by Bill Stephens, Columnist, Metro News Wire Service
Updated Tuesday, November 28, 2017 at 3:00 p.m. CT
          So     Thanksgiving     is      over    and      the Christmas   season  has  officially  begun.  While it seems  that   Christmas   has  been  pushed  up   as  early  as   Halloween,  well   it  has.
     Thanksgiving?    If   you    looked around, it was gone in a blink. And  instead   of  centering on  the  true   meaning,    the    focus   has  become   totally concentrated  on  shopping; black Friday, this and  that.   And    as    I    age    I   have   become     more disappointed in the season.
     We  have   forgotten    what    the    season  truly represents.    First    and    foremost,   it     is      the celebration  of  a  very special birthday  –  that  of  Jesus,   who  was  born  in  a  manger  to  a couple so poor they  could  not afford a room  at the  Inn. 
      Mary  and  Joseph  shared    the    joy    of     the arrival  of  their  child  with  the  animals, the stars in the sky and one very special star.
    That star called to  and   guided   three  kings  to the place of His  arrival.  They  brought with them  the  very  first  gifts  that   had  the  same  meaning then as they still do today.
     The    first    gift   was   of   gold    to   represent kingship  on  earth  and  to shower riches upon the rumored   arrival  of   a   savior.  The   second  gift, frankincense, used as incense  to  signify His priestly role.
     Today,  frankincense   is  used  by   many   as   a natural     cure   and    relief    for   a    number    of ailments   from   arthritis   to   other  sorts of pain. In  fact, Frankincense   just   might   be   the   very  most important of those first three gifts as  we  are still finding out more about this gift.
     The  third  and  final gift,  Myrrh,  was  used as  an  embalming   oil.  It   signified    Christ's   death and   embalming  as   life   has  a  beginning and an end.
     At   this   time  of  year, we  are  to celebrate the joy of the season  and  reflect   on   the   past years events. It  is  also  a  time  to  remember loved ones that have left us.
     We should  share  stories  about them  with our  children  as  this  will   keep   our  dearly departed  loved  ones  alive  not  only  in  our hearts, but will give   our    children   a   fee l  for who   they  were  and  what  they  have  left behind.
     As   we   age    and   share  these   family  stories with     our    children,   take   a   step   back.    Take stock  of  what  mark you are leaving behind.
     For   example,    the    Christmas    seasonal   TV shows  and  movies    are  upon  us.    Many   of   us grew  up having watched   the   animated    staples, “Santa  Clause  is  Coming  to  Town”,  “Frosty  the Snowman” and  others. These are not just classics;  they  are  in  a  sense a legacy that is handed  down to our children and then to the grandchildren.
     The    actors     that   voiced    those  animations were  stars that while  growing  up  we watched on  TV  and  in   movies.  They    were    actors, singers and  musicians  whose  voices  will live on forever  and  will   find  a   place  in  the  next  generations  hearts   and   childhoods   that  will  most likely be passed on to their children.
     Legacy – A  big  word  in  action,  but  HUGE in meaning. This  season  is  a good time to reflect on what your legacy is.
     If  you  haven’t  been   kind  to  one  another, be kind.  We  all  have  challenges in life and we really don’t   have   a    clue   what   that   person   sitting  next  to  you  at  the   restaurant,   your  server   or  even   the   driver   in   traffic next  to  you is going through today.
     It could be  anything - bad   health  news, lost a job,  loss of  a  loved   one.  Treat  all  people   with respect.  Start   here.  If  they  do something to not  deserve   your   respect,   do   not   mistreat   them. The best thing is to give them space.
        It’s   a   time  for gifting  – A  gift    can   be  as simple as a smile or a greeting.   
     Acknowledging   someone   can  be   a  huge gift. You  could  make  someone’s  day by just smiling at them.
     Give the gift of  common  courtesy. Hold a door for someone.   In   traffic,  take your time. You will get there. It is better for everyone to get there safe anyway.
     Bottom  line –  put  someone  else  first.  It will  come  back to you ten fold.
     I  wish   you   all  a  Merry Christmas. Spend as  much   family   time  together  as  possible. Laugh,  sing  and  eat. The  diets start on New Years day.

Summerfest 'School of Rock' unites
music students from US & Australia

By Photojournalist Bill Stephens / Metro News Chicago
Wednesday, July 15, 2015, 8:00 PM
High school students participated in "School of Rock" which had participants from America and Australia during Summerfest 2015 at Henry Maeir Festival Park in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. / Photo: Bill Stephens, Metro News Chicago

When you hear the words "School Of Rock," most will think of the movie starring Jack Black. On June 27th and 28th, over 500 student performers from 34 different School of Rock locations showed off their training, talent and love for rock music on multiple stages at Summerfest in Milwaukee. The participating students came from 16 states nationwide and Australia to compete against each other and in some cases themselves. Performing in front of a live audience with multiple band mates and various guest mentors can provide a learning experience, feedback and exposure in a real world environment.

I am an assigned photographer that each year spends each of the 11 days sampling music from the 11 different stages and over 800 performances that Summerfest has to offer. As a live performance photographer, I am charged with capturing images of performances in an effort to communicate the music visually freezing time using my eye and camera. These students not only demonstrate their musical aptitude and showmanship, they also believe in the music with all of their heart and soul.

Learning and performing any form of music takes dedication and hours of practice. In this case, performing with musicians they may have never met or performed with increases the level of difficulty and adds another level of complexity and learning experience. When performing in a band environment, you are now part of a tight unit, a team, that when all members are working together communicates the thoughts and feelings the composer put down on paper.

While music takes many shapes, Rock, Country, Classical, Rap, Blues, etc. and every musician has their own style, these students are no different. A musician’s expression is more powerful than just playing the notes. Anyone can learn to play the notes; painting a picture with the music and communicating that feeling from the heart is the difference. The School of Rock has been able to teach the student to convey the feeling and soul of the music. You have to believe in the music or you will never communicate with your audience.

I attended part of the finals at the BMO Harris Stage. Truly amazing performances by all. And, while I did not witness the winner, for the record, everyone is a winner by the students gaining experience and the audience being able to share their involvement. Kudos to the School of Rock and Summerfest, I hope they continue this partnership for the sake of the students and the future of musical performance.

For more information on the School, visit their website at www.schoolofrock.com

Summerfest "School of Rock"
Photo Gallery
by Bill Stephens / Metro News

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