Thursday, October 30, 2008

Music Comes to Life!

I've been thinking this week about my experience with music. In many ways, my relationship to music has been much like my relationship with the church. But I will get to that later. Do you remember when you first learned about music? Do you remember when you developed a love for music?

I remember very early on in elementary school we had a teacher named Mrs. Cotton. She had to have been like 90 years old. Ok, well, maybe not 90 but she DID teach my mom when she was in school which seemed to make her ancient. To be honest, I can't remember exactly what she looked like but I remember her having big hair and pointy glasses. She would have us sit in rows in music class and take out our music education books (DREADFUL). She would tap out a rhythm and we would lifelessly tap in echo. We sang songs that were boring and, even in second grade, seemed completely dumb. Mrs. Cotton was the first person to introduce me to some of the theory behind music.

Then, on a warm day in August when I was in the third grade, Mrs. Jones came to replace Mrs. Cotton. Mrs. Jones was young. She had a Dorothy Hamill haircut. She was totally rad. Mrs. Jones taught the curriculum she was given...but would typically venture off the page toward the end of each class. Mrs. Jones knew chords to almost every popular song. You could hear third graders rockin' out to the songs from "Grease", "The Muppet Movie" and other quality films. She had us learning rhythms by doing things outside the square dancing. She planned special programs with songs from the 50's and 60's. She directed an entire night of Disney music in one of our school shows. Mrs. Jones rocked my face off.

Because of Mrs. Jones, I fell in love with music. I loved how it felt to sing at the top of my lungs and express. I even loved some of the boring stuff..because it was never boring with her. That next fall I auditioned for my first big show..."The Music Man" at ACU. They were needing kids and my mom took me. That was, ahem... a long time ago. I'll never forget that experience. I was bitten.

Over the years I have had both kinds of music teachers. I've learned good things from all of them. They built on that early foundation...for when one learns to love music, it is half the battle. I learned sight reading from Jack Boyd (as did many others in the small church I grew up in). He wasn't afraid to lead brand new songs frequently...encouraging us to read the music and sing along. I learned more theory from Debby Milstead, Steven Nelms and Louis Thornton. Then, hearkening back to my secret love for Mrs. Jones, a brilliant woman entered my life when I was a young adult. Jeannette Lipford was a voice professor at ACU. She was hip. She was smart. She knew her stuff.

To measure the influence Jeannette has had in the lives of her students is virtually impossible. Her students never forget her. Even Amy Grant chartered a plane and flew to Abilene with Vince Gill to honor her. Jeannette is part teacher, part counselor, and part spiritual director. She has been the vocal director for the last 30+ years of astounding musical productions at ACU. This year's show, "All Shook Up", marked her final Homecoming musical as vocal director. I am pretty sure there was a groan heard 'round the world. She and her husband, Harold, have had (and STILL have) a significant impact on my life. Harold even spoke at my father's funeral. She again instilled a deep love for music and reinforced in me the notion that God had given me that tool to communicate with Him. Powerful!

There've been others. There have been artists like The Eagles, James Taylor, Amy Grant, Restless Heart, and Chicago who fueled my passions and taught me nuances along the way. There are friends like Jeff Nelson who helped me go deeper in a connection with what I was singing and what I was feeling. There have been other people who have been an encouragement. Maybe most recently, my wife. Sheryl has the unique gift of interpreting a song. I've never heard anyone better. Each of them has a spot in my heart's musical hall of fame. It's cool to think back on my scrapbook of musical memories.

I'm curious...who are some of your musical heroes? Which teachers or friends or bands taught you love for music?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Interview With "The Marketing Twins"

Tomorrow I am a part of something very cool. I will be interviewed live as a a series called FAITH & BUSINESS: Inspiring Christian Business Leaders in the Marketplace.

Donny and Randy Vaughn, marketing coaches at 1429 Creative and operating as The Marketing Twins, are the hosts of conference calls called "DOUBLE TAKE LIVE BROADCAST." The Marketing Twins ( are scheduling one or two FREE conference calls each month with special guests who will talk about the role that faith plays in their lives. It will be an inspiring time for people who dwell in the marketplace to find strength to persevere and be a bright light of faith. Participants can dial in from their home, their office, or even on the road.

The interview is Wednesday (tomorrow), October 29, 2008 at NOON (CST).
Participation in each DOUBLE TAKE LIVE BROADCAST is absolutely FREE. Participants must register for the FREE call in order to obtain the toll-free dial-in # and passcode.

To register go to . The more the merrier! I have to admit, I am a little nervous. It's one thing to talking with people being able to see's something different all together to be interviewed knowing there are all these invisible people out there! :) It'll be fun. Come join us!


Saturday, October 25, 2008

Best Entertainment!

