Indianapolis Training CenterThe decision I (Suzanne) made to attend Sound Foundations months ago was a very difficult one. I couldn’t stop thinking about everything I would be missing if I went: Young Artist Auditions with the Southwest Washington Symphony, chair tests with the Southwest Washington Youth Philharmonic, a performance opportunity with the Southwest Washington Symphony, several concerts I was interested in attending, a quarter of classes at Lower Columbia College were a few of the things I would miss. After much prayer, discussion, and thought, I finally decided to go. Christina decided to join me on this musical adventure.

So, on January 23, 2005, Christina and I flew to the Indianapolis Training Center where the International Academy of Music is based, not to return until February 12 after completing 3 weeks of intense musical training.  I didn’t know what to expect. All I knew was that it would be good and that God wanted me there. I never dreamed I would learn as much as I did.

Our flight from Portland to Chicago was uneventful. We were delayed in Chicago by a couple of hours due to the winter weather conditions. While sitting there waiting I realized I was hungry, so I asked Christina if we could get something to eat. We found some sandwiches that weren’t too expensive and enjoyed those as we waited for our plane. Soon we were on the last leg of our trip to Indiana.

As our plane began its descent into Indianapolis, the pilot informed us that it was 10 degrees outside and there was a lot of snow and ice. Christina and I looked at each other with raised eyebrows. Neither of us  had ever experienced weather that cold before.

Once off the plane, we hurried to baggage claim where we would meet the ITC staff members who would drive us to the training center. There were 4 other young musicians there who were also going to be attending Sound Foundations. After about an hour and a half of waiting for one of the girl’s bags, they finally asked someone about it and found out that it had accidentally been sent to Knoxville. We had to go on without it. It was to be brought to the training center as soon as it arrived.

When we finally made it to the training center it was 2:30am. Wake up call was to be at 6:00am, breakfast at 7:30am. That didn’t give us much time to sleep so we hurried right up to our room. I was slightly ahead of Christina so I opened the door. After taking a step into the room I turned around to inform Christina that we had a roommate. We tried to be quiet so we wouldn’t wake her up as we brought our stuff in and went to bed.

That night was the first of many restless nights. I had trouble sleeping there because I was not used to all the city noise. At 6:00am I was awakened by the now very familiar wake up call: “Good morning Indianapolis Training Center!” followed by the reading of the Proverb of the day, a news report, and a Sousa march.

As soon as the wake up call was over, we introduced ourselves to our roommate, Shaylene Wright, from California.

During the first week at Sound Foundations we learned a lot of music theory and music history. I enjoyed the music theory quite a bit, but there were times when I wondered what my grade was going to be on the test. We learned some pretty difficult stuff, and I was very happy to have Christina there to explain it to me. At the beginning of the week we were divided into teams of about 10 students per team. Christina had received a phone call a few days before we left home asking her if she’d be willing to serve as a team leader. She said yes so she was our team leader. She had to work harder than the rest of us as a team leader. Not only did she have to complete her own assignments, but she was also responsible for helping all the team members complete their assignments. She helped all of us a lot and we all agreed that she was the best team leader.

Most nights I was up until 11:00pm working on homework. Then I would try to go to sleep but couldn’t for at least another two hours because of the city noise. I never got used to it either, so I got tired very quickly and stayed tired until about a week after I got home. Some days I had so much homework to complete that I would have to get up at about 5:00am in order to finish everything. That first week was the hardest. Somehow I managed to get some practicing squeezed in each day as well.

Suzanne with 2 friends and SnowmanI was very happy when Saturday finally arrived. There were no classes scheduled that first weekend but we did have a huge lyric writing assignment that was due Monday morning. I slept as late as I could Saturday morning. I was thrilled to see that it was snowing when I got up. After breakfast I went outside in the snow with my friends for a couple hours. I knew I had to get out in the snow before I’d be able to concentrate on my work. I built a snowman with the help of many friends; two of which were from Florida and had never seen snow before. We had a lot of fun together and after several snowball fights, we finally headed inside to work on our assignments.

That lyric writing assignment was the most difficult assignment of the whole course for me. I sat there staring at the assignment sheet for hours trying to think of something to write. I didn’t get much besides that done on Saturday. I was starting to get worried. I had to turn the assignment in on Monday morning so somehow I was going to have to figure out how to write something down on that piece of paper.

