Monday, December 29, 2008


Allow me to pose a question: do people who have lived in essentially one place their whole lives take that place for granted? For me, I think the answer is yes.

I was born in Chicago and lived there until just after my fourth birthday, when my family moved to the Chicago suburb of Oak Park. Oak Park is still my permanent residence, although I currently live on the campus of Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois for a little less than two-thirds of the year, but even then I am only twenty miles from home. Thus, I have spent most of my essentially one place. Do I take it for granted? Well, I certainly hope that no one ever has evidence that I take Wheaton College for granted, and I similarly hope that I never forget how fortunate I am to have grown up in such a safe, affluent community as Oak Park.

But I do think I take for granted one specific aspect of my lifelong location: my proximity to the City of Chicago. As I mentioned above, I was born and for four years lived in Chicago. Even after moving into Oak Park, I went into the city with moderate frequency. My dad’s parents’ house is in the far north side community of Forest Glen, and I have been there probably once a month until I started college. During the summer my family made a habit of going to the annual Taste of Chicago, as well as places like Navy Pier and Michigan Avenue. I have been too a few Cubs games and Chicago Symphony Orchestra concerts in the city, too. So I am no stranger to the city. But I honestly think that it took going to college and hanging out with people who were not very familiar with the city for me to finally appreciate it.

It is tradition at Wheaton College that all new students take a trip downtown in small groups during Orientation. My class was no exception, and I spent a fun afternoon and evening in Chicago with some new friends last August. Our activity for the afternoon was a scavenger hunt, and I found myself able to use my knowledge of major points of interest to lead my team to victory.

In the first three semesters of college, I have made many more trips into the city from Wheaton. Twice I have been to concerts in Millennium Park, once to the Jazz Festival, once randomly last December with fellow then-freshmen to celebrate the end of our first semester, and most recently this past semester leading my own Big Sibs group and later in the semester for a Chicago Symphony Orchestra concert.

This past weekend, I met a locally living friend from school, Ben Alle, in Chicago, and we wandered around the downtown area for an afternoon. Ben mentioned that he sometimes did not realize it, but he really liked the city. I agreed. As a future professional musician, I know that I will probably spend most of my working life (if not my whole life) in or near a major city, because the major cities have the performing arts organizations that will employ me. And I have no qualms about that whatsoever. I like cities. I like the bustle, the excitement, and just the sheer size. (The chase scene near the beginning of Attack of the Clones is probably one of my favorite scenes from the Star Wars movies).

And Chicago in particular will always have a special place in my heart. I have wild dreams of being a United States Congressman and quite separately retiring in Colorado, so I know I may not always be in Chicago or its surrounding suburbs, but I will always think of the city as my home. It is a wonderful city. Our professional sports teams sometimes disappoint (generally with more frequency near the end of their respective seasons), but I will always be a proud fan of the Chicago Cubs and the Chicago Bears. We have the world-renowned Chicago Symphony Orchestra (I am thoroughly excited that incoming music director Ricardo Muti begins his tenure in my senior year of college and thus I know I will definitely have the chance to see him in concert). Macy’s has unfortunately taken over Marshall Field’s, but we still have the Magnificent Mile and all its wonders. And I cannot imagine tiring of the Cloud Gate (also known as “The Bean”) sculpture in Millennium Park. We are home to President-elect Barack Obama, and, although it is not certain, it is quite possible that the Games of the XXXI Olympiad (the 2016 Summer Olympics) may come to Chicago!

All I have mentioned is only the smallest glimpse of all that makes its home in Chicago. To my fellow students at Wheaton College, I urge you to take advantage of the city’s offerings while you are in the area. And for everyone else, do drop in some time.

This is Rubio, over and out.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Love's Pure Light

I have been home on winter break for three days now, and it was a little unnerving at first to have virtually nothing to do (save Christmas shopping) after a fast-paced, extremely busy last month of the semester at Wheaton College.

But, I have reestablished equilibrium mentally, and I would like to share a little about one highlight from the past month: Love’s Pure Light, the 2008 Wheaton College Christmas Festival. To start, let me note that this year’s festival was the first large-scale Conservatory production in which I have performed, although I was involved in two such productions last year; last year’s Christmas Festival and the Artist Series presentation of Berlioz Requiem.

I know, of course, that the week preceding these productions involves extra extended rehearsals and that a mild hysteria pervades the Conservatory community. During the preparation week itself I did not feel particularly flustered, but I realized when I crashed on Sunday afternoon that that was because I myself had been running on adrenaline all week. But I recovered after finally getting a good night’s sleep.

All the preparations must have gone well, because both performances of the festival that weekend, in my opinion, went well. I really enjoyed performing in such a large production. The house was all but sold out both evenings (if I remember correctly, there were only fifty tickets left when the box office opened for at-the-door sales on Saturday night).

