Friday, December 31, 2010

The Star Polisher

One of my students gave me a poem for Christmas, with a package of Starburst candy attached as an ornament. I thought it was worth sharing with all my fellow Star Polishers on this New Year's Eve. Peace to you, fellowship and good music making in 2011.

The Star Polisher
by Leah Becks

I have a great job in the universe of occupations.
What do I do? I'm a "star polisher".

It's a very important job.
If you want to know how important,
just go out at night and
look at the stars
twinkling and sparkling.

You see, I'm a teacher.
The stars are the children in my class.
My job is to take them in, in whatever shape they come
and shine and buff them and send them
out to take their places as
bright beacons
in the sky.

They come to my room in all shapes, sizes.
Sometimes they're bent, tarnished, dirty, crinkly and broken.
Some stars are cuddly, soft and sweet.
Some stars are prickly and thorny.

I buff, polish, train and teach.
I tell them that the world cannot do without them.
I tell them they can do anything they set their mind to do.
I tell them they can be bright shining stars and the
world will be a better place because of them.

Each night as I look at the sky,
I'm reminded of my very important job,
my awesome responsibility.
I go, and get my softest buffing cloth
and bottle of polish in preparation for tomorrow
and my class of little stars.

To this I will only add that it's important for me to remember that the gifts are already contained in these precious creations, and that I must be oh so gentle, as to not do any harm. All stars are fragile and beautiful.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Ocean Fries

Just before Christmas, my five year old student was having a very hard time concentrating at his lesson. I presumed it was the upcoming holiday, Santa and all.
I asked him what was on his mind.

"Last summer, we went to Santabel Island and I went swimming in the ocean."

At this point, I was wondering if I should have asked the question.

"When I was swimming in the ocean, I got water in my mouth. It was DIS-GUST-ING!"

"I've tasted ocean water too. You're right, it's not very tasty." Why is he thinking about this right now?

"My mom and dad want to go to Wendy's after my lesson."

"Shall we get back to Silly Clown?"

"One more minute. I don' want to go to Wendy's, Mrs. Wolf. That restaurant started putting sea salt on their french fries! WHY would they DO that? I don't want to go to Wendy's for supper. I am not even going to try ocean fries. No way, no way."

Friday, December 17, 2010

Diana Laufenberg: How to learn? From mistakes | Video on

Diana Laufenberg: How to learn? From mistakes | Video on

This is a talk from mostly focusing on public education, but I believe there is a lot of good information here for the private studio teacher as well. YouTube, iTunes, the internet, and even Facebook SHOULD change the way we teach. The knowledge is not merely a click away.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Composer Photos

Two weeks ago, a student opened her book of music only to comment again, "Ew, that composer's picture always gives me the creeps!" I thought it was really funny that she turned to the inside cover every day, even though her piece is on page 10. I put a tape flag on her page and suggested she simply use the flag and not open the book from the beginning.
This week, she had to show me what her sister had done to her book. She turned open the cover, and there was her sister's picture, completely covering the composer. Smiling broadly, the sibling made both of us laugh out loud. Now, I feel compelled to open this cover every week just to see the cute smiling face of a sister who stepped up to the rescue.
Many composers' photos are embossed on covers of their music. I have often wondered why. If the piece is good, do you want to see who wrote it? Is it important that if the composer is arguably plain looking that you avoid picturing them? Why is a photo even included with a composition? Sometimes the publishers use oil paintings to put a face on a famous composer pre-Polaroid. They are often formal and serious paintings. I don't know if I looked at them much as a student. OK, I might have drawn a mustache on a few, and I definitely remember a pair of glasses on Edvard Grieg. Good grief, right? (I couldn't help it. Feel free to print this and draw to your heart's content...)
Current pictures of current composers could give a sense of connection between the student and the composer, I guess. Seeing that the piece was written by a real human being, man or woman, may add to their enjoyment of the music, but I'm not sure that my students actually acknowledge this person. I have pointed out that the internet is a great way to actually talk to the composer of some of their pieces. The reaction is usually incredulous looks and instant shyness when I suggest that they contact the composer of their favorite music.
What do you think? What do current composer photographs in the music do for students?
(Pictures above are Beethoven, Handel, Mozart, and Grieg, not particularly in that order.)

Sunday, December 5, 2010

My Neighborhood Cookie Exchange

One day, several neighbors got together to share stories and a cup of coffee. The snow from the night before had buried their street in 8 inches of marshmallow-like coating. We are not all the same kind of neighbors on our street. Some homes are upscale, some are modest. We are very different people in these homes; age, religious affiliations, and political ideas should separate us. For some reason, those viewpoints do not.

Each neighbor brought a homemade treat, in bags or on plates, for their friends. I took 9 bags of caramels, I received 9 plates of treats in exchange.

We caught up on children and grandchildren, life and love, deaths and illnesses, and planned a spring garage sale. The woman that had had heart trouble was there. We talked of pacemakers, upcoming graduation parties, and college plans. We talked of weather. When one mentioned that she was snowbound without flour for baking, 2 neighbors offered theirs. Another, a hunter widow, was wondering how to get her driveway cleared. When she pointed out the window at which one was her home, a neighbor man was already out with his snow blower, blazing a trail down her sidewalk. Problems solved over poppyseed quick bread and hot tea. It felt like communion to me.

Three hours flew by and I arrived back home with stories and goodies. I realize not all our neighbors joined us for a morning. I realize not all the neighbors wanted to join us. Not all our neighbors care that I think this neighborhood is pretty terrific. and tasty. But most of all, I realize that what separates us is not as strong as what joins us.

Who's been to Visit?