Thursday, June 25, 2015

I Finished It

It is finished. Yesterday I made a video of the Debussy and put the finishing touches on the Suzuki Association of the Americas Teacher Trainer application. It took me eighteen months from start to finish. As I got up from the piano after playing a take that I thought was acceptable it was all a little anticlimactic. One phrase after another and then it's over.

Why did I do this? Not sure. Nothing is really missing in my life. I'm not chumping at the bit to go do more summer institutes and I'm highly suspect that I have anything to share with the world at large anyway. Still, someday, when my kids are a little older I can organize some teachers and God willing be a conduit of those whom I have observed several hundred hours of. . . the Doris Harrels and Caroline Frasers of the world, which to be clear, we do not aspire to duplicate, but to find our own authentic voice, through the mixed up experiences and unique perspective, that we hope to bring to the surface, by surrounding ourselves with the most excellent people we can find.

Maybe I did it to prove that I can. Maybe I did it to please Doris.

There is still so much to learn. A dozen hours of private coaching with Kathie Faricy just reminds me of how far there is to go. And there are still so many people I want to learn from--Fay Adams and Chris Liccardo and Marina Obukovsky and Irina Gorin. How do they do it?

I did it because I believe in the mother tongue approach. I believe in the Suzuki triangle. I believe that every child can. I believe in a one point lesson. I believe there is no substitute from starting very young and that it must be done very carefully with great love. I believe that we need a next generation of Suzuki Piano teachers and while I may be grossly unqualified if you wait till you are perfect you will never do anything.

The powers that be have four months to let me know if I passed and if not what areas I need to rework.

Thank you Doris and Chris and Jonelle and Aidan, Alec, Cassy, Kelsey, Calvin, Mary and Matthew. Thank you Ford and Úna and group A and Kathie and everyone else whose fingerprints are on this. Thank you Vickie and Annette for paving the way.

Fair thee well little FedEx package with eighteen months of my life. Yesterday, my friend so sweetly said, I'm praying for the hands that made it and the hands that receive it.

Isn't is good to have friends?

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

By Our Love

They will know we are Christians by our love, by our love
They will know we are Christians by our love.

Love, love, love.
Forgiveness, forgiveness, forgiveness.

In the wake of these South Carolina church shootings my husband and I go for walks and try to figure out how to save the world. Shall we make make bumper stickers that say "No God/No guns." This from consumate conservatives. We all got rights taken away after 9/11. When a white mother with her nursing baby gets frisked going through airport security you know we are off the rails in more ways than one. A nation without morals may have to be a nation with fewer guns. Please note that my entire extended family are hunters, including my precious dad, two grandpas and all my uncles and in-laws, and yet I've never seen or held a gun--they were that responsible. I felt safe hiking through Montana knowing that no grizzly would get by whatever it was that my dad was packing. Can we just give guns to the good guys? Could we please just legislate some morality here?

How do we pick and choose who gets it? How many times do I have to take my shoes and belt off and be x-rayed to get on an airplane. Why does the whole class have to stay in for recess?

And what about those SC families standing up in court and unanimously offering forgiveness--the next day? That's that kind of faith where your knee jerk reaction is love and forgiveness. It didn't take years of therapy--their faith was right there on the surface--where your first response is to drop to your knees. I know someone who is like that.

Hating in the name of God is religion off the rails. You can see it everywhere. From the dawn of time.

We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord,
We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord,
And we pray that all unity will one day be restored and 
They'll know we are Christians by our love, by our love
They will know we are Christians by our love.

We are gonna learn this song around the campfire.

Lord, help my knee jerk reaction to be love and forgiveness. If they can do it, I can do it. 

P.S. I promise to return to pleasant musical and family life topics. . . I just had to get this off my chest. 

Sunday, June 14, 2015

They Could Have Danced All Night

You probably know the ups and downs of my love affair with dance. This year we did dance again. This is the fourth local studio we've tried. I already told you how much I loved Mary's ballet teacher. Old school. Here is the jazz and tap update.