My favorite part of the program was the first number that featured the Symphonic Band when we took the stage after intermission. “Sing Noel, Sing Hallelujah” is a piece for choir, congregation, wind ensemble, and organ. I would like to reprint the words here:

Come behold this Child in the manger
Gift of the Father’s great love
Angels look down as His glory surrounds them
Starlight from heaven above
Sing Noel! Sing Hallelujah!
God with us now come to dwell
Sing Noel, lift high His praises
Christ our Emmanuel
Christ our Emmanuel

Lift up your heads all who wander in darkness
Shine for your light has come
Down through the ages though sin’s battle rages
Christ our Messiah has won
Sing Noel! Sing Hallelujah!
Come adore on bended knee
Sing Noel, lift high his praises
Christ come to set us all free
Christ come to set us all free

Let every daughter and son of the Father
Rise on this Christmas morn
With heaven voicing all praise and rejoicing
Christ our Redeemer is born
Sing Noel! Sing Hallelujah!
All creation great and small
Sing Noel, lift high his praises
Christ come to save us all
Christ come to save us all

[Words by David Hamilton. © 2007 Word Music.]

It is a great piece of Christmas music, in my opinion. Since I began my serious study of music, I have developed a critical ear and taste for music, and I have recently found myself turned off by a small portion of Christmas-themed repertoire (e.g., “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and “Frosty the Snowman”). But I really enjoy a well-written and well-orchestrated Christmas anthem such as “Sing Noel.”

The title of this year’s festival, Love’s Pure Light, is taken from the third stanza of the hymn “Silent Night.” I have to admit, this hymn has never been one of my favorites. But I was moved as I sang the last verse a capella with a 2400-member audience, a 200-member choir, and a 60-member band. I want to commend Dr. Mary Hopper, artistic director for the festival, on her work this year. It was a very uplifting experience for me.

Side note: you may be wondering what is my favorite Christmas hymn? Actually, I have two. “Angels from the Realms of Glory” and “O Holy Night.” I also do enjoy a good arrangement of “Carol of the Bells” for brass choir or combined choir and orchestra.

Merry Christmas! May you experience the love of our Lord in a fresh way this week!

This is Rubio, over and out.

Monday, November 17, 2008

The Most Wonderful Time of the Semester

Last week in my private trombone lesson, my teacher, Audrey, joked that every year she tells the freshmen in her studio that the last month of the fall semester is the worst, but no one really believes her until they have hindsight. She said that in the context of reminding me of that truth, and cautioning me to keep my focus as I finish up the semester.

As it happens, practically speaking, I finish this semester in exactly one month. My last final, Baroque and Classical Eras, is the morning of Wednesday, December 17. I do not know yet when I'll leave campus (I am required to be out of my residence hall by noon on Friday the 19th), but it'll be nice to be finished only halfway through finals week.

Overall, this semester has gone well academically. I have a couple challenging classes, but I'm managing. The only part of my course load that is sometimes overwhelming is having two sets of private lessons: trombone and piano. The practice hours really add up. But I have managed to discipline myself well enough. My two juries will actually be the first events of finals week for me.

Between now and finals week, there are a few major events on my schedule. This weekend, the Symphony Orchestra is presenting a concert, and I have been assigned to stage manage. It's a fairly straightforward concert from a stage manager's perspective, but the music on the program is all exciting repertoire, so I'm excited to hear it.

Then, next week, is Thanksgiving. Tuesday is the last day of classes, and my last class finished at 1:05 PM, so I expect to be at home by three. This break will be the first time I have been at home for more than one night all semester. I am really looking forward to some time to just relax, as well as seeing my extended family.

The week after that is the Wheaton College Christmas Festival. The Symphonic Band is on the program this year, and last week we began rehearsing the music for the festival. We have some fun pieces on our program. I am really excited about performing on the Christmas Festival this year.

And, of course, there is the general enjoyment of being at Wheaton College at Christmas time. We had our first measurable snowfall last night, which is only the first sign of the season. I am sure that a few other adventures will present themselves in the next month.

This is Rubio, over and out.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Day of Rest

This past January, on the Sunday after the first week of classes of the spring semester, Craig Miller, then-resident assistant of Traber 5, led a floor fellowship meeting. I remember us going around the room, mentioning highlights from our winter breaks, and meeting two new residents. Craig then gave us a challenge for the semester: observe the Sabbath by refraining from doing homework on Sundays.

As a music major, a substantial portion of my homework are my practice hours. Since beginning my studies at the Wheaton Conservatory, I have always had four different sets of practicing assignments: trombone, piano, aural skills, and whichever instrument I had in instrumental techniques courses. (I am really looking forward to finishing piano this December and not taking a section of instrumental techniques in the spring, leaving me with just trombone and aural skills for eight glorious months from Christmas until next August.) It is most practical for me to do my practical homework, if you will, in the two buildings that house the Conservatory. At Wheaton College, all the academic buildings are closed on Sundays, so I had already been refraining from that particular part of my homework on the Sabbath when Craig gave this challenge.

Upon returning to my room after floor fellowship, I thought about what completely taking this challenge would mean. On the surface, it simply meant that I would not do written homework on Sundays, either. But beyond that, it would mean a little extra discipline to get all my weekend homework done by the end of the day on Saturday. I decided to go for it. (Thankfully, that weekend included Martin Luther King, Jr., Day, so I had the benefit of a three-day weekend for my first attempt.)

