Birthday Confabulations

I’m hitting a milestone this year, birthday-wise. I guess every birthday is a milestone, though. This one feels very much a mid-point.

Fifty-five, in case you are wondering.

I’ve been thinking about memorable birthdays from my past.

1-jill fest-001
Jill-Fest button

When I was turning 49, I decided to have a party instead of waiting until the big five-oh. As I talked with friends, we began to call it “Jill-Fest.” I made buttons. We ate at our favorite local Chicago-style pizzeria and had our favorite beverages. Friends from the various parts of my lives met each other for the first time:  quilters, church folks, university colleagues, neighbors, musicians. We had a great time!

1-coro
Choir concert

Many birthdays were spent performing in concerts or recitals. Both of our children were members of the local Children’s Choir, and I directed the youngest choir. Every few years, the last concert of the year would fall on my birthday. One year, the audience sang “Happy Birthday” to me. One year I had a university choir concert (I was the accompanist for two of the choirs) AND there was a Children’s Choir concert at the same time (different venue).

Another memorable year, I accompanied two talented students who sang for a vocal studio recital. They sang a hilarious song called “Tear Jerk.” (This video is not of our performance. I’m including it in case you want to watch a version of this very humorous duet.)

In 2006, I also played for my first ever full vocal recital (university level). I had three weeks to learn all the (very challenging) music for a 45 minute program. It went well and I went on to play MANY more in the following years.

 

For my 40th, I got to eat lunch with by three best friends in a Galena, IL at Vinny Vanucchi’s (a FABULOUS Italian restaurant) and then shop the quaint main street stores. I bought a sterling silver ring with a small stone (which fell out a few months later). They got me a bottle of wine (to share during lunch) and a stone for my garden.

Vinny Vannucchi's Italian Ristorante
Vinny’s in Galena, IL

Some years I had a “birthday week” or so.  I had a flexible schedule (working about 5 part-time music related jobs) so I had plenty of time for coffee chats, breakfasts and lunches with friends. So many good memories!

Simple family birthday celebrations are the most common through the years, though. We almost always have a cake or pie following a special meal of some sort (either home-cooked or “out”). When I was very young, we’d celebrate with Grandparents, Aunts and Uncles and cousins. Middle school and high school years we celebrated with something sweet at school (cake or cupcakes) and maybe a pizza night (at home or “out”). Usually by the time my birthday rolls around, the trees are just beginning to grown their fresh green leaves, daffodils and tulips bloom, and the grass is growing again. When our children were small, we celebrated by going to the zoo or by taking  walk in the woods. I try to avoid cooking on my birthday if at all possible!

America Sings logo
John Jacobson’s America Sings!

When I was the music director at a small high school in Illinois, I spent my 27th birthday with my students at the very first America Sings! festival in Washington, DC. Everything except the cherry trees seemed to be in bloom. My eyes were red and I couldn’t wear my contacts. I’ll never forget the sound of thousands of singers singing “Love will be our home” with the White House to our right, the Washington Monument behind us, and the Lincoln Memorial in the distance ahead of us as the day melted into twilight.

1-America Sings SJO 1989
SJO HS music dept at the 1st America Sings! event in Washington, DC April 1989

On the bus ride back to the hotel, they sang the song again spontaneously, beautifully, a cappella. This was memorable because I usually have a no-singing rule on bus trips. (They tend to over sing and cause vocal stress; plus, it gets annoying!) We when got back to the hotel, we had cake and a little party to celebrate the event, the end of our trip and my birthday, too.

 

1-WHS swing choir
HS swing choir yearbook photo

Way back when I was in high school, we had a swing choir performance scheduled on a Sunday evening (on my 17th birthday). I asked several of my friends to go shopping or whatever during the day. Everyone said they couldn’t or were busy. I felt sad and a bit hurt, thinking no one wanted to celebrate with me. THEN our choir director called an extra rehearsal for that afternoon (at his house, which was very odd). I was definitely NOT happy.

