Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Pond (April 21)

We have the look and feel of late spring in Minnesota already. Trees around the pond are in the last push to give birth to leaves. The flower are vibrant, the sun-dappled pond shimmers, and the first batch of ducklings will arrive any day. Last year there was still a lot of snow on the ground. We had a frost on May 17th. I really enjoy the newness of life after winter.

I am dealing with the very serious issue of copyright in the midst of this new life. The irony is not lost on me. My invention and I have been violated. I don't want to deal with this. This is such grown up stuff. It socked me right in the gut and the feeling hasn't left me. I just don't understand why someone would do this? I can't talk about the situation, but I need to share my feelings about it.

I found out about it really late Friday night via an email. Dang, why do I check my emails before bed, anyway? I should just enjoy the evening and go to sleep, right? On Sunday, I got some wise council from friends, which I'll share here.

First of all, a friend asked me why I would roll over and not defend myself or my invention. That's why the systems are in place, he said. This is about so much more than money, it's about self respect, he said. Don't I have any? Ouch.

Then the sermon was all about crisis. Drawing a big purple X in the middle of the screen, the pastor said this is where the stuff happens. Little black arrows pointed toward the X. These are the many things that caused the stuff to happen. Growing out from the X was a big green arrow pointing toward the future. This was God, in the midst of it all, bringing new life and hope forward. Courage, the Pastor said, was moving forward doing the right thing, even when it's hard. Knowing that we are not alone in it brings the green hope of life.

Finally, being all mopey last night on the couch, my dear 16 year old snuggled up next to me. Explain why you're upset, Mom. It's such a small music world, I sobbed. I know what some people will say and they will judge this situation without knowing the facts. They will decide things when they don't know the whole story. I don't want to damage my reputation in the community; I have always worked so hard IN and FOR the music industry. Mom, she said, the people who care (about that) don't matter, and the people who matter don't care.

I haven't slept for three days. I met with a copyright attorney yesterday. I paid a lot of money to get some very good information and I hired him. I never thought as a little private piano teacher I'd have to deal with so much business stuff. They certainly didn't prepare me for this in college.

A copyright is a right to copy and copyrights are protected. May I be likewise.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Joshua Bell Article

I am still somewhat perplexed. Are we so busy as to miss beauty?

Monday, April 19, 2010

New Growth Evident

Last December, I put evergreen "tops" and red dogwood branches in the planter by the mailbox. Early in the year, I pulled the greens and decorated the red branches with red hearts in February, green lights and little green ribbons in March, and quickly changed it to Easter eggs in time for April 4th. Last week, Monday, I was going to plant pansies, removing the well used twigs.

Lo and behold, the dogwood branches had green leaves and more buds! I have never seen this before in a cutting from a tree. I was at a loss for words. In nature, many things can regrow appendages. If a salamander loses a tail, it grows one back. Crabs can regrow limbs. I imagine that somewhere, the dogwood bush has regrown branches and replaced what was in my planter.

I have never heard of the chopped off tail regrowing a salamander, however. In this case, it seemed that the dogwood branches were rooting and growing. Now what should I do? I have such a love of nature that I couldn't pull these branches and toss them in the yard waste bin. This weekend, I used a trowel and carefully have transplanted them into a bucket. Maybe I will have a new bush by fall?

I also gave a bundle wrapped in a wet towel to my Dad, who is going to try to transplant them at his house. He said that as a boy, on the farm near the creek, they could grow new willow trees this way.

I have done water transplanting from a piece of ivy and African violets. I just didn't expect it on a bigger scale. One of my favorite shows as a kid was Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom. The new show, "Life" on the Discovery Channel has captivated my Sunday evenings. Here's a link to some amazing clips of it, if you haven't seen it. The music they have chosen to accompany these outstanding natural scenes is so good too. It never detracts from the visual effect, yet heightens the imagery at every turn. Listen to the music from this clip. Instrumentation native to cheetah country, appealing melodically, I'm entranced by the care of this whole series. I wonder how you come to write music for a series like this. Wow, the brainstorming and recording studio for a grand project like this would be a behind-the-scenes place I would love to be someday.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Willow Creek Questions

The young lady at the golf course will probably groan before she answers the next time . I had so many questions for her yesterday. They were based on conversations between my parents and my brother. She says she is looking forward to our event, she remembers her parents' 50th fondly. I say she's already earned my confidence. Sandy was patient and understanding. Here's what I sent to everyone in true secretary format after the call. I'm such a geek, but my hope in doing this was that we would all know the same things this way.