I am proud to say that I have virtually succeeded in not doing any homework on Sundays since. I have also extended my observance of the Sabbath to include any work for my stage manager’s duties (although I would never have events to work on Sundays, I do have clerical duties to do). Sometimes it has been necessary to break the Sabbath, generally when I have collaborative projects and schedule constraints of other group members necessitates meeting on Sunday, but on the whole, every Sunday has been a day off for me. In short, because Wheaton College observes the Sabbath both as an educational institution and as an employer, I observe the Sabbath both as a student and as an employee.

That does not mean that I sit around all day watching movies (although I do like to check out DVD collections of The West Wing from the library to watch on weekends). I attend church in the morning, eat brunch in the dining hall, and then spend the afternoon refreshing myself for the week ahead. I usually manage to get a nap in after brunch, and then spend the rest of the day relaxing, sometimes with friends and sometimes just by myself. I might read for personal pleasure, listen to music, or write blog entries. For dinner, I either get a meal at the Stupe Grill or go out with friends. One thing I always like to do on Sunday evenings, generally not too long before turning in for the night, is go for a walk along the campus perimeter. During the week, I certainly get to many different places on Wheaton’s campus, but I am usually more concerned with where I am going than the actual journey. Those Sunday evening walks give me a chance to appreciate the stateliness of the campus (I particularly enjoy walking along College Avenue, especially when the Christmas wreath is hung on Blanchard tower and some of the evergreens on Blanchard lawn are wrapped with Christmas lights).

I will be honest and say that my determination to not work on Sundays has often led to moderately stressful Saturdays, particularly if I am working at or performing in a concert on Saturday night (or going to Chicago, etc.). But I have been blessed with good time management skills, so I am usually able to get everything done without too much trouble.

Wheaton College is a very active institution. The reputation of Fischer Hall as “the dorm that never sleeps” might well be applied to the whole school. I am not certain that this is the best inclination. Hard work is very noble, and I am sure that it pleases the Lord when we spend our time in our studies and jobs. But we would do well to remember that God Himself rested at the end of the creation week, and that He commanded the fledgling nation of Israel to observe the Sabbath. Even construction of the Tabernacle halted on the Sabbath (Exodus 35).

If you are a Wheaton student (or anyone, really) reading this, I challenge you to take what one might call the Sabbath Challenge. Refrain from anything related to your studies or job on Sunday, and instead focus on worshipping, relaxing, and preparing yourself for the week ahead. Try it for at least a month. For more ambitious types, go the whole semester.

This is Rubio, over and out.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Returning to Wheaton

This week Thursday, I return to Wheaton College.

The journey itself is not complicated. Sometime after breakfast, my mom will drive me (and a carload of luggage) out to the College. The chore of packing is also not complicated – two suitcases of clothes; two boxes or so with books, bedding, and miscellaneous items; hangers of dress clothes; my bookbag; and (incredibly, after a dozen trips back and forth between Oak Park and Wheaton in the last year I have yet to forget) my trombone. Oh, and a shopping bag full of snacks. Snacks are an absolute essential. I should have all my belongings moved from my bedroom in Oak Park to my dorm room in Wheaton before lunchtime.

In the space of a few hours, then, I will have moved back to Wheaton College. As early as that evening, I will be busy. This fall, I am serving as a Big Sib for freshman orientation. My Big Sib partner, A.J. Althoff, and I will have a small group of about eight freshmen with whom we will meet three times during orientation week. The first meeting is immediately following the orientation kick-off Thursday night. I am excited to be a Big Sib. The Big Sib meetings during my own freshman orientation last fall were really enjoyable for me, so I am looking forward to being able to give some of that back to the incoming freshman class.

When asked what about my return to Wheaton I am most looking forward to, some obvious answers come to mind: my girlfriend, my small group, my other friends, fun over meals in Saga, concerts, and things like that. But there are a few specific things that are not so obvious.

First, I am really looking forward to my private lessons starting again in a couple of weeks. The performance component of my curriculum is decidedly the most fun, and my lessons both semesters of my freshman year were extremely rewarding. I have really missed my private lessons and my instructor, Audrey Morrison, this summer, so I am really excited for that to start again. Also, the trombone studio will welcome three new freshmen this year, and having a studio almost twice the size of last year’s will be a treat.

Also, although I have not been out to the campus at all this summer, I know that some major changes have occurred. Major construction for capital projects in the Promise Campaign started just as the 2009 spring semester ended, and I have no doubt that crews have made significant progress in the intervening three months. The most exciting of these projects for most people (and probably the most exciting visually, I will allow) will be the new science center, on the southwest corner of Howard and University, but I am more excited for the extension to Edman Memorial Chapel. As a stage manager, my work regularly takes me into various parts of the building, and the sudden existence of new spaces (the extension is scheduled for use beginning in January) is really exciting for me.

