Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Look!! and laugh

Look at this funny picture! I can't stop laughing! How adorable!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Carmen update

It has been two weeks since the beginning of rehearsals for Carmen. I have been soaking it all in, loving being there. I do not love the drive there (about an hour and 15 minutes each way), but the goal at the end of the drive is always well worth it, whether it be song or home. The men and women I am singing with are so nice, many of them with really wonderful voices to listen to, and many with such encouragement for me, which is really nice when I feel that much of what I hear is veiled criticism from well-trained ears. Not that the criticism isn't warranted, but it's nice to hear that fellow opera singers think there's something nice to listen to there.

Anyway, we have learned the music, some songs better than others, and have begun blocking as of yesterday. We blocked the Gypsy Dance, with my character, Mercedes, leading with the first verse. It isn't traditionally done this way, but the director wanted to give each of the gypsy women a verse of their own, for some variety. I have never had a role where I am to be blocked specifically, except in college when I was Pitti-Sing for the Mikado, so it's been a while. It's a bit nerve-wracking, having this director tell you where to stand and asking you to make up little gestures on the spot, which happen to be a bit sensuous in nature, as they are gypsy dance moves, all while the entire cast is watching you, most of them whom I do not even know their names yet...I had to try to throw my inhibition to the wind and just try it. Everyone was very kind and helpful while we fumbled through the blocking. Apparently, we are going to get actual dance moves to the song portion at a later date. I just hope I can do them while singing, as I have no formal dance training. But, hey, I love to dance! So, we'll see.

It's so great with this company, because I know the key team pretty well, even if I don't know most of the singers. This really helps me feel comfortable...plus the fact that the producer is an evangelical Christian. That always comforts me and helps me relax my crazy stranglehold on worry...wish I could just trust Jesus all the time, right, instead of just the people who trust Jesus?

The other thing I wonder about is inviting people to come see it...I have many friends and family interested in coming to see the performances, but I find it a bit intimidating to invite them. I find it so much easier to slip into a character or be dramatic and over-the-top with people I don't know. I think it's harder to do that with good friends and family.

On a different, although related tangent, I have found my favorite Carmen. Elina Garanca completely conquers the role in this superb production from the Met. Her Carmen is beautiful, dangerous, earthy, and captivating. Take a look at her "Habanera"...a song that has been done so much, but I think is given new life in this version.

thankful on coming back

Today was my first day back teaching from April vacation. In the past, this doesn't always make for a very thankful day, but today was pretty good. The day before vacation we had our biggest concert of the school year, involving all grades. I decided to make today an evaluation day, combined with starting some new units. This usually makes for a bit more relaxing day, and the kids seemed to enjoy the easing back into our routine.

61. students who can differentiate between accurate and inaccurate pitch

62. rain for the thirsty earth

63. a baby who sleeps through the night

64. a 4-year-old who crawls into our bed anytime between 2 and 6 every morning.

65. a new salmon recipe that is YUMmy!

66. colleagues who trust me with their rants

67. kindergarteners who groan about leaving my classroom

68. a store within reach for natural foods

69. green smoothies!

70. local honey and eggs from friends!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Giving thanks

haven't done this in a while, at least here.

but it is so good and so vulnerable and frightening, yet pleasant to praise the Lord.

51. riding in a cart attached to a lawnmower

52. a baby boy who clings to me when afraid

53. a young boy who laughs with the gear changes

54. my boy who says "lawfs" instead of "lahfs" when he is laughing

55. crumbs on the counters that mean daily bread was given

56. time home on vacation as a family

57. no more need for medication?

58. a house to clean

59. dandelions to pick

60. sunshine and Son-reflecting

Saturday, April 14, 2012

vulnerable beauty

How I need to remember this.

Some people just know how to say it.

Friday, April 13, 2012

By ear

I have been trying a new method with a piano student. All the methods I've seen, even the one that I learned, was by rote. "Look at this, play that. That's what music is! Ok, now you do it".

Unsatisfactory and no wonder so few kids survive elementary lessons and go on to play more than the beginning phrase of Fur Elise and Heart and Soul. SO SAD!

As I begin to learn more about music education - where it started abroad and here in the US, curricular and methodology fads that have come and gone, and more and more research about how the child actually learns - I am amazed and challenged and full of wonder.

I wonder why piano teaching is still "Look at this, play that."

