Saturday, August 27, 2016

Welcome What Is

We had a big summer. Calvin went to Portland with my mom, and St. Olaf Piano Academy and two weeks of marching band camp. Mary had Colorado and MacPhail piano camps and YMCA camp and horse camp. I did Colorado with Mary and taught at MacPhail and did 107,437 hours of observation (actually 43) at my teacher trainer internship out in Connecticut. I taught six weeks of lessons. I drove about 732 miles back and forth to Eastview High School. Bill's just Bill. He's got a lot going on too. 

Two small words have been added to my Suzuki Association of the Americas profile page. 

Just a little clause on my otherwise boring list of accomplishments. 

I'm cautiously and humbly excited. I'm not in a hurry. I have a lot of organizing and planning and learning to do before I'm ready to teach a class of teachers. I do believe wholeheartedly in what I'm doing and I do believe in the future of Dr. Suzuki's legacy. To everything there is a season. Right now my season is my family and my studio and oh yeah. . . the Suzuki Association of Minnesota. . . and oh yeah. . . Easter Lutheran Senior Choir. I do hope we rename it. 

That's all I have to say about the teacher training thing. 

Lazy days of summer? 
A lot of music. A lot of family. A lot of friends. A lot of cabin life. A little gardening. 

It seems like the kids grew up about five years this summer. Not cool. Calvin is about way taller than me. And Bill. No one prepares you for this. I guess it's happened before in history--kids getting taller than their moms. But it's different when it's your kid. 

We're going through some changes. Calvin is officially signed up in the piano studio of Dr. Paul Wirth. This after much prayer and more than a little bit of sentimentality. If you know me you know that means about ten days of tears. The time is right, and I know it. It all came together like a total God incident. The pieces fell together like a beautiful puzzle. I don't know what all this is going to mean. We are just taking life one day at a time. I trust Paul. I like Paul. He's got an unparalleled track record. And I happen to think he is a very, very good person. Calvin's heart will still be moving in the right direction. 

I'm about thirty hours into the Fall SAM Workshop. . . since Monday. That's not counting the work Cindy and I have been doing all summer. It's something else. And choir is looming. 

Welcome what is. 

One of my devotions had that focus last week and I like it very much. Welcome what is. Welcome change, welcome the new school year, welcome busy family life and volunteer stuff. Welcome whatever comes our way. This is it. This is this day and this part of our life. It's busy. It's full. It's easy to leave your checkbook on one of the tables at the middle school Gymboree orientation. This will force your daughter into early independence because she will be forced to find all the new classrooms on her own while you go back and search every table where you wrote a check for gym uniforms and planners and lunch money and yearbooks. It's easy to blink. It's easy to busy the next precious three years away. 

It's time for me to officially put aside the fantasy of Sally. Sally is my personal assistant. She does all my administrative work and some laundry and she changes the oil in the car every three months. She does what needs to be done without even asking. She does everything I'm just not in the mood to do. 

But there is never going to be a Sally. 

Why would I want Sally living my life anyway? I like my life. 

Welcome what is. 

Dear Lord,
Thank you for this summer. Thank you for family and friends. For the piano kids and music. Thank you for our home and the cabin--let them be a blessing to everyone. Thank you for all the opportunities we have to make a difference. Keep our yes sacred, but help us to welcome what is. 

Monday, August 8, 2016

Goodbye to Our Furry Friend

It's a tender morning here at the Kotrba house.
We woke to find our Flopsy had died in the night.
He wasn't doing well the last two weeks.

I'm so glad that I was home and Mary was home and we got to say goodbye.
He was a very good bunny.
He liked to do his tricks and toss his ball. He always came running to see you and get his Cheerio.
He was something else.
I always told him so too.

Mary will miss him.
I'm quite certain that any heaven worth looking forward to has a hill for Flopsy.
He had a very good and long life.

God bless you Flopsy--you were a good pet.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

What a Nice Week at MacPhail

We had the MacPhail Suzuki Institute last week. Annette Lee, Fay Adams and I rounded out the piano masterclass faculty. We also got to play together on the recital, selections from Ravel's Mother Goose Suite. Annette got to do all the glissandi at the end--so she did get the glory. And the blisters. Adrianna and I also got to play together for the first time--a Chopin cello and piano sonata movement. I'm not sure why it took me so many years to realize how much fun it is to collaborate with others. I really enjoyed the recital. I was actually there, in my body, seeing the black dots on the page, feeling the smooth keys and hearing the tone coming out of the 9' Steinway in front of my peers and students. That made me happy.