Finally, I am just excited about the concept of being a returning student. As a freshman, almost everything is new when you go to college. (I say almost everything because of course I was already familiar with the campus and a handful of fellow students.) But as a returning student, you are coming back to the same classrooms, the same dining hall, most of the same friends, and (though it will undoubtedly still shock me when it turns nasty) the same weather. Not everything will be the same, of course, and I am interested to see what will be new about my life as a returning Wheaton College student this fall.

I definitely have a lot to look forward too. I do not for a moment believe that this semester will be without challenges, but I look forward to what God will teach me in the coming months and what invaluable experience I will gain. And I am sure that this semester will have a lot of fun times, too. All together, I cannot wait to get back to Wheaton College. It is from that amazing place that I shall next post to the Rubio Room.

This is Rubio, over and out.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Before the Fall

I have called myself a Christian, a sinner surrendered to the grace of the God, for almost seven years (I consider my spiritual birthday to be October 20, 2001). The challenges and struggles I have had in my walk with Christ in the interim are most likely similar to other people who gave their lives to Christ in their early teens and are now young adults. I wrote last fall about my (albeit low-key) struggles with self-worth and how I was learning to find my identity in Christ. Starting college started that particular journey, and after a year I know that I have made progress.

Another struggle common to Christians my age is pride and related struggles, overconfidence in our own skills and intellect, excess of ambition, and failure to trust God with our futures. Such is my topic for reflection in this post.

A note of explanation: recent events in my personal life, which I shall not detail here, have brought me to the revelation that I have failed miserably in the area of trusting God with my future. I have a natural talent for organization and planning, which is extremely beneficial in some of my engagements, but I have learned that it can be very harmful to myself and to others to attempt to plan my life and then assume that the plan is nonnegotiable. God knows precisely what the future holds, and He knows precisely the best path for me to take through the future. As my former senior pastor, Ray Pritchard, often said, “When you need to know, you’ll know.” The fact that I don’t know exactly what my future holds means that I don’t need to know right now.

Now consider ambition, skills, and intellect. All are neutral components of human beings. God has given us the ability to absorb knowledge and then use knowledge to draw conclusions. He has given us minds to intelligently use our bodies in a variety of activities and tasks, from the simple daily acts of eating and talking to the complex activities that form our vocations. The problem is that we forget the role of God behind everything, and we attempt to take control of our lives into our own hands. I do not believe that it is a sin to want to make quality, or even laudable, contributions to human knowledge and experience (one definition of ambition), but lacking a God-glorifying attitude can be very dangerous.

Satan works in more ways than one. He often directly tempts men and women to sin against God by hurting people, but just as often he takes good actions and tempts us to take the credit for the ingenuity, sacrifice, effort, or whatever else led to it. At this point, we are falling into the sin of pride.

I am sure that you have heard the phrase, “pride comes before the fall.” Actually, the phrase could also be, “pride came before the Fall.” Adam and Eve, too, failed to trust God to know what was best for them and to have everything under control. Rather, they tried to take their lives into their own hands, thought they had found a better way, and the rest is the history of a fallen world.

The solution, of course, is what the writer of Hebrews says: “fix our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith” (12:2a). He alone knows what is best for us, and the challenge is to surrender ourselves to Him. It is extraordinarily difficult, and I am not sure whether total surrender can be achieved in this life.

But that does not mean we should avoid starting the journey in this life. I have decided to adopt that reference from Hebrews as a personal mission statement for my life, at least for this coming school year. I will be sure to comment on this topic again in the spring.

This is Rubio, over and out.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Looking Back and Looking Ahead

My last post was at the numerical halfway point of summer. It also coincided, more or less, with the end of the classes I took at a community college, another good way to reckon a halfway point.

All through the first half of summer and the three weeks since, I had been (rather impatiently, as I have said before) looking forward to visiting my girlfriend in Florida, which is another way to divide the summer: the time counting down to my visit and the remaining summer after. I arrived in Florida as planned last Friday, and returned to Oak Park on Wednesday. It was so refreshing to spend some much-needed quality time with Naomi. We went to Disney World and the beach, visited her grandmother and her church, met some of her friends, and generally just had a good time. I was reminded again and again during my visit (which, in retrospect, ended all too quickly) of just how much of a blessing she is in my life. I am extremely grateful to Naomi’s parents for their hospitality and to Naomi herself for making arrangements and plans for our five days together.

I now have four weeks less one day remaining until I return to school. I will be working a decent amount for the next two weeks, and then two weeks from this Saturday I leave with my family for a vacation in Colorado. We will spend half a week in Steamboat Springs and then a couple days with my dad’s aunt in Denver. My family has vacationed in Colorado several times, most recently three or four years ago, and I am looking forward to going again. After that, I have half a week to pack and say good-bye to my friends at home, and then I am back at Wheaton on Thursday, August 21.

I am really looking forward to getting back to school. I have enjoyed hanging out with my family and my friends from home this summer, to be sure, with the particularly exciting example of my recent trip to Florida. But other than that, most of what I’ve been doing this summer has been extremely practical in nature – making money and fulfilling general education requirements. Important activities, but I am ready to get back to Wheaton and pursue activities that I personally care about and have meaning in their own right, like studying music and education and hanging out with all of my amazing friends and my amazing girlfriend. It truly is a wonderful place, and I am extremely grateful that I can call it my home.