On Sunday they would only feed us dinner. Christina had told me about that little detail before we left home, so I packed myself a whole bunch of crackers, almonds, and dried fruit. I was very happy to have it along. We didn’t bring hardly any of it home.

We went to church at Colonial Hills Baptist Church. We left for church at 10am. It was fun to drive around a little bit. There were a lot of neat old houses and the snow made everything look even cooler.

Sunday afternoon as soon as we got home from church I started working on my lyric assignment again. Knowing I had to do something I just started writing. I didn’t know what I was doing, but at least I was doing something. I kept praying that God would find someway to help me do this. Finally things started to fit together a little better. I chose to write my song about placing our hope in God and trusting Him to fulfill our desires.  I studied this in my Bible for quite a while and came up with a couple of verses I wanted to focus on: Proverbs 13:12, Rom 8:24-25, and Ps 39:7. I also looked in the hymnal for ideas. I spent hours and hours. It was a very difficult assignment for me, but I finally completed it with help from God. I would never have been able to do this assignment without His help. It was so hard for me. I was very relieved to have that assignment completed. I finished it at 10pm that night which is bedtime. Christina found this assignment very difficult too. She had spent a lot of that Sunday afternoon helping the other team members with their assignments so she had to stay up a couple of hours later than I did in order to finish hers. Thankfully we were both able to finish  in time.

Monday. The beginning of our second week. I couldn’t believe we had already been there for a whole week. We stayed so busy we didn’t have time to stop and think about the time that was going by. We always had something we needed to be doing. There was always some assign
ment to complete or a test to study for. We never had a free minute. We were up very late some nights and back up early the next morning. I averaged about 4 hours of sleep per night, mostly because of the city noise that I wasn’t able to get used to.  

Suzanne, Emily, and Christina playing Crossbow ViolinDuring the second week we learned a lot about the importance of Godly music. We also learned how to go about teaching a Children’s Choir. Parts of this class were very fun. Our team had to put together two different presentations. The first one was solfege. We had to learn the hand motions for solfege and sing a hymn in solfege. They told us to be creative with our presentation. One of our team members, Emily Wallace, came up with a great idea. We chose “We’re Marching to Zion” as our hymn. After singing through the verse Christina, Emily, and I played crossbow violin while Emily’s sister, Anna, played cello and Katie played piano. Crossbow violin is a lot of fun. The violinists stand in a line and play on each others’ instruments. We had  a lot of fun putting it together and our audience seemed to really like it too.

The other team presentation we had to prepare that week was an actual Children’s Choir lesson. This took a lot of time but we did get it done. Our team was scheduled to do our presentation on Saturday morning at 8:30am. Friday night we all agreed we would meet downstairs at 7:30am to run through our presentation. Saturday morning I was exhausted and I was sleeping pretty well for a change. A knock on the door finally woke me up. I didn’t really think much of it. I was too tired. Plus, I was on the top bunk so I thought Christina or Shaylene should be the one to answer the door. But, they weren’t moving so I finally forced myself out of bed to open it.  I was instantly blinded by the bright lights out in the hall, but managed to see Sonya standing there. She asked me something, I don’t remember what and then asked me if Christina was up yet. I said no. She asked me if I knew what time it was and I said no again. When she told me it was 7:20am, I finally woke up. 7:20am!!!! I had slept through my alarm for the first time! Christina and Shaylene slept through their alarms almost everyday, but I never did that! I really don’t know how they would have ever made it to breakfast on time if I hadn’t been there. But this time I slept through my alarm too! So now we were supposed to be downstairs in 10 minutes! I thanked Sonya for waking us up, went and woke up Christina and Shaylene, got myself ready to go downstairs and left. I was downstairs by about 7:35am and Christina showed up soon after that. It was so embarrassing to sleep through my alarm. I am so glad that Sonya woke us up.

After brunch Katie and I went outside to get some fresh air and exercise for a change. It felt really good to be outside again. One of the hardest things for me about going to Sound Foundations was that I was always stuck inside, sitting down writing notes. As the weeks went by I found it was impossible to sit still in a session. Katie or Brianna and I went outside for at least a little while each day, but it wasn’t enough. I’m just too active of a person to sit through sessions all day long. I made it through it though, somehow.

