Lean on Me


I’m a music teacher.

I teach first and second grade general music.  Each year I plan and prepare a 30 minute musical program of songs (usually with choreography and various props) for my students to perform for the rest of the school and for their parents, family and friends.

I started thinking about what I wanted to do for this year’s program last summer.  I considered several ideas.  One that I liked a lot was to have a rainbow theme for the songs.  Each song would represent a color of the rainbow.  For instance, Purple might be “Flying Purple People Eater” and Green could be “It isn’t easy being green.”

I liked the idea.  I had trouble coming up with a good idea for “orange” though.

While I thought about various ideas, I kept having the song “What the World Needs Now” running through my head.  In light of all the tragedies of the last year and considering the course our national government is on, I began to think of a different type of theme for our program.

What if we sang songs about what the world needs now?  Love, obviously, according to the song — but what else does the world need?

Song ideas poured out of my mind.

I remember songs I learned as a young child. I firmly believe lyrics of songs can be something to hold onto in times of trouble.
Words have power.
Our minds have power.
I want to fill my students young minds with power and hope.
With love and dreams.
I want to arm them with songs that will feed their souls, and not with fluff to fill the time in a music program.

I considered many options.  I distilled my ideas down to a list of 7 songs.

I chose songs about family, community, love, dreams, tenacity, peace, friendship, healing, and music.


One of the songs I chose was Lean On Me. I was concerned about not having enough time for the students to learn all the lyrics.  I came up with what I thought was a great idea — to have one of the school custodians sing the verses as a solo.  The students would then only need to learn the chorus and bridge sections.3ell, the night of the recital came.  When the time came up, he was nowhere to be seen.
I asked if anyone had seen him.  No one had.

I said, “Oh well, we’ll skip that song and come back to it when he arrives.”

In my mind, I was trying to think of who could sing the solo verses.  I’m a music teacher and of course I could do it.  I’m not a solo singer, though.  Never have been.  I’d much rather have my back to the audience (directing a choir) or to my side (playing the piano).

A song or two later a teacher came up to be between songs and whispered, “We’re going to sing it.  We’ve got you covered.”

Ah!  What a perfect solution.  I was filled with gratitude at their thoughtfulness, resourcefulness and … bravery.

We sang our songs.  We came to the end of the last song.  I grabbed the microphone and announced that we had a solution to our missing soloist issue.  The teachers (12 of them, including student teachers) along with the principal and one of our assistant principals gathered on the gym floor in front of the children and sat down in a semi-circle.

Started the music: Lean on Me, the Bill Withers version.  We hummed the introduction.  Then the teachers began to sing the verse.  Everyone was smiling.  The children came in with the chorus:

Lean on me when you’re not strong.
I’ll be your friend.
I’ll help you carry on —
For it won’t be long ’til I’m gonna need somebody to lean on.

Call on me, brother, if you need a hand.
We all need somebody to lean on.
I just might have a problem that you’d understand.
We all need somebody to lean on.

During the next verse I encouraged the audience to join in singing the verses by saying the words as they would need to sing them. Many people joined in the singing.

It really was a wonderful ending to our program.  The song ended up being the closer for the concert, and it was absolutely perfect.

What the world needs now is love, yes, but also friends and community and people who are willing to lend a hand.

Singing teachers
These are the teachers. They are singing.
teachers sang
I love the part when all the teachers sang for Mr. Ron at the concert.


In the morning I found this whole school email from our principal in my inbox:

Dear Staff,

I can’t let your day begin without sharing something that was pretty amazing about last night’s 1st and 2nd grade concert. Our scheduled guest soloist couldn’t make it so we all decided to sing! Our students and their families will likely never forget the day the 1st and 2nd grade teachers along with their principal and assistant principal sang with them, Lean on Me, directed by their music teacher. Thank you to the teachers who were courageous and willing to take on my crazy idea! The kids and the families were amazed and the families decided to sing along with us. I am so proud of our school family! Have an awesome day!!!

It takes a village and I’m so thankful my village is full of wonderful, caring colleagues.

This was my reply:

Hello all,
Thank you sharing our magical moment, Mrs. Smith.
It was a wonderful experience and I’m honored to be surrounded by such caring and resourceful colleagues.  Thank you to all who sang the verses for us!!
After the plan was hatched, one of the teachers whispered to me, “We’re going to sing it.  We’ve got you covered.”
It takes a village, and I’m thankful to be in this village together.​
Be what the worlds needs today!

Curious minds might want to know the song titles I chose:

Proud By Teresa Jennings

Reaching for a brass ring is symbolic of taking hold of an opportunity or winning a great prize.

