Monday, March 13, 2017

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

A Cure for Hives

Bill is not a cat lover, but he does love taking photos. . . 
When that day comes and I pass through those pearly gates, I am eternally hopeful that there will be some answers, maybe in the form of a printout that I can study. First of all, why didn't baby Calvin give it up for a nap when he was tired. Second, why does Garfield pee on my things but only now and then. In between he acts really cute just to keep me from "rehoming" him. Thirdly, what was with Mary's hives?

For the past eleven days Mary has had hives. They travel from legs to back to neck to feet to hands to face and everywhere in between. What a curious and miserable journey. On day three I took her to urgent care since her doctor had no appointments available. Dr. Jim took blood and a strep test and proceeded to write a prescription. I took a moment to ask. . . Dr. Jim, is it an antihistamine? Is it a steroid? No, he said, it's like Aleve. Yeah. That would be ibuprofen. We have a $2 bottle of that at home so I think we will skip the $45 script. The word jerk ran through my mind.

On day five I tried again to get an appointment. No luck and you can't go back to urgent care for something a second time, not that I wanted Doctor Jerk again anyway. So, we limped through. Each day the hives seemed to be okay by about 9:00 in the morning with Benadryl and Zantac and Ibuprofen and oatmeal lotion and cortisone cream. They returned each night.

Day six bruises started showing up on her feet and ankles. Don't google hives with bruises. I messaged her real doctor to have her look at Mary's blood work to make sure that I only lost one night of sleep wondering if we were near the end.

Blood work was normal.

On to the weekend of SAM Graduation recitals.
Mary played on Sunday. Here is a link to her Puck. MARY'S PUCK

Sunday night was worse than ever and many tears.

On Monday I decided Mary needed a boost, so I cleaned her room for her. Per the Gist book, (The Essence of Raising Life Ready Kids) I've been trying not to do this. Even though I can. And it doesn't even take that long.

I'm not saying a clean room is a cure for hives.
I did not say that.

On Monday I managed to win the lottery for the actual dermatologist appointment. That was after getting an appointment with her regular doctor, switching all my students for that time and then having the regular doctor call and say she should see a dermatologist. Switch lessons back. Shift lessons for dermatologist appointment. I am woman hear me roar. And I have flexible students.

If having a clean room did not cure the hives, having the golden ticket of a real appointment with a real dermatologist did.

We are down to only a dozen hives at night and in the morning. I'll take that. I cancelled the derm appt.

Writing this blog and skipping the derm appointment will probably ensure that she goes into anaphylactic shock tonight. I hope not.

We will probably never know if it was the cinnamon bread, or the chocolate almond milk, or some mold outside playing, or a virus, or truffle oil from french fries or if she's really just reacting to an untidy room.

She has been a trooper. I respect that. All joking aside, it was a moment to confirm that who we are inside is not about our skin. Our skin maybe be completely covered with red bumps that burn and itch and look terrible, but inside we are the same bright, joyful, creative, musical, talkative child of God. Still all things considered I'll take the no hives version of Mary.

Amen to that.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

The Short Ride of Ability Development from Adolescence

Calvin behind the wheel at Eastview

Mary's in charge of dinner with mini-muffin tuna melts 
Ability development from age zero adolescence. I've been thinking about all these kids, and their journeys.

I've been thinking about how they don't remember a time when they didn't play piano. Since they were babies the piano kids have been coming to the house, back when it was Stefanie and Jackie and Cassy and the gang. This is what we do.

One of my piano babes, a new little three-year-old had a little accident upon waking up from his nap before his lesson this week. We stuck him in a pair of Mary's denim shorts which functioned as trousers for him. He was sad about the situation, but once dry he hopped up to the piano and played a full lesson. In one short month he has gone from being too shy to speak to me, to letting me borrow his hand and actually lift him up to the adjustable chair. Last night at group he whispered in my ear the secret song that he wanted for the body staff game. Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star. Big progress. Short time.

