Saturday, February 25, 2017

The Short Ride of Ability Development from Adolescence

Calvin behind the wheel at Eastview

Mary's in charge of dinner with mini-muffin tuna melts 
Ability development from age zero adolescence. I've been thinking about all these kids, and their journeys.

I've been thinking about how they don't remember a time when they didn't play piano. Since they were babies the piano kids have been coming to the house, back when it was Stefanie and Jackie and Cassy and the gang. This is what we do.

One of my piano babes, a new little three-year-old had a little accident upon waking up from his nap before his lesson this week. We stuck him in a pair of Mary's denim shorts which functioned as trousers for him. He was sad about the situation, but once dry he hopped up to the piano and played a full lesson. In one short month he has gone from being too shy to speak to me, to letting me borrow his hand and actually lift him up to the adjustable chair. Last night at group he whispered in my ear the secret song that he wanted for the body staff game. Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star. Big progress. Short time.

One of the medium kids, seven is now medium in my studio, did some extra theory pages this week. I said to Matthew something like, wow, you must really love theory. His response, and I quote, "yeah, who doesn't love theory." I nodded with game face and snuck a wink to his mother.

Dr. Suzuki's words, ability development from age zero mean that these kids are learning music as part of their language. I'm forever surprised when we get to toward the end of Piano Level One and the child is playing all 18 pieces and adding echos and paying attention to their tone and hand position.  Then after lesson they give me a little card or drawing and I'm reminded that they are as yet unable to print their name.

The correlation continues through adolescence. Here is Mary playing Chopin Mazurkas and Grieg Lyric pieces and yet, working toward cooking a tuna dinner for us. Ability leads to ability.

The coup de gras? Driving. Here's a kid playing Beethoven and Liszt and yet, just like every kid at this point, is a complete beginner behind the wheel. I'm amazed. He's doing fine. I think I'm doing fine. I THINK I'm doing fine. Teaching driving is not like teaching piano, and I guess Bill and I are complete beginners at driver's ed. When the Italian Concerto veers off course nobodies mailbox gets taken out. To say the least.

This from the gal who drove her grandpa's truck through the back of the barn at age 14.

Newborns in the studio are turning into toddlers. When it's someone else's child it goes so fast. When it's you sleep deprived it feels like every stage lasts forever.

So, I'm trying to see that big picture. I've loved every stage with my kids and never looked back, though I do enjoy the photos. . .when they were little and so exhausting, I used to take the night off and drive to Linda's and finally have a child free moment with gals. What did I do? Work on photo albums of the kids. They were so much easier in pictures.

From nursing to watching them every minute to make sure they don't kill themselves, to actually being able to leave them in the house alone, to this next stage, in a few months, Calvin being able to leave the house without US. . .

It's all a little scary and exciting and wonderful and overwhelming.

Family, friends, faith, music.
Ability leads to ability and we just hang on for the short ride.

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