We Know The Way By Lin-Manuel Miranda, Opetaia Foa’i, and Mark Mancina from “Moana”
We tell the stories of our elders in a never-ending chain.


What the World Needs Now is Love By Hal David and Burt Bacharach

Is love, sweet love:  It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of.

Lean On Me By Bill Withers

Lean on me, when you’re not strong
And I’ll be your friend — I’ll help you carry on
We all need somebody to lean on.

Peaceful By Teresa Jennings

Think of the world without any war. Think of the world at peace.

Young and Positive By Nitanju Bolade Casel, of Sweet Honey In The Rock from the album “I Got Shoes”

My eyes are on the prize and they will stay that way.

Kusimama By Jim Papoulis

Sung in Swahili:
Mimi Kusimama — I stand tall
Na upendo — with love
Na tamani — with hope
Watoto ni karibu dunia –children are closer to the earth




Some things never change…

I wrote this about solo/ensemble festival in a long-ago blog post:

I can write this before Saturday because I already know what the day will be like. There will be herds of young people moving up and down the halls. Girls will be dressed in their uncomfortable finery — some sporting high heels that are clearly killing their feet. Boys may have ties or tennis shoes, and sometimes both! There will be smiles, laughter, tears and frustration. There will be donuts, hot dogs and probably BBQ sandwiches. Some will perform better than they ever have (or ever will again), and some will make huge mistakes. Some who deserve twos will get ones, and some who deserve ones will get twos. Families and friends hover, chatting quietly, and move from room to room. The tension and nerves of many performers is nearly tangible. Scraps of conversations can be overheard: “I got a one/two/one star!” “That judge is crazy/easy/hard/good/bad!” “The room is running way behind.” “Where is my accompanist/instrument/music/director/reed/room?”

Flash back to this past weekend:  I had a conversation about this topic with another Mom while we were waiting for scores to be posted on Saturday (which was our state solo/ensemble festival this year). I said there are always the same types of people every year; some things never change. There are girls in too-high heels or no shoes at all (one walked by as I said this!), girls in too-short skirts (we saw one on the way to our cars), and people in various costumes (medieval dress, sparkly show choir outfits, bow ties and suspenders, etc.)

Nerves can be covered by a veneer of confidence that is only a millimeter thick — or not covered at all. Red-rimmed, tear-filled eyes are easy to spot in nearly every hallway. After (and sometimes even before) a performance that may or may not have been an accurate showing of the musician’s ability that inner voice that says “You completely messed that up!” or “You’ve never made that mistake before — EVER — why now?” can drown out all other coherent thoughts.

Musicians are fragile yet incredibly strong at the same time. If you’ve never had to stand up in front of a group of peers, or strangers, or experts and sing, play or perform knowing you’ll be evaluated not only against yourself but against everyone else who will perform in that room that day you can’t imagine the amount of courage and fortitude that requires.


We want to be perfect and perfection is nearly impossible to obtain. (That doesn’t stop us from trying to attain it, though!)

I think that is why we sometimes play the “Diva.” We can easily hide behind the DIVA persona . “Who gives a damn what you think? I know I’m fabulous.” But all the while We still have nagging doubts: “I missed that G#!” “I can’t believe I mixed up the verses!”

The fear that we are not good enough is always there. (At least it is for me.)


It isn’t easy to let go of the ideal “perfect” performance goal. Striving for steady progress and for excellence while appreciating and enjoying the journey are much more achievable, healthier goals.

Easier said than done.  But saying it is the first step toward doing it, right?perfectionism-quote

A friend posted this article on her Facebook wall soon after I wrote this blog post. It is ON POINT so here it is:

Pianist Misses Notes In Recital, Says Pianist

“Oh my god, no. What are you talking about? I was terrible,” Hayes said, challenging Christine’s version of events. “I missed so many notes, I can’t freaking believe it. I never mess up there.”

Several audience members besides Christine also failed to notice Hayes’ embarrassing mistake, leading them to falsely conclude that the recital was a success and the 22-year-old pianist should be proud of his tremendous accomplishment. Most attendees were seated at a considerable distance from the stage and had at best a partial view of Hayes’ hands, while several among them lacked the musical education necessary to have formed a credible judgement of his performance.

Their glowing accounts of Hayes’ recital were directly contradicted by Hayes himself, who was the key eyewitness to the memory slip in the Schumann. Not only did Hayes have a closeup, firsthand view of his own senior recital, he had also been studying his repertoire in depth for several months and had better knowledge of the correct notes than anyone else present in the auditorium.

