Sunday, June 29, 2014

Colorado Suzuki Institute Day 5

Actually day five was yesterday. This morning as soon as everybody wakes up we will pack and load up the car, drive through the mountains back to the Denver airport, being very careful about what the children eat before this ride. . .

Yesterday was regular classes--Mary had a lesson, repertoire, musicianship, duets, and singing. Calvin had a lesson, repertoire, musicianship, duets, and composition.  Last night was the celebration recital.

My kids love the piano faculty here. If those teachers had to hear a little bit of "my mom says. . . " then please also know that for the next weeks/months I'll be hearing "Gail said to do it this way" and "Fay told me this" and Mrs. Gutterman said such and such.  Mary is telling me to shape the end of the phrase as though it was an enlightenment that I as a teacher should surely be aware of. And that is a good thing.

I'll spare you the play by play evaluation but you know we wouldn't come here if I didn't love the piano faculty. I'm reminded to give very specific instructions to the parents (my weakness) and I got some great new ideas for games and activities for the older kids for group lessons. Oh yeah, and the shaping the phrase thing.

I'm always down on any class that uses a computer. Teachers inspire me, not computers. If I am disciplined I can set my kid in front of the computer for an hour and ask them to do the theory/composition and they will get the same experience there in our own living room. They just won't see mountains out the window. Maybe that is inspiration enough. And maybe I'll never be that disciplined.

Tomorrow no one will change the towels, make the beds and tidy the house while I go out for a walk. There won't be two fresh Keurig cartridges waiting for me at the kitchenette. I probably won't have a glass of wine with my mushroom crepe for dinner.  The kids will not get to ice skate with friends. Both Bill and Mary want to live here. I can't blame them. But as all things go--institute life is unsustainable.

When you are parenting in front of the world here--every parent has her ups and down. You see the best and the worst of every mom and dad. By the last day the kids are tired and the parents are tired and it's all right there on display. And that is okay. I see that mom lose it with her kid and I'm thinking there go I but for the grace of God. Next time it will be me that loses it.

They give out a sticker here--it says NOW GO HOME AND PRACTICE.  Like all mountain top experiences, we have to bring it home. Bring home the patience, the inspiration, the self discipline. The character. The music.

And the stuff--we have to bring home our dirty clothes and the trinkets that Mary bought, so I better end the coffee drinking blogging moment and pack the stuff.  It was a good week.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Colorado Suzuki Institute Day 4

Don't blink. You'll miss this. Seven years down memory lane. The kids have grown up here. We still can't figure out the Charter Hotel. No hotel should have floors 4A and 4B. It's like a bad dream where you can't find your college exam room. Not so hard to find Starbucks. And Mary's bag at the Children's Ski School, again. . .

Day four was the duet recital. Calvin played Great Gates of Kiev with his teacher and Mary played a trio, Reptile Rag. A lovely dinner with Annette and the day is done. Tomorrow is the last day. Another institute over--there are only so many left. Our kids aren't the little kids here anymore. Seeing the tiny kids at the recitals sent me back to 2007--so I had to post these before and after photos.

Don't blink. You'll miss the next seven years.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Colorado Suzuki Institute Day 3

Day 3. Best and worst parts of the day:

Mary has met so many friends. Of course. I'm already dreading the post recital melt-down. Calvin has masterclass with one other girl--she's eighteen next week and has a southern drawl and could perhaps perform Clair de Lune on America's Prettiest Girl contest and he's totally oblivious. I guess thats a good place to be at gonna be 13 next month.

We are staying at the ultra posh Beaver Creek Lodge. Fluffy towels aside it's still four people in a hotel room with a cube fridge. My children have not stopped talking in four days. No offense Dr. Suzuki, but Bill and I are pretty quiet, I just can't figure how this is nature or nurture. The talking. So many ideas. So many kinds of elevators to discuss. So many what ifs.

I'm also wondering why we packed a three pound algebra book.

It's so beautiful here. I just walk around in a gardener's coma--and I remember--somewhere in my subconscious, I tried to make my garden look like this place. Aspens and pines and a $1,000,000 flower budget.

Mary left her bag in three different buildings. Good exercise it is. . . going back up the mountain for that.

A mom complimented Mary. "She does everything so easily. She's really natural."
I thought about that for a minute and I didn't know what to say. "She actually has to work her tail off for every note. She forgets everything if we don't practice one day." Instead I only said thanks. I let her think Mary the gifted girl--if only for a moment. I smiled a little inside.

The teachers are wonderful and have the patience of Job. None of them have snapped and yelled, I really don't care how your mother does it. . . .  

I appreciate that. I've never had to teach the kids of my peers. I've lost the self-conscious my whole self esteem wrapped up in what other teachers think of my kids thing. Calvin and Mary have good things about their playing and they have things to work on. The teachers find ample things to work on and I learn something at every lesson. The kids learn that intelligent musical people can have different ideas from time to time and it's okay. I need this team. And teachers. . . if you happen to read this, it's okay to tell the Kotrbas to be quiet. Yeah.