1 dozen red roses
Red roses with baby’s breath

I arrived at the house and wondered why I saw Carla Darr’s car there. She wasn’t in swing choir. SURPRISE! Yes. I was totally surprised. It was not a rehearsal! It was a surprise birthday party. I was shocked and SO pleased. After thinking no one cared, I had no doubt they DID care. (I love my friends!) I got my first dozen red roses from my BFF.

 

 

One year sometime in the early to mid 1990s, I spent my birthday at the AQS quilt show in Paducah, KY. Quilters all over the United States (and around the world) aspire to attend this event.

paducah-quilt-show-aqs
AQS Quilt Week in Paducah, KY

The whole town of Paducah focuses on all things QUILTS for those few days at the end of April each year. To begin with, there is the main show with thousands of quilts on display and hundreds of vendor booths for shopping. Then, all around the town are other smaller quilt shows, fabric stores and art galleries — and of course, the fabulous Hancock’s of Paducah (fabric frenzy central). It is a quilter’s paradise.

Speaking of birthdays and shopping, we used to live in a town with a Bargain Nook.

Bargain Nook
Bargain Nook sweaters

On your birthday you could get 50% off your total purchase (up to a certain amount, but usually it was $100 or even more). This store sold mostly Lands’ End items — returns, seconds, defectives, etc — but also other used items in good condition. I LOVE Lands’ End stuff. Because of this store, I could indulge my love of cashmere sweaters! (For instance I’ve bought them for a little as $10!) Even better, the proceeds from these stores benefit a community organization:  The Hodan Center. Including my town, there were four bargain nooks within a radius of about an hour’s drive. Some years I would go to all four stores!

It is the mission of Hodan Community Services to provide and promote opportunities for work and personal development so that persons with disabilities can achieve individual life goals.

The celebration today (so far) has included breakfast cooked by my husband (bacon and eggs), a nap, time to read and fiddle with facebook, talking to my mom, and coffee (also made by my husband). Tonight we’re going to eat sushi and then see the national tour of the musical “Chicago” which is playing here in Milwaukee.

 

Advertisements

Easter Memories

As this day draws to a close, my mind wanders back through the years…

Easter when I was young meant a new dress, hair curled (with bristly rollers and a hot hair dryer on Saturday), gloves, hat, purse and maybe new shoes. We’d go to church with Aunt Helen.

1-Easter with Aunt Helen
Fancy hats, purses, shoes and gloves.

We’d have an Easter egg hunt in the house. My sister and I each had a woven basket with a nest of green paper grass and filled with eggs we had colored the day before. We usually had some plastic eggs filled with candy, too.

1-19603741719_882d2683c9_o

I also remember having delicate large decorated sugar eggs that were hollow inside with a peep-hole on one end to look at a spring-themed diorama inside.

Image processed by CodeCarvings Piczard ### FREE Community Edition ### on 2014-02-12 21:22:55Z | http://piczard.com | http://codecarvings.com
Sugar Easter Egg

Most years, we’d drive the hour or so to Grandma and Grandpa’s house where we’d have a big meal with cousins and Aunts and Uncles and look for Easter eggs out in the yard. I don’t have many specific food memories associated with Easter. Jelly beans, marshmallow peeps and chocolate rabbits were the main treats we had.

In later years, Easter day usually meant a long morning at church. As church organist/pianist, I often played for 3 or even 4 services on Easter morning. When my husband and I had small children of our own, we made special arrangements with the Easter Bunny to visit while we were away at church (since we didn’t have time before church usually).

B hunting Easter Eggs, 1998
Easter egg hunting in the yard, Easter Sunday, 1998

We colored eggs every year often experimenting with new ways to decorate the shells — natural dyes, crayon batiks, rubber bands, ombre effects, etc.

free-easter-eggs-screensaver-i6
Easter Eggs

Holy Week holds very special memories of having our daughter. I wrote about this in another blog post, The Miracle of Grace. I am still in AWE of the miracle of her birth. Hallelujah! She was baptized on Easter Sunday.