(Read the complete article which was posted on SubMediant on May 2, 1016.)


A Song sung to rest the tired dead

Miss you

I’ve known for many months that you were going to die. That doesn’t make the news that you are gone any easier to bear.

I’m thankful I had the chance to let you know how much you meant to me before you were gone.

I wish you had not had cancer. Knowing that you suffered and shriveled makes my heart ache.

Losing you leaves me as the sole caretaker of our shared memories. We both claimed the other as “brilliant” and as the best (teacher/student) we ever had.

We only had about 4 years that overlapped in time and geography, yet your influence and spirit are with me still (more than 40 years and counting).

You were effervescent, ebullient and jaunty. I can still hear your voice and your laugh; I still see your lively eyes and joyous smile.

I didn’t know until last night when I Googled you, that you had taught in Colombia, Nicaragua and Venezuela as well as at Indiana University. That our paths crossed and that I became your student leaves me humbly grateful.

You changed my life.
Without your talent and knowledge (and patience) I would not be a musician, a pianist, an accompanist, a music teacher, a choir director.
I would not be who I am.

There are not enough words to thank you, dear Susan. There are no words to convey the sorrow; but the joy and the music and the wonderful memories will endure.

all rights reserved, The Tromp Queen
The pianist, 1980.  (Yes, this is me.)

Two poems that will always remind me of you:

I am in need of music that would flow
Over my fretful, feeling fingertips,
Over my bitter-tainted, trembling lips,
With melody, deep, clear, and liquid-slow.
Oh, for the healing swaying, old and low,
Of some song sung to rest the tired dead,
A song to fall like water on my head,
And over quivering limbs, dream flushed to glow!

There is a magic made by melody:
A spell of rest, and quiet breath, and cool
Heart, that sinks through fading colors deep
To the subaqueous stillness of the sea,
And floats forever in a moon-green pool,
Held in the arms of rhythm and of sleep.

–Elizabeth Bishop


Image by Mimi Phan via Flickr CC, Cherry Bomb
The Wild Cherry Tree

Why does the wild cherry tree
on the Hudson
make everything
more so
more itself?

So the green
of the elm is greener than
when it stands alone,
the sky

So you
are one of those
who make others
more themselves
more what they

Of those who draw them to
the extreme verge,
the edge
that crackles:
that is
your beauty;
that is what
you do.

–Hilda Morley

“The Wild Cherry Tree” from “To Hold in My Hand,” published by Sheep Meadow Press, Riverdale, N.Y.
image via Flickr CC by Bill Rogers, Gone Forever
Gone Forever

(Excerpts below are from a letter I sent many months ago…)

There are no words to thank you for teaching me. Your daughter tells me that you think of me as your best student in all the years you taught, and I thank you for that gift. You were the BEST teacher I ever had! I would not play the way I did and do without your guidance and knowledge.
I’m so thankful that we found each other. You changed the direction of my life, whether you know it or not. Before I had you for piano, I was planning to become a beautician. By my sophomore year in high school, I had begun to think of music as my career.
I’ll never forget how I felt playing that first wonderful Rachmaninoff piece. The power, the beauty, the drama — I fell in love with it and with the piano. Then learning Fantasy Impromptu the next year was a new and completely different journey. I remember spending several weeks just working on the fingering and timing of the first page or two. I fell in love with the beauty of the phrases, with the melodies, with the emotion of the music. I felt like a door had been opened into a wonderful world that I never knew existed. I can still play Fantasie Impromptu mostly from memory even after all these years. Since learning that piece, I’ve loved Chopin’s music. Many of my future teachers continued to let me study Chopin pieces because I was good at it — AND because of the technique and training I got with you.
I think those two gorgeous pieces (and so many others you taught me) gave me so much confidence, not only musically but also personally. I realized I could do something quite well that most people couldn’t do at all and better yet, that I LOVED doing it. I played solos at school and at various community performances, and I felt proud and appreciated. YOU did that for me. I would not have had those experiences or opportunities without your expertise.
I also love the other big pieces we learned together, especially Reflets dans l’eau and the Chopin Ballade (and others). Each piece became part of my heart and soul. I can’t imagine my life without this wonderful music and without you having been in it.
Because of your influence on my life, I in turn have influenced many other lives. Some of the high school students I taught tell me that I made a difference in THEIR lives and that I was their favorite teacher. Parents tell me that students I had when I was a long term sub (for various maternity leaves) still talk about some of the fun things we did in music class many years after I taught them. That is YOUR legacy, too.
I’m sorry I haven’t called, but I am not great at expressing my feelings — especially over the phone. I asked L if she would consider reading this to you so that you will know how much you mean to me. You, your knowledge, your teaching, your expertise — your love of life and your wonderful personality — thank you for sharing part of your life with me and for making me a better person.
Thank you, from the deepest part of my heart.