The highlight of the day was the faculty recital. It was first class and very inspiring to all of us. What a community we have. I'm so proud to be a part of it and so thankful my kids are growing up taking all these teachers and music and classes for granted.  This is just what we do.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Colorado Suzuki Institute Day 2

Day two we traded kids. Bill went with Calvin to his classes and I went with Mary. I wanted to practice with Mary on the day of her honors recital. She didn't want to go through Vivace under tempo and she didn't want to go through the practice routine of the scale work. But she did. And then burst into tears when she saw I had put the assignment from her lesson into the Spinning Song music in aqua colored pencil. Apparently I used the wrong color or something. We recovered from that and finished the practice. Stress leaks out in wacky places.

In the moments before she played, after all the slow practice and all the time we spend the last three months on this piece, when push came to shove, all I wanted was for her to be happy. For her to have a positive experience. For nine years old to be pure. I didn't care if she rounded the phrase endings or exaggerated the dynamics. I just wanted Mary to be Mary.

And she was.

Mary's Honors Recital Link

Colorado Suzuki Institute Day 1

Day One was a success.
No one threw up.
No one broke a wrist ice skating.
Everyone slept good.

The biggest question is. . . how am I supposed to edit my essay on the Suzuki Philosophy with Mark Bjork (father figure of Suzuki violin) announcing to all the parents that they are not to use any iPhone, iPad, or laptop during the children's classes. Apparently we are supposed to be paying attention. . .   or we will be paying fines to the scholarship fund.

The first two days were busy with technical rehearsals for the honors recital for both kids and trying out the piano on the Vilar stage and Mary rehearsing with the string quartet for Wednesday's recital.

Calvin played last on the Tuesday honors recital. He said it was super fun. He got to play on the same stage as Allison Krauss, one of his favorite musicians.

If you are the grandparent or aunt of Calvin--you will enjoy this link to his performance of Mozart K. 331 third movement on youtube, kept private per CSI policy. Stay posted for more updates on the week.

Calvin's 2014 Honors Recital Link

Friday, June 20, 2014

The Last Hurrah

We had four parties at our house in the last two weeks and it rained for every single one. But it didn't matter. We still had a fine time. Last night, Sami's senior recital, was no exception. It was a full house bring up every chair simulcast into the living room affair.

Sami played Liszt, Chopin, Debussy, Grieg and Beethoven. A wonderful program! She got her picture on the book seven wall of fame. She earned every note.

All the Group C alumni came. Can you believe that? And some older alumni as well. After the party Scott played his Fantasy Impromptu for me--these kids don't stop playing the piano when they get jobs and move into the real world. That is what it is all about.

From the pictures, you may wonder if being a really good looking kid is a prerequisite to being in the studio. Remember, we don't screen kids, we only screen parents. . . so there must be some really good looking parents out there. . .

Where does all this beauty come from? It's not skin deep. It's real. It comes from within. In Sami's case, it comes from playing piano for your Grandpa in the memory care nursing home. It comes from being a piano mentor to little Isabella for the summer. It comes from telling each piano honors recital participant something specific that was lovely about his or her performance. It comes from caring about other people more than yourself.

Sami is off to the University of Minnesota to study business. I have no doubt that she will be a fine one, whatever she does. I suggested that she take a piano lesson there and she came back next week and said she signed up.

Like me, Sami has had a few moments of stage fright. Those moments when your brain has left the building and your poor fingers are all alone up on stage. Last night she played to her extended family, her school friends, her boyfriend, the piano kids, studio parents and me.  She nailed it and she was there. She stuck it. A great way to end a great thirteen years. That takes a lot of courage and a lot of poise.

Sami's dad, Michael, was the practicing parent. There he was with all the piano moms at all the dessert parties, putting his two cents in. Because he loves music and he wanted that for his daughter. Sami didn't always love the music--I was told last night that after book two she wanted to quit. But there was that one song, what was it--I'll teach it to everyone--that drew her back. And her father's love. Of music and her. You see--love is contagious. Every time he recommended a youtube video of some pop/folk/classical artist she rolled her eyes. . . but then. . . eventually the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.  Love is contagious. When she got to play Jim Croce's "Photographs and Memories" on the big piano with the spotlight on her beautiful face at Eagan High's stage show with the chamber choir--Michael played all the Jim Croce videos for her.

Sami's mother? Always there behind the scenes making chex mix and wiping her teary eyes!  Incredulous that she could have raised two wonderful children and now they are flying away. I think I shall have some little packs of tissues printed up with the Kotrba Piano Studio logo to place on all the chairs of these darn recitals.

