A Few Words on Don Nultemeier

The way I see it, every life is a pile of good things and bad things. The good things don’t always soften the bad things. But, vice versa – the bad things don’t necessarily spoil the good things or make them unimportant. And we definitely added to his pile of good things. Doctor Who season 5 episode 10 “Vincent and the Doctor”

When I made the resolution to blog more, I did so with the intentions of blogging about books and school and other fairly inane things. I never anticipated the need to write a blog such as this, but it is the least I could do for a man who did so much for so many people.

My mother informed me when Don Nultemeier was admitted to the hospital four months ago. I was surprised and incredibly concerned, but it never once crossed my mind that he would not come out. I figured he would be out and fully recovered before it was time to start throwing his summertime pool parties. Every time she went to visit him I sent her along with my well-wishes, figuring I would get to see him at some point in the future. The news that he has passed away has left me extremely sad – a sadness that cannot be fully expressed on an online blog, and my heart aches for his family. He has left behind a massive community of people who loved him and will miss him dearly.

I transferred to Princess Anne High School about nine weeks into my ninth grade year. I wanted to get into the chorus program because my best friend was already there. Mr. Nultemeier did not grant me permission to transfer in once the school year was well underway. I was miffed; I did not think a high school chorus was a big enough deal to warrant the attention he seemed to think it needed.

Anyone who has been in one of Mr. Nultemeier’s choruses understands just how wrong my original thinking was. He wasn’t a ‘teacher’ as much as he was a powerful hurricane in teacher form. Immediately after chorus started up my sophomore year, we were off and running. A Don Nultemeier chorus was not your typical “stand up on some bleachers and sing a bit” chorus. It was a production. There was singing, dancing, acting, costumes appropriate for a professional theatre, incredible lighting and sound, special effects, and more. All you had to do was look around the chorus room – it was decorated with photos and trophies from his past triumphs. This was a man who played to win.

I thought regular chorus practices were tough, but they were nothing compared to preparing for the musical that he put on every year. Monday evenings were already accounted for with regular rehearsal, but the plays demanded eight-hour Saturdays and countless evenings. Mr. Nultemeier would not present a play that wasn’t perfect. I was in Princess Anne High School’s production of Grease. I cannot remember how many times Mr. Nultemeier would stop us a few bars in to whichever song we were working on. “No, no, stop! That SUCKED! Do it again!” So we did it again. And again. And on and on until we were exhausted and it was perfect. As frustrating as it could get, there was something amazing about pulling off a wonderful finale and hearing the audience begin to applaud uproariously as the curtains closed.

(I’m in there somewhere!)

It was during this time that I got my mother involved with the chorus. Mr. Nultemeier was in need of people who could sew, and I knew someone perfect for the job. I dragged my mom to a rehearsal one night (to be honest, it was most likely done in an attempt to gain some brownie points). She got on really well with Mr. Nultemeier’s wife Sharon, and the next thing I know one of my mom’s best friends is my teacher’s wife. It was really one of the best things that could have happened. My parents now have a whole circle of friends that came from Mr. Nultemeier, and they have been presented some amazing opportunities as a result.

It wasn’t just concerts and plays at the school, either. During my time in chorus I got to sing on a Caribbean cruise boat and visit the amazing New York City. My parents went on several of the trips after I left chorus. They’ve been to New York City multiple times, Orlando, and Las Vegas thanks to Mr. Nultemeier and his “go big or go home” attitude towards life.

I was only a member of chorus for two years, one of which was spent behind the scenes doing spotlighting. I was never going to be a star. Singing was enjoyable to me, but I did not have the passion or commitment to succeed in Don Nultemeier’s chorus. My singing was best kept to the shower and the car. I’m perfectly okay with that. Chorus was intense. It could get frustrating and maddening. There were times when I hated chorus. It was so much work. I didn’t care about being the next great musician; I just wanted to sing a bit. Even though I was not suited for the chorus, I still maintained a massive amount of respect for what he was doing. I continued to accompany my mother to chorus rehearsals as a helper my senior year of high school and through college until Mr. Nultemeier retired.