Thank you for the Music, B.B. King

Marcelo Guimarães via Flickr CC license, BB King em Brasília
Marcelo Guimarães via Flickr CC license, BB King em Brasília

There used to be a saying that if a black performer — it was four theaters you had to play and be accepted before you would be accepted as a true entertainer. One of those theaters was the Howard Theatre in Washington, the Royal Theater in Baltimore and the master itself was the Apollo Theater in New York, in Harlem. … The fourth theater was the Regal Theater in Chicago. My manager said, “Do not go to New York trying to be Nat Cole or anybody else that’s trying to be slick, because there are people that are sweeping the floors that are much better than you’ll ever be. So the best thing for you to do is go there and be B.B. King. Sing ‘3 O’Clock Blues’; sing the songs that you sing the way you sing them. All these other people can do all of those other things, but they can’t be you as you can be you.” That I’ve tried to keep from then until now.

On the best advice his manager gave him — Quote from a Fresh Air (NPR) interview which originally aired on Oct. 22, 1996.

Image by Zach Mahone photography, via Flickr CC license
Image by Zach Mahone photography, via Flickr CC license
Daniel Go, via Flickr Creative Commons
Daniel Go, via Flickr Creative Commons
image by Ricky NJ, via Flickr CC license 2.0
image by Ricky NJ, via Flickr CC license 2.0
Thomas Hawk, Rules of the Road, Memphis, TN bridge, via Creative Commons (Flickr)
Thomas Hawk, Rules of the Road, Memphis, TN bridge, via Creative Commons (Flickr)

May you rest in peace and sing some heavenly blues.

Into the Woods Philosophy

Though it drives our sixteen year old daughter crazy at times, our family often has “deep” discussions after watching movies, plays, musicals and sometimes after viewing art exhibits and the like.

We finally (in our fast-paced-first-world-lives one week after opening seems like “finally”) saw the new Into the Woods movie last night.

I’ve been thinking about various themes from the show —

  1. People make mistakes. So many mistakes.
  2. Even when you think you are doing “the right thing,” people often get hurt.
  3. Stand up for yourself. Stand up for what you believe is right. (Doing this is easier if you don’t have to do it alone; see #4).
  4. Being “in the woods” is confusing, sometimes scary, and often dangerous. Take a friend; don’t go alone.
  5. Actions often bring unintended (far-reaching, severe) consequences.
  6. It is impossible to protect everyone from evil and danger. Bad things happen; even to good people.
  7. Getting what you thought you wanted will not necessarily make you happy.
  8. Lies, deceptions, greed, stealing — never the best way to go.
  9. Beauty does not guarantee a happy life.
  10. Stay on the path? Get off the path to smell the flowers? Not an easy decision.  “Isn’t it nice to know a lot? And a little bit….not.” One of my favorite lines!

And I know things now,
Many valuable things,
That I hadn’t known before:
And take extra care with strangers,
Even flowers have their dangers.
And though scary is exciting,
Nice is different than good.
Isn’t it nice to know a lot!
And a little bit not.

from “I Know Things Now” from Into the Woods, by Sondheim

I by no means exhausted the list of themes from this show.  I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas.


Every once in a while I hear or see an interview that immediately draws my attention and holds it.  Often the topic might be something I know very little about or may be about something obscure or something I am not at all interested in —  but the person speaking about it is SO passionate that I can’t help but care!

Carlos Santana

I heard Carlos Santana in an interview such as this one evening on PBS.  He made quite an impression on me.  He speaks with such insight and obvious passion about his music — about life — about screaming charisma and conviction.

(African Music) It pitches your whole existence into a state of joy that can’t be bought. (It has) intensity of spirit and joy.

Real musicians remind the listener of a forgotten song inside them. And when you hear that forgotten song, you know, you get chills, you get tears, you dance, and you don’t even know why,

Music is to glorify the light in you.

I give a chance to give voice to the invisible ones.

Victory is won already, you know?  And the only enemy is fear.  (They) talked about that a lot. You transform fear with your supreme joy, you know? (Commenting on what he learned from Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu).

Listen to the whole interview here:



or here:



I’m also intrigued by non-famous passionate people.  I enjoy hearing them talk about their work.