Holy Week services have been an important part of my faith journey. I remember being moved to tears singing Ah, Holy Jesus in an 1800’s sanctuary on Good Friday. I remember singing in and directing Easter/Holy Week cantatas. Lent and Tenebrae services made more sense after we became Lutherans. I’ve attended a few Seder meals in the home of a Jewish friend and cherish those memories. There have been healing services and prayer vigils.

One year when our children were very young we visited my mom and dad for Easter weekend. After we came home from church, we found a tree in their yard decorated with plastic Easter eggs. There were other eggs hidden around their yard. It was quite a mystery because none of us had made arrangements for the Easter Bunny to visit us there. (We solved this mystery many years later when a neighbor admitted being the accomplice.)

http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-muZHDvCw7A8/TbCFK0O2RkI/AAAAAAAAEno/CH_diHrlXAw/s1600/IMG_0454.JPG
Easter Egg Tree

Our children are much older now (18 and 21). This year we didn’t even color eggs at all. We did indulge in some candy, though. I deeply enjoyed attending church together, all four of us since it such a rare event now that our oldest is away at college. The church we attend now has a tradition of singing the Hallelujah Chorus (from Messiah) at the end of the Easter morning services. Anyone in the congregation who would like to sing with the choir is invited to do so. My son and I both went up to sing. It was joyous.

https://www.ireland.anglican.org/cmsfiles/images/aboutus/Library/archive/2013/april/1Hallelujah.JPG
Hallelujah

Whatever your faith tradition, I hope we can agree that LOVE and CARING for each other are essential for living our lives together now and forever.

 

 

Crossing the Border

CN Tower
CN Tower, Toronto Ontario, Canada Image by The Tromp Queen, CC license 4.0

My daughter and I took a spontaneous trip to Toronto during our recent spring break from school.

As we left the USA to cross the bridge into Canada, there were many signs proclaiming the way to Canada and for the last exit before Canada. We showed our passports to the border person. He asked where we were going, why we were visiting Canada, how long we were staying, if we had accommodations, if we had any guns and a few other things. Nothing dramatic; no problems. We were on our way in just a couple of minutes.

After a few days of adventure in Toronto, we approached the border again — from the Canadian side this time. Our plan was to visit the Motown Museum in Detroit; we had reserved tickets purchased online for the 10:30 am tour. I had not really allowed enough time — it was raining, didn’t anticipate possible late-rush-hour traffic issues, didn’t really think through how long it would take to go across the US border — so I was feeling a time crunch.

border_crossing-size-custom-crop-1086x674
US/Canada border at Windsor, Ontario

We chose a line of cars to join. I think there were four lines. Each line was at least 10 cars long and all the lines were moving at a glacial pace. I worried that we had chosen the wrong line. We inched forward slowly, car by car. Minutes clicked by. Ten-o-clock came and went. I worked on how I would beg to be allowed to take a later tour at the museum.

There were border guards walking along the lines of cars. There was a sniffer dog and handler. There were cameras — everywhere — so many cameras.

Finally it is our turn to approach the booth.

I rolled down my window and attempted to clear my throat. (The morning “gags” as my co-workers will attest!)

The guy in the booth (first thing out of his mouth), “Did you just cough on me?”

I laughed and said no. “It is just the morning gags.”

He looked out our passports. “Ah. Milwaukee.” I nodded yes.

“Got a lot of good beer there?” I assured him there was no shortage.

Then he proceeded to ask if I knew that Wisconsin is the #1 drunk driving state in the country.  Yep. I know. Yep. I’m not proud.

He asks about Sarah being born in Iowa. We assure him she is not really an Iowan. Blah, blah, blah.

In my mind, I’m wondering if this guy knows how many cars are waiting in these lines behind us. Does he shoot the breeze with everyone like this? I glance at the clock, mentally calculating how many minutes we have left until 10:30 am and how much time I think we need to drive to the museum.

I mention we have tickets to tour the Motown Museum, thinking he might get the hint.