JADE- rehearsals of "And The World Goes 'Round"

NCL Spirit

NCL Spirit

NCL Spirit



NCL Majesty cast

NCL Spirit

This week, Cruise Critic named Norwegian Cruise Lines the "Best in Entertainment"! We are very excited about this! Here's to all of our performers out there on the Spirit, Majesty, Gem and Jade for bringing down the house! We are so proud of all of you!!! Wooo-hooooo!!!!

Last night, Maddie was invited to Sydney Williamson's birthday party...the opening night of "High School Musical 3" and dinner afterwards at a very popular pizza place, "Pie in the Sky". There was no way around not taking Ella to see it too...and Sam...and Nonnie. It was a MAD HOUSE! It was like Elvis was reappearing or something. Every seat in the large theater was packed. When the movie began, the entire place broke out into applause and screams. Wow. I actually loved the movie! I liked it a lot more than #2. The only disappointing number to me was the finale. It felt like the producers had sat around the table and said, "We need a song in this movie that actually says, 'High School Musical'". I thought it was a let-down after mostly great and fun songs throughout the movie.

Afterwards, we fought the millions of people waiting for the next showing and tried to make it outside. We went to "Pie in the Sky"...a place already packed out on Fridays...with 20 seven year olds. Sarah had everything perfectly planned...even giving every girl brown shirts with different colored monograms sewn on the front. This made it easier to keep up with everyone. But, I am telling you...they don't make nerve pills strong enough for that kind of gathering! :) HA! It was really a lot of fun.

We're all missing Sheryl, but doing really well here. Today we might venture out to the Pumpkin Festival in Franklin...has anyone been to it? Have a great weekend, blog family!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Gentlemen, Start Your Engines!

I put my game face on today. Sheryl left for Michigan this afternoon for Kiki's baby shower up there with all the fam. Thankfully, my mom agreed to be on duty this afternoon until I could leave work. On the way home I began to hear music...kinda like "Stranger Than Fiction" was the "Flight of the Bumblebee".

I zoomed into the driveway in time to run in and change Sam's pants, load everyone up in the car and head to Maddie and Ella's school for parent-teacher conference with Ella's teacher. We waited out in the hall amidst my quiet lectures to Sam..."Be a gentleman, Sam. Sit down, Sam. Quit jumping off that table, Sam. Sam, don't hit your sister!! Quit knocking at the door, Sam..there's a meeting going on! Do you need to go to the bathroom, Sam? No? OK...then quit holding yourself!!!!"

(breathe....) Now, onto my meeting with the lovely and patient Mrs. Locke. Mrs. Locke is very thorough and requested that the kids stay outside the door. (I am quietly protesting looking over my shoulder..."Sammm...") Mrs. Locke is the picture of patience. She calmly went through each part of the progress report (all positive) and then commented on how at recess Ella likes to direct and choreograph the rest of the class outside in her own show. Oh dear.

We finished just as something crashed outside. No one hurt...nothing to see here. I gathered my beautiful monkeys up and headed for the car. As we were getting in I realized I had forgotten something important at work. It was already late. This means dinner in the car...from a bag... and 20 min there and back. (sigh)

After zooming there and back we had just enough time to run inside and take baths. Everyone bathed, got dressed, dried hair, pottied, brushed teeth, picked out uniform clothing for tomorrow, found Maddie's reader's theater script, scratched backs, told one short story and DONE.

Now...everyone is quietly snoozing. They look like cherubs. Sheryl is almost to Michigan. I got to watch the SNL prime time special and all is right in the world.

Tomorrow will be a juggling act, but I am good to go. Dads...let's raise our glasses. HERE'S TO YOU, MOTHERS OF THE WORLD...YOU ABSOLUTELY ROCK!

Now...3 more days....

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


Thank you, blog family, for praying for my ear weirdness. It was honestly terrifying to me. I have never EVER lost all hearing in either ear. It was such a scary few days. I thought a lot about some of my non-hearing friends like Mark. He is so full of joy. I just couldn't imagine how it would potentially change everything in my career.

Thankfully, today at the Vanderbilt ENT center, I got a glowing report on my ears and hearing. The trick, it turns out, was getting that steroid shot. The ENT told me that had my doctor not administered the steroid I could have had permanent damage. I am SO RELIEVED!

Anyway--thank you all for remembering me.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Baby Gracie's Shower

Today we celebrated at our house with Kiki and Kevin (our family) as they anxiously await Baby Gracie's arrival. It was a great day of laughs and love. Kim and Kevin got some great gifts and were surrounded by friends. One thing is sure...Gracie will be one loved little girl!

L-R Amy Westerman, Sheryl Thomas, Kim Penna, Laura Troup, Christy McInturff,
Becca Daniel

Friends gather in our living room to tell stories and speak words of blessing over the Pennas

Laura and Christy both spoke blessings over Baby Gracie

Meanwhile, Ella was ready to DIVE IN!