In this rare image taken on July 19, 2013, the wide-angle camera on NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has captured Saturn’s rings and our planet Earth and its moon in the same frame. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

An interview I saw on a PBS Newshour last fall completely bowled me over.  This woman’s passion for knowledge and for exploration nearly burst through the TV screen.  I wish every child could have a science teacher like Carolyn Porco,  the leader of the Cassini imaging team at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colorado.





Read more about the mission and see more photos here.

Saturn and Earth from Cassini. NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI


Tiny Tethys and Saturn’s rings. NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute


Possible variations in chemical composition from one part of Saturn’s ring system to another are visible in this Voyager 2 picture as subtle color variations that can be recorded with special computer-processing techniques. This highly enhanced color view was assembled from clear, orange and ultraviolet frames obtained Aug. 17 from a distance of 8.9 million kilometers (5.5 million miles). In addition to the previously known blue color of the C-ring and the Cassini Division, the picture shows additional color differences between the inner B-ring and outer region (where the spokes form) and between these and the A-ring. The Voyager project is managed for NASA by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. NASA/JPL

See?  I got pulled into the vortex!  These images are absolutely stunning and amazing.  Check out more of NASA’s space images here.


Speaking of ordinary people who are extraordinary:

If you have never heard this young woman speak, please consider watching at least part of this video.

Pakistani school girl Malala Yousafzai, 16, rose to international fame when she was shot in the head last October for speaking out against the Taliban’s ban on girl’s education. Malala made a remarkable recovery, becoming the youngest nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize. Margaret Warner talks to Yousafzai about her mission. —PBS Newshour.


I always enjoy hearing about the “behind the scenes” people — the people in the trenches — the people slogging through some tedious, long, possibly dangerous or nearly hopeless project.  I found this story, featuring the work of National Geographic photographers who happen to be women, intriguing not only because of their obvious passion for their work and for this project but for their insights and the resulting art.

You can read the transcript here.


I come to the conclusion that passionate people make the best art.  They make the best music, the best photographs, the best books. They also make pretty terrific teachers, scientists, and well — people in general.

Antique Archaeology (via Facebook)


Many of my friends know that I am “hooked” on Antique Archaeology, a TV show featuring Frank Fritz and Mike Wolfe.  These two guys drive around the country in a white van, looking for “rusty gold” (i.e. what most people would call “junk”) to buy and sell.  I love the show because they are passionate about what they do.  They are passionate about preserving history and historical objects.  They meet interesting and passionate people who care about the same things.  Who knew people could get so excited about rusty old signs and dirty old motorcycles?  I’m drawn to the LOVE they have for what they do, and to the respect they have for each other, for the items they buy and sell, and for the people with whom they deal.



Another show I admit being “hooked” on is Project Runway.  It is one of those “someone gets cut from the group every week” shows. The premise is fashion designers working on tight deadlines and tight budgets to create fashion forward and on trend garments which meet specific parameters set by the show’s producers and hosts.  The fashions are judged and then the worst and best designs are chosen.  “One day you are in, the next day you are out” is Heidi Klum’s famous line from the show.  The mentor for the designers is Tim Gunn. He is passionate about his job and about helping each of the designers bring the best out of themselves.  The designers are (mostly) passionate about what they do and about what they are creating.  When people care and have a lot at stake, tempers can flare and drama can occur.  But wonderful things can happen as well!  Often kind, wonderful, beautiful moments come about in the midst of all the stress and self-doubt.


And because I never seem to know when to stop…a few last thoughts and quotes to leave with you:

Many charismatic and passionate (and famous) people spring to mind: Martin Luther King, Billy Graham, Nelson Mandela, Jacques Cousteau, Jane Goodall, Neil deGrasse Tyson.  Not many of these people would leap to mind as “passionate artists” but they all share a passion for their chosen life’s work —  and for humanity.  Maybe each of these folks will get their own blog post about this topic some time in the future! We shall see.

Jacque Cousteau nearly convinced me to become a marine biologist!

via melanieandbill.com

via 33mediatumblr






Finding Inspiration

I started this year in search of inspiration.  I was home, alone with a not very busy schedule for the first time in many years.

My path veered and I now spend at least an hour and sometimes over two per day driving (and the rest of the time teaching K-8 music in two schools, plus accompanying two children’s choirs!).  I listen to the radio some, but I quickly get frustrated and bored with music stations.  Instead, I tend to listen to NPR or to my iPod (plugged into my car’s stereo).  I often hear very inspiring stories.