Nulte created and nurtured stars (and a few divas, but that is the nature of the business of course). He could spot talent from three miles off. He knew exactly what needed to be done to make a show perfect – even if it was as simple as moving someone a few feet to the left during a number. You could practically see the smoke from the gears turning in his head as he stared at the stage. You may have wondered what was going on in his head, but soon enough he’d begin shouting his new ideas to make everything better. And it was always better.

As time went on I began to know Mr. Nultemeier more as my parents’ friend than as my former chorus teacher. He was clearly a magician because he got my father, Mr. “Football, Fishing, Hunting, Art is for Girls,” into musical theatre. He had his dream pool installed in his backyard, and I have spent several enjoyable summer nights at a Nultemeier backyard party. He had this twinkle in his eye and a great belly laugh that could be heard all over when something amused him.

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(4th of July at the Nultemeiers’. See the sign in the background? Someone – a former student, I believe – hooked Mr. Nultemeier up with a 42nd and Broadway street sign. That thing made him so happy!)

The older I got, the more my fondness and respect grew for this man. He has inspired so many people. His death was announced this morning, and already dozens and dozens of people have expressed their sorrow on Facebook and beyond. People who have not seen him for two decades are reminiscing about being a part of a Nultemeier chorus. His name will be known to more people than I can even imagine. I bet former students will be telling their children and grandchildren years from now about Nulte. His legacy will live on.

I want to revisit the quote from the beginning of my blog. The way I see it, every life is a pile of good things and bad things. The good things don’t always soften the bad things. But, vice versa – the bad things don’t necessarily spoil the good things or make them unimportant. And we definitely added to his pile of good things. It is from one of my favorite episodes of one of my favorite shows. The episode is equal parts beautiful and tragic, and this quote sticks with me. Today has been full of bad things. We lost a great man today, but he did so many good things that we cannot forget them in our sadness. Throughout all of his years as a teacher, a family man, and a friend, he added so much to many peoples’ “pile of good things.”

So thank you, Mr. Nultemeier. Thank you for being a such a powerful teacher. Thank you for being a wonderful friend to my parents. And most of all, thank you for being absolutely and unapologetically you.

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My Reading Goals for 2013

Wow! Two blog posts in 24 hours? I guess I am trying to make up for lost time!

I was too slack with my reading last year. I only read about 20 books – several of which were either juvenile chapter books or picture books that I read through at work. Of course, I also read textbooks and countless articles for school, but this is still not acceptable! Reading a book used to be my ‘happy place.’ It was what I did to unwind and leave the world behind for a bit. I also enjoy video games and playing on the computer as relaxation devices, but I want to return to the avid reader I used to be.

I have also picked up a terrible habit that I never used to have. At the moment, I have six books that I am reading. SIX. I used to read books one at a time, but I have been flitting around recently. I want to finish all of these books by the end of January, though that is quite the lofty goal with school.

What I am reading at the moment:

An Utterly Impartial History of Britain, or 2000 Years of Upper Class Idiots in Charge by John O’Farrell

utterlyimpartial

I have been working on this book for months now. It is hilarious and interesting, but it is best read in small doses.

Dolly by Susan Hill

dolly

I picked up Dolly at Hatchards in London. It is a signed copy, which I thought was pretty cool. I am an absolute sucker for a good ghost story, and even a mere 15 pages in it already has a good creepy atmosphere.

Have I Got News for You Presents: A Guide to Modern Britain by Nick Martin

modenbritain

I found this in a bookshop for £1, so I figured I couldn’t go wrong. Like An Utterly Impartial History of Britain, it is a clever and amusing read.

The Liar by Stephen Fry

liar

After being lucky enough to meet Stephen Fry, genius and all around amazing human being, I decided I needed to watch, read and listen to anything he’s ever been involved with. I can hear his voice crystal clear in my head when I am reading this book.

