Thursday, January 29, 2009

Early Morning in Chicago Area

It was just before dawn when I set out this morning. Glittering snow flakes were slowly floating down from the cobalt colored sky and a sliver of peach hued sky was beginning to emerge along the horizon as I eagerly started my car down the highway. Armed with my book bag and a steaming mug of black coffee, I was off to Chicago.

Yesterday evening Ms. Fiore called with sensational news: "Your bass is ready." You can imagine that I was incredibly surprised by the news, especially since I was expecting to be without my bass until sometime in February. Ms. Fiore explained that as she was examining my bass she discovered the best of best possible scenarios- the split did not go all the way through the face. The weird weather ealier this winter caused the sound post to slip out of place, which created unbalanced stress on the face and started to force open the seam. In other good news, the crafty luthier who made my bass had already placed a few well placed, but discrete cleats for reinforcement. It was not necessary to remove the top of the bass to fix the split. Ms. Fiore was able to fix the bass with a superb adhesive, strategically placed clamps, and a refitted sound post. Magnificent! Not only did the repair take considerably less time than initially predicted, it cost several hundered dollars less. Doublely magnificent!

The bass is healthy again!

I was back on campus by 10:30, and was only 30 minutes late to class- not bad for morning rush hour in the Windy City. Yesterday I informed the professor why I may be running late for his class. Sensing my excitement he empathetically told me to "go get your baby. Do not rush to get back for class, and, for heavens sake, drive defensively- it's the morning rush hour. Who knows who has not had enough coffee before getting on the road." Seriously- I love this professor. I am tickled to be reunited with my bass, and had to resist the urge to miss the rest of class to get reaquainted.

Merry Writings!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Feeling Philosophical & alles Gute zum Geburtstag, Mozart!

Over the years I have dabbled in reading some philosophical documents, such as Nietzsche, the Tao Te Ching, or the writings of Siddhartha Guatama, either on my own or for course work. This past summer was brimming with the educational philosophy of Plato, Artistotle, Rosseau, Dewey, and Freire- to name a few. Although I am not much of philosopher (my philosophy club Muffin can out-rhetoric me in a matter of seconds), I could process the broad educational philosophical perspectives presented.

I have not written in the past few days because my nose has been buried in textbooks, particularly the text A Philosophy of Music Education by Bennett Reimer. The specifics presented in this text has my mind reeling with so many questions and thoughts that, quite honestly, my brain feels like pudding after a few pages. The purpose of the reading is to get the mind inquiring, processing, and exploring in preparation for writing my own philosophy of music education. Mission accomplished? I am not sure pudding is on the syllabus.

I must admit I am a bit leery of this philosophy statement. I have written many, many, many papers during my academic career, including one I hope to turn into a dissertation at some point. However, this one is not is personal. I must write a statement that indicates who I am, what I value, what I think about teaching, and how I will teach in a clear, organized and unified composition of approximately 1000 words. 1000 words!? That is only about 2 pages at single spacing! It feels like both an insufficient and an overwhelmingly large space to objectively state my feelings and thoughts about myself and my future profession. Also, this statement will reside in my professional development portfolio- a document for all future employers to see. No pressure. I have 2 weeks to mull over the subject, write, re-write, and re-write again. I know that once my brain regains a slightly more solid state I will be ready philosophize.

So, I must ask, what is your artistic philosophy? Who are you as an artist? What do you value? What does your art mean to you?

Also.... Alles Gute zum Geburtstag, Wolfie! Today is Mozart's 253rd Birthday, so crank up the tunes! I suggest listening to Der Hölle Rache kocht in meinem Herzen from Die Zauberflote. Nothing says happy birthday like the mad rantings of the Queen of the Night. The performance is great, and the Queen's costume is fantastical!

Merry Writings!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Colony of Ants in My Pants


The past 24 hours has been filled with lectures and meetings, and I am just squirming with excess energy. Wednesday evening was the mandatory pre-student teaching meeting, which lasted 3 full hours. The meeting primarily consisted of reiterating requirements and deadlines to remember. Thrilling. Today consisted of another meeting and several lectures, and the last of the day was 2.5 hours long. As the lecture neared its end, my well of concentration was in danger of running dry and I was becoming super fidgety. Major case of ants in the pants! I have always struggled with sitting still for long stretches of time.
I think it will be in my best interest to go for a long run in the morning. A good energy-burning run will grant me a glimmering chance of staying focused during the 3 hour Marriage of Figaro rehearsal scheduled for tomorrow afternoon. Rehearsal time is precious, and I owe it to my wonderful colleagues to be in top form. I feel like I have enough energy to run to Chicago!

