Monday, June 13, 2011

Wedding Music - On CD?

I attended a wedding over the weekend; it was exactly what I was expecting it to be, even to the choice of pieces for Processional, Bride's Entrance, and Postlude. There does not seem to be a lot of variation in this category for young ladies anymore.

Sure there are the music majors that will jump happily out of the Pachelbel box, but for the most part there are trumpet voluntary and Bach renditions most accompanists can play in their sleep.

The surprise to me was that this wedding used a small keyboard with some synthesized string sounds and an electronic piano sound and the pianist was not prepared. He (nameless) hacked away at the staples of this genre, often skipping the B section completely because he didn't seem to know how to play it.

More important, I wonder whether the congregation even recognized the poor quality of the music. The bride was lovely, the message was great, but perhaps they should have used a CD.

That being said, I don't like canned music, especially for big events. This was the song the soloist sang while they lit the Unity Candle. My family was not happy that they chose "Train". The accompaniment for this piece could have been played with 3 fingers, as demonstrated in this open guitar part. And Nameless couldn't keep a pulse, so it was weird.

Enjoy your Monday!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Destruction-And so it Begins, Again

Help is on the way for the studio waiting room. Last year, we tackled my office proper. This year, we are moving outward to the waiting area of my teaching side of the house.

The first picture is my current teaching space, warm and inviting. One sweet student said I needed a sign for my office during the construction time, so she made one for the french door. I believe it's the best name plate I've ever had!

One of these pictures is a "before" of the studio waiting area with lots of framed inspirational autographs on the wall, and the keyboard. Although the keyboard will be back in that space, the bookshelves will not. Also, I plan to make a coffee table book of the autographs, rather than clutter the wall.

Our first event today was to get a trailer and take junk to the landfill.

Pictures will be posted occasionally, we are hoping that it will be fewer 'surprises' than the last room!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Making a Summer Schedule the Old Fashioned Way

If post-it notes could talk! I sent out a summer lesson form via email in May. Most families sent back their preferences in email or paper format. I planned to teach Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays this summer, in July and August (7 weeks).

There was an outcry of 4 students who "can't wait until July for lessons!" So I opened up the studio for Thursdays in June, and I'm full with an amazing 6 hours of studio time! This is a very pleasant financial surprise. Given that the church job is over, every lesson will be significant.

I asked around at convention yesterday and most of us are still doing the same scheduling paperwork, on paper. One brilliant, technology-savvy woman opened a Google calendar and had everyone put on their own dates. Since I'm almost done with the summer, I won't do that this time, but I'm going to remember that! There are always good tidbits and information at conventions! It would require that everyone get a Google account, but they are free. According to my teenage children, everyone has one anyway. According to my husband, everyone with an Android cell phone uses Google to gain access to the app market.

I am planning to use June as the Remodeling Month. We have already begun to tear apart the waiting area,to lighten, brighten and update. It's going to be a great improvement. I still really like my studio. So, students and parents will be in the midst of a construction zone on Thursdays.

But let's look beyond the initial, "um, ok let's see what I can do" reaction I had to teaching in June. I've sat back and thought about this. They wanted to continue lessons. That says so much about these students. I gave them the chance to do something else. And they love to play. Piano. In the summer. So do I. As I left my church job, that was one of the things I kept saying about the great loss I feel. I LOVE to play. I'm not the best, I'm not like the amazing classical pianists at the convention, but I love to play piano. I love to see how music moves people to smile, to cry, to dance, to pray, to connect, to remember, to love. It touches all ages. I love to be a part of connecting them to that deeper place. One day, that was even my Facebook status, because it is so true for me. And it is not true of all my colleagues.

I think I have stumbled upon something. So that's me. Still learning about my strengths. Hi, I'm Chris, and I love to play piano. I'm going to put it on a Post-it Note and think about it awhile.

Friday, June 3, 2011


In addition to my writing here, I've started a Facebook page entitled Wolf Piano. It will be an eclectic mix of daily video and/or music related items collected from the web. Much of the writing will not be mine there, it will be good stuff! "Like" today!

And thank you for reading some personal items as of late. I will be back to my teaching glimpses soon.

I'm still working on a foray into YouTube by the way. I'm also excited to start planning a studio excursion to the Minneapolis Institute of Arts to combine an art and music "something" with my friend Linda. I'm composing a few things and breathing deeply.

I'm looking forward to the Minnesota state music teacher's convention next week. Check in here for highlights and lots of photos!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Summer Schedule-Ends and Beginnings

I am between sessions at the moment. We ended the year with a spring recital and awards ceremony. The May month ended with two weeks of lessons to go over the guild report cards and get fun summer music, and then, poof, they were out the door to soccer, baseball, band concerts and final exams.

I did four great days of judging at MacPhail Center for the Arts. The students were well prepared and musical. The building is new, and state of the art! It has a main lobby with big screens announcing upcoming events. The office I was allowed to use had two grand pianos in good tune, and there are several group classrooms and concert areas, on 6 floors. It is near the stone arch bridge, the Guthrie, and some fine dining.

I ended my 3 1/2 year position with my beloved church on May 15. They ran out of money to pay me. I understand this, and their desire to not ask me to do the job for free. They are hoping to find volunteers to step forward. I am struggling most with the request of the pastor and the council to step away from the church for a period of time, called the whole summer. I agreed to this request, I was technically part of the decision making process, but it is so difficult to know that all my friends are making music and I'm not with them. Twice per week, the group is hanging out, having music therapy, and making a new way. I'm proud of the work I did to get them up and running, but I'm still grieving.

My father has become a permanent resident of the nursing home. He has declined significantly over the past two months, and the final diagnosis is residual radiation. Most people are fine with the dose he was given, but Dad was not, and it's still sitting in his head, gradually cooking other connections. He can no longer use his legs and they are using a machine to put him on the commode, in his wheelchair or in bed. His speech is impaired when he speaks at all, and he says his head is "foggy". He calls it chemo-head. Mom feeds him his food-she is there 12-14 hours/day, even though the nursing staff would be happy to give her a break. On Monday, the Mayo Clinic physician staff gently told Mom that their overseeing of his case was completed. She and I both realize that's their way of saying there's nothing more they can do.

Dad seems comfortable, he listens and is present for our conversations. He still likes his meals, however he has lost about 15 pounds. I have learned more about wheelchairs, coumadin, Medicare and Nursing Care. I am walking along side of incredible compassion, love, loss, and grief. We are striving to celebrate the better days.

And in the meantime, music is sustaining me. I'm writing, I'm listening. I've been asked to work with a staff member at the Minneapolis Institute of Art to design a tour combining art and music. Ideas abound. Your suggestions can be added to the mix on Facebook at Wolf Piano.

More soon, as the summer students begin to arrive with their stories!

Who's been to Visit?