He jumps on the new bandwagon.
Do I play any instruments? Yes, I admit.
“Which ones,” he asks? To save time, I say, “all of them.”
He gives me grief. I tell him I was a band director and it is mostly accurate to say I can play all the instruments (wishing I had just said “PIANO” and left it at that!).

He asks Sarah what she plays. Violin, she answers. He is impressed. He tells us he wanted to play cello. This brings on a new thought apparently —

“Say. Tell me honestly,” he says, “how hard would it be to learn to play the bugle?”

“Well,” I say, “There are no valves so once you get the hang of the lip thing you are all set. Why? Do you want to play Taps?”

Yes, in fact, that IS the reason. He is a vet, he tells us. There is a shortage of Taps players. I know this because my brother-in-law has played Taps at many veteran funerals.

bugle
Bugle. Image from eBay.

“You really think I could learn?”

“Sure,” I say, though I’m basing this affirmation on no proof of his musical talents and mainly his gift for gab.

I kid you not. More questions about the bugle come next!

“Where would I find a bugle?”

“Um… eBay? Or a good music store?”

“Oh. Right.”

At this point, I risk a pointed look at the clock and then say, “Well, if that’s all you need we should be heading to the museum….”

He hands back our passports.

“Have a nice trip.”

We made it to the museum with zero minutes to spare.  The tour started the moment we got past the ticket booth.  The tour was FABULOUS, by the way.

This Week in February, 2012

Dad's Barber Shop
George’s Barber Shop; Image from a 1991 calendar.

My dad died five years ago this week. I ran across this summary of that week’s events. I sent it to just a few friends at the time, but as I read it today I thought it might be of help to someone who might be going through a similar life event.

I thought I’d post a summary of all that has happened this week. All of you were very close friends at some point in my life and I still care deeply about each of you. If you don’t want to hear all the details, then you don’t need to read the rest of this. I thought some of you might want to know more, however, so when I had the chance to collect my thoughts last night I tried to write them down to share.

The funeral planning started the minute I got here Sunday evening and it all went very smoothly. The few things that could have been major issues were solved quickly and with little effort.

It has been very good to have time with my sister and with my mom. We took time to sort photos for the slide show (power point) and it was wonderful to bring back all those memories.

I have a very clear vision of my dad as his much younger, happier, healthier self, smiling and enjoying himself with many, many relatives and friends — all together in the presence of Jesus. No more tears, no more pain, no more sorrow, no more darkness!

Tuesday we spent time gathering the items and photos for the display of my Dad that would be on view during the calling hours and funeral since there wasn’t a coffin. I posted a pic of this on Facebook. R, B and S arrived just as the calling hours began which was wonderful. Tuesday night we had about 400 people (which is about 1/2 the population of this town!) come through the line to give condolences and offer memories and comfort. We saw so many people and heard so many stories that we have difficulty remembering them all, but we were left with an almost tangible sense of the impact Dad left on so many lives in this town. So many people told us about ways that he had cared for them during difficult times or that he made something special for them. R (the funeral home director who was a childhood friend of mine, growing up in our neighborhood and a member of youth group at church, etc) said he thought if we had had more hours of calling that we would have had even more people! But it was what we could do and I think it was as much as Mom could do in one day.

Wednesday the service time arrived so quickly. We talked with the people who came early to talk with us and with mom until nearly the last minute. The service was fantastic. The pastor did an excellent job. He wove in the humor and the grumpiness and the love — it was perfect. The two people who did the eulogy were right on. One was my cousin and the other was one of Dad’s very close friends through thick and thin these last 35 years or so.

Both were heartfelt but also made us laugh. All those trips to various basketball and football games in a car full of girls were definitely mentioned and chuckled over. We sang Mom’s favorite hymn towards the end and also played the recording of A’s song. My mom had heard the song (the composer was a student of mine when I taught at a small high school in central in IL) and LOVED the words and felt they were so perfect. The pastor did a short homily type wrap up using several of my dad’s favorite scriptures. I also played a piano solo arrangement of my Dad’s favorite hymn, The Old Rugged Cross.

Several people said it was the most joyous funeral they had ever attended. Even the funeral director said he didn’t think he had ever heard quite so much laughter at a service.