What do you do to help you focus- especially when you have oodles of excess energy?

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Birthday Wishes

This past November the classical music and double reed community was shocked by the sudden death of Mark Weiger. He was a virtuoso oboist, talented pedagogue, professor, and all around a wonderful person. I had the pleasure of taking a few lessons with Mark, and the lessons were worth every minute of the 4 1/2 hour drive to Iowa City. From time to time Mark would drop an email into my box to see how I was doing oboewise and just in general. Mark was an inspiration, and I truly admired him as an artist.

Today would have been Mark's 50th birthday. Today I wish for peace and repose. I wish peace for Mark, for his family, for his colleagues, for his students, and for all who are well aware of his absence.

Happy Birthday, Mr. Weiger.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Stars and Strings

Today, America graduated. The inauguration of President Barack Obama is cause for excitement- not only for Americans, but for people across the globe. I was rather upset that I had to miss the live broadcast for class, and as the hand approached 11:00 a.m I stared at the clock with a heavy heart. Sigh... However, I was able to catch to whole event a few hours afterward on the web. Ah, the beauty of living in the technological age that we do. Allow me to step on my soap-box for just a few moments...

Needless to say, today was a milestone in American history. In 1961, the year Obama was born, interracial marriage was still illegal in 16 states. 48 years later, America is embracing its first African-American and multi-racial President. Speaking as a future educator, I believe President Obama will be a powerful source of inspiration for children across the country. President Obama is living proof that achievement is not just reserved for those born into privilege, but is accessible to those who dare to dream. He is a shining example of how determination, hard work, strong values, and an education are the tools for success.

The inaugural address gave me goosebumps, and my heart swelled with joy. I know President Obama and his team have immense and difficult tasks at hand. The problems facing our nation will not dissolve over night. However, I cannot help but be optimistic.

The light colored line is the creeping culprit.

Yesterday I made the trip to Obama's stomping grounds- the good old city of Chicago. I took my beloved bass to be mended by the incredibly skilled and talented Michelle Fiore of Classic Contrabass. Ms. Fiore is a well-regarded luthier and double bass specialist. The diagnosis for my bass was not great, but was better than I had anticipated. The good news: It is very likely the opening seam will not require total dismantling of my bass, only partial. Fingers crossed for partial. Full removal of the face is quite costly. Ugh... The bad news: The repair process is delicate and will require a bit of time to complete. I will be without my bass until mid February. Sigh... On the bright side, since my Muffin is also a bassist I can use his smaller bass while mine stays in Chicago.

In fun news...

Patty over at oboeinsight, has awarded me a Premios Dardo Award. Thank you, Patty!

The award comes with these instructions:
To accept the award, post it on your blog together with the name of the person that has granted the award and his or her blog link.
Pass the award to at least 5 blogs that are worthy of this acknowledgment.

How exciting! Check out my nominees:
Her Speak
Chez Sacred Suzie
Starshyne Productions
Dreams With the Fishes
Words From a Bohemian Mom

Merry Writings!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Freezing for Figaro

The past few days have been bitterly cold in the Midwest. The high temperature reached -3 with winds gusting at a frigid -40 in my little spot of Wisconsin. Such severe cold can cause frostbite in mere minutes. It is too dangerous for children to wait for the bus or walk to school, so class has been canceled for the neighborhood children the past two days. The apartment across the hall is occupied by three adorable little girls, and it was rather refreshing to hear their laughter and singing as they played in the normally quiet hallways this afternoon.

A beautiful snapshot of the Thursday sunrise on Lake Michigan.
Photo by Tom Lynn.

The subzero temperatures, however, did not delay rehearsals for The Marriage of Figaro. It is not that I minded having to leave the house in such unpleasant weather- I have experienced enough winters to know how to bundle up. What worries me is transporting my oboe. Such awful weather can do, well, awful things to my beloved instrument. Taking any wooden instrument from a warm building into the cold air and back into a warm building stresses the body of the instrument. If proper precautions are not taken before playing the instrument, it will crack. Once a wood instrument cracks it will never sound or respond the same. Hence, the fretting.

I am rather pleased that temperatures are projected to reach the upper teens tomorrow. Heat wave!

How does the Mother Nature effect your craft?

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Wishcasting for Creativity

The lovely Jamie posted the following thoughtful Wishcasting prompt today: What do you wish for your creativity?