Willow Creek Questions

1. Cash bar question about beer. We'd like to supply the barley pop.
We have two options. We can order a 16 gal. keg. There are 170-12 oz glasses in a keg. (I did not know that!)
OR open the taps-they have 6 total, 3 domestic and 3 imports. I prefer the options that 6 tap "flavors" give me, and don't think I want to choose someone's beer flavor with only one keg kind. This way we don't have to decide regular or light beer?

2. Punch vs. soda.
Some like the look of a punch bowl. There is also an option of the bar serving soda. It would be free to our guests, then it's unlimited flavors too. Her experience is that once people find out there's free soda, they don't drink the punch. I'll ask Mom whether she really likes the look of a punch bowl.

3. Cake plating charge?
No, there is no charge. We are happy to provide this service to you. You are also welcome to bring mints and nuts if you wish, (which I didn't know they'd allow). Do we want to consider these on the tables or at the buffet? Will we need them with the other food?

4. Our Color Scheme = gold/ivory, what type of table centerpieces have you got that we could rent or use?
We have fuel cell gold lanterns and mirrors that we would be happy to provide you free of charge. They look lovely and then you wouldn't have to haul them from home.

5. Can we come out and taste the wrap and other appetizers?
Yes, you can come and taste any of our appetizers that you have questions about. When would you like to come? The wrap's delicious and a little addicting if you want to take her word for it. It is ham, cheese, crumbled bacon, tomato, South West sour cream and wrapped in a tortilla, yum! It is a great taste choice and presents well, she said.

6. We’re bringing musicians including a keyboard. Tell me about the sound system.
We have not got access to hooking you into it. There are speakers in the ceiling. We'd set up near the dance floor. Advise them to bring their own equipment, the disc jockeys for weddings bring their own too. This scenario makes sense to me.

7. Do you have a microphone? Yes, Wireless.

8. 250 people is our estimate. How many tables to set up? (this is really a centerpiece question).
14-15? But we can do whatever you'd like. We usually do 6 rounds in “front” and more tables away from the music a little in the main big hall, access to the deck and the patio, plus the cash bar. We're hoping for a lovely day.

9. What time will we need to be there and when do we need to be out of there?
YOU are our event on May 15th. You have the whole day-no weddings or other events will be booked in the evening. Perhaps you wish to come at noon and do some pictures and/or set-up early, or 12:30, but if it's running longer or people are lingering, the space is yours. We will plan on using our champagne color linens, and they will look great with your gold/ivory combo. It will be very elegant.

See, doesn't all that information make you feel better? It didn't? Oh.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Let the Grieving Begin

