Tag Archives: generations

Happy Fall, Y’all!


Chilly weather, and chili weather…

My cousin Judy has lots of kitchen traditions she has built with her family over the years.  The first snowfall of the season always brings a homemade pie, for example.  For the last couple of years, Judy has opened her kitchen up for “Fall-Chili-And-Hot-Tamale-Making-Day”.  And we’ve already started talking about this year’s installment!  I can’t wait to spend time together, stirring the chili pot, making the mixtures of meat and meal, assembling those little packages of tamale goodness!  We share the work and then share the finished product, with me and anyone else who helped taking some home to enjoy later. And of course, we have to taste and see that what we made was good!  Quality control, after all.


It reminds me of the times when Mama and “Mamaw” Allred, Aunt Martha, Aunt Ruby and/or any combination of them, would gather in someone’s kitchen to make tamales, or candy, or to can tomatoes and green beans in the summertime.  Shared work provided shared goodies, as well as lots of laughs and fun.  The foods they prepared nourished both body and soul.

I look forward to chili-and-hot-tamale-making-day, for the yummy food we hope to make.  But even more than the physical food, I look forward to the comfort of time spent together with Judy and whoever else can join us (both Reed and Jeff have helped in the past), carrying on the traditions of the generation before us.  And I think this year, cake may need to happen!


Ties And Friendships


How music binds us to one another…

Recently I had the pleasure of attending the 2015 Triennial Conference of Delta Omicron International Music Fraternity. The fellowship of musicians from all over the country is one of the best parts of attending Conference, as well as getting to know students from my own chapter better. I have mentioned that I serve as the Chapter Mother for the Alpha Gamma Chapter of Delta Omicron at Carson-Newman University. But I have never shared how my association with Delta Omicron began or how I came to my current place of service.

I was initiated into Alpha Gamma Chapter as a second-semester freshman at Carson-Newman, the earliest chance I was eligible to join. The ideals of Delta Omicron appealed to me, and many upperclassmen I respected were members. Plus they seemed like they really enjoyed themselves and each other. I just knew that Delta Omicron was something I wanted to be a part of.

My student days as a member of Alpha Gamma Chapter provided me with many opportunities for growth as a musician, a leader and a servant, including some experiences I never imagined. My first Conference experience was as a student when, in 1984 as a rising junior, I attended the 75th Anniversary Triennial Conference. It was held at Kent State University in Ohio. A few weeks prior to the event I received a letter from the Board of Directors inviting me to be the speaker for the Collegiate Dinner, sharing my visions for Delta Omicron’s future. I’d never given a speech before and I had no idea why they had picked me to do it! But it was then that I learned that public speaking is fun and I actually enjoyed it. It was an honor to sit at the head table with “the grown-ups”!

head table invite

giving d o speech

Our chapter had established a long and distinguished heritage of excellence even when I was a student. Established in 1966, Alpha Gamma has been guided throughout its existence by Chapter Advisor Ann Jones, a consummate musician and educator, a humble servant and a treasured friend. She was a huge influence on my college career and a large part of why I wanted to join Delta Omicron. I think many members of Alpha Gamma Chapter through the decades feel the same way.

My senior year, 1986, was Alpha Gamma’s 20th anniversary.  Alpha Gamma was blessed at that time to have Mrs. Daisy Heard as our Chapter Mother. This dear lady knew all sorts of interesting people and famous musicians, and she had accumulated tons of memorabilia from operas, concerts and events she had attended over the decades. I always describe her as an expansive presence and a force of nature, the kind of lady I’d like to be when I grow up. Our chapter has always been filled with people like that, the kind I want to emulate. The kind I want to have as friends.

alpha gamma 20th

(Alpha Gamma’s 20th anniversary photo.  I am front row center seated next to Mrs. Daisy.  This picture is a treasure!)

Flash forward to 2006. I had been to my 20 year reunion at Homecoming and had finally started to feel like an adult (more or less!) and I was looking for a way to give something back to the school and the music department. So I met with Ms. Jones and asked if Alpha Gamma had a Chapter Mother, and at that point, they did not. She got the ball rolling and I was installed in December 2006. My next Conference (and first as a Chapter Mother) was the Hundredth Anniversary Conference in 2009, with Ms. Jones and our chapter delegate, Allison (now the Zeta South Province President and giving back as well).

