Wednesday, April 22, 2015

My God is a Rock in a Weary Land

I've got good news and not so good news.

The good news is my friend Vickie from Blanco, Texas passed her teacher trainer application!  Vickie, I'm sure Doris is so proud and I hope she was the second phone call after your awesome hubby. Vickie had other good news this month--her daughter had an extremely high risk pregnancy and I'm happy to report that Vickie is out in California with a healthy mama and baby. Congrats on both LIFE ALTERING events--a grandma and a teacher trainer all in one month!

The not so good is that my friend Lorie Gardner, mother of my student Isabella was in a fire yesterday. Their tiny family of mom, dad, Isabella and Lorie's mom is down in South Africa on a two year work commitment.  What I read from Lorie's sister's Facebook post was that there was an explosion at the stables where Isabella rides and that there was a fire and Lorie heroically saved 3 of 6 horses from being trapped in their stalls but had to stop (or I imagine someone else physically stopped her) when she burned her feet and hands. That's all I have--but there's no minor burning of feet and hands so we are all thinking of her and waiting for more reports.

I'm hoping angels know no boundaries--because I'm sending as many as I can dream of all the way to South Africa.  If you know Lorie you know that her kindness is unrivaled. She is one classy determined red-headed southern belle and she put the will in where there's a will there's a way.

Our choir is tackling another Daniel Kallman piece for the choral service entitled, "My God is  Rock in a Weary Land." It's a gosple doozy so I'm spending some time with it.  I'm sending that time out to Lorie and the message too--

My God is Rock in a Weary Land.
A Shelter in a Time of Storm.

You're not that far away, Lorie, and helpless as we are, we are all thinking of you and Isabella.

Monday, April 20, 2015

You Got to Dance with Them What Brung You

Last weekend Dr. Paul Wirth was here on behalf of our Suzuki Piano Teacher's Guild for a day of masterclasses.

We had a lovely day. Along with many good reminders about phrasing, pedaling, balance and performance practice, Dr. Wirth told a story--you got to dance with them what brung you--a modern day parable about a gal and her prom date. A story about loyalty, he used it to remind us about and ask us to reflect on why we play piano in the first place.

We play piano or flute or violin or we sing because at some point we were touched by music, not because we wanted better MCA scores or to win contests. Sure, there are a ton of Facebook articles about all the side effects of music study--and those benefits--everything from better attention span to clearer skin are great--but they aren't why we love music. We love music because it touches our souls and expresses the feelings of our hearts.

We need to periodically recommit to that loyalty--that original prom date--and dance with the one that brought us. If these kids don't have a love affair with music they're never gonna make it. Doris Harrel always asks-what is it that you love about this piece. Again and again I find that the right piece at the right time gets the job done too. There is so much good music out there and our time with these kids is really so short. Pick a piece they love. Right now Mary's having a first date with Burgmüller, Harmony of the Angels and the Limpid Steam. She gets it. She asks to practice.

After I thought about the loyalty to why we play piano in the first place, I found myself asking the question about everything. Why is it that I go to church? Why is it that I love my house and garden? Why did I have kids in the first place?

On the left is my childhood friend Casey, who lives in Houston. I went to music school and she went to law school. She worked at the district attorney's office in Houston for many years, prosecuting the worst of felonies whilst I built a studio of precious little cherubs playing piano. She built a life there. A few years ago she left to be a private defender in order to spend much needed time with her family. People need good defense too, and she's done well and had a pleasant routine with her family. The last few months she has been involved in a reality TV show project for TNT, "Cold Justice: Sex Crimes." Yes, this is completely crazy. My friend on TV. Their team goes into under-resourced communities and helps to solve older cases. They use their big city labs and stuff to reignite cold cases. I don't want to give anything away, but in the first episode the victim is a 74 year-old woman whose church lady friends had been praying that in some way justice would be brought to her rape which occurred two years ago on Good Friday as she went home from her church music job.

Why did you go to law school again?  I'm guessing church lady justice is a pretty close reason.

Is this the right thing for her and her family? I don't have all the answers. Yes, the routine is upside-down. Yes, her family is making big sacrifices--who knows how long they can sustain this or if the show will be a success? Big decisions. Scary changes.

But sometimes. . . you got to dance with them what brung you.

The show airs July 31st on TNT.