Lately I feel that I have put my creativity in the garden shed. I have been so concerned with standards, scoring rubrics, and parameters that I missed planting season, so my creative bulb remains dormant. My wish is rather simple:

Image from:

I wish to reacquaint myself the creative being I know I am, and to let her blossom.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

A Rare Day

Today was one of those rare and sacred days where I had absolutely no agenda. No where I must be, and nothing I had to do. Since today was my last official day of winter break, I savored every moment.

I have been nursing a serious case of the sniffles the past two days, so I did not set my alarm for this morning. I slept until nearly 10:00- *Gasp*! My body needed the rest, and I know I will not have the treat of sleeping in so late into the day for quite some time. Also, I decided I would stay in my jim-jams until it reached afternoon. I brewed a huge cup of echinacea tea, and settled in on the couch with my kitties and trusty laptop to watch cartoons and surf. The I took a very long, hot shower, making sure to take the time to soak in the steam.

My favorite feel good tea: I am not sure if it is the combination
of peppermint and star anise or the adorable koala bear.
Image courtesy: Celestial Seasonings

I spent the afternoon reveling in my craft. A large portion of the afternoon was spent practicing for the opera The Marriage of Figaro. While it sounds like something I had to do, honestly it was not. I was tickled to keep working on Mozart's deliciously silly comedic opera. Also, I spent time working on a beautiful selection from the Mass in B minor by J.S. Bach. A supremely talented mezzo-soprano at school asked me to accompany her on the piece, which features a mezzo voice and oboe. I was flattered that she asked, and of course I am thrilled to get the opportunity to work with her.

As any good oboist would do, I tinkered with my growing crop of reeds. I tied two more and spent a little time scraping on others. Nothing near playable yet, but I can feel a good batch at hand. Finally, I gave my oboe some love. The keys were polished, corks cleaned, the wood wiped down with soft linen, and the joints were lightly oiled. A very productive afternoon at a very leisurely pace.

A lavender candle and lotus blossom incense accompany a mellow evening.

When my Muffin returned home we made a very complicated gourmet dinner of grilled cheese with avocado sandwiches and creamy tomato soup. He has been battling the sniffles as well, so we brewed up some hot liquids and cozied up for the evening. After a bit of reading, I think I shall turn in for the night. What a splendid nothing kind of day!

What do (or don't) you do on your nothing days?
Merry writings.

Monday, January 12, 2009

January Dream Board

It was cloudy and lightly snowing in my little spot of the world when the moon was at its biggest and brightest for the year. I could not see her. However, last night the sky was clear and lit up with the almost full moon. It was breathtaking. The moon hung in a sapphire colored sky like a golden pearl. She shone so bright she was nearly casting shadows. Suddenly, I felt inspired to make my own Dream Board.

I spent time on Saturday looking at all of the wonderful Dream Boards shared at Starshyne Productions. I was fascinated with the honest intentions and captivating stories the behind each Dream Board. I know the full moon was a few days ago, but I would like to think it is not to late to share mine with you. This is my first Dream Board ever, and I know I must keep doing this.

My Dream Board focuses on renewal, balance, and knowledge. As I have mentioned in previous posts, I felt toxic as the end of the year approached. In this new year I wish to to be renewed and revitalized. This is the mint. Mint is fresh, eye-opening, and can be overwhelming. I dream to be overwhelmed with rejuvenation. The woman in Exhalted Warrior pose represents balance. Part of my toxicity was in partially due to allowing someone to effect me so deeply that I lost my center, my focus, and my balance. I dream to reclaim those. In several cultures the chickadee represents the search for truth and knowledge, and optimism. I am aware that I have much to learn in this life, and recently I have been deeply searching for some answers. I dream that my eyes, ears, and heart are open to truth and knowledge.

Merry Writings.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Fruits of My Frustration OR Rude Neighbors Are Good for Reed Making

I managed to muster up some post-PRAXIS motivation yesterday to do some much needed oboe reed maintenance. Initially I had planned on only shaping about a half dozen pieces of cane and tying 3 blanks while I did some laundry. My concentration was low, and I was looking forward to slipping into a cane-shaping trance. As I let some cane soak, I wandered down to the laundry room in my building. There is only one washer and dryer for the 8 units, so I am not surprised that someone else has laundry in the machines. It is a Saturday, afterall.