One of the medium kids, seven is now medium in my studio, did some extra theory pages this week. I said to Matthew something like, wow, you must really love theory. His response, and I quote, "yeah, who doesn't love theory." I nodded with game face and snuck a wink to his mother.

Dr. Suzuki's words, ability development from age zero mean that these kids are learning music as part of their language. I'm forever surprised when we get to toward the end of Piano Level One and the child is playing all 18 pieces and adding echos and paying attention to their tone and hand position.  Then after lesson they give me a little card or drawing and I'm reminded that they are as yet unable to print their name.

The correlation continues through adolescence. Here is Mary playing Chopin Mazurkas and Grieg Lyric pieces and yet, working toward cooking a tuna dinner for us. Ability leads to ability.

The coup de gras? Driving. Here's a kid playing Beethoven and Liszt and yet, just like every kid at this point, is a complete beginner behind the wheel. I'm amazed. He's doing fine. I think I'm doing fine. I THINK I'm doing fine. Teaching driving is not like teaching piano, and I guess Bill and I are complete beginners at driver's ed. When the Italian Concerto veers off course nobodies mailbox gets taken out. To say the least.

This from the gal who drove her grandpa's truck through the back of the barn at age 14.

Newborns in the studio are turning into toddlers. When it's someone else's child it goes so fast. When it's you sleep deprived it feels like every stage lasts forever.

So, I'm trying to see that big picture. I've loved every stage with my kids and never looked back, though I do enjoy the photos. . .when they were little and so exhausting, I used to take the night off and drive to Linda's and finally have a child free moment with gals. What did I do? Work on photo albums of the kids. They were so much easier in pictures.

From nursing to watching them every minute to make sure they don't kill themselves, to actually being able to leave them in the house alone, to this next stage, in a few months, Calvin being able to leave the house without US. . .

It's all a little scary and exciting and wonderful and overwhelming.

Family, friends, faith, music.
Ability leads to ability and we just hang on for the short ride.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

New Web Site

Hello friends!

My web site is done!  I hope you can visit.

There is a page there for studio news. Here is a link to my latest update. STUDIO NEWS

Here is a link to the web site, the address is the same as the old web site. KOTRBA PIANO STUDIO

I'm not abandoning this blog. It's my dear friend. My hope is to put my personal writing here as always and put studio news on the studio website. I also have a blog about pedagogy started there, called "Sara's Notes."

When there is crossover I'll probably double post. You don't have to read it twice.
Very soon there will be a place for you to sign up to automatically receive posts from "Studio News" and "Sara's Notes" but until then I'll probably triple post. Heaven help you if you read it all three times.

Life has been busy here the last weeks, but those blog entries about Calvin driving and family life are stockpiling in my head. Stayed tuned.

As always, thanks for reading. Enjoy the new web site! I'm very tickled and I hope it is a pleasant resource.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Thursday Musical Rookies

Learning something new is exciting and keeps our brains active and happy. I've been working on my new website. It's not live yet, but I'm very excited because I think it's going to be a central resource for my own students and I hope that it can be a resource for other Suzuki parents and teachers as well. It's going to have it's own pedagogy blog--leaving this blog for the same thing I mostly write about--my own family and life experiences. Working on the website scratches an itch I have--to make something creative and useful. I have help--I secured a company in Roseville--and the gentlemen got it all set up so that I could go in and add photos and change the text and rearrange things, and I am learning the system and it's super fun for me. I can't wait to unveil it to you.

Meanwhile. . .the Kotrba family keeps busy. This weekend Calvin performed on one of the Thursday Musical Recitals. Here is a link to the Thursday Musical Scholarship Competition web page. This seems like a very good contest to me, for our first contest. The participants all play on one of 12 or so  public recitals. They actually share their music with real listeners. Then they have the contest in March and then there is a recital where the winners again, actually play. The contest participants receive written feedback on their private contest performance. I'm pretty impressed so far. There were eight students on the recital at University Lutheran Church of Hope, including two violins, one viola, three pianists, one tenor, and one French horn player, God bless his soul.