I'm not holding my breath for the reality TV show about the piano teacher. It'd be good but you would have to film it over fifteen years for one episode and who knows about the ratings. I'll have to settle for watching my friend. This means I'm probably gonna have to get cable. Good luck Casey, I'm proud of you.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Listening and Breathing

Bill's Mom and the boy.
If you don't want my fingers in your food. . . . how else do you know if it's hot? 

I will increase the height of my hair as needed to maintain my stature over the boy. 

You should know that this was the fourth batch. . . some live and learn. . . some just live. 

At this moment, I lost my will to get out the piping equipment. 

Our cream puffs and profiteroles. All's well that ends in our tummy. 

Just like times of old. . . we gather around the iPad.
After a week in Hawaii, I'm not feeling too sorry for myself, but I have to say that we came home right into the hell fire and brimstone of holy week in conjunction with the collision of my volunteer worlds.

Palm Sunday. . . 
Deerwood Gerten's plant sale data entry. . . (eleven hours)
SAM fall workshop meeting. . . (two hours)
Piano practice for Tenebrae service and Easter. . . (fifteen hours)
A graduation recital at my house. . . 
Post Hawaii laundry. . . (thirty-seven hours) okay-that's an exaggeration but that's how it felt
Scheduling and programs for SPTG masterclasses (three hours)
Getting two kidos ready for the masterclasses. . . . who is counting?
Leaving cat brushes on the floor for my husband to puncture his foot (five minutes)

And all with a significant case of jet lag.

Sunday I thought I was so cool getting up for Palm Sunday church at 6:00 a.m. Eight hours and I'm fresh as a daisy. Monday at noon it hit me. Total coma. I hate to pull the age card. . . but I guess at 5'6" I can't do a Friday night red-eye flight, lose a night's sleep and not pay the price.

Monday morning (pre-coma) I went to start my business week and all my contacts were erased from my computer. "You have. . . zero contacts."  Zero groups of contacts like SPTG board, SAM board, Piano Kids, Plant Sale Helpers. . .

I cried for help but the Lord did not hear me. I stuffed Dove chocolate eggs in my mouth and still the contacts did not reload. Last straw? Ask Facebook for help. Here I gained the comfort and support I needed. The masses ensured me that Calvin would be able to fix it. But what to do until 3:05?  I couldn't really pull him from school for the day.

Breath and listen.

Our senior choir performed the Beethoven Hallelujah again this Easter. I long ago abbreviated the orchestral reduction but even my edits put me at my limit. Still, I've been getting some coaching on my playing and I'm committed to life long learning and this is part of it.

So this year for the first time, at home, on the Baldwin, I'm feeling very comfortable and working to get out of the "this is hard" mindset.  Really--this is our third year with the piece and truly it isn't really that hard. Well within my clear minded grasp. Even fun.

For those of us with debilitating performance anxiety the goals become clear. Listen. Breath. You lose one of those for even a moment and it's all over.

We had four services and the third was the fullest one with the sanctuary packed and the narthex and the fellowship hall and the fireside commons and the live web stream. Bill and Mary and Calvin came too. The breathing and listening thing went pretty well and there was even a hint of the "fun" thing.

The fourth service the introduction did not go so well--I'm not sure if I lost the breathing thing or the listening thing because I wasn't there. Upon my return the rest went fine and I never lost my faith that our steadfast leader would know exactly where I was even when I wasn't there.

What is it about the end? How many times to kids screw up the last measure or phrase? I guess the brain has packed it's suitcase and already left the hall. And so I guess during the introduction of the fourth performance my brain left the hall. Overconfident? Tired? Or maybe we need that total rush of the heart rate just to pay attention. When I die, I'll get the printout and it will all become clear. Oh--that's what was wrong with you.

I could cry. I could beat myself up about it. I could feel terribly embarrassed. I could feel guilty about not giving the choir the confidence they needed for the last entrance. But the truth is, you do the best you can with the brain you are given and you keep learning and growing. You listen and you breath.

Monday morning you get up and practice with Calvin and do the listening thing. Then you go to yoga and practice the breathing thing. And then you teach and you practice the listening thing again. And so it goes.

So--each day and each Hallelujah and each moment an opportunity to listen and breath.

Happy Easter! May God bless all our listening and breathing--today and until it all becomes clear.