Tears of joy. But tender because we love our kids and we will miss them when they fly away.

I know you have already heard it. . . but I'm gonna miss that girl. Rock steady she was--sports, music, academics--family. A beautiful girl with a beautiful heart. I love you Sami.

Susan and Michael--be proud--enjoy the party tonight. Cry all you want. You did good.  I'm so glad I was there for the journey.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Musical Moments

Congratulations to Kathryn on a beautiful senior recital last night.

If there is one thing I've come to expect from the Bugasch family it is beautiful and unexpected musical moments. That's what happens when music comes from your heart. That's what happens when the piano player isn't just doing what the teacher said--she is doing what her heart said the music called for. Those moments make it all worthwhile, they give you goosebumps and a lump in your throat. You remember them years later--like Scott's Moonlight Sonata and Stefanie's "The Prayer."

Kathryn's Gymnopedie was hypnotic. Very French layers of sound and profound consonance and dissonance. Kathryn gets it. And the tone.

I forgot that Kathryn has dyslexia. Years ago her mom told me. She got some help with that, but there isn't any method of reading music with dyslexia. But we did it. Slow and steady like everyone else with "count aloud" stamped at the top of every page. Multiple primer level books and all the books through level four. Just like everyone else, no excuses.  I've haven't read a Mozart Sonata with all the sixteenth notes and finger numbers through the eyes of dyslexia, but Kathryn did. And over time I forgot. And the music took over.

Kathryn told me her favorite thing about piano was when she got to an advanced level and she could pick the repertoire.

With a heart like hers what did she pick? Chopin of course. Four Chopin pieces, ending with the famous D-flat Prelude, which Chopin did not call the Raindrop Prelude, but it still managed to storm at every lesson during that piece and even last night at the recital there was real thunder. And real music was made. Real musical moments.

Like all the high school kids Kathryn does a lot. She got the AAA award from her school--given to only one male and one female--for athletics, academics and arts. She did soccer until she tore her ACL. The theatrical musical. Mission trips. Choir. Piano. Time with family.

Speaking of her family. Her mother Mary has always been an inspiration to me. One of those moms who had the courage to not have a TV. And I know just how much 2% milk she likes in her coffee. She was the practicing parent until Kathryn's independence. Before Kathryn could drive, her faithful father would occasionally bring her and we knew just about how many songs before he would drift off to sleep on the back sofa with his book and his baseball cap. Kathryn and I would look at each other and smile.

And sometimes we would have a tear too. A lot goes on from childhood to graduation.

Often the best gift is the gift of words. Thank you Kathryn for your special note, which I will always keep.

If I had to pick another daughter it would certainly be Kathryn with her beautiful heart and her beautiful smile.

She closed with "A Thousand Years, " a pop song, and Stefanie sang. Yes, I loved you for a thousand years and I'll love you for a thousand more. Two sisters playing and singing.

Was it the last Bugasch musical moment?


There will be many more, and I hope to witness a few of them on Facebook and at weddings and celebrations for years to come. I'm not going anywhere. And the three Bugasch kids will keep on playing and singing, for a thousand years.

Congratulations, Kathryn.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

What Is So Rare As A Day in June

    What Is So Rare As A Day in June

      AND what is so rare as a day in June?
      Then, if ever, come perfect days;
      Then Heaven tries earth if it be in tune,
      And over it softly her warm ear lays;
      Whether we look, or whether we listen,
      We hear life murmur, or see it glisten;
      Every clod feels a stir of might,
      An instinct within it that reaches and towers,
      And, groping blindly above it for light,
      Climbs to a soul in grass and flowers;
      The flush of life may well be seen
      Thrilling back over hills and valleys;
      The cowslip startles in meadows green,
      The buttercup catches the sun in its chalice,
      And there's never a leaf nor a blade too mean
      To be some happy creature's palace;
      The little bird sits at his door in the sun,
      Atilt like a blossom among the leaves,
      And lets his illumined being o'errun
      With the deluge of summer it receives;
      His mate feels the eggs beneath her wings,
      And the heart in her dumb breast flutters and sings;
      He sings to the wide world, and she to her nest,-
      In the nice ear of Nature which song is the best?
      Now is the high-tide of the year,
      And whatever of life hath ebbed away
      Comes flooding back with a ripply cheer,
      Into every bare inlet and creek and bay;
      Now the heart is so full that a drop overfills it,
      We are happy now because God wills it;
      No matter how barren the past may have been,
      'Tis enough for us now that the leaves are green;
      We sit in the warm shade and feel right well
      How the sap creeps up and the blossoms swell;
      We may shut our eyes but we cannot help knowing
      That skies are clear and grass is growing;
      The breeze comes whispering in our ear,
      That dandelions are blossoming near,
      That maize has sprouted, that streams are flowing,
      That the river is bluer than the sky,
      That the robin is plastering his house hard by;
      And if the breeze kept the good news back,
      For our couriers we should not lack;
      We could guess it all by yon heifer's lowing,-
      And hark! How clear bold chanticleer,
      Warmed with the new wine of the year,
      Tells all in his lusty crowing!
      Joy comes, grief goes, we know not how;
      Everything is happy now,
      Everything is upward striving;
      'Tis as easy now for the heart to be true
      As for grass to be green or skies to be blue,-
      'Tis for the natural way of living:
      Who knows whither the clouds have fled?
      In the unscarred heaven they leave not wake,
      And the eyes forget the tears they have shed,
      The heart forgets its sorrow and ache;
      The soul partakes the season's youth,
      And the sulphurous rifts of passion and woe
      Lie deep 'neath a silence pure and smooth,
      Like burnt-out craters healed with snow.
      James Russell Lowell

