Thursday, July 22, 2010


Truth be told, I drink one Tab brand soda every afternoon at 4:00 p.m. It's a little idiosyncrasy of mine: a hearken back to college. I don't see it as an addiction as much as I love the flavor of that woodsy goodness, and a little caffeine helps me be a step ahead of my students until 10:00 p.m. I usually teach that late during the school year. Some of my students and friends notice this bright pink can; frankly it's hard to miss the retro label and distinct color. It became a running joke with a student who won a trivia contest. Which Coca Cola product is the only one ever produced in a bright pink can? BOOM, he rang the buzzer. Later, when asked why in the world he would know the answer to the question, he replied because my piano teacher drinks it during my lesson!

I have this elixir at 4 o'clock, not usually much earlier or later. Lately, there has been a rash of mysterious 4 p.m. ding dong ditches happening at my house. There, sitting on my doorstep is a can of Tab and a new glass, usually some funky patterned retro look, (one was a tiki glass!) with ice. What a treat! And what a love gesture! Someone knows me so well! And it makes me laugh, and my family laughs at the suspense of how it will appear.

Today, the mystery friends came and stayed at the door, but they were in disguise. So was the soda. Aha! It is a recent senior graduate, who was a prize student. We had the nicest conversation. At the very end as they turned to leave, he slipped me a note. I can't even bring myself to read this thank you. I know I'm going to cry. So, I'll drink my Tab and smile, and maybe I'll read it at bedtime.

My heart is full even as it breaks. How do you explain to college music and education majors just what a treasure a career in education is? How do you articulate lives changed, most of the time, my own? I have been asked to speak to my alma mater's music class this fall about the truth of making a career in music teaching. Can it be done successfully, they wonder. They will have very real questions about financial realities, pedagogical ideas, . I have not accepted this opportunity yet because I'm not sure I can put a Groucho Marx soda into words. Does this mustache make my nose look big?

Saturday, July 10, 2010

A Clean Outlook

There is nothing like cleaning all the windows inside and out, and scrubbing all the deck furniture to improve my outlook. I am Puritan and/or Amish at heart, I must be. I feel better when I can see out clearly. Rumor has it that oil lamps leave a nasty mess on walls and windows and before guests come, Amish women still wash all the windows AND THE WALLS down. I didn't get that excited. But I do know that 18 windows inside and out is a day job for me. I am obsessive about streaks and spots so I go in and out often looking at them from both sides until I'm satisfied. I have a really neat special squeegie on a stick for the second story outside windows. And I have a special recipe cleaner with ammonia in it. I splurge and use dollar store paper towels rather than newspaper; I only clean my windows spring and fall, but notice my spring cleaning is in July this year. oops.
The other half of the job is vacuuming the screens. Leaving only the screens on the windows I actually open helps brighten and lighten in here too.
The deck furniture was disgusting. Years of grime on the legs and under the table are now washed away, with the help of a scrub brush and a boy with a hose. (We didn't get too wet.) I can't wait to sit out there and have a cool glass of something!
Tonight I have the privilege of seeing one of the great living pianists play one of my favorite concerti: Beethoven's Emperor! I'm so excited to go. It's up at a small college concert hall, and all the seats there are great, but it's general admission, so I want to get there early. Maybe I'll beg and wait around and get his autograph to add to my collection for students. Or maybe he doesn't do that sort of thing-every artist is different. I'll show it to you if I get an autograph.
Here is another amazing pianist, Claudio Arrau, playing the same concerto, from YouTube. Enjoy your weekend; take in some live music if you can. CDs just can not capture the energy of a real person!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

New Beginnings

I have the most charming five year old student beginning piano this summer. His older sister has been here two years, and he's been waiting patiently for his turn to start "pinano".
Our first lesson last week was full of squeals of delight that we were finally beginning, and with every note moving up the keyboard in our music ABC's, he alternated standing up and sitting back down. Here was our work on the board for our time together for the last two lessons. The first week we found the patterns of 2 or 3 black keys, and last week we talked about finger numbers; we discovered that he's left-handed! And he could already write some of his numbers and his name, but 3's were difficult and the number 4 was almost impossible. Many of the students after him decided to put their hands on the board too.
This time of piqued curiosity fuels me for the rest of the day. One little look or note from these kids and I want to do my absolute best for them; and they're not even mine!
On the flip side of things, I went to the music store and bought lots (read $200) of music and it was (gasp) all popular titles. This will get billed to families via their monthly statement, but it was an outlay of money in the thin air of summer lessons. But true to form, students are so excited to play.
I knew one of them had a favorite song, "Fireflies" by Owl City, one adores Michael Buble, I have some aspiring Princesses, and teen crushes on anything "Twilight". So Bella's Theme will probably be learned in one week. Lots of James Bond, Harry Potter, and Disney music went through the studio doors in July so far.
One young lady had been to an antique store and purchased music for $1.00 each. The titles were from the 20's and 30's, and she got some real gems. They will be a stretch for her hands, as many contain octaves or bigger. I plan to teach the theory behind some of those chords, but she doesn't know it yet. And the cover art? It was GORGEOUS. Frame-able, I would say!
One of the unexpected not-so-little things that happened was that as I played through many of the pieces, I lost 4 hours of my day! That hasn't happened to me in a long time. I used to disappear into my music often. Lately, I've been restless, frustrated almost, by my lack of practice, and even more so about my lackadaisical nature about said unmotivated self. I am working on a new invention (!), and still getting past the copyright issue of spring. But to dig in deeply and be compelled to the instrument by Top 40? I was caught off guard and I loved it.
Here's to popular summer tunes! What would you learn to play for fun?

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