This is Rubio, over and out.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Summer in Oak Park

I have been home from Wheaton for a little over seven weeks, and I have a little over seven weeks remaining before I return to school, and I have yet to post to this weblog this month, so I see it as a very appropriate time to write some reflections.

I’ll be the first to admit that I didn’t know quite what to expect during my first summer home from college. I had lived at home for several shorter periods during the school year, of course. My 23-day winter break had all the usual elements of home life – visits to my locally residing relatives, a short vacation, and making use of my hometown’s amenities. But summer is a little different. It’s four times as long, for one thing, so I have many more opportunities to both relax and be productive. A few notable events thus far this summer…

For the third consecutive summer, I have taken seasonal employment with the Park District of Oak Park, working in pool operations. During my first summer, I had the position of facility and bike attendant (an entry-level position with responsibilities of entrance security and facility housekeeping); last year, I had the position of pool maintenance technician (responsibility for maintaining the safe operation of the facility, including end-of-day shut down). This summer, I have been promoted to the senior staff position of Pool Operations Coordinator (alternatively, Facility Operations Coordinator). About three days after I returned home, I called my manager to inquire about when I might start working and she informed me of the promotion.

And so, since Memorial Day weekend, I have been learning this new position. It has presented a few challenges, but I am really enjoying it. It gives me a sense of pleasure when I sign the bottom of a report and the end of my shift, certifying that the day’s work was successfully completed under my watch.

Also, I decided to make my goal of graduating in four years a little easier by fulfilling two general education requirements at a community college this summer. I took an online rhetoric and composition course to fulfill my writing requirement and a traditional format elementary Spanish course to fulfill my foreign language requirement. I finished these two courses, both through Triton College, at the end of last week, and plan to have the credits transferred to Wheaton before the end of July. I have to say, I am really glad that I have finished those classes. I did pick up some knowledge, sure, but on the whole the classes caused stress that I would rather have done without. But, like I said, I finished, and I am two courses closer to finishing my bachelor’s degree.

Between work and school, of course, I have been more or less tied down for the last month and a half. I am thankful, however, that I have been able to go to worship services at Calvary Memorial Church every Sunday since I got home, and been able to see friends there each week. Also, four weeks ago, I saw my high school youth pastor, Craig Hammond. He and his family moved to Oregon this month, where they will start missions work with college students in the fall. I had not expected to see him again before he left, but he even had a small good-bye party a few Sundays ago. To make it better, I saw him at church earlier that day – a very pleasant surprise. It was really nice to be able to catch up briefly and say good-bye properly.

Also this past month, I attended my first-ever wedding. My cousin, Greg Steinsdoerfer, and his girlfriend of five years, Melissa Waterman, married in an outdoor ceremony in Geneva, Illinois on Saturday, June 7. It almost started to rain in the middle of the ceremony, but the weather held off and Mr. and Mrs. Greg Steinsdoerfer walked back down the aisle under sunny skies.

And that was the first half of summer 2008. Emphasis on half. I still have the whole month of July and a few weeks in August, and already I have a few but not too many plans for these next seven weeks.

In two and a half weeks, on July 18, I am flying down to Florida to spend five days with Naomi. She and I are both (rather impatiently) awaiting my arrival. We’ve both found it difficult at times being apart for so long. I am really looking forward to seeing her and exploring central Florida with her.

I return from Florida on July 23, and two and a half weeks later my family and I will take a vacation to Steamboat Springs, Colorado. Our trip will also include two days with my dad’s aunt in Denver. Colorado is by far my favorite vacation destination (this will be my fourth vacation to that state), and I am really looking forward to that trip as well.

Before and in between my trips, I have a few smaller goals. The first is to get away from the computer (inevitable when you take an online course) and spend some time with my friends in person. I also want to practice trombone more than I did during June (I am currently preparing materials to audition for the symphony orchestra and symphonic band at Wheaton in the fall), and keep my skills at piano and ear-training strong.

And that’s a brief snapshot of summer 2008. It’s certainly kept me busy so far, and while I no longer have classes, I have enough to do to keep me busy until I go back to school. But I like a busy life sometimes.

This is Rubio, over and out.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Dramatic License

I took some time this weekend to go and see the recently released The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, the second installment in the Disney-Walden Media film adaptations of the C.S. Lewis masterpieces. The film, on the whole, impressed me.

As anyone who has read a review of the film will know, director Andrew Adamson and his production and screenwriting team took considerably more license in this film than in the 2005 release The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. The overall plot was unaffected, but parts of it were interchanged, shortened, or lengthened. The biggest difference in the timeline that I noticed was the almost total reduction of the time between Prince Caspian’s flight from his uncle’s castle and his meeting the Pevensie children. I can see the reasons for this change, however: in the novel, the longer time interval covers Caspian’s meetings with the various Old Narnians, which would take up too much screen time. Also missing was Caspian’s youth, which may cause confusion among viewers who have not read the novel and will not understand Caspian’s history. But, the overall plot was there, all the characters were there, and the themes were there, too.