The mother of my senior young lady student came to visit me yesterday. I was surprised to see her in the studio; she rarely stops in. We exchanged hugs and small talk and then she looked at me with the most curious face. She said, "E. said something last night that I thought I should tell you in person. I could have sent it in an email after she went to bed, but I thought it was something I could only convey to you directly." I held my breath.
Last fall E. began the search for the best college experience. I asked questions, did a lot of listening. She had 16 schools she liked, applied to 7, both public and private, and was accepted at 6. (Sorry, Yale, E. said the interview went great-I think you made a mistake.) She is a delightful student, and brilliant academic who could apply to great schools. She came to her last lesson brimming with news of her acceptance into both St. Olaf and Notre Dame. St. Olaf had offered her the maximum scholarship in the music department, in addition to a healthy academic award. It would be less than state tuition. It was a grand honor and it's a great college. Notre Dame does not offer any scholarship monies, in any field. Their tuition is high, because, well, they can.
E. has been narrowing down her choices, and was excited by the prospect of both schools. She is torn about a music degree, also considering actuary sciences and math. She took a tour of the N.D. campus last year, and came back positively glowing.
The truth of the matter is that she is a Catholic girl; she takes her faith seriously, and she loves the traditions of her church. She said she felt so at home in the cathedral and on the grounds. At her lesson as the leaves fell off the trees, she was in a deep spiritual place, and she sounded so centered, balanced. It was body, mind, and spirit in communion with each other for a moment in time. I rarely get to see that deeply into anyone, let alone E. She is a private person. The moment was magical as she retold what she had experienced there. It was hard for her to find the words; I've been there.
St. Olaf is a Lutheran campus, but 23% of the student body is Catholic, according to documents they gave E. It is close and affordable and an excellent education. It is small and really strong in all the elements that spike her curiosity and display her talents.
Last night, E. was lying on her parent's bed, discussing options for college. It is also a financial matter of over 30k per year. Out of the blue she told her mom, "Mrs. Wolf is one of the only people that gets me. I'm going to really miss her." There was a long pause. Then E.'s mom continued, "She has never said this before. Never, not about me or her friends, or anyone. Chris. I don't know if she'll ever tell you to your face, so I knew I needed to. Thank you, thank you." And she welled up with tears. Of course, so did I.
If only my students knew how much I care about them. Some of them might have a glimmmer; I've never hidden my emotions very well. I started grieving my seniors already in February, when they were playing so well for the competition. I don't grieve them all-I'd be lying if I said I did. But these two are unique, not just in their ability, but in their spirits. How wonderful it is to be able to walk with a child down the long road, into amazing and challenging musical places, over the course of 10 years or more. I've had these two since they were 7 or 8. We've shared middle school, for crying out loud!
I get glimpses into their very being that maybe not even their closest friends or family see. The trials and joys of music study strip away to the most bare and revealing inner elements of a person.
We've shared some incredible moments, particularly musical, and especially poignant. They have worked so hard and come so far. To say I'll miss them is trite, almost flippant. I've had others that left marks on my heart, but here I go again.
I cried and E.'s Mom cried and we thanked each other without words for the shared gift. The spring events whirl by, swirl by. How in the world will I find words at the spring recital to say farewell? Oh, oh, oh, this is gonna hurt.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

A Typical Saturday Night in April

The mailman delivered good news in the last two days-child #1 was accepted in the National Honor Society, (NHS), and child #2 was awarded a Presidential Academic Excellence award. Top that off with one of my duets being chosen for the 3 year Federation Festival Bulletin and it became apparent that we needed a steak dinner celebration!

One of our family treats is steak on the grill with sauteed mushrooms, and I made a special trip to the store last night to get just that. The weather in Minnesota has been an amazing, unseasonably warm 65 degrees Fahrenheit (19 C), sunny and gorgeous, so off went the cover of the grill, out came the deck furniture, and pop went the cork on a delightful red.

Everyone in the neighborhood seemed to have similar summer thoughts; the smell of charcoal briquettes and garlic wafted through the cul de sac. Children played in the park, training wheels came off a big boy bike. Men with rakes leaned on them, talking to each other, catching up on news big and small. One found a job, one lost a job, one was dealing with a new Parkinson's diagnosis, another's Dad died last week. What did you decide about a sprinkler system? When are you going fishing again? The rhythm of voices down the road made the sun seem brighter.

The menu filled out with cantelope and fresh strawberries, green beans and a decadent chocolate cake. I adore intimate family time like this, the "nothing special which makes it so special" time. I gaze around the table and know that this moment is precious, real, and fleeting. We talk comfortably about trivial things, pass the fruit, and jointly load the dishwasher. The kids went on a bike ride and Wolfy and I took a walk.

It was the dusky time of day when ducks settle on the pond, squirrel nests become quieter, and many fire pits get poked into emitting a primitive glow. This is "Thy Kingdom Come" right now, right here, like a golden brown marshmallow on a stick. Savor it immediately, in all its messy, gooey glory, before it cools or falls to the ground.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Planning a 50th Anniversary Open House

Well, it's been a big week up at the music house. (That sounds like Red Green, doesn't it?) I am in the process of planning my parent's 50th anniversary open house. I was given permission only 2 weeks ago to have anything at all. So, with only 2 months to plan, it's got potential to be a daunting extra task OR a delightful diversion with great results. I'm hoping for more of the latter.