Here are some recent gems:

Embed from Getty Images



Who Knew? Ella and Marilyn

“I owe Marilyn Monroe a real debt…it was because of her that I played the Mocambo, a very popular nightclub in the ’50s. She personally called the owner of the Mocambo, and told him she wanted me booked immediately, and if he would do it, she would take a front table every night. She told him – and it was true, due to Marilyn’s superstar status – that the press would go wild. The owner said yes, and Marilyn was there, front table, every night. The press went overboard. After that, I never had to play a small jazz club again. She was an unusual woman – a little ahead of her times. And she didn’t know it.”
– Ella Fitzgerald

When I saw this photo, I was immediately interested to find out more about the relationship between these two amazing women.  Then I found this quote from Ella.  What a story!

I see respect and friendship in this photo.  I wonder what they talked about.  To me, it is obvious they enjoyed each other’s company, though.

Quotes from Ella:

“I sing like I feel.”

“I know I’m no glamour girl, and it’s not easy for me to get up in front of a crowd of people. It used to bother me a lot, but now I’ve got it figured out that God gave me this talent to use, so I just stand there and sing.”

“The only thing better than singing is more singing.”

“Just don’t give up trying to do what you really want to do. Where there is love and inspiration, I don’t think you can go wrong.”

“It isn’t where you came from, it’s where you’re going that counts.”



Quotes from Marilyn:

“A girl doesn’t need anyone who doesn’t need her.”

“Ever notice how ‘What the hell?’ is always the right answer?”

“A wise girl knows her limits.  A smart girl knows she has none.”

“Most importantly, keep smiling — because life is a beautiful thing, and there is so much to smile about.”

“I believe that everything happens for a reason.  People change so you can learn to let go.  Things to wrong so you can appreciate them when they are right.  You believe lies so you eventually learn to trust no one but yourself.  And sometimes good things fall apart so better things can fall together.”

Marilyn Monroe in Canada, where they were filming a movie. The image belonged to the magazine Look and was given to the USA Library of Congress in 1971.

“Wanting to be someone else is a waste of the person you are.”

“Just because you fail once doesn’t mean you’re gonna fail at everything.”


Other Who Knew? posts I’ve written:

Related articles about Ella and Marilyn from others:

March Inspirations — 22 to 24

Saturday March 22:
This quote — by Mstislav Rostropovich

“The artist must forget the audience,
forget the critics,
forget the technique,
forget everything but love for the music.

Then, the music speaks through the performance,
and the performer and the listener will walk together
with the soul of the composer,
and with God.”

Embed from Getty Images

Sunday March 23: The Chicken Soup and Ginger Ale Cure
*don’t ask.

"Campbell's Chicken Noodle Soup" by Chris   Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike License
“Campbell’s Chicken Noodle Soup” by Chris
Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike License

Monday March 24:
Beautiful Quilts!

Three short years ago La Guilde Acadienne de Clare was formed and with a lot of hard work and dedication to the craft, the founding members decided to organize and host an annual quilt show and sale in the Sacred Heart Church. Image from  The Painted Quilt Blog.
Three short years ago La Guilde Acadienne de Clare was formed and with a lot of hard work and dedication to the craft, the founding members decided to organize and host an annual quilt show and sale in the Sacred Heart Church. Image from The Painted Quilt Blog.

Read more about these quilts here.

Saturday Solo/Ensemble Contest Update

Embed from Getty Images

So —

I thought I knew what Saturday would be like.

There were some new wrinkles this year.

I was a bit scatterbrained.  I accidentally left one of the books I needed (24 Italian Arias) at the HS on Friday when I was there to rehearse.  I didn’t realize it was not in my bag until early Saturday morning.  I had no keys to the HS, of course, and I could not reach the choir teacher (which was understandable since it was 7 am on Saturday morning!).

Anyway, my daughter and I left for the contest site (which, thankfully, is only a few minutes away) hoping that I would find a solution once I arrived there.  We went to the vocal warmup room where we found an electronic keyboard in miserable condition.  Most of the keys between middle C and the C above that either didn’t make a sound, were stuck and wouldn’t move, or did play but made a clicking sound.  Awesome.

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My daughter got warmed up and we did a run through or two.  We went out into the hall and I started digging in my bag for my schedule. You know, the schedule I had highlighted all my events and times and room numbers? Not in my bag. Fortunately before I could get too frazzled my daughter’s friend came out of the room holding my schedule up in the air!  YAY!