Atheism and the Case Against Christ by Matthew McCormick

atheism

Normally I do not read this much nonfiction (what can I say? I love my novels!), but I saw this book at work and had to check it out. I am not a full chapter in and the author is already preaching to the choir, but I appreciate any well written arguments for my beliefs (or lack thereof in this case).

Wrong and Dangerous by Garrett Epps

wrong

Another surprising nonfiction that caught my attention at work. I figured I already had a religion book – might as well get a politics book too!

Urban Welsh edited by Lewis Davies

urbanwelsh

This is a collection of short stories by Welsh writers. Many of the stories are set in the urban areas of Wales (though some are not). The only problem with this so far is the same problem I’ve encountered with every collection of short stories – I don’t like all of the stories. The good news is that if I do not like it, it will be over soon. At the moment I am stuck on a particularly tedious story. I thought of just skipping it and moving to the next, but I really would like to read this book in its entirety.

I never set specific goals when it comes to things like how many books I am going to read because I feel like I am setting myself up for failure; however, I would love to read at least several books a month this year. Once I cross the books named above off of my list, I am thinking of reading popular young adult fiction in order to have a better idea of how to help the teens who come into my library looking for new books to read. I would love some recommendations if anyone has any! The last YA I read was Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children and the Life as We Knew It trilogy.

New Year’s Resolution: Blog More

I started this blog back in August 2012 with every intention of becoming one of those prolific bloggers. Of course, like so many things in my life, it quickly moved to the back burner. It’s a new year, so here I am making the promise to try to blog more.

Since my last blog, I finished my first semester of grad school, Romney lost the Presidential race, I had an amazing holiday in the UK, and I started my second semester of grad school. The school probably isn’t that interesting to anyone but me and I’ve spent enough time pointing and laughing at Romney, so here is a brief summary (with pictures!) of the fabulous vacation.

I started off in London.

London

London is the best city in the world. I went to museums, saw plays, took tours, ate great food, and spent hours just wandering aimlessly around the city I love so dearly. Also, this happened:

Fry

Yes, I met Stephen Fry, one of Britain’s national treasures. I now like to pretend that he and I are best friends.

I took two day trips. As much as I love London, it was great to go out and see other places. On my next trip (which will, if everything goes to plan, happen in mid-2014) I will probably spend a good deal of time outside of London.

My first day trip was to Cardiff, Wales.

Cardiff

It was very chilly, windy, rainy, and beautiful. I spent the entire time soaking wet and barely noticed because I was enjoying the sights. I got to see a good portion of the city, including attending the Doctor Who Experience to amp up my geek cred.

DoctorWho

The other day trip was to Edinburgh, Scotland. I had been there once before, but I only stayed in the city long enough to take a train to Stirling. This time I spent the whole day in the city.

Edinburgh

It is really one of the most stunning places I have ever been to. I cannot get over the gorgeous architecture. There were several times I just stopped and spent several minutes admiring the winding and climbing streets. Or maybe I stopped because my lazy, out-of-shape self was winded from the hills. Either way, beautiful! Also beautiful was the hot chocolate I got at their Christmas fair.

HotChoccy

Cadbury’s hot chocolate with whipped cream, marshmallows, and a Cadbury Flake bar. It was sinfully good.

Speaking of food, that was one of the best parts of the trip. Meat pies with mash or thick, greasy chips, hot tea, mince pies, chocolate. I spent most of the time drooling over the amazing food. I also took pictures of some of the delicious food.

Food (1)

Food (3)

Food (2)

It was incredibly bittersweet to have to return to the US and my real life, but I attempted to bring back a sizable chunk of Britain with me:

ChocolateHaul

(The most important part, of course – the chocolate!)

Anyway, as everyone who has interacted with me in the past few weeks knows, I had the most amazing time. I was euphorically happy during the whole trip and I am ready to go back.

Happy 2013, everyone! This is the beginning of what I plan on making a blogging-filled year.