That second Sunday in church I couldn’t focus on what was going on around me. I couldn’t stop thinking about my animals, my family, my church, and all my friends back home. I was getting pretty homesick. I knew that the Southwest Washington Symphony was doing their winter concert that day, without me. No matter how hard I tried, I wasn’t able to pay attention to anything that day. My mind was at home and wouldn’t come back.

Monday came once again. This was the last week and, oh my, was I ever glad. I loved what I was doing there, but I was just totally ready to be home again. The third week was the best week in my opinion. We learned about conducting and orchestration. Conducting was my favorite thing. I loved it! We only learned the basics of conducting while we were there, but I hope to go back someday to attend the conducting workshop. We also had to turn in our melody for our lyrics that week.

Writing a melody for my lyrics was much easier than writing the lyrics themselves. However, I didn’t like having my meter already set before I started writing my melody. That made it a little more difficult. I didn’t have as much time as I would have liked to work on this assignment so I ended up just writing a melody that would fit rather than taking the time to write the melody I wanted for those words. I’m hoping to go back and re-write that melody one of these days.

After we learned the different beat patterns for conducting, those of us who were interested were given the opportunity to conduct the orchestra. It was a lot of fun. I learned a lot just by watching some of the other students conduct. After each one would conduct, Mr. Fox would comment on different things that they had done. That little taste of conducting that I got while I was there showed me that conducting was another thing I wanted to learn to do well.

The orchestrations were done by roommates. Christina, Shaylene, and I all got to work together on our orchestration. This wasn’t a hard assignment, just a time consuming one. We really didn’t have any time in which to complete it either. We started on Wednesday and it was due on Friday morning.  All the classes were mandatory and our schedule was packed. When were we going to do all that work? We outlined what we were going to do on Wednesday night. The hymn we had chosen for this assignment was “Wonderful Grace of Jesus.” Why on earth did we choose one of the longest hymns in the book for this assignment? Please don’t ask.

By Thursday night we had barely written a single note on the manuscript paper. Christina is the one who decided which instrument should have which part at different points in the piece so I always checked with her to figure out what notes to write down. After our classes were over on Thursday, we went straight to our room and got to work. We had to turn this in the next morning right before breakfast. We started working very intensely.  I wrote out the string parts which meant I had to learn the alto clef which the violas read. It was very confusing at times but I made it through it.

Christina with orchestrationBefore we knew it the clock read 11:00pm. Then it said 1:00am. We weren’t doing very well. We needed to go to bed, but we had to finish our assignment! All three of us kept working. Every half hour or so we would get a new piece of paper and maybe ask a question or two, but most of the time we were silent; working very intensely and hoping to be able to get at least a little bit of sleep before breakfast. My eyes stung. I was short on sleep already and staying up all night was NOT something I was interested in doing. I was working as quickly as I could, trying to write neatly and trying not to make mistakes. The later it got the harder it became to do my work correctly. By now I was forcing my eyes to stay open. I knew I wasn’t going to make it much longer. At one point I was standing behind Christina waiting for her to finish checking part of my work and I almost fell over. I was getting weak. I had to go to bed. Finally at 4:00am I finished writing parts for the strings and crawled into bed. The next morning Christina told me I was asleep
as soon as my head hit the pillow because she had tried to say something to me and I didn’t answer her. Christina and Shaylene were up until at least 5:00am finishing everything else. I’m glad they were able to stay awake long enough to complete it.

Boy oh boy was I ever tired the next day. Somehow I made it down to breakfast at 7:30am. I was awake; I was just tired. While I was standing in the breakfast line I told a couple of my friends that I had been up until 4:00am and they couldn’t believe it. They said I didn’t look like I’d been up that late and asked me if I was used to doing that. I wasn’t and I really don’t know how I did it. Whether or not we’d gotten any sleep didn’t matter. We had completed our assignment on time. And it was our final assignment. We were done. The rest of the day was all fun. I don’t know how I managed to stay awake for it but I did. We played through all the orchestrations that day. It was so much fun to see and play the things that other people had written. There were some very good orchestrations there. I had the privilege of conducting our orchestration. It was so much fun. Our orchestration was also chosen to be played at the final concert that night.

Friday was our last day together. I couldn’t believe I was going to have to say goodbye to all the friends I had made. I was more than ready to go home, but I wanted to take my friends with me.