I thought the concept and scene design were very well done, as was the actual cinematography. I was a little disappointed at the score. Harrison Gregson-Williams used themes from his score for The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, but it never swelled to the high point I expected, not even during the battle scenes. I also thought the character of Doctor Cornelius wasn’t developed enough, but that is probably due to the absence of Caspian’s youth onscreen.

I'm not a film critic, of course, but I would give this film three stars, and I am quite looking forward to the (expected) May 2010 release of The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.

This is Rubio, over and out.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Year One

Five hundred and one days ago, I received by mail an offer of admission to Wheaton College. Two hundred and forty days later, or two hundred and sixty days ago, I moved in to Traber Hall 512 and that evening began Freshman Orientation. Late this morning, I vacated 512 and returned to my childhood home in Oak Park for a term of one hundred and three days. Those two days, December 26, 2006, and August 23, 2007, stood out in my mind today. As did several people and events about which I shall presently discuss.

First I should like to talk a bit about my experiences with the weather. Oak Park and River Forest High School is essentially a single-building campus. The school does have a stadium but, not being an athlete, I spent more or less all of my school days in high school confined to the rooms and corridors of the main building. As such, I was physically separated from the weather. Not so on the eighty-acre, multi-building campus of Wheaton College. A few stretches of particularly cold days in January and February of this year come to mind. I remember one Saturday morning, the first weekend of the spring semester, when it was bright and sunny, but the high temperature for the day was two below. Not to mention that tornado-thunderstorm combination on the first day of Orientation in August. Unfortunately, I was in the laundry room of Smith-Traber Hall at the time, so I have no firsthand knowledge of the events.

Once I made it safely to my destinations and went indoors, away from the weather, I engaged in the rigorous academics that define Wheaton College. My academic growth this past year is my next point. Let me say, for the record, that I learned so much this year. Being a music education major has stretched my mental faculties like nothing else ever has. The constant comments on my improvement from my private trombone instructor, Audrey Morrison, come to mind (my private lessons went really well this semester, for which I am exceptionally thankful). I also really enjoyed the education class I took this semester, so thanks to Steven Loomis in that department for all his work. I am really excited about my major, and at times I have to stop myself from dreaming about the four-year plan I formed over spring break and focus on the classes currently in progress.

One of the best single memories from this past year happened about a month ago. It was the Artist Series’ presentation of the Berlioz Requiem. I wrote on the Requiem in a previous entry, but I want to reiterate how exciting it was to be a part of such a large-scale production, and to watch and hear it go so well. I am really glad that I had the opportunity to stage manage for the performances, and also that most of my friends at Wheaton were involved.

Speaking of my friends leads me to my next point. I should like to write a few words about the amazing people in my life, because I certainly have found some very quality friends at Wheaton College. They are people who actually want to know how I am when they ask, and people who I know will pray for me if I ask and even without me asking. I want to thank in particular my small group leader, Greg Hughes, as well as the other five men in the group, my roommate this past year, Sam Ostransky, and the one friend at Wheaton whom I knew before Wheaton, Heidi Jahns, for all their prayers and support.

And, of course, any summary of the people in my life would not be complete without mention of my amazing, beautiful girlfriend, Naomi Attaway. Aside from the fact that I have had so much fun hanging out with her, she has been incredibly supportive as I struggled with some self-identity and self-esteem issues this semester, and she has also been incredibly gracious as I learned how to be a good boyfriend. Her encouragement and patience and prayers mean so much to me. Our relationship presented some challenges as we learned how to meet each other’s needs, but it has been so rewarding. I am really excited to visit her and her family in Florida in July.

Finally, prompted by a discussion I had with Sam two nights ago, I want to summarize my spiritual growth this year. As I mentioned above, I have had some occasions this semester where my sense of worth was low. I felt at times that I hadn’t accomplished anything of significance (usually right after a particularly unproductive hour in the practice room). But the people who care about me were always there to remind me that I do have worth, and that I have accomplished plenty this year.

That lesson is related to one I had earlier in the year, when I was struggling to let go of my ambitions for college and my life in general and let God have control. I have learned that my worth and value are all because He has chosen to call me His own. God has given me all that I have purely out of love for me, so who am I to try to run my life, to think that my ideas are better than His? I have not stopped being the organized, schedule-oriented person that I am, but I am getting better at making sure everything I do, every project, every commitment, every relationship, is pleasing and glorifying to Him.

And those points are some of the highlights from my freshman year at Wheaton College. People who had already completed their freshman year as of last summer warned me that it would change my perspective and change my life. They were right. I am extremely grateful that I have three and a half months of summer to relax, spend some time with my family, and pursue some personal interests (along with keeping in shape as a musician), but at the same time, I can hardly wait to get back to Wheaton in August.

This is Rubio, over and out.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Quite Possibly the Most Enjoyable Weekend of the Semester

To reiterate, I am quite possibly having the most enjoyable weekend of the spring semester. There are several reasons for this statement.