So far, I can't believe my luck. I landed the beautiful golf course Willow Creek on the edge of Rochester. They have a wall of windows overlooking the greens. So, even if it's raining, it will be pretty to look out. And if it's nice, they have a deck and a patio for us! They were actually open on a spring Saturday, May 15th, in the afternoon. I was also amazed to get the combo of jazz pianist Dan Rengsdorf and Barney Fox for the afternoon. They play monthly at Michael's Restaurant in Rochester. (Think Nice nice dining). The musicians are good too.
Mom and Dad were given a task. They need a new picture so I can make invitations with "then and now" poses. Everyone likes those, I think, except maybe the people in them, who notice that they've suddenly aged. My mom said she needed a new picture because she's got more wrinkles to share with the world. Their "photo shoot" (as Mom called it) is Monday.
First, I was going to pick up on their wedding colors, spring green and yellow, it was 1960 after all. But this morning I changed my mind. Everything is 50th Golden gold. So, I'm going to go with gold and ecru. Ecru is a weird word isn't it? I prefer ivory, the word, perhaps because of the keys I play. I'm going to get personalized napkins with their names on them, but there is not much time for too much else.
I'm actually looking forward to wandering around party stores and bed, bath, and other stores to scope out table centerpiece ideas. And we're narrowing down food choices to 2-3 hot and 2-3 cold appetizers, cake, punch, coffee and a cash bar.
That sounds like a party open house, doesn't it? Friends, family, food and music in a pretty place?

Many have mentioned having Powerpoint at the event, with pictures through the years. Some have suggested a memory book. Attendees write a little story that you put in a scrapbook. These might be easier t get done, before the event. Merely putting pieces of paper and baskets on the tables might work. The 2 questions I would ask are "How did you meet Don and Arlene? and Please share a memory of time you spent with them." I have not scanned in any of my parent's pictures. It could be a monumental task in a short time. Maybe I'll get those done? Maybe?

Next projects are the invitations which we will send as postcards and in emails. And I want to order a cake. Mom did not have a traditional topper for her cake 50 years ago, so this decision could go any number of ways. She's thinking a sheet cake, I'm thinking stacked rounds. How about flowers? Maybe one pretty arrangement for the appetizer buffet.

What else should I consider?

Friday, April 9, 2010

Music exists for the purpose of growing an admirable heart.

(Title Quote by S. Suzuki)
One of my favorite parts of teaching is meeting with other teachers monthly to hear some new ideas and be buoyed by "been there, here's a solution" thinking. I was a little late this morning so some of the meeting drudgery was over. The short business meeting is my least favorite part; there's talk of jobs to do, finances and old business. I wasn't late on purpose but I didn't really mind missing the "we all need to do our share" speech.

There are many charter member veterans of teaching in our group. (Several are quite vocal about their expertise.) We have also new teachers, fresh and alive- a twinkle in their eye, inquisitive and finding their way. I'm sort of in the middle of these two ends, I think. I don't consider myself a new teacher anymore, but I'm not a "seasoned" one either. I wonder when I will think of myself that way? How old will I be when I one day say, "Hey, wow, they're lookin' at me like I should know"?

Amazing events during the year include things for our students like festivals, nursing home events, and special presentations. But one of the hidden gems of our club is the teacher benefits. One of the bright highlights of this club is to hear our own membership give presentations. We're not only piano teachers. I have learned so much about music by hearing vocalists, violinists, and guitarists present ideas and teaching philosophies on aspects of music, from classical to jazz. Every once in awhile, the class is dry, but often the presenter is on fire for their craft, eliciting a vibration deep inside me that is in synchronicity with their passion and their instrument. I almost always leave with a smile, either from new information or simply rubbing elbows with my very cool colleagues.

Today's class was a presentation on the philosophy of Shinichi Suzuki. He wrote a book in 1969 that has become a "bible" of sorts for Suzuki Talent Education, entitled "Nurtured by Love". He believed that if a 2 year old could learn the very difficult Japanese language, they could learn the language of music and be successful. He was not looking for the next prodigy, but rather to give his countrymen and the world more grace and humanness, in every person. The presenter had many quotes that could have stood alone as inspiring, but my favorite was, "What is man's ultimate direction in life? It is to look for love, truth, virtue, and beauty”.


Wednesday, April 7, 2010

After 2 Days of Rain

Beautiful and gentle April showers have already moved my pond's grasses toward green renewal. Mallards were flying in and out of this area today, the wind was playing with the water surface. I prayed while on the bench that I wouldn't let the day slip away in the midst of the busy. Then I prayed for the people who would sit there after me. Many will pass the bench by, do you have just one minute to breathe deeply?