Because we are programmed to compare, even though we know we shouldn't, I immediately determined that I was a much better French horn player than this kid, though he was very good. Then the announcer told us that tall kid with the red bow tie was actually competing in the Jr. High category. Dang. This is why we shouldn't go there.

While I'm at not comparing, I'll just add that Calvin is competing against pianists who are practicing a lot. A lot. And they have been practicing a lot for a long time. That's all I'm going to say.

There is always a bigger pond.

I didn't jump into that bigger pond until college and then in fits and starts. Like I said, I was a pretty kickin' horn player, playing first chair in the Quad City Youth Orchestra etc. etc. etc. best your high school has seen etc. etc. etc. Then you go off to college and the horn players have all studied with Chicago Symphony players. Then you go to a different college and your teacher is a CSO player. It only gets worse the older you get. Same for piano. . . there really is very little hope of ever feeling good about yourself in this field. Nod, nod, wink, wink.

Unless. . . you can have a non-dualistic mentality. It can't be that those players are so much better than me, I must suck. Or I'm the best. That doesn't work either. It's got to be. . . those players are more experienced. They have practiced more They are very committed. They really, really love it. They know how to work.

We have to simultaneously love where we are at right now (or where our kids are at) while we respect and admire those that go ahead of us. That's how we stay on the same team. That's how we acknowledge our God given gifts that we take and use to the extent that we decide, on a moment by moment basis. Our talent--our future and the total picture of who we are, and who our kids are, is the result of all the big and little decisions that we make along the way.

Wayne Barrington, the CSO horn teacher, God rest his mean little soul, used to tell me (and Casey, you will remember this). . .  cue the tone of voice. . . "Gerber. They make baby food. They do one thing and they do it right." This, in response to me playing piano and jazz piano and French horn. He was probably right--it's probably better to focus on one instrument. But, I'm pretty happy I had all those experiences and they make up who I am, just as percussion ensemble and snare line and accompanying the cherubs and being a really great big brother will make up who Calvin is.

The moral of the story, what I'm trying to say is, DON'T GO THERE.

Love your kids. Help them love music. Let them swim in the right pond at the right time. And help them remember who they are.

Here is a link to Calvin's performance, I've loved watching him learn this piece, the first piece he's working on with Paul that I have never performed or taught. I love watching him grow and I love seeing what he has to say through this piece.  Enjoy.

Link to Calvin's Liszt

Monday, January 30, 2017

All That Jazz

Daddy Knows a Little Bit About Improv. . . 

Mary and the String Bass Player

Trading Eights

Mary, Karen and the Combo
Mary has been taking jazz piano lessons at MacPhail with Karen Pieper. This is a big deal, it requires someone driving her there because I'm already driving Calvin to his lesson with Paul. We have expensive Mondays around here. But. . . I'm super happy for Mary because she really likes it and I do believe it is very healthy her to have some piano that not driven, literally and figuratively by me.

Karen has a combo workshop at her house now and then and the students get to play with a professional combo. We all chip in to help with the cost. Each students picks a standard and gets to play it with the bass, drums and saxophone.

Improvisation is just good for the soul. I give her space around this, but I did think it was appropriate to listen to her piece, "Dearly Beloved" by Jerome Kern, the night before the combo gig. Bill listened from the sofa and I play some changes and walked a bass line for Mary. Mary is doing a great job, and she's ahead of me at that age, that's for sure.

I forget that I took jazz lessons, played in jazz ensemble and combos for ten years--middle school through college. I was never the star, but I played some great music with some great players. It all comes back pretty easy. In Austin I had more than one student make the All State Jazz Ensemble. I was never the first call player. . . but I guess the heart of a pedagogue goes a long way.