To conclude this year’s Artist Series at Wheaton College, the Conservatory’s three choirs and orchestra, with the assistance of the Northern Illinois University Concert Choir, the Valparaiso University Chorale and Bach Choir, the Apollo Chorus of Chicago, and a number of guest instrumentalists, joined by tenor John Tessier and ’63 alumnus Maestro John Nelson (that’s a total of about 550 people) presented the Requiem by Hector Berlioz. The Artist Series presented two performances, Friday and Saturday, to houses that were at least eighty and ninety percent sold, respectively. I had the privilege of leading the stage managing team this weekend.

Putting together the Berlioz Requiem is an enormous undertaking, as you may be able to tell from the list above of all the participating ensembles. The piece itself was a challenge for all the performers to prepare. Maestro Nelson, who currently works as music director of the L’Ensemble orchestral de Paris, arrived two weeks before opening night for a rigorous rehearsal schedule on Wheaton’s campus. The ensembles had been working with their faculty directors for weeks previously.

In the meantime, I was busy with logistical preparations for the weekend. My responsibilities as stage manager include backstage security, coordinating the start of the performance with the house manager and the lighting technician, equipment management, and making myself available to the conductor – Maestro Nelson, in this case. This past Thursday was the final dress rehearsal, and I was in attendance to make final preparations and to listen to the final run-through, as I would not be seated in the hall during the performances themselves.

I am pleased to say that, though they presented some challenges, the preparations all went well and at 8 PM on Friday night, the choir and orchestra were on stage, and I radioed to the house manager and the lighting technician that Maestro Nelson was ready to begin. I let the invocator and then the concertmaster onto the stage, and then it was my great privilege to open to door and let Maestro Nelson onto the stage to begin the performance.

Both performances went very well, both musically and also in terms of everything for which I had responsibility. I had so much fun working at the concerts. I can’t even begin to describe what it was like to hear the Berlioz Requiem performed at Wheaton College. It was truly an amazing accomplishment.

A few other things have only added to the enjoyableness of this weekend.

Tonight was Band Banquet. Members of the symphonic band and some guests gathered for dinner and fellowship at Riverside Receptions in Geneva (about ten miles west of the College). It was a really enjoyable evening.

This weekend has also been in the middle of a string of days with really nice weather. It’s been so nice to walk out of class and find the morning chilliness gone. Today is especially nice. Just this afternoon I went outside and stretched out on lawn in front of my residence hall.

And finally, today is Naomi’s and my three-month anniversary. I cannot begin to describe how amazing the last three months have been. I have learned so much about myself and about God through my relationship with this amazing young woman. I am really excited to go visit her and her family in Florida in July. Happy three months, Naomi!

This is Rubio, over and out.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

The Spirit Blows Wherever It Wills

Something is happening at Wheaton College. I don’t know quite what it is. Only God does, really. But the Holy Spirit is on the move here. People are praying for revival. Let me elaborate.

Wheaton College is and always has been a place where all members of the campus community have given a high priority to scholarship, integrity, and the pursuit of truth; to meaningful, caring relationships; and to social justice. But above all else, we lift high the name the Christ, and it is in His name that we exist and work.

Sometimes, though, we forget that our calling is to glorify God. We get caught up in our studies, relationships, and ministries. The effect is that an attitude of pride and cynicism has settled on our campus community. Our studies and all the rest are blessings from God, but right now we (albeit subconsciously) take credit for them ourselves. As a result, we are distracted from truly worshipping because we don’t recognize God as the “fount of every blessing.”

Do we need a revival at Wheaton College? That’s an interesting question. Mine may be a minority opinion, so let me say respectfully that I think revival is overkill. A revival, as I understand it, is when the Holy Spirit moves in the heart of many people in one community, resulting in an extended period of unplanned worship. During such a time, people might confess sins, renew their commitments to Christ, and the like.

I do not doubt that God may use (and has used) revivals to do tremendous good in communities around the world. But here is why I think revival is overkill: I think people sometimes pray for revival to distract themselves from their own convictions. Remove the speck in your own eye and all that, right? Ask God to help you overcome your own cynicism and pride, and then ask Him to let your life be an example to others. It’s definitely something I need to do.

So let me expand my statement a bit: revival is not a bad thing, I just feel that we shouldn’t rush towards such a dramatic solution. God can work in small, subtle ways to accomplish great things.

At the same time, I do appreciate the significance of what is happening here. It’s hard to overlook the evidence that people are realizing that we have lost some of our focus. In the Conservatory, in particular, lots of people are thinking about what it means to be a Christian musician. Out of respect for my friends’ trust, I will not share on this weblog some of the personal stories I have heard, but let me say that it’s amazing. People are humbling themselves and seeking God’s purpose for their gifts.

What is my prayer? That each and every person who, because of the grace of God, is here at Wheaton, would understand more and more each day how much God loves us and wants us to know that He loves us. I’m not doing much over spring break – just going home to spend the week with my family and relax in Oak Park. But I will definitely be praying for Wheaton College. If you are part of the Wheaton community, I challenge you to join me, and if you are a friend of the College and feel so led, I humbly ask you to pray for our school.