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Spring Events-a Logistic Circus

(Get ready to watch the pond green up with me!)
I am in the throws of preparing students for the last events of the school year. I would like to think I'm organized about all of the due dates, exam dates, the students and their repertoire, but this year I'm not so sure. I am also writing and searching the dates for next year's events calendar for a presentation I'm giving in May. It will be geared toward newer teachers who may want a little help sorting all these same events out. But right now, I don't feel like I have much to offer them. I could use a handy dandy lesson plan too. How should I get it all organized? How do I get it all done and have the students succeed?

I narrowed down the many theory dates to just 2 this year: January or April. I also said to the students that do the state piano exam that we would use only the new site. I had my students obtain their own duet music over spring break. I'm the chair of Guild Auditions, so I could choose the dates for this.

I currently have 28 students, in many of these events, but not all in all of them. My first teacher had 95 students. Yes, you read that correctly-95. She was the breadwinner for her family while her husband was home and becoming a famous architect. I see her and catch up annually at the conventions and I've asked her how in the world she kept track of everyone. "A spiral notebook", was her answer, with a shrug.

With the advent of Google calendars, Excel spreadsheets and Windows/Macs in general, shouldn't this have gotten easier? Websites offer online registrations versus paper too. But I guess it's because I don't use all the programs for all the kids. Maybe I'll make a Google calendar and set up a wiki for it. I don't think there's one out there yet, so if you know of one, shout out!

So I see this as a 3-fingered issue. One is the teacher moving through the systems of registrations and events. The second is knowing what is good for each student, and moving them in the right direction to get there. The third issue is the teacher organizing, teaching, and disseminating the information so that the student learns the material, is properly prepared and on time.

Where's my support staff, my team lead, or executive assistant? OK, enough complaining, where's my coffee and my pen? I'm getting out my spiral notebook. (PS, I luv luv luv this stage-let's prepare them for playing with the orchestra too, kay?)

Monday, April 5, 2010

Henry Ford and the Rouge Plant

We had an amazing tour of the Ford plant on the Rouge River last Wednesday. I couldn't take too many pictures because it is a working running plant, currently making F-150s. But what an innovator Mr. Henry Ford was!
I was so impressed with his vertical integration ideas. He built this plant right on the river so he could get the ore right from the great lakes chain, and ultimately turn it into a vehicle in 72 hours. It was fascinating how revolutionary his ideas were!

I had never been to an assembly line plant before. We got to actually see into the body area as we walked overhead as they put an F-150 together. Have you ever seen a vehicle get put together? There is so much that needs to happen. Some steps are computerized now, but there were still a lot of people involved in making your car.

There are now many green efforts in place to reclaim the land that is near this river; it wasn't all grand and beautiful.
Because the pictures were scant and I would be repeating much of this information, please check out the links below!


Friday, April 2, 2010

the university tour

The flowers were starting to bloom under the trees on campus. The University of Michigan, Ann Arbor's music department was alive and humming, singing, ringing, and a playing when we took the tour during our stay. We got an overview of their department from a cozy conference room overlooking the pond that is supposedly in the shape of a grand piano. I could only sort of make it out. They offer performance, pedagogy and education degrees in music, at bachelor, master, and doctoral levels.

The words that struck my daughter however, were the many students who do music in conjunction with engineering or other math related fields. This has been her dilemma, I think. She is strong in both areas, yet I have spoken often of the difficult reality making a real living in the music world. It is not easy, but it is wonderful. I believe she had started to shut the door on a career in music.

My words to all my students have been to choose something else unless you just can't see yourself in any other profession. There are so many opportunities to have an avocation in your instrument: civic orchestras, community musicals, church choirs. There are many ways to continue to use and share your gifts. My daughter has heard this speech countless times, and has a good idea watching my life of a musician's unique challenges.

What Ann Arbor's music tour did was stir up some thoughts of reopening the door to a double major or including music in her life while on campus-Hallelujah!

While we were on the walking tour, Ann Arbor unexpectedly opened my son's eyes too. At the age of 14, he was not looking at the college other than to be dragged along with his sister, or so he thought. But since then, he has spoken highly of the university's green efforts. He remarks about the buses, the Zip car system, and especially how many hydrogen cars he saw in use there.

I was impressed by the conscience efforts to minimize waste, and their advanced computer lab in the music library, hooked up with keyboards and composition tools.

I guess we just never know what experiences stick with kids, do we?

Who's been to Visit?