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In late 2019, I received approval to start a new concert series at the church where I work, First Methodist of Bella Visa, called the Curious Squirrel. My mascot is Samuel the Squirrel, a critter who attended and wouldn’t leave my recital at Central Methodist in Rogers. Although he was a nuisance during the recital, he was an inspiration towards my new marketing plan! How I got here is the rest of the story!
When I landed my part-time salaried job at First Methodist in 2012, I received the chance to participate in the professional Wesley Series as an added bonus. I performed in concerts including singers, violinists, and woodwinds. It was really the type of opportunity I had wanted my whole life.
A New Focus
When funding for that series ended in early 2017, after 21 years, I no longer had the opportunity to participate in professional chamber music at the church. So, I decided to go solo on organ and piano. During the past two years, I offered 18 events. The few concerts that weren’t solo involved vocal recitals with Chancel Choir members, and even an Irish Sing-A-Long in March 2019 that I hope to make an annual event.
My goal for these recitals was two-fold: For me, it was an opportunity for me to build repertoire and experience in solo performing. There’s nothing like scheduling a recital to force discipline, even if that means spending 12 hours on the organ in one afternoon and evening to learn a piece to be ready for the next day! For the church, the concerts were presented as a gift for the both church members and the Bella Vista community. It’s so rare in our area to have classical events available. I feel an obligation to give them, to the extent that I have the time to do so.
Try Something Different
All the while giving these free events, I was trying to re-establish a professional concert series at the church, but there was no support for that. Zero. I decided to shift my focus to something that few could object to – continuing education. The church has a small continuing education budget for music, which covers my membership in the American Guild of Organists with a little bit of money left over for things like lessons, certifications, and learning materials.
However, this fund makes just a squirrel-sized dent in the cost of an organ convention, whether it be a regional or national one. Nor, does it cover much towards a summer week-long sacred music class. Church musicians are very isolated in their work, and these opportunities are a wonderful shot-in-the-arm to revive and revitalize church musicians for the work we do in our church communities.
How You Can Help
Pre-Covid-19, I purchased a bright red, squirrel proof box, which accepts cash or checks for any gift concert attendees wish to make towards my continuing education. You can write your check to the church, with a memo line mention of the Curious Squirrel. When I need to make a claim against the fund, I’ll do so with the church administrator.
When I switched over to my bite-sized recital project called the Weekly Acorn in May 2020, I established a PayPal link that can be used for contributions. This link goes directly to First UMC of Bella Vista, but I only receive the proceeds into my fund if you put Curious Squirrel or Weekly Acorn in the Add a Note area.
You can learn about future Curious Squirrel concerts and Weekly Acorn events by subscribing to the Curious Squirrel Monthly Newsletter.
A Toast to Success
Here’s a toast to the future success of the Curious Squirrel! If you’d like to see a listing of concerts under the banner of the Curious Squirrel, just look for the icon on my Concerts page.