We were off!  We walked to the building where the vocal events would be judged.  I found my first soloist.  I broke the news to her that I didn’t have the book I needed to play for her.  Fortunately, she had another book with her for the judge’s copy, but I still needed to find one for me to use.  I went around the corner looking for music teachers and accompanists.  I ran into a couple of the few people I know here:  the middle school choir teacher and a church choir director (who is also a piano accompanist).  The church choir guy had a copy of the book!  It was in the high key, but I said I would talk to the judge and thought it would be fine.

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I went back to my soloist with the book and the good news.  Oh no!  The book she had was also in the high key!  I needed at least one book in the low key so she could sing in the correct range (if I played the high key, it would not work for her voice).  So — back down the hallway I went. The next person I saw was another young woman from our HS whom I was to accompany that day.  Fortunately she had the 24 Italian Arias book with her in the correct key, and she wouldn’t need it until I had finished playing for the first young woman because she could not sing until I arrived anyway (as her accompanist).

Back to the first soloist.  We were ready to go!  I approached the judge with the wrong key book and explained the situation making clear the blame was all mine.  She sang (beautifully).  All was well.  I ran out the door to the next event (back to the young woman who gave me the book).

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I sat down at the piano to accompany this young woman for her Italian aria, and discovered I did not have my black binder (with the copy of her song in it!).  I surmised that I must have left it on top of the piano in the first room.  My daughter was dispatched to retrieve my binder and this amazingly well prepared young singer meanwhile pulled a copy of her song out of her bag for me to use instantly.  I was very impressed!

This soloist sang beautifully, too.  Thankfully she was not disturbed by the music drama.

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I apologized profusely and assured her that I am not usually prone to this level of confusion, music-wise.  Sigh.

My daughter arrived with my binder, and we continued on our way through the events on my list.

There were other small dramas throughout the day, but thankfully none involved my music or lack of it.  The next time I played in the room where I realized I didn’t have my binder, I assured the judge I had not lost anything or left anything behind ever since I saw him earlier in the day.

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The other big surprise was that people were not welcome to enter the judging rooms unless they had permission from the performer(s).  I did not know this!!  Everywhere I have ever attended solo/ensemble contest (several decades and in three states) people were welcome, even encouraged, to listen. There is much to be learned by listening to a good judge give feedback and comments.

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On Saturday, I accidentally went into a room before I knew of this new wrinkle (general public not invited into the performance rooms).

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The young violist played a Bach prelude and Minuet.  I enjoyed hearing her play, but I wonder now if I made her nervous and if she was wondering why I was there.  She is from our HS, so I will hopefully be able to find her to apologize for my mis-step and inadvertent performance crashing.

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A Week of Inspirations!

A Week of Inspirations!

March 9 to 15

I’ve fallen behind in my Joy 365 March Inspirations posts, so I decided to put this week into one big post of inspiration!

Sunday, March 9: Dubuque Symphony Youth Orchestra Concert

My son has played in this wonderful group for the last four years.  They have a very talented, energetic, and extremely enthusiastic conductor — Thomas Taylor Dickey.  On the program my dear friend, Rebekah Demaree, sang Morgen (by Strauss).  This was exceptionally wonderful because her daughter plays in the group, too.

Monday, March 10:  Job Interview(s)

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I have put my application in for several music teaching positions, and I had a couple of interviews on Monday.  It was inspiring to me because I love talking about teaching music, and I always enjoy seeing a new school building, classrooms, and meeting fellow educators.  Even if I don’t get the job(s), it is always good to be reminded of all the things I’ve done in the past and of all the possibilities for the future.

March 11, 12, 13, 14 —
Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday:

Lots of MUSIC!

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I have many piano events going on this week:

  • My usual Milwaukee Children’s Choirs rehearsals — Tues and Wed evenings
  • Rehearsing with our local middle school 6th, 7th and 8th grade orchestras for their concert this Thursday evening — three times a day for two days, plus the actual concert.
  • Collaborating with local high school students for the upcoming district solo and ensemble festival this Saturday (about 10 vocal and string events) — several times a day about three days this week.

Working with young musicians always inspires me.  I love their humor, their enthusiasm, their trepidation and boldness.  I love hearing them play or sing from the heart.  Some are already SO talented at such a young age!