About a half an hour later, and well before I got myself too involved in reed making, I found my way down to the laundry room. The washer was open. Sweet! I throw in a load and head up stairs to get to work. Once I am done shaping my 6 pieces of cane I decided to pop into the laundry room and see if the dryer is vacant. Nope. Well, not big deal- the clothes in the dryer are still warm. I tell myself, I will just keep working on reeds until my laundry gets dried. Nearly 3 hours later, 9 pieces of cane, and 8 tied-initial scrape-tip started reeds later, my neighbor has yet to claim their clothes. Now I am feeling less than congenial. Usually I will not take someone's laundry out of the machines and put mine in, but I felt I had waited long enough and did just that.

While my laundry was finally drying, I went back to my reed maintenance. As I was sharpening my reed knives and re-organizing my tool box, I could not help but worry about the laundry. I begin to wonder... Will my neighbor be really upset, or will she realize she left her things in a shared space a bit too long? Would she do something to my laundry? Oh, don't do anything to my green sweater- I love it! No, she won't be upset. I reassure myself, I doubt she'll even come down to get her laundry before mine is done. Sure enough, she did not retrieve her clean laundry. I quickly stuffed in back in the dryer and scooted back to my unit. How ridiculous of me.

My *Helper*: Carmen waits for me to turn my back
so she can steal a spool of thread

On the bright side, my determination to keep working on reeds until my laundry was dry was a rather fruitful decision. At the end of this little adventure I have 8 reeds in progress. Look how much happier my reed case looks! Actually, I am feeling motivated to do even more reeds today. Perhaps I will have an almost full case before the semester start. Woo!

What is your next project?

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Sunshine on My Walls

Part of my much need post-semester rejuvenation was to to tackle the living space. My Muffin and I share a cozy little abode that is the perfect size for the two of us and the cats. We are lucky enough to have the option to paint the living space and bedroom, so we did. The bedroom turned out a fantastic slate gray, making it the perfect room to dream splendid dreams. The living space, however, did not turn out. The paint was not mixed right, because the serene gray-blue we had picked ended up looking like Crayola crayon sky blue. While this color is lovely in its own right, it was a bit off for our belongings and made our cozy room feel cool, remote, and uninviting. Home is where one can restore oneself- it is a little haven. One should feel at ease in their dwelling. Our living space was doing none of the above.

We have lived with the color since August, but the gloves came off on Thursday. We had enough, and decided it was time to make our home feel, well, like a home should. The color needed to be warm and invigorating. My wonderful sister, Molly, helped with the transformation. She helped us pick the color and paint. I'm lucky that Molly is such a sweetheart. Take a peak at the before and after.


We love our new space. It is cozy, uplifting, and I feel at ease. All it took was a gallon of paint and an afternoon. And a little sibling love.

Carmen loves her new marigold kitchen

What colors restore you? What have you done to make your space your space?

Gelatin and Jazz

Image courtesy of: Steve Spangler Science

WooT! I just took my last round, *hopefully,* of standardized testing required for obtaining a teaching license. The PRAXIS II was a two hour and 130 question technique for making my brain feel a bit like gelatin. Nonetheless, I think I did relatively well. Now I must try to sit patiently and wait 4-5 weeks for the test results. Sigh......

In other music news, the Hal Leonard Corporation has decided to discontinue its Hal Leonard Jazz Series at the Pabst Theater, which has been an annual concert series since 1993. However, all is not lost. The current management of the Pabst Theater still plans to bring in jazz artists, just not in a formal concert series format. More details are available at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. This seems like neither a win-lose situation for jazz patrons, but more or less a draw.

Merry writings!

Friday, January 9, 2009

Arts Education on the Move

With economic turmoil, political scandal, and the infringement of human rights dominating headlines, it was truly wonderful to read a positive story in the newspaper. I came across a short article that calls for the "re-energizing" arts education in the state of Wisconsin, and it made me bubble with hope.

According to a report in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "a task force of educators, arts professionals and business people called today for efforts to re-energize and expand arts programs at all levels of schooling in Wisconsin...The 36-person task force was created by Lt. Gov. Barbara Lawton and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Elizabeth Burmaster, who said in a statement in the report, "Like a GPS, this report outlines the course of action we must follow to make our schools work for Wisconsin today.""

Fantastic! Read the full article here.

What do you think about the status of arts and arts education in your community?

Thursday, January 8, 2009

The Parent Parables: The Supportive Parent

As I had mentioned in a previous post, parents are an omnipresent force in any educational or extra-curricular setting. Whether it is school, soccer, or piano lessons, parents can become a teacher’s invaluable partner or tenacious barrier. I thought I would start this series on a positive note, and begin with the Supportive Parent. Before I begin, however, a few disclaimers:

Disclaimer #1: I am neither a parent nor a parenting expert. This series is not meant to be a critique of any parenting style, so take no offense. These are merely my experiences, or the observations generously shared by colleagues.