Kiki and Sam

Kevin a brother!

I love this picture of Sheryl!

These wonderful women gathered around Kim and Kevin to pray over them.

Kiki and Amy ("Rita") We love you, baby Gracie! Even though we have only seen you on an ultra sound, we already feel like you're ours! You will be loved by us for your entire life and we can't wait to wrap our arms around you! May God protect you until we see your sweet face.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Levity, Sunday walking up the 90 degree angled driveway to Gary's house my left ear clogged. We laughed about it being so high that our ears were clogging and we were getting nose bleeds. :) Well, it wouldn't un-clog. In fact, it continued to worsen until yesterday when I woke up without hearing in that ear. I was completely FREAKED OUT. I think most hearing people have had experiences on airplanes or when they're sick when their ears got clogged. I certainly have. But I have never--EVER-- lost complete hearing. I was a discombobulated mess yesterday. Crowd noise sounded like a high pitched feedback in my head. HORRIBLE! And, of course, I had a big business luncheon yesterday. I probably looked as uneasy as John McCain trying to listen to everyone. (sorry.)

Yesterday afternoon I went to the doctor. He couldn't figure it out either...shot me with steroids and gave me some medicine and said, basically, GOOD LUCK. I decided I would give it a try and see how I was today.

I woke up this morning with a tiny bit of improvement. It wasn't the giant step I was hoping for, but it was something. Please pray for me. As you can imagine, my anxiety level has been going off the charts. I need my hearing for what I do. No way around that. I am hoping this trend of improvement continues. If it's not markedly better by tonight, I will see an ENT. But, my blog family, I am asking...please pray for healing for my ear!

With all of this going on, the economy going crazy, getting some hard news from people close to us, and the Presidential warfare...I need some levity today. Please humor me. Here are some great new funny record covers I saw a couple of weeks ago on Matthew Paul Turner's blog and I about choked laughing. (I've added my own commentary)

In case you can't read that subtitle up there... "A Complete Exercise Program Featuring Today's Finest Christian Music"...FIRM Believer. Gotta love it.

I've posted this one before...only because it is so unbelievable. I am curious as to what song they might be singing on the cover... "Troublesome times are here..."?

Who knew Samantha Stevens was not only a witch, but also a ventriloquist/Christian singer?? Amen!

"The Master's Four" you think knowing one of them might be out keeps them on their toes? (the tall guy on the back row is Joe the Plumber)

I have no doubt that her abilities are truly miraculous...but she needs to fire her Executive Producer for this album cover.

This album cover has SO MANY terrifying things about it...where to begin? Mr. Bat? Really? I mean clowns are frightening enough but what clown names himself "Mr. Bat"...and then makes a record????? And this pose...what is he DOING? To me it looks like an evil singing clown coming to stab me. No thank you, Mr Bat.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


Here are some pictures from the International Entertainment Buyers Association showcase this week. We did scenic for them--stage and entry way. IEBA gathers artists, agents, and buyers from all over. The buyers are usually people who book large concert halls, conventions, State Fairs and theaters. They get a little taste of what each artist brings. There were artists ranging from Kenny Loggins to Crystal Gayle to Diamond Rio to Joe Piscopo.

I got to see and spend a little time with my old buddy, Jeff Gregg too, which was fun. Jeff was a groomsman in our wedding and is an agent at the Creative Artists Agency. He agents Keith Urban, Third Day, and others.

Here are some pictures of the stage and set.

This was the entry way into the ballroom...IEBA's slogan is highlighted on the marquis.

The stage area

The opening night there was an artist..and I can't remember his name...who won The Biggest Loser with his mom. (maybe last year?) He is a country writer and an aspiring artist. He did a great job.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Sam Thomas

17 years ago today I said goodbye to my dad. Sam Thomas was a crazy, unconventional, ray of light and life to the world and to my mom and me. Known for his unconventional education methods and people skills, he was a popular figure in the school system in Abilene. After his death in 1991 an elementary school was built and named after him. Their mascot is a "Texan". So, we have all kinds of t-shirts and bumper stickers supporting the Sam Thomas Texans.

Though many people knew my father that way, I knew him as a caring father...who would take time to play hide-and-go-seek with me. He would ride go-carts with me, take me for rides on the tractor, saddle up our horse for me, go swimming with me, and let me drive his truck waaaaaay before I should have been driving. :) My dad never missed an event I was a part of. He and my mom were huge supporters and encouragers. My dad was, and still is, one of my all time favorite people.

For a long time I wondered if the raw-ness of losing him would ever fade. For those who have ever dealt with loss, you know what I mean. Everyone and everything else moves on...but you are left with a gaping hole that cannot be filled. Eventually, through God's grace, I discovered that the memories became sweeter and less painful. I discovered that I could always miss my dad and yet not suffer that raw feeling of immediate grief. Eventually, I got married and had kids. Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Father's Day became fun again. And...stories live on. My kids call my dad "Poppie" and know full well all the crazy antics he participated in. He is a legend to them and they often ask about meeting him in Heaven.

