It's getting to that time of year when I'd usually be posting a 'pre-summer school' post, or at the very least, I'd be posting something after the event. This year, not so much. And now that it's getting close, I'm a bit gutted! Now don't get me wrong – I'm getting married in 20 days (oh my goodness!!!!) and I am SO excited for the wedding, getting married, and the honeymoon in the sun. And the week of summer school itself I'll be knee deep in dress fittings and the like. However, I am going to miss what has become a routine of my summer for the past 10 years.
I've been reflecting on it a lot this past week, particularly with seeing posts from territorial music school popping up now and again, and a few anticipatory tweets from people about next week's summer school. And after attending 10 music/summer schools, there is a decent amount to reflect on and reminisce over.
I still don't know what spurred me on to go that first year. I'd been going to the Salvation Army for 6 months with my grandparents, and I vividly remember my mum asking if they still had 'music camps'. I had no idea what she was talking about but after she explained, I asked someone at the corps, and in the end, myself and another girl at the corps decided to go. She was literally the only friend I knew in the army who was roughly my age, and would be the only person I knew going to music school. I was much, much shyer then than I am now, so I have to assume that God was guiding me in that direction without me realising, as there is no way I'd have braved it on my own accord.
I remember arriving at Queen Victoria School in Dunblane, and seeing loads of people with big suitcases running up to their friends and hugging and chatting, and I instantly wanted to leave. I stood in line and got to the front of the registration desk, to be told I looked terrified by the person checking me in. (This person turned out to be Sharon – someone who is now one of my closest friends, whose daughter is my flower girl in a couple of weeks time, and who I love very much…..another sign to me in hindsight that God was directing me somewhere specific). I went for my brass audition, and the girl in front of me came out crying, which terrified me even more. (a girl who turned out to be Rachel – who later became my best friend, and in a couple of weeks will be my maid of honour and help get me down the aisle, as well as being my fiancé's cousin!) The week of course turned out to be great, although I do remember being super embarrassed and self conscious on night one as we had to record music videos in groups, and again when I couldn't find the door to get out of the chapel after my vocal audition, and not knowing what was going on during the 'greeting meeting' – the whole talking about God and your faith thing was so foreign to me, not to mention having a reformed murderer come to talk to us for the evening! I remember being surprised by how friendly people were, and how quickly I made friends, something I usually wasn't very good at. At least some of those friends I still have to this day, and who will be at the wedding with us in a few weeks.
I have so many fond memories from those ten years of summer school. 70 days of my life. Many band pieces played. Many excruciating vocal auditions. 3am open airs or water fights or pranks. Seeing the sun come up at 5am one Friday before the (slightly dodgy) Saturday festival. Many awkward silences in cell groups. (Or just silent cell groups in general – I never seemed to be in the chatty age group, and clearly I didn't add to that haha!) Late night pizza deliveries. Being part of the student forum and getting to influence what went on. Singing grace before meals. Barricading ourselves into rooms at night so 'the boys' couldn't get in. Many special moments. Terrifyingly giving testimonies on the Friday morning. Being followed around for a week by Matt. My first kiss 😳😂. So much laughter. Ceilidh photos, and bruises. A band. A chorus. Many tears – not all negative. Exam results. Friendships made. Friendships strengthened. Community. Feeling included, and part of something bigger. Orderlies/staff who supported and encouraged. Praying out loud with someone for the first time. Being prayed for. Being inspired, and supported. Being pushed out of my comfort zone. Many questions, even if not answered. Discovery.
On top of that, I've met all of my closest friends, and of course my fiancé. My life would not be even remotely the same had I not gone to that first music school, or all of the others since. I wouldn't be the person I am or have the life that I do. Or even the faith that I do, albeit in all of its shakiness. That's all got to be God's doing, right?
That, and SO many more specific memories it would take me hours and pages to list. It has never been about getting a good seat in band or getting into A chorus for me. When I was younger, the main thing I went for was to spend a full week with my friends. The last few years, it's been about taking advantage of that one interrupted week of being able to learn about god. To focus on my faith, ask the 3000 questions I always have, have discussions, let your guard down, get inspired, and challenged, (and usually confused) with people who are in similar positions to you. People who have the same questions. Staff who have already worked their way through those questions. Hearing different perspectives, looking at the material for the week, listening to people speak about faith and god and their own experiences. It's something I love, and something I will miss this year. Because it's something that doesn't happen often in 'real life'. For me at least. It's so hard to find time to meet up, and when you do, having deep conversation isn't always easy or appropriate. And doing it by text, as many of my friends have experienced, means you have texts the size of essays to read and respond to, which just doesn't work that well.
I'm going to miss that buzz, that energy that comes from spending the week focusing on what's important, and focusing on god. It's a special kind of energy that can set you up for months to come, and that I find really hard to find anywhere else. Sunday services just don't give me the same enthusiasm, or create the same engagement within me, even when I try really hard.
Looking back at this and so many more specific memories, I (think) I firmly believe God has been guiding me along this whole time. Leading me in a direction, towards these people, and everything they would bring into my life, everything I would learn from them. Towards the experiences I would subsequently have, both during those ten weeks, and as a result of. My confidence has grown exponentially, much of which is from those weeks. I might not have it all figured out – faith, or my plan for life – but I know my experiences at summer schools have firmly shaped who I am and who I want to be.
So the point in this big rambling, reminiscent post, is for those going this year. Make the most of it. Be engaged. Be kind to each other. Look out for and look after each other. Get involved. Let your guard down. Listen. Search. Focus. Enjoy. (And I'll see you at the festivals!)