Why aren't we teaching these little ones to be musicians right off the bat? Sure, it's a bit harder to teach that way at first when say, you (I'm meaning "I" here) haven't been taught that way but that's how your ideal philosophy of music ed. plays out so you have to find your way.

Make sense? Maybe I'll just explain what I've been doing versus what I've seen done (and done in the past, so I am not trying to pass judgment...necessarily. Just trying to present another, possibly better, way.)

How about, instead of "Look at this, play that," let's have "Hear this, figure it out, and play it in any key however you want because it's music and I want you to be creative and use higher thinking and not just reading symbols."

My student, S., is a 2nd grade girl at a private elementary school.  She comes from a lovely family who I know quite well - our former landlords.  I have seen this girl grow up from the time we moved in when she was three years old.  Such a sweet girl.  Good head on her shoulders.  I was thrilled when her mom called to ask if I knew anyone who could teach her piano.

I had a moment when I heard her message, where I thought, this is going to be too hard.  Now, not that teaching piano lessons is hard, but because I knew I was at a point in my music educating that I didn't feel comfortable teaching her the old way.  But the only method I knew I wanted to use has not been directly adapted to piano instruction.  I would have to forge the way for myself.  And, her.

I could take the easy way out and give her instruction to someone else.  But, in all honesty, I needed the money, and I love this family, and I really wanted to do it.  The mom said she would watch my boys for me while I taught her daughter.  So, we set it up.

The methods I use in my teaching are a combination of Orff and Kodaly.  John Feierabend is probably my biggest influence at the moment...I really think he makes a good case for teaching how kids learn, and I've seen the principles he applies to his method apply in other teaching areas as well, so it makes sense.  I have been trying to teach my students to use their inner hearing more, from the earliest age I have them at Kindergarten, so that by the time they reach 4th grade, they will be able to hear what it is they would like to sing/play/create and reproduce it using the basic building blocks of beat, pitch, and expression that I have been feeding them over the years.  It becomes an innate part of their musical self, as they are the ones creating the music.  My lessons are (trying, not always successfully, but getting better) geared toward giving them musical independence so they can create songs, rhythms, and expressive musical gestures based off of example.  The hardest, yet most vital part is training their inner ear so they can more easily access this part of themselves.

We begin with solfege and rhythms in duple, then triple meter.  Most traditional American folk songs are in duple or triple with simple solfege (using do-re-mi and sol-la)  They "learn" these songs - that is in quotations because they often already know them - and then I play part of it on an instrument, such as a glockenspiel.  I might ask them to sing one phrase of the song and figure it out on the glockenspiel, telling them what notes are used, but not the order or the rhythm.  They should sing and figure it out on their own.  And, they will!  It seems so simple to us musicians, but as young developing musicians, this can be quite frightening at first as it seems rather open-ended.  But, with a little encouragement, they realize they can sing the notes and match the pitch and figure it out.

Then we move on to the realization that the solfege matches what they played too.  We stay in one key for a while, getting used to it, then slowly introduce other keys, then other modalities, then harmonic ideas.  Slowly, they are able to master simple songs and even transfer them to any key and use their ears to make music.  When they have mastered a song, I give them the sheet music to help them remember it.  (This is an Orff-ism).  We go through playing it while looking at the music so they can get used to what the music looks like that they are playing.

I have been doing this same thing with my piano student...for a couple months without an official piano book, then I ordered (upon recommendation by Mr. Feierabend himself  - I emailed him to ask and he actually emailed me back!) Marilyn Lowe's beginner piano book.  Not quite sure what I think of it yet, but it does keep in line with training the ear before the eye.  It's just a bit confusing to me the teacher, but S. loves it.  It also comes with a cd for her to play along with, and chant rhythm syllables and solfege syllables to.  It even has exercises to encourage improvisation, which S. is really taking off with.  Every week I come to teach she sits down and starts "noodling" around on the keyboard playing little ditties she made up in any one of 4 keys we've been working with.  I'll listen and then ask her if she could play that in another key, and she promptly figures it out.  I love that.  She is playing with two hands, can often figure out the bass line of any given song when asked, and is playing in 5 keys as well as their parallel minors.  Her fingering work is excellent, and she really enjoys practicing every day, according to her mom.  She still does not like to "figure out" a new song I give her.  For example, this week was "This Old Man."  She kept waiting for me to give her the answer of the next note to play, and refusing to sing it for herself.  I think she gets insecure and then won't try it.  But, once I walk away for a minute to talk to her mom, she tries it out and can usually do it.  We improvise in any one of our 5 major or minor keys using duple or triple meter.  I can't believe how well she does, and I am so enjoying teaching this way. 