Disclaimer #2: I have taken the necessary measures to safeguard the identity of minors. Details may be altered or omitted in order to ensure and protect the privacy of minors and their family.

Image courtesy

The Supportive Parent is deeply valued by teachers. This parent strikes the balance and is encouraging and supportive, all while instilling a sense of integrity and discipline in their child. This parent is genuinely interested in what their child is involved in, and is equally as engaged in their child’s progress and growth.

The Supportive Parent is the type who engages in open communication with the teacher, and asks questions. How is Johnny doing? Does Mary need any supplies? What can I do to help Jack with x and y? How can I help or support the program? Etc. The Supportive Parent will ask questions about your teaching method, which I, personally, enjoy discussing. I adore involving parents in the learning process, especially so they may better understand what their child is practicing and learning.

Generally speaking, the child of a Supportive Parent tends to excel. For example, in a previous post I mentioned the mother and daughter who take tandem oboe lessons with me. When it came time to selecting an instrument the daughter picked the oboe. Her mother thought the oboe sounded like so much fun she decided to learn as well. At first we discussed back-to-back lessons, but scheduling issues brought forth the idea of a mother-daughter joint lesson. They are progressing at a phenomenal rate, and seem to be having a lot of fun learning together. Mother and daughter function as a tight-knit support system for each other. Of course, the daughter loves it when I tell her part of her weekly assignment is to help out her mom. It is beautiful to see a parent and child enrich their lives together, and I feel fortunate to work in such a wonderful atmosphere.

Now, I am not suggesting that every parent take up the clarinet or basketball or forensics because his or her child has. This would be an entirely impractical expectation. Honestly, one can only do so much and one only has so much energy. I believe the Supportive Parent comes in many forms, and honestly does the best that they can for their child. On a more typical and realistic scale, I consider the most useful thing a parent can do is to communicate. When a parent addresses genuine questions or concerns with a teacher, it is often provides useful insight for the educator and, hopefully, will benefit the child. However, the truly Supportive Parent does not cross the professional boundary line. He or she neither tells the teacher how to do his or her job, nor maliciously undermines the instructor (which, unfortunately, has been experienced by some colleagues).

As a private teacher, I experience the Supportive Parent type of the most. Generally speaking, this should not be too surprising, since enrolling in private lessons normally involves both parent initiated contact and regular opening of the wallet. However, even in the private setting, this is not always the case. We shall discuss the less or overly involved types in an upcoming post.

What have you experienced? Please, share you encounters.

Merry writings.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Many Happy Returns

While I know it is not the best idea to stop posting for nearly a week when first starting a blog, I was far too busy actively pursuing one of my New Year's resolutions. I actually made a fairly long "To Do" list this year, with some as simple as drink more water or repaint the kitchen, and others that require greater levels of conscientious thought.

The past year has been a whirlwind of activity, and the past four months were particularly stressful. I had allowed a rather longterm unpleasant circumstance weaken my usual no-nonsense-pay-little-attention-forge -ahead attitude. As the semester closed, I felt drained and disappointed that I had allowed someone to make me feel so, so... toxic. I felt disconnected- both from myself and others. This MUST change.

Image courtesy of

Fortunately, I have been able to remove myself from the noxious situation and more or less distance myself from this menacing person. This is the first constructive measure. The next step, which is one of my heftiest goals for 2009, is to reconnect with my tribe. I am making a discerning effort to surround myself with those I adore most- the affirming relations.

I have taken great advantage of the semester break and have spent the past five days investing in quality time. My Muffin and I spent a lovely day together, and I must admit it has been far too long since we have. I visited my grandparents, and took a crazy adventure to Ikea with my amazing sister, Molly, and force of nature friend, Katie. Also, I had a wonderful lunch with my father, and visited with my former bass teacher, Laura. Tomorrow I have plans for breakfast tea with another old friend.

It has been genuinely lovely. I am already feeling the strings within my being bind themselves back together. I promise more active posting this week, including the first installment of The Parent Parables. Happy readings.

What do you do to revitalize when you feel full of venom or completely drained?

Thursday, January 1, 2009

New Year Blessing

May your body find health,
and soul nourishment.
May your eyes see simple beauty and wonder,
and ears hear truth and wisdom.

May your mind be pleasantly confounded,
and learn a little each day.
May your heart feel the warmth of love,
and be graceful in times of pain

May your journey be satisfying,
and growth enlightening.
May your year be full of prosperity,
and all you ever dreamed.

Happy New Year.