Eventually, we had a son and named HIM Sam Thomas. And, seemingly like a sweet gift of grace from God, he has that crazy, funny spirit of my dad. He is definitely Sam Thomas's namesake in many ways! When I see that sparkle in his eye when he begins to make up tall tales, I see that sparkle that made my dad so much fun.

Dad, we love you. We miss you. Thank you for a life well-lived. Thank you for being such a great dad. There are so many, MANY days when I just wish I could call you or sit with you over lunch and laugh or talk heart to heart. It's not the same without you. But...I know, as you reminded me before you died, that God is good and faithful. You've helped me trust Him as my Father. Thank you. You are so loved.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Musick/ Brown Wedding

This weekend we celebrated the wedding of Mary Catherine Musick and Ben Brown. Mary Catherine is the daughter of our good friends Gary and Ellen. We love Mary Catherine and Ben!

Sheryl agreed to do the flowers for the wedding and did an A-MAZING job! Everything about this wedding was spectacular from start to finish! Gary and Ellen outdid themselves. It was well worth our house becoming a floral war zone last week...

Maddie pitched in to help clean a little!

Sheryl recruited Cory Davis to help. He did an awesome job!

The wedding ceremony was at Woodmont Christian Church--a very beautiful building. There were many cool moments in the Liza Musick singing and David Huntsinger's song written for Mary Catherine. The highlight to me was the processional. A pipe and drum corp (bagpipes and drums) marched in wearing kilts. As they processed down the aisle, one lone bagpipe played. Once they reached the front of the church, the pipe organ joined them and the rest of the bagpipes began playing. Once the back doors opened for Mary Catherine to walk in, the drums joined. It was one of the all-time most dramatic and amazing wedding processionals I have experienced!

The reception was at The Musicians Hall of Fame. It's such a cool venue anyway--but with added lighting and decor, it was incredible. The arrangement above was one of the best masterpieces of the evening! Cory created a real work of art.

These centerpieces were on the tables inside a carved out white pumpkin.

Mary Catherine

The doors to the museum opened and the guests were invited to tour the museum and ended up in the main reception hall. It was really beautiful!

These centerpieces were filled with small pumpkins, apples, and other fall things.

Outside on the back courtyard there was more seating and decor. The pic above is of a pumpkin topiary. Too cool!

Another of Sheryl's great ideas...pumpkins with Christmas lights inside. Thankfully, Gary and Liza agreed to carve these. I am eternally grateful!!!!! :)

more centerpieces

The wedding cake with Sheryl's topper. It was beautiful...and delicious!!

Our friend, Margo, who we have had make some of our kids' birthday cakes, did an awesome job on Ben's groom's cake! Perfect cake for rocker Ben!

Gary worked his magic on the reception hall...draped fabric and back lighting made it a very dramatic and beautiful space. Gary worked so hard on this wedding. He wanted it to be perfect for Mary Catherine...and it was!

MC and Ben cutting the groom's cake. Ben's band mates were there to celebrate with him. Their band is called American Bang and they are signed with Warner Bros. Records. They are very talented! Check out their website

They also can be seen on the ABC Family series "Greek". They are the band on the show who play for the fraternity functions. All the guys in the band are so nice!

The American Bang guys had the night off though. Mary Catherine's favorite singer is Gabe Dixon. Check him out at

He and his band played all night and he sang "Tiny Dancer" for Ben and MC's first dance. It was awesome!

Sheryl and me with Jeff and Denise.

Jeff and Denise are getting married next Spring. I am, performing their ceremony. Denise has been a performer for our company for a long time. Sheryl, Denise and I did a gig last winter where we performed songs from was so fun! Since then we've become great friends with them. Denise works in the office now and we cut up all the time. Jeff is a comedian and he travels doing ships and other dates. He's a great guy!


Some of the Gary Musick staff!

(L-R) Garris Wimmer, Jennifer Pippen, Denise Hoey, me, Mindy McLemore

Sheryl, Denise, Mindy, Gary Musick, Garris, me, Jennifer. Mindy's hand cracks me up in this picture! And, although Gary looks a little shell-shocked in this picture, he and Ellen were just filled with joy all night. It was so neat to see them glow as they celebrated with MC.

More of the Gabe Dixon incredible!

Liza (Gary's youngest daughter) and her friends were beside themselves over Gabe Dixon.

Ben and Mary Catherine's first dance

Ben and Mary Catherine BROWN.

After the wedding, we had a nice brunch at The Musick's house. The kids love visiting the Musicks!

This arrangement was still lookin good!

Ben and the girls

Mary Catherine and the girls.

Congratulations, guys!!! We love you both!