I’m typically not that confident in front of groups and felt like I do a lot better on an individual basis.   (More than that I think I was worried about demanding parents who might come complain and didn’t want to think about trying to deal with that.)

My leadership style is that I’m best at being “second in command” or the “right-hand man” or more of an assistant.  I like to stay in the background unless I’m needed to run an errand or assist with something small.  But for the string festival I’m much more than just the assistant. I’m an assistant for the orchestra rehearsals, but I’m a sectional leader, a small group lessons teacher, and a private lessons teacher.  For the second half of the day, I am a group teacher (and teaching independently).  I knew I’d have to be confident in what I was doing for both groups (even though I might not have felt like it) and you what?  It wasn’t so bad.  There’s no exact science when you’re working with people who have different strengths and weaknesses, so it’s all about being flexible and discovering a way to help them become a better musician.  The older group I knew wouldn’t be too much trouble because I have a lot of orchestral experience to pull from and it’s basically just practicing the notes over and over again and isolating trouble spots.  For the younger students though I knew I would have to be a leader and take charge.  I was nervous about knowing what to do and how to get from one task to the next with them, but it’s really not all that bad.  Sure, there’s a little downtime and sometimes I have to check my notes but it’s ok.  I didn’t think I had enough experience to teach on my own, but things seem to be going very well.  I’m even starting to come up with my own lesson plans (with some basic guidelines.)

This is more than a experience in gaining self-confidence though.  It’s building up relationships with the students, and building their self-confidence.  They won’t be confident if their teachers aren’t displaying confidence, and they won’t be passionate if their teachers aren’t passionate either.  I love teaching private lessons for the relationships I can build with my students (and what a sad day it will be if I leave Hillsdale and have to give up all my students.)  And group lessons are similar too.  I love seeing the smiling faces and their anxiousness to learn encourages me and makes me anxious to teach them everything I know.

It’s amazing how much they’ve all grown in just four days.  We didn’t really know what to expect and how quickly everyone would be able to pick up the songs.  The first day was a little bit rough but each day gets significantly better.  I’m very excited to see what everyone can accomplish next week and even more excited their concert and their own realization then of how much they accomplished.

I love teaching violin (and viola) and have considered making it a full-time job if I could find enough students.  But now I think I could also potentially work as an orchestra teacher or a group lessons teacher if I found the right job.  It’s certainly the most rewarding job and even though it can be hard work I know the work would be worth it.  It’s also exhausting fitting it in amongst my other jobs but I love every minute I’m there.  I probably don’t really know how much of an impact I have on some of my students or the students here at the festival.  I’m so blessed to have this opportunity to teach these guys and share my talents with them as they develop their own.  I don’t know what the rest of my life will hold for me but one thing I know for sure is that in one way or another I’ll be teaching music for the rest of my life.  (Music=Life)