That's not to say I feel like I know what I'm doing, completely, yet....but it sure is more enjoyable teaching someone to make music rather than copy music.

Sunday, April 08, 2012

here we go...!

I feel like my life is about to catapult into fast forward...I am simulateously excited and terrified at how things might turn out.

That might actually be an accurate combination of emotions for most things I tackle in life. Someone once told me they we surprised I was so nervous because I never seemed it. That could not be farther from the truth...I get nervous about practically everything, I've just learned what really matters to get nervous about and try to give the rest up to God's grace. For example, I still get nervous to go over to my good friends' houses and visit...what are we going to talk about for more than 1/2 hour? What if there is a pause in the conversation? What if I say something stupid and irritating in that pause because I assume they think I'm boring? Why do I always make it all about me? Have I asked them enough about them? Etc, etc, etc. So dumb, but it's what my emotions and brain fight against. And those are my good friends. :)

So...on to more about me. :)

Anyway...starting this wednesday night, I will be going to rehearsals for G_____- W______ Opera's Carmen 3 nights a week. It's approximately an hour("-ish?") trip from my house to get there. This will be sooooooo fun and good and challenging and exciting, but soooooo not good for our finances and gas money and hoping Isaac doesn't lose his mind when I am not there when he decides to wake up for his first of five times he gets up every night I'm not there.

Yes, Isaac is still getting up a lot.

I blame a recent hospital trip that threw everything off in his little world of trusting people.

And maybe the fact that I'm a bit of a softie with him...don't know why, but I can't let him cry like I did for Jeremiah. Feels like everything I do with him for nighttime is not the right thing unless I just go in and nurse/comfort him at night. I don't know how to break the cycle!

He'p me! He'p me!

(I've had this weird southern voice saying that in my head for a few days....makes me laugh. Hopefully makes you laugh too. Go ahead, try it! It's funny.)

Anyway...where was I? oh yes, rehearsals 3 times a week for my opera ROLE (woohoo!!).

Then, those Carmen shows go on first part of June and my online portion of my MMed begins for the summer.

Then I finish out my teaching school year.

Then I begin my on campus portion of my MMed in July. That goes until first part of August, 5 days a week, all day.

Then we will probably travel to Oklahoma to visit my folks and brother and all the rest of the family for a few weeks.

Then I begin teaching for the 2012-2013 school year.

That's my life. I feel the need to break out a pocketbook planner. And in fact I have. I am so afraid that I am going to be....well, me...and forget something important. We shall strive not to.

It helps to talk to myself in plural. As if my multiple personalities will help me be more organized.

Wouldn't that be nice? To have a personality part of you that did all the organizing? Does that even make sense?

We say not.

Thanks for listening. Here we go!!!

Thursday, April 05, 2012

minor keys in heaven

I just finished reading a book called "Heaven is for Real" by Todd Burpo.

If you have never read this, it is astounding.  Jesus-believing Christian or not, it is, I think, a must-read for everyone who has ever wondered if all this talk about heaven is for real.  This little boy was 4 years old and had major surgery.  Afterward, his parents started hearing him describe images of Jesus and heaven that were completely accurate to scripture - along with some things that just are amazing to know.  Read it and see what you think. Takes about 2-3 hours (at least by my reading speed...)

One thing that this little Burpo boy says is "There is no crying in heaven."  I was thinking about that when I was in church last week, and there was this gorgeous hymn we were singing called "Wondrous Love."  It's in E minor.  Got me thinking about music and mood and emotions in heaven.  Minor keys tend to portray meloncholy, brooding, foreboding, anger, mystery, and a whole host of other things that are not usually "happy."  Will there be minor keys in heaven?

I don't know what I think about that.  There will be singing and joyful noise and worship and angels heavenly voices.  I think I might miss it if there weren't minor keys, as some of my favorite songs to sing are in minor, or a similar mode. But, if I'm honest, I usually like those songs because I need to process some things that are unpleasant and they help me with that...so maybe in heaven I won't have to process so much negativity (or any negativity) and I won't want the minor...who knows.

All we know is that a 4 year old said there is no crying in heaven.  He also said Jesus had the most beautiful eyes.  I can only hope that someday I will see them.