This is Rubio, over and out.

Monday, January 21, 2008

A Man and a Woman

Today is the observance of the birth anniversary of the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968). It is a federal holiday, signed into law by President Ronald Reagan in 1983 and first observed in 1986 (though it was not until 2000 that all 50 states observed the holiday). I grew up in Oak Park, Illinois, a very diverse community, and commemoration of King's work and legacy were a regular part of the curriculum every January. When I was in high school, I attended the annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Convocation, typically on the last Friday of classes preceding the holiday. The event usually involved various performance ensembles (the gospel choir and jazz ensemble, as I remember), and then the winner of the MLK Oratorical Competition would read his or her winning essay. The speech was usually a call to remember that King's work was not yet finished.

When I got to Wheaton College, which, needless to say, is quite a different environment than Oak Park and River Forest High School, I was curious to see what official events the school sponsored for MLK Day. I was pleased to find that a chapel session had been reserved for the occasion; this past Friday's chapel was titled "The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Remembered." Tonight, the College is hosting the DuPage County MLK Day ceremony, with a performance by our own gospel choir.

All that is well and good, but I think, in reality, my generation, as a whole, can do more than quote King saying, "I have a dream." That's a bit of an exaggeration, of course; I am sure that most people my age know who King was and for what he's famous. But the Associated Press reports that scholars believe the breadth of King's story is largely ignored. For example, the article I read (both on and WORLD Magazine's website) state that King's activism also included issues such as poverty and war. Additionally, people today forget that King was not popular at the time he made his famous "I Have a Dream" speech - quite the opposite.

Sadly, though, that is the fate of many historical figures. As the article states, many are simply "frozen in time" at an iconic moment, and the depth of their work and their lives forgotten. Fortunately, King is not likely to cease to be a well-known historical figure, so there is hope that that depth will eventually become general knowledge.

To change the subject completely, I am no longer a single man.

I first met my girlfriend, Naomi Attaway, well, actually, I can't remember an exact date. She is a fellow first-year music major here at Wheaton College. We saw a lot of each other through the fall semester, first by virtue of having five classes together, and then we started spending time together outside of classes, in social contexts. Eventually, there came a point when we were definitely acquaintances, and then a point when we were definitely friends, though both of those points are rather ambiguous. Last night, I asked her to be my girlfriend, and she said yes.

Pardon me for stating the obvious, but I am really excited about this relationship, and really thankful that God has given me (us) the opportunity to have this relationship.

This is Rubio, over and out.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Huckabee for President

Happy New Year!

At present, I am in the middle of my Christmas break. In addition to getting a respectable amount of sleep, I have kept myself busy getting prepared for a major upcoming event.

2008 is a leap year, and like all other leap years (as well as century years not divisible by four hundred), the United States will hold a presidential election in November. That means from now until Election Day (November 4), we will be in the midst of a presidential campaign.

The Iowa Caucus, the famous first primary, is tomorrow, and the event has led the news all year. At this point (i.e., for the primaries), I have decided to support former Baptist minister, former Arkansas governor, and candidate for the Republican Party nomination, Mike Huckabee.

Mike Huckabee ( officially announced his candidacy last January, but it is only in the last few months that his campaign has gained equal footing with his party's front runners. Several polls put Huckabee in the lead for tomorrow's Iowa Caucus, and he is regarded as a serious contender across the board.

A few highlights of Huckabee's stand on the issues most important to me, as listed on his website:

EDUCATION: "I believe that every child should have the opportunity for a quality education that teaches the fundamental skills needed to compete in a global economy. As I traveled the country and the world over the last decade bringing jobs to Arkansas, the business leaders I met weren't worried about creating jobs, they were worried about finding skilled and professional workers to fill those jobs."

SANCTITY OF LIFE: "I support and have always supported passage of a constitutional amendment to protect the right to life. My convictions regarding the sanctity of life have always been clear and consistent, without equivocation or wavering. I believe that Roe v. Wade should be over-turned."

MARRIAGE: "I support and have always supported passage of a federal constitutional amendment that defines marriage as a union between one man and one woman. As President, I will fight for passage of this amendment. My personal belief is that marriage is between one man and one woman, for life."

FAITH AND POLITICS: "My faith is my life - it defines me. My faith doesn't influence my decisions, it drives them. For example, when it comes to the environment, I believe in being a good steward of the earth. I don't separate my faith from my personal and professional lives."

"Quality education" ... "right to life" ... "one man and one woman" ... "I don't separate my faith from my personal and professional lives." These four samplings alone make Huckabee a man I admire, and further investigation into his stand on other issues such as foreign policy, health care, and energy make him a candidate I am proud to support. This is the first presidential election I in which I will be eligible to vote, and for the primary round, my vote goes to Mike Huckabee.

Regardless of whether or not you agree with my choice of candidate, let me encourage all who are eligible to get out and vote! If you are not registered to vote, it's free and easy, so get that done right away. Get informed about the candidates, watch the news, and VOTE!

This is Rubio, over and out.