That last day went by so fast and it was finally time for our final concert. The concert went really well. We started out by playing the selected orchestrations, then the orchestra played “Entrance of the Queen of Sheba,” then the choir sang. I got to play with a trio on one of the pieces for a neat little interlude. I was the leader of the trio, so I got pretty nervous about it. That was a whole lot of people to play in front of. I was really glad that I got to do that though. It was really neat.

Team PictureAfter the concert we spent a lot of time talking to our friends. For some reason all the rules went out the window that night and we didn’t have curfew or lights out or anything! We used the phone for awhile, went to the bookstore/gift shop and bought some stuff to take home to people. At about 11pm I went upstairs to go to bed ‘cause I was tired. After climbing all 10 flights of stairs, like I’d done so many times before, I realized that I didn’t have my key with me! No big deal, there were tons of people talking in the halls so I joined them while I waited for one of my roommates to come up with a key. At midnight when they still hadn’t come up I decided to go in Katie and Brianna’s room because everyone was getting out of the halls. After a while Christina and Shaylene found me and they joined us. This was our last night together. Sound Foundations was over. We had made it through it. There was so much to talk about and nobody wanted to say goodbye. We stayed up until 3:00am that night. I really don’t know how I did that but it was really easy. I didn’t want to go to bed because I didn’t want to end our time together.

I slept as late as I could the next morning. There really wasn’t anything to do. Brunch was at 10 and we weren’t leaving until 2:00pm so I had plenty of time to pack. I spent most of the morning saying goodbye to people and taking last minute pictures. After brunch I started packing. It was taking longer than I’d expected but I finally  managed to fit everything into my bags by about 1:00pm. Brianna hadn’t left yet so we went on one last walk together. When we went back in, Christina still wasn’t quite packed so I jammed some of her stuff into my already overstuffed bags and we were finally ready to go.  We were finally ready to go home! It was hard to believe I’d been gone for 21 days but I had, and now I was finally going home again. I made it through Sound Foundations and I learned so much. I learned things that will be helpful to me forever. I’ll never forget my time at Sound Foundations. I learned to trust God to help me accomplish things I didn’t think were possible for me to do. Even though I missed so many things that were going on at home, I am very glad that I decided to go to Sound Foundations. I will never forget my experience there.

By Published On: May 12, 2005Categories: Music5 Comments


  1. Carolyn Ford May 16, 2005 at 11:22 am - Reply

    Thank you for the excellent report, Suzanne. I enjoyed reading it and praise God for His blessing on your time at Sound Foundations.

  2. Jerry Deans May 20, 2005 at 11:50 am - Reply

    Congratulations on a job well done!
    Jerry Deans

  3. Susan Keto May 26, 2005 at 10:44 am - Reply

    I enjoyed reading your diary; though most was a recap for me since I talked to you weekly. So thankful that even though it was difficult to be away so long, you learned so much. You are a marvelous example of what can be accomplished with dedication and hard work.

  4. Katherine Sterland June 2, 2005 at 4:24 pm - Reply

    Hey Suzanne!
    I was just searching the net for something else when I came across this. Excellent overview of SF!
    I truly enjoyed meeting you there and standing next to you in choir. I was overjoyed to read that there was someone else who stayed up till 3am on Friday night! Actually, I stayed up till about 3:30am! And I had to leave the TC at 4:45 to get to the airport on time! :) My brother said I was crazy for staying up that late when I had to get up so early, but I just couldn’t say goodbye yet!
    God Bless you!
    Katie (Katherine) Sterland
    (BTW, I live in Centralia WA, and go to the same church as Turners and Wallaces…)

  5. Cheri Cross July 12, 2005 at 9:53 pm - Reply

    Hi Suzanne!
    Greetings from another SF18 student! =) I’m not sure if you’d remember me or not, but I was on team G, was in first violin, and wear a scarf. =)
    Like Katherine, I was searched the web, and stumbled on this website! It was so much fun to read your overview and see the pictures you got! It was truly a great blessing wasn’t it?!
    Will I see you at the Strings Workshop this summer? I’m working on my pieces for the audition, and hope to recoerd them within thr week or so. I’ll be doing “Allegro” by Fiocco and “Concerto in A minor” by Accolay.
    Have a great day in the Lord!

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