Bill of course is the real jazzer of the family. It's his first love. Before we were married and before he went back to grad school for business he was on the road with the Glenn Miller Orchestra, playing concerts virtually every night of the year for over three years.

So congrats to Mary and we will see where this road leads. She's had her daddy singing Sinatra in her ear at bedtime for over twelve years now. I think that's pretty cool.

Improvisation is good for the heart and good for the soul. It's another dialect of the language of music. Thanks Karen, for a great experience.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Bibliography Resource

I'm working toward updating my website to be a resource for teachers, parents and my studio folks. This involves taking some new pictures. This feels a little all about me at first but it's going to lead to being all about music and kids. I liked the pictures pretty well, but the photographer has this expectation that he's gonna spend the night.

Bill takes great pictures and the price is right. Charlie also did a great job staying off the strings and dampers for the photo.

I'm still wallowing in the afterglow of our parent appreciation party on Sunday. I LOVE gathering with parents and sharing ideas. We start with a state of the studio address--each parent giving any highs and lows. This year I distributed a bibliography of my favorite books. I asked parents to add any favorites of theirs to the list and we talked about a few of the books in depth. My top three:

Helping Parents Practice

Here is the full list--enjoy. Let me know any essentials I missed!

Kotrba Piano Studio Resources

Amen, Daniel G. Change Your Brain, Change Your Life. Three Rivers Press, 1998.

Anderson, Michael W., and Timothy D. Johanson. Gist: The Essence of Raising Life-Ready Kids. GISTWorks, 2013.

Duke, Robert A. Intelligent Music Teaching. Learning and Behavior Resources, 2005.

Dweck, Carol S. Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. Ballantine Books, 2006.

Faber, Adele, and Elaine Mazlish. How To Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk. HarperCollins, 1980.

---. Siblings Without Rivalry. HarperCollins, 1987.

Gelb, Michael J. How to Think like Leonardo da Vinci. Dell, 1998.

Green, Barry. The Mastery of Music. Broadway Books, 2003.

Green, Barry, and W. Timothy Gallwey. The Inner Game of Music. Doubleday, 1986.

Hanh, Thich N. True Love: A Practice for Awakening the Heart. Shambhala, 1997.

Hermann, Evelyn. Shinichi Suzuki: The Man and His Philosophy. Summy-Birchard, 1981.

Horner, Michele M. Life Lens: Seeing Your Children in Color. MCP Books, 2016.

Klickstein, Gerald. The Musician’s Way

Kreitman, Edward. Teaching with an Open Heart. Western Springs School, 2010.

---. Teaching from the Balance Point. Western Springs School, 1998.

Kurcinka, Mary S. Kids, Parents, and Power Struggles. HarperCollins, 2000.

---. Raising Your Spirited Child. HarperPerennial, 1991.

Markham, Laura. Peaceful Parent Happy Child

Mason, Merle H. Piano Parts and Their Functions. Piano Technicians Guild, 1977.

Phelan, Thomas W. 1-2-3 Magic: 3 Step Discipline for Calm, Effective and Happy Parenting (6th Edition)

Reblitz, Arthur A. Piano Servicing, Tuning, & Rebuilding. Vestal Press, 1976.

Ristad, Eloise. A Soprano on Her Head. Real People Press, 1982.

Sprunger, Edmund. Helping Parents Practice: Ideas for Making it Easier. Yes Publishing, 2005.

Starr, William & Constance. To Learn With Love: A Companion for Suzuki Parents. Kingston Ellis Press, 1983.

Suzuki, Shinichi. Nurtured by Love. Alfred, 1983.

Suzuki, Shinichi. Ability Development from Age Zero. Summy-Birchard, 1981.

Tharp, Twyla. The Creative Habit. Simon & Schuster, 2003.

Trelease, Jim. The Read Aloud Handbook. (corralations between music and language)

Weissbluth, Marc. Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child. Ballantine Books, 1987.

Westney, William. The Perfect Wrong Note: Learning to Trust Your Musical Self. Amadeus Press, 2003.