The piano kids were great. There are some great kids who come year after year. I really love it.
We made popcorn, real popcorn, in the group class. It was to demonstrate the idea of different kinds of staccato. I also blew soap bubbles and let them pop on the children's faces.

I got to take a class from Fay, along with some piano friends! That was super fun.

Having your own child at an institute where you are teaching is it's own adventure. Talk about transparency. But Mary loves Fay and Annette and Wynn-Anne and Sue and L.A the drum guy. She just loves the institute. And she loves the piano kids.

Disclosure. It took every single solitary ounce of self-discipline for me to come home at the end of the day and watch the video recording of her lesson with Fay and diligently follow through on the teaching points. But we did it. Every night. I did at one point in the week resort to paying Mary a nickle a phrase for perfect reps with gentle endings on the Chopin waltz which we so responsibly started ten days before the institute. Because I'm just that perfect of a Suzuki mom.

I'm so proud of Nandani, Preston, Úna, Ella, Walt, Britta and Mary for all their hard work. I'm sorry Walt was feeling sick most of the week and missed out.

We do these institutes to get a boost. I hope the Minneapolis kids got what they came for. I sure had a good time. Good kids, good music. Good friends. Good memories.

Tonight, I'm writing from Connecticut. Got in last night at 2:00 a.m. I'm gonna go to bed and sleep. And get up tomorrow and continue my observation of Diana Galindo's Book One Teacher Training class. And meet the Connecticut kids out here.

When I pulled into the the parking lot at the Hartt school today--a wash of flashbacks overtook me. My kids were four and seven again and Calvin was chasing after Alexa with the long red twisted braids and Mary was hugging her friends in the courtyard and crying her eyes out when we left. This is the stuff. Marina Obukovsky was telling Calvin not to wake the baby in Cradle Song. He was singing the right hand to the Beethoven Moderato while he played the left hand of Cradle Song--playing the distraction game with himself. . . and Catherine McMichael was telling me that it was all going to be  okay--Mary was only four after all. There was a long path ahead. Mary Had a Little Lamb was going to be okay.  Calvin was scoping out every piano in every practice room and telling us about them for hours and hours and hours at dinner while we tried to have adult conversation with Chris Liccardo. This is the stuff.

Institutes. Good kids, good music, good friends. Good, good memories.
Good night.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

God Bless Us Everyone

While I remain 100% committed to Dr. Suzuki's mother tongue approach to the study of music, it very well may be that the single most important side effect of this method is community.

We spent a week in Beaver Creek at the Colorado Suzuki Institute with Matthew and Erica. Ella and Úna spent the week at the Chicago Suzuki Institute. Now we are here with Preston, Nandani, Walt, Úna, Ella, Britta and Mary at the MacPhail Suzuki Institute. And I get to work with Vivian and Gabriella and Natalie, Michael, Saanvi, Phillip, Natalia, Ben and Caden.

I get to perform with Annette and Adrianna and Fay.

There is so much good music going on but beyond that. . .

We get to know each other.

This is it folks. As Jen Hatmaker says. . . I can't even.

Kids. Marriage. Music. It's just not always easy. Every kid is unique, every parent is unique, every marriage is unique and when push comes to shove we're just here for each other. That's even more important than the music.

Most people have some big challenge.

OK. . . everybody has some big challenge.

You work with families long enough you pretty much figure out what their challenge is. While you are working on your own.

So tonight. . . God bless the Suzuki families. God be with Walt who is not feeling good. . . and with everybody and their deal.


Monday, July 18, 2016


Happy birthday kid!

Throughout history, apparently children, have done this thing, whereas they grow talller, get smarter and even sometimes more musical than their parents. This is normal. But no one prepares you for this.

Mama and Daddy are so proud of you and everything that makes you who you are. You are a one-of-a-kind sweet, smart, musical and fun son, grandson, great-grandson, brother, cousin and nephew. Child of God. We are all blessed by you everyday!

Especially when you help me at the computer. And with my phone. And vacuuming.
Happy birthday, I love you!