2009 to 2015

(Me with Allison Hill Hendrix and Ms. Ann Jones, friends and sisters in Delta Omicron, from 2009 and 2015 Conferences)

The Fraternity that meant so much to me as a student welcomed me back to encourage new generations of student musicians! When I meet new students who are considering membership, I always share what my student days in Delta Omicron meant to me, so much so that I wanted to come back and serve as Chapter Mother. I have watched students come and go, perform recitals, graduate and carry music into the rest of their lives. Some have married and had children; some have earned master’s degrees and beyond; many are church musicians and school music teachers. And I am proud of them all.

With the advances in technology and social media, we are now able to connect with members of chapters far and wide, sharing ideas, experiences and stories. It is a joy for me to be able to see what Fraternity students and alumni are doing in their lives, musically and otherwise. And it is a blessing to share face-to-face fellowship with “my kids” of Alpha Gamma as often as I can be with them.

The gifts of music and friendship tie us to one another here and now. They also bind us to generations of other Delta Omicron members from the past and those yet to come. It is a blessed heritage indeed, one of warm memories and exciting possibilities.

The Prayer of Delta Omicron that we sing at meetings, ceremonies and senior recitals is as follows:

“O Lord, Thy blessing now shed down

upon dear Delta Omicron.

May all our ties and friendships be

strengthened and honored, Lord, by Thee.



(Me, Allison and Ms. Jones, courtesy of Delta Omicron Triennial Conference 2015.  I am so grateful that this moment was captured. A true illustration of how music ties generations of friends together.)

The Big Six


The end of a generation…and time for the next one to step forward

My cousins, my brother and I are living in a different world than we were just 10 days ago, one with a giant hole in it.  The woman Reed and I called Aunt Ruby, and who our cousins called Mother, Mom and Mama, has gone home to Heaven.  I will write more about her, her living and dying, in a future post.  Right now I can still hardly wrap my head around the idea that she is gone.

Right now I just want to reminisce about simpler times with Reed and my cousins, to find comfort and maybe some smiles in my memories.  Debbie was born to Aunt Ruby and Uncle John first, and she enjoyed 10 years by herself with them.  Then Aunt Ruby and Mama started the family “baby boom”.  Mark and Reed arrived less than 5 months apart, then I was born less than 3 years after Reed, Alan was born 10 months after I was, and Haven brought up the caboose about a year and a half after Alan.  Poor Debbie sometimes got stuck with babysitting the remaining 5 of us younger kids! I can’t even imagine what that must have been like!  Image

We grew up attending the same schools because we lived close together.  Reed and I began going to church with Aunt Ruby and Uncle John and their kids when Mama was taking care of Granny and unable to take us to church herself.  Granny made Mama promise that she would take us when she was able to, and after Granny died, Mama kept her promise.  Aunt Ruby and Mama were very tightly bonded and, as a result, so were we, often functioning as a single group of siblings rather than two separate sets.

Often we would “swap a kid”.  Haven would come to spend the night with me on Ford Street and Reed would go to hang out with Mark and Alan on Arnold Street.  Or vice versa, with any configuration of kids at either place.  I know I spent almost as much time at Aunt Ruby’s house growing up as I did at my own.  It was equally home to me.

As we’ve grown older, our lives have taken off in different directions, and each of us has dealt with individual issues and struggles.  Life as a family is not always pretty.  And even though 5 of the 6 of us all live in the same town, we’ve been hard-pressed to get together as a group…unless someone is getting married or buried.  But I agree with the immortal wisdom of the Facebook quote that asserts, “Our cousins are the first friends we have”.  In our case that has been the absolute truth.

Aunt Ruby was the last of her siblings, her generation, to leave this world.  She and her sisters, “The Big Five”, left us a rich legacy of strength, craziness, laughter, tears and love to draw upon as our generation is forced now to step forward and pretend that we’re grown-ups.  I don’t know how all of that is going to work out…but I pray that we can be more diligent about gathering now and then, just to spend some time connecting with one another.  We’ve learned once again, all too poignantly, how short life is.  Image