Getting Personal is an email Q&A with a local personality. Here, News-Gazette staff writer Melissa Merli chats with Mahomet resident Julie Beyler, a music teacher with a studio in her home, a singer, a conductor by profession and the founding director of The Chorale. Getting Personal appears first in print., in Sunday editions of The News-Gazette. In the Jan. 15 newspaper, we'll have a chat with LaDonna Wilson, a teacher and the drama director at Central High School.
What time do you typically get up?
One of the joys of not working 9 to 5 is that I can sleep in for the first time in my life — I'm often not up until (shhhhhh) 9 a.m. I am a night owl, however, and combine a little TV watching with my hubby and some laptop work until at least midnight.
What do you do the first hour of the morning?
Eat breakfast while watching the national news with my husband. Then it's a trip to the hot tub to keep my flexible frame working.
What did you have for lunch today? Where? With whom?
A fresh lettuce and veggie salad with chicken teriyaki strips. On our glorious four-season glass sun porch built with loving hands by my husband, with a great view of our backyard and all the leaves yet to be gathered 'ere the winter storms begin. My husband of nearly 16 years, a retired building contractor. He's the reason we have seven additions on our house since we moved here in 1996.
Best high school memory.
"Best" of anything is always difficult. But my dad was the music instructor at our high school, so I have many wonderful musical memories — marching band, choral and solo contests, learning to play a snare drum cadence (when the drummers didn't show for a parade) so the band could march on Memorial Day. Because our high school burned down three weeks before graduation, the senior class used several venues in our town of Savanna as classrooms. It was a little preview of what it would be like in college. We graduated on our athletic field, and I played for my own graduation, having recorded "Pomp and Circumstance" on the church's pipe organ.
Tell me about your favorite pair of shoes.
Being prone to go barefoot when I can, I'll rifle through my closet and tell you there are three pairs — my Ugg bedroom slippers, my Saucony shoes (for walking my country road, where many Chorale ideas are generated) and my black satin 4-inch heels with a rhinestone clip, which are fun to wear at performance events for very short periods of time.
What does a perfect Sunday afternoon include?
There's that "perfect," "best of" question again. Sunday evenings are rehearsal times for The Chorale, so there is usually some prep work going on. But on a balmy, sunny day, a quick drive through a favorite restaurant and a picnic at Lake of the Woods is always a welcome Sunday afternoon activity.
Was there one book you read as a child that you still cherish? Own? Read?
I think my mother introduced every baby she ever knew, including her own two children, to the Peter Rabbit series, and I have tried to continue that tradition. I certainly own many of the Peter Rabbit series. I read them to children and grandchildren and was pleased to visit the author Beatrix Potter's homes in England.There we found Mr. McGregor's garden in the yard, set up just exactly as you see it in the book, tipped-over pot and all. At each point in her home, which was a site of one of her drawings, was a copy of the book opened to the exact page where the picture occurs in the story — a very nice touch.
Where on earth are you dying to go? Why?
I'd love to walk the Milford Trek in New Zealand to see the countryside and to prove I could do it.
Tell me about your favorite pet.
All of my adult life, I've owned Shetland sheep dogs — Shelties for short. My idea of a good time in Ireland was visiting a working sheep farm and watching those animals have their way with the sheep. Such bright dogs and easy to train.
Have you discovered as you matured that you are becoming like one of your parents? Which one and how?
Yikes! Another difficult question. I suppose matured is the operative word here. I've always been more like my dad in coloring, temperament and interest in music. Some might say I've "mellowed" over time and become a bit more like my mother. She was gracious and not fault-finding. I think my mom thought I was a bit too curious and perhaps too ready to speak in a straightforward manner. I'd like to think I have some of the best qualities of each of them. Maybe that's a question those who know me best should answer.
What would you order for your last meal?
I think I wouldn't be too hungry knowing what was coming. I'm a person who doesn't look forward to a "last" much of anything.I like to think I have enough time to live my life twice at least here in this time we've been given. But I am a pizza lover.
What can you not live without?
Another trick question! What do I think I can't live without? My computer, my telephone, television, communication of all kinds. The truth is I've lived among the Navajo Indians and realize we can do without much and be just fine, perhaps better, or certainly closer to nature.I think I have to be able to enjoy the outdoors, have music in my life, to live in a contributing way and have the love of family and friends.
Whom do you have on your iPod?
All of the music The Chorale is learning for their next concerts — a Charlie Parker album, "How Sweet the Sound" (gospel), Chanticleer, Mormon Tabernacle Choir CDs, Kathleen Battle, Jean Redpath, Scottish ballads, choral masterworks, Nakai, Earth Spirit,the music of fiddler Laura Risk, Yo-Yo Ma and too many more to mention.Pretty eclectic, with alittle C&W thrown in.
What's the happiest memory of your life?
It's hard to beat giving birth to three healthy children who are well and prosperous and contributing to society according to their special gifts.
If you could host a dinner party with any three living people in the world, whom would you invite?
This is a perfect example of me wanting to live my life twice. Couldn't I please have several dinner parties inviting three special people? I'd like to chat with Michelle Obama, Hillary Rodham Clinton and poet Maya Angelou. Men on my list might include Placido Domingo, Yo-Yo Ma and James Levine. James Taylor and Bobby McFerrin could come, and I wouldn't be disappointed.
What's the best advice you've ever been given?
Stay true to yourself and try not to take everything personally. My grandfather once told me no doubt in reference to his wife of many happily married years: "Sometimes you just HAVE to let the other person have the last word."
What's your best piece of advice?
Be flexible, try to stay relevant as life goes along and still use the gifts you've been given. Don't act old, or you will be!
What was your first job and how much did you make an hour?
As a very young baby sitter, I made 35 cents an hour. In high school, in the summer, I worked as a switchboard operator in a fabrication plant and have not a clue how much money I made. It was all about having the first real job.
What was a pivotal decision in your career, and how did you arrive at that decision?
I came from generations of teachers, being related to the first teacher to come in the 1800s to the northwest corner of the state of Illinois, where I was raised. So there was never a doubt that was what I wanted to do, and I felt I had the skills and perseverance to teach. Watching my dad all those years struggle and succeed in making a strong music program was fuel for my fire. I've had a great many jobs in my life, but my profession has always been music and teaching.
Do you have a bad habit? What is it?
I'm sure I have many. I'm not a good "clothes hanger upper" on a regular basis. I'm too busy moving from one thing to another to take the time. I'll spare the reader the rest of my bad habits and vow to work on them.
How do you handle a stressful situation?
Depends on the situation and my state of mind at the time. Sometimes, talking it out with someone I trust is the way for me to best deal with stress. Sometimes, a quiet walk and self-talk works well.Rarely can I push it in the back of my mind and forget it. Working it out is my way — whatever that takes.