Saturday:  Solo and Ensemble District Festival

image from Platteville Music Boosters Facebook page

I can write this before Saturday because I already know what the day will be like.  There will be herds of young people moving up and down the halls.  Girls will be dressed in their uncomfortable finery — some sporting high heels that are clearly killing their feet.  Boys may have ties or tennis shoes, and sometimes both!  There will be smiles, laughter, tears and frustration.  There will be donuts, hot dogs and probably BBQ sandwiches. Some will perform better than they ever have (or ever will again), and some will make huge mistakes. Some who deserve twos will get ones, and some who deserve ones will get twos. Families and friends hover, chatting quietly, and move from room to room.  The tension and nerves of many performers is nearly tangible.  Scraps of conversations can be overheard:  “I got a one/two/one star!” “That judge is crazy/easy/hard/good/bad!” “The room is running way behind.” “Where is my accompanist/instrument/music/director/reed/room?”

Mid-February Weekend Haiku: Singathon and Goodwill

image by davidmulder61 via Flickr CC
image by davidmulder61 via Flickr CC

Feb 15

Playing piano
in the Bayshore rotunda —
Girlchoirs East and West.

Fingers on Steinway.
First MCC gig complete.
It’s where I belong.

image by viewerblur via Flickr CC
image by viewerblur via Flickr CC

Feb. 16*

Goodwill shopped so long
Customer thought I worked there.
Not a good idea!
I would spend more than I earned,
though it would be lots of fun.

Browsing for sweaters:
Cashmere, lambswool, angora.
Cute skirts:  Goodwill finds!
Mutant Ninja Turtle (lunch) box.
Cobalt blue vase with daisies.

*Tanka form 57577

Weekend Happiness Haiku(s)

I’m not sure if Haiku is the same singular and plural or not.  I’ll have to check that out.  I’m lumping two days together in this post.

Saturday was a lazy day.  Sunday we visited a large contemporary church and then attended a Music of Munchkin’s concert at our local HS.

Our daughter is in the HS orchestra and this event is both outreach and fundraiser for them.  Elementary and younger students come early to the concert and get to try playing all the different types of string instruments, make crafts, and have their face painted.

Then the orchestra plays a 30 minutes concert complete with skits and a car chase!  The theme was The Great Mouse Detectives.  Believe it or not, the plot started with a couple of thieves stealing a Stradivarius!  Several detectives (twists on famous movie and TV characters) worked on the case.

The orchestra played many of the detective’s theme songs — Pink Panther, James Bond, Maxwell Smart, Mission Impossible, Scooby Do and more!  It was great fun, and the young ones were thrilled.  The older students put on a great show. At one point the little guy sitting in the row in front of me was bouncing up and down — turned to his Dad and said, “I LOVE this!”

The “Strad” was found, and the car chase consisted of the actors and children running up and down the aisles of the auditorium with cardboard steering wheels.

Saturday, February 8

Slug mode.  Time slips by.
One of “those” days:  nothing’s done.
Inertia enshrouds.

Sleep, laundry, dishes,
Blogging, cooking, phone calls, read.
Watch the Olympics!

Sunday, February 9

7190209497_6acc33ceb1_bSunlight streams in
Illuminating stained glass.
Strong voices sing Praise!

Music for Munchkins.
Young ones whiskered and mouse-eared —
Jazzed on Orchestra!

Music for Munchkins event. Image by The Tromp Queen CC

February 7: Bagel Break Haiku and Violin Lesson Tanka

image by The Facey Family via Flickr CC
image by The Facey Family via Flickr CC

Bagel and a schmear
mid-afternoon coffee break
email and Facebook

Einstein Bagels
Hazelnut and Vanilla
I really need this!

Violin lesson.
Suzuki book four or five.
New teacher Yuka!
Three new bows.  Try them out.  Choose.
Bach double, etudes and scales.

Just for fun:  check out the definitions of the word “schmear” at Urban Dictionary.

February 6 Haiku: Ode to Olympic Figure Skating

Rachmaninoff’s angst:
Skaters spin, glide, leap with grace.
Music weds movement.

Canada’s Eric Radford and Canada’s Meagan Duhamel perform during the Figure Skating Pairs Team Short Program at the Iceberg Skating Palace during the Sochi Winter Olympics on February 6, 2014. AFP PHOTO / JUNG YEON-JE (Photo credit should read JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images)

(TTQ note:  These skaters did not skate to Rachmaninoff.  Patrick Chan did, though:  Elegy in E-flat minor and it was gorgeous.  That piece just leaped to the top of my “learn this music” list.)

SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 06: Australian arial skiier Dave Morris poses on the Olympic Rings in the Athletes Village ahead of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Rosa Khutor on February 6, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
SOCHI, RUSSIA – FEBRUARY 06: Australian arial skiier Dave Morris poses on the Olympic Rings in the Athletes Village ahead of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Rosa Khutor on February 6, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)