This isn't our first dance rodeo. Things always seem to go along pretty good right up until the recital at which point I usually get dark and swear on a stack of bibles that we will never do dance again. The $100 costume for the 180 second dance. The girls staring blankly into the audience while they shuffle step and four hours into the recital you are wishing there was a cash bar at intermission.

Last night was completely different. Last night at the dance recital I was enthralled. It was an amazing show--well more like a dance party--but let me back up a little to the at home preparations.

The girls were asked to wear full make-up. I pretty much botched this for the dress rehearsal and Mary looked even worse when she got home, after rubbing her eyes all day. Raccoon at best, rock star the morning after at worst. Stage mom failure number one. So--for the real show I took my time. I thought her makeup looked very pretty and we were all admiring my artistry and especially the bright red lip liner I had painstakingly applied with delicate Monet brushstrokes.

"Okay, Mama I'm gonna brush my teeth now."
WHAT! I yelled.
YOU CAN'T GO BRUSH YOUR TEETH. We'll have to do the lips all over.

I see the bottom lip start to tremor.

 I scream at her. (Stage mom failure number two)
The thought of that mascara all running down her face put me over the edge.

I looked up at her and my outburst was so over the top ridiculous that we both burst out laughing. Crisis diverted. I wiped off the lipstick, she brushed her teeth and while you can't paint a starry night again, I did my best to recreate the effect.

Fast forward to the closing awards ceremony. Many trophies were given out--this isn't our main deal so Mary was not expecting an award and she cheered her peers on without reservation. Then it came time for the parent's award. Alas "The Sequin Queen" trophy, given to the most dedicated parent was given to another mother. Calvin leaned over, took my hand, and whispered, "better luck next time, Mama." My total volunteer hours at the dance studio this year? Zero.

Alas the show. The show was three hours but went by so fast because it was so much fun watching these kids. From the high end competitive kids to every recreational group, the kids were having a ball. The Apple Valley High School stage is at the same level as the audience and we were all so close. Everyone called the kids by name in their appreciation calls and it was like we were all one big family there in the hall. It almost made me want to bring a hot dish for the pot luck next year.

What made it have that something that drew me in? It had that underdog edge to it, of kids working to their limits and pushing through and bringing their own personality and artistry to the music and the moment. You don't know how to describe it and it has nothing to do with perfect technique but you know it when you see it. And you can see it on their faces. The expression was in their bodies but it was also on their faces and in their eyes and it crossed over the risers and into our hearts.

The center male tap dancer in the picture above is the son of the owners and he's a graduating senior and they honored him with a solo tap dance to the pop song "Uptown Funk." He had the most awesome grin and never broke eye contact with the audience till the final standing back flip of the night. Congrats Gayle and Robert! You got a great dancer. You got a great kid.

I thought about the famous and local musicians who always look like they are having a great time. Louis Bellson. Bill Henry. Tim Woolsey. Their love of the music shoots like an arrow to the audience.  They are having a great time, so we have a great time watching them.

Maybe to a certain extent this is something that can be trained. Jeepers I take things so seriously most of the time. Maybe we have to be a little more of an actor here and there. We love music--it ought to show. Let it go and enjoy the ride.

In any case--congrats to Mary and Taylor and all the kids from the studio whom I don't know because I never volunteer. It was a great show and I loved every minute of it.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Music, Sweet Music

The boy.

The Studio

This may go down as my all time favorite photo--Dr. Suzuki approved. 

They didn't have a good time--you can see. . . 

More fun. . . 

Mary waits her turn at the Deerwood talent show on the last day of school

This picture's gonna make me cry every time. 

Mary's friend is a beautiful dancer.

Singing in the Rain
Music, sweet music, thy praises we sing. . .

What can I do but describe the musical events of late. . .

Studio recital: twenty-two kids played beautifully and ate 347 cookies and drank four gallons of lemonade. I made almond bars in tribute to the Fox Bugasch family and brownies to honor Linda Erickson. Highlights? Haven lifting her hands at the end of Cuckoo, Preston my blind student playing Chant Arabe hands together if you know what I mean, and Lena's Nocturne and Solomon's Petit Poisson. We unofficially renamed Debussy's piece to honor Solomon's obsession with fishing.