      I heard this on the radio and had to go find it and share it. Forgive the formatting.
      Happy June Day, Sara

Monday, June 2, 2014

Thoughts About the Year and Things to Come

Summer Goal?

My friend and colleague Suzanne Greer writes a blog.  Here is a link to her entry this week: "Create Your Vision".  I really liked the entry. I also really respect her goals. I was already thinking about my goals and progress from this last school year and the summer and year to come, but her ideas are validating.

This school year was a little different. I thought I would be so relaxed after my summer off, but the construction and the hail storm, the roof debacle, and the stuff with my kidney kinda had me behind the eight ball for quite a while. Then came the long winter which hit me harder than I realized. I think by April I came as close to being really depressed as I ever have. Now with the garden and the ferns and the lily of the valley that cold and dark seems so far away.

By the way, the new kidney doctor is good--he suggests I consume less caffeine and go from there. He doesn't see a surgery in the plan, as he doesn't know where the kidney is getting blocked. He thinks it best to manage my eating and drinking behavior--try not to overload any of the systems. I can do that. Caffeine reduction is a total killjoy but I'm on board. I'm gonna trust my body to figure this out.

On the teaching front, the practicum last summer was a great growth tool. However, between this new method of evaluation and trying to make videos for my teacher trainer application, I found myself being completely self conscious during many, many lessons this year. Trying to change something as fundamental as the rhythm of a 30-60 minute lesson is really off-setting. Can you teach a middle-aged dog new tricks?

Perhaps, like the Suzuki method cornerstone principle, I need to focus on one thing in my teaching growth. That thing needs to be communication with parents. How easy to get caught up with the child and forget it's the parent who really needs to know the assignment and the practice routine. The parent who needs my unconditional love and support. They are the ones doing this for the first time, after all.

Last fall, when I said goodbye to four exemplary seniors and gained four squirrelly little four-year-olds, I think I underestimated how much the success of those older kids fed my fragile little ego. Or maybe not so little. What if those grown kids were just easy to teach? These new little kids don't seem so easy. Maybe I just got lucky a few times and maybe I'm not such a great teacher as I think.

I didn't just get lucky. Every parent in my studio is amazing. It's all about the parents. Teach the parents and the kids will turn out fine. The rhythm of the lesson will be fine. The playing will be fine. It's the relationships and communication with the parents that make all the details iron out. That has always been my strength, and I need to circle back to that.

Speaking of parenting. I met a few of my parenting goals. I exposed Calvin to some awesome collegiate teaching this spring. He had masterclasses with three amazing teachers, whom we will continue relationships with. Also he's going to start playing some on his own at night. His idea--for me to help him with new stuff in the morning and for him to review at night. Halle-blessed-lujah. I was having visions of sitting with him in the college practice room for four hours at a stretch.

Goals for Mary? My biggest goal for Mary is to get the time in with her. It's really important. Everything has to go like clockwork for me to get her a full hour of practice on the weekdays. That means Mama has got to have it TOGETHER. . . finish teaching on time, have dinner READY to go, communicate with my beloved nanny what needs to happen. That takes time and planning on my account. The last ten days I got a full hour in with Mary and again, she's a different piano player. Things start to get easy. We can sign the planner and do the homework in the school drop off queue but I'm planning for practice. If it is to be, it is up to me. . .

My personal goals?  Get the pieces memorized and make my recordings of me performing THIS SUMMER. Then I can compile my teaching videos--even if I have to stage and fabricate (insert sarcastic voice) my best teaching. . .  Can you be a sarcastic teacher trainer? I'll work on that attitude next.

There you go. One very boring blog entry, that has helped me solidify the pieces of the Sara pie for the next few months. Being a Suzuki parent, teacher, and someday. . . someday. . . a trainer.

Go to Suzannes blog. . . and make your own summer pie. She has her motorcycle--I have my garden, and I hope you have at least one piece of your pie that feeds you like that, so that you can recharge and little by little tackle your goals too.