Before this part of the story ends, two important things occurred that were significant accomplishments in my life. The first of these, will be of special interest. In January of 1969, I had the privilege of participating with three other students in the Dorian Vocal Music Festival; held at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa. There were three things that were worthy of note. First & foremost, we had the pleasure of working with the late Weston Noble. He was our choir director. At that time, students from Iowa, Minnesota, & Wisconsin, had the good fortune of participating in this event.
All I can say about that festival, is that I am a better person for having such an opportunity to work with Dr. Noble. If you knew this beautiful man, then you know the mark he left on Luther College. I know that as a group, we respected, & thought so highly of him. There were at least, 500 of us; & he got the very best out of us in a short period of time. We had rehearsals on Sunday & Monday. The concert was on a Tuesday night. At one point, in one of the rehearsals, he recognized the four of us from the Iowa Braille & Sight Saving School. As he put it, "I've been watching my friend the bass, & he's doing an excellent job." As we rehearsed one of the songs for the concert, he asked me, if I wanted to come down front with him, & be a part of the demonstration. When students realized what was about to take place, they went absolutely nuts! As things turned out, because of how well things went, this saved an extra 20 minutes of rehearsal time. To this day, something like Dorian will be forever etched in memory; & especially, when you realize that I got to work with someone the caliber of Weston Noble.
I'm not sure if something like this has happened since, but the 1969 Dorian Vocal Festival marked the first time that two brothers, from two different schools, participated in this event. My brother Ron, sang in the choir at Britt high school. When the choir director in Britt saw that my name was on the list, she thought that was so cool. She got so excited, she had to tell Ron about this. Ron & I were able to connect at Dorian.
A final accomplishment my senior year, was the one & only experience I had in going to solo & ensemble contest. I took a Chopin piano piece to contest; one that I started learning in the fall. To learn this piece, I learned it off of a record. It took two days to learn it, & a week to polish it up. In the days leading up to contest, a lady who played organ at the United Methodist Church, came to our school to hear me play this selection. We discovered, that there were some differences between the printed music, & what I had learned off of the record. I knew, that it would be better to make the changes; because I knew the Judges would be following the music.
I don't recall the date, but I recall it was on a Friday night. We were competing with public schools that were about our size. I was thinking, that if I got a 2 rating, because of the changes that were made, I would be thrilled; because this was my first & only chance. No such luck. Surprise, surprise. I, along with two public school kids, received a 1 rating, which is superior, the highest you can go.
I was obviously elated; & hopeful that the momentum would carry over to the next morning. We went back to the same school where we were the night before. I did two vocal solos. The first one, I made it just fine. About halfway through the second one, my mind went blank; I forgot some words! I must have done a good job of not letting it show, or faking my way through. Once again, I received a superior rating.
What an awesome way to end this portion of "The Pianoman." In our honors assembly, held the night before graduation, I was selected as the best musician in my class. I'm thinking that everyone has experienced this to some degree, but graduation was bitter sweet. It meant saying good-bye to students & staff, who had been so much a part of my life. I also knew, that it was an exciting time. As one chapter was drawing to a close, a new chapter was about to begin; & this incredible journey would move to even greater heights.
Submitted by Gary Gjerstad