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.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

A Quick Thought

College Mail Day One

College Mail Day Two
Some moments my faith is stronger than others. Today for example, on the way to school with Mary, we were about three blocks from home when I swear a little angel's voice whispered ever so gently into my ear, softly and tenderly, that prophetic word. . . clarinet. Proof that there is a God and He does care about us. I turned the car around and Mary ran back inside to get the instrument. Having the clarinet along is an important musical element of having a good concert day. It doesn't really matter if your parents are musicians and you've been playing piano for nine years and you have all the right answers in band. . . if you don't have the horn for your gig.

And for the second year in a row, I sent my children down to Arizona to visit their aunt, with clothes that are not even close to fitting.

Why? Why are the clothes too small? Why am I getting this mail? How can this 6'1" little kid be capable of actually driving a car in the snow.

I'm in denial. That's all there is to it. I'm actually quite happy here today, so I'm just gonna stay in denial at least through the middle school band concert tonight.

Maybe tomorrow we will practice driving again. Today, I'm gonna cut up little apple and cheese slices for an after school snack.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Heading Out to DC. . . but it's not what you might think

My good friend Annette and I are heading out to DC. No, we are not marching on Washington. We not staying for the inauguration ball. We are teaching at the Levine Workshop tomorrow. Suzuki piano. It's actually about the opposite of politics and I'm sure we can all use a little of that right now. Whatever your opposite is. . .

While I'm out there I'll try to investigate if it was the Russians that hacked our Suzuki Association of Minnesota website back in December. Just kidding, and not making light of serious stuff--you have to laugh a little or you will cry all day. I actually think the Russians might be tampering with my google calendar as well. It's probably for the best.

Two thoughts here: I love teaching these workshops. It's my absolute favorite thing to do. You get 15-20 minutes with little kids. Just a few moments to try to make a difference. Some little ideas to play more expressively or physically easier. Richer tone. Some little idea to make practice effective and fun. We need them to leave loving music more than when they walked in the door. I've got my flashcards and trinkets. I'm so excited. I also get to talk with parents about practice. This is my life folks. Practicing with kids. I'm chuck full of insecurity about a million things in life, but this is not one of them. This is something I can shout from the mountain tops with full authority. I know how to practice with kids over the long haul. Thank you Karen Bartman for the invitation. Karen worked with Calvin out in Colorado for several years and I still remember everything thing she said about Beethoven Op. 79. Aside from that, there was the cutest girl in their masterclass playing Clair de Lune and she was all kinda flirty with Calvin but he wasn't there yet and it was pretty funny. He was all about the metronomes. . . all the different metronomes. Institute memories.

Second thought: Mary's New Year's Resolutions. I'll let you process that a little. It's hard to treat all the stuffed bunnies with equal love when you are packing for a trip. That's the first conflict of interest I note. She only took ten to Arizona this weekend. Also, bins of stuffed bunnies are tricky to "process" as well. Baby steps, but I'm proud of her intentions--really proud--and I'll try for a few myself.

Here's to the best 2017 we can have.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Go and Love Someone

Stephens Women

The Tradition Continues. . . now that I have the tree. . . 

I Love Giving the 18 year old presents in doll clothes boxes. . . ha ha ha. 

Someone is a Senior

Yeah for Non-Screen Endeavors

Cousins Forever

The Flannel Shirt Was Too Small for Calvin. . Looks Good on Janel

All Gone
This weekend we had three recitals across town on three days, two church services, a trip to the Minneapolis Institute of Art for the Luther exhibit, a church small group dinner and we took the tree down and made soup.

Yesterday there was weather and I spent five hours in the car getting the kid where he needed to be. Including a piano lesson way up north and a band concert way down south. In the snow.

I'm cooked. Grouchy. Seasonal Affective Disorder. Sleepy. And a glance at the dark window this morning tells me that it's sleeting. Not bad enough to cancel school here in the land of brave drivers. . . just bad enough to screw up everyone's day.

As we tuck Mary in, we talk about waking up cheerful and ready to face the day. I'm working on the log in my own eye. It's a great question. Just how much of our mood can we control and how much do we just succumb to?

To that I would shout a resounding BOTH AND.  Our moods and mental health are real. AND we can do the best we can. Sleep. Eat right. Exercise. Pray/meditate. Drink more water. My five star program. Also vitamin D and fish oil. Six sided star.

Still I'm trying to fix everything and everyone arround me. I'm a contrarian. Is it me? I think it might be me. For my meditation, I went seeking inspiration. I found a printed out Facebook quote on my desk.

Go and love someone
exactly as they are.
And then watch how
quickly they transform
into the greatest, truest
version of themselves.
When one feels seen and
appreciated in their own
essence, one is instantly
--Wes Angelozzi

I also found a great devotion about contrariness. When we are in a state of contrariness, we can't be love or see love in other people. Our negative thoughts are happy to find someone or something to oppose. We stock up on comparison and competition, judging and critiquing.

One of my favorite authors, Richard Rohr, writes: The True Self needs none of these games to know who it is. It is a child of God, sharing in God's own Spirit, and its energy is foundationally positive and generative.

I'm reflecting on my favorite airport gift shop t-shirt "the beatings will continue until moral improves." Also--the best way to ensure a happy workplace is to fire all the unhappy people. I guess those sayings don't work for family life. Yeah, no good.

Go and love someone exactly as they are. That's where we start. I guess you can't discipline someone into joy. You have to love them into joy.

But. . . getting to bed on time might help you do this and it might help the other grouchy person you are forcing into cheerfulness improve as well. Hugs and shoulder rubs are also helpful. Chocolate? All of the above.

If you're gonna send really cold weather and then freezing rain and then two to three nuisance inches of snow, could you get it together so we really get a snow day when everyone stays home? 
Help us be cheerful anyway. Help us love the grouchy in ourselves and others.