Chamber music: Three groups (I missed the photo of the second group--sadly) played their pieces with Conor and Adrianna, parents of Úna. It was a real treat to say the least and we were all a good team--my role primary as stage manager.  Chamber music is amazing--the kids start out completely deer in the headlights--they can't listen--they don't follow--they can't even hear themselves. Then in a fifteen minute rehearsal they are hearing the inner voices and subdivisions of the string parts and rhythm improves, tone color changes and they are using their body language and breathing with an ensemble. I dream of making this a focus of my studio--figuring out a way to get this to happen more than once a year. Piano is a lonely lonely business. You practice by yourself year after year and sit down with an ensemble and everything changes.

Moving on to the talent show circuit. First the middle school--which I don't have good pictures of--only video of Calvin's grunge band playing Seven Nation Army. I guess this is a classic alternative rock song making me feel about 100 years old because let's face it I'm out of the the classic alternative rock scene. The band was really good--five pieces with Noah as a front man and Calvin as drummer and the other buddies on those instruments with necks and amplifiers--what are they called again?

For the record-I asked Calvin what he was going to wear--he had a classical piano performance later in the talent show--and I suggested a black polo shirt. No, he said, I'm going to wear what I always wear. Cue the bright aqua polo shirt. We've made progress, he did unbutton the top button and the other four band members in their black Death Metal tee-shirts did not bat an eye. Is the mom supposed to micro manage the wardrobe of the rock drummer son? Jeepers. . . too many gigs under my belt with my roper boots in a sacred shoe box in my closet even though after two babies they would never fit on my feet again.

These talent shows mess me up. The kids get up there and do their thing--whether it's grunge metal or reciting the countries by memory or playing the melody to We are the Champions on alto sax and these adolescent kids--notorious for cruelty and ambivalence scream and cheer and pay attention to every single act. I don't know where this benevolence comes from. The black kids doing that bendy dance where the arms jerk and it looks like the bones bend--I'm sure there is a name for this genre--clapping for the white girls singing Rip Tide with the ukulele ensemble. I'm just saying--it crosses boundaries--not racial and gender only--but talent/no talent, which may be even wider. Since I am a grownup and I know myself, grounded in who I am, I brought two packs of kleenex.

Ditto on the grade school show. You got Mary's friend Juju who dances only thirty hours a week at the studio and you got the fifth grader playing his favorite Faber and Faber Book One Selection. Cheers and thunderous applause for all. Of course I should be giving the faculty more kudos here. Whenever the girl gets up to sing a solo song in front of the microphone with Taylor Swift right there with her on vocals from the CD. . . Mr. T at the soundboard knows exactly how much of Suzie to actually put in the mix. This is not his first rodeo. Also--whoever the teacher was, who made the wave signs for the stage hands to hold up for these solo vocal artists, has a special place in heaven. Whatever musical momentum Suzie may be growing into--is bolstered by the entire school waving their imaginary cells phones back and forth in harmony. God bless us everyone. I can't even write about it without the kleenex. Humanity at it's finest.

All glory laud and honor to District 196 for it's ability development from age zero philosophy. There ain't no high school musical without the singing and dancing chicklets in the fourth and fifth grade.  Albeit occasionally painful. And if you can get that eighth grade kid with the high tops and hoodie up there dancing the bendy dance in front of 250 peers you done something right. He was amazing by the way--I'm not being facetious.

My one suggestion--since nobody asked--we've got to teach these kids how to bow. Mary bowed because she bows in her sleep and the front man from Calvin's band collected all the dancers at the end of the middle school show and grabbed hands for an audience acknowledgment. Very classy. Frames the performance. Now I'll shut up.  Well, one more suggestion-BHMS needs a boom mic stand. The poor gal playing piano and singing with the mic stand between her legs and having to move her hands around the stand to play lower or higher--yeah--she didn't need that. I'm gonna pick one up at the music store next time I'm there. It's the little things sometimes.

Happy summer. I'm practicing like crazy and getting coached to finish off this teacher trainer application. I've got one more piece to record and the application is in the mail. Well--I still need a video of a student's book four piece in a format that actually has audio. Then. . . I'm set.

Thanks for reading the music, sweet music Kotrba journal.