Many people said it suited Dad perfectly. We all felt very peaceful about the whole thing.

After a lunch at the church, we met at the graveyard very briefly. It was cold and windy. You can see my sister’s house from where his ashes are buried.

I think this was the most difficult time for me.

The pastor read the scripture from Revelation about no more tears, no more pain — and it became very real that my Dad’s body had been burned to ashes and was in that little white box at my feet but that he is face to face with Jesus now. Tears streamed down my face as I realized I will not ever see him again on this earth and as thoughts of all the good memories crowded my mind.

The plot we got for them is right next to Dad’s friend who did the eulogy.

Very cool how that worked out.

My mom will be buried there, too.

Mom and I have listened to the funeral music several times these last couple of days. We had two songs played during the prelude that were sung by the university choirs that I have accompanied for the last several years (7? or more now). One is called “No Time” (No time to tarry here for I’m on my journey home…I really do believe that just before the break of dawn you can hear the angels sing in that morning…Fare thee well for I on my journey home — it is gorgeous!). The women sang that one and they really did sound like a choir of angels! The men sang a beautiful arrangement of Amazing Grace which I loved at the time (2006) and thought it would be perfect for funeral music someday. I had the mp3s sent here so that we could have these songs as the prelude. There are about 80 to 100 college students in these choirs each year so over the years I’ve gotten quite attached to many of them, so having this music at the service meant a lot to me. (Plus the pianist is very good 😉

IMG_1273
fabulous Fazoli piano!

The more we mull over Dad’s last few weeks and especially his last week, we are so thankful for the way things ended for him. He saw most of the people he loves at least once in the last month and he got to do many of the things he most enjoyed in those last few days — eat with his favorite relatives and go to a HS basketball game. He died at home on the couch in his sleep (if not in his sleep he died as quietly as if he was just going to sleep because Mom didn’t hear him from the next room).

We are thankful he didn’t have to be in a nursing home or kept alive on a respirator or via feeding tube. We are thankful that he didn’t have time to be afraid or to feel pain this time. I’m thankful that I called that afternoon — probably it was in the last hour of his life.

We all feel a wonderful sense of relief, of peace, of comfort. We are truly surrounded by love and prayers and we feel it every minute of every day since those first few hours as the news spread.

There are so many details to take care of. I want to do as much as I can before I go back to WI. Lori has done so much over these last few weeks, months, years. But we also are trying to take time to just rest and soak in the peace.

I’m thankful I had such a wonderful Dad, and that I have had this time to say goodbye to him.

 

I’m thankful for each and every one of you.

A Song sung to rest the tired dead

http://meadowbrookpsychotherapy.com
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
blooming
on the Hudson
make everything
more so
more itself?

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

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

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.

FREE great stuff online! (FREE!)

Georgia O’Keeffe It Was Blue and Green

I just discovered a very comprehensive, interesting and best of all FREE online resource:  

Open Culture — The best free cultural and educational media on the web.

Free Art & Images

Leonard Bernstein at the piano, wikipedia image
Leonard Bernstein at the piano, wikipedia image

Great Lectures

Image by Indi Samarajiva via Flickr CC license
Image by Indi Samarajiva via Flickr CC license

Syllabi

Book Lists By

Book Lists By

  • There is no excuse for boredom from now on.  You’re welcome.  

    (I apologize for the odd formatting quirks in this post.  I did my best, but with the copying and pasting from the Open Culture webpage there seemed to be a lot of phantom issues I could not solve).

Whole Brain Help

Neural Connections In the Human Brain  Two-dimensional brain Researchers at Brown University have created a computer program to advance analysis of the neural connections in the human brain.   Credit: Radu Jianu/Brown University   [Reciprocal link back Neural Connections In the Human Brain]
Neural Connections In the Human Brain
Two-dimensional brain Researchers at Brown University have created a computer program to advance analysis of the neural connections in the human brain.
Credit: Radu Jianu/Brown University
[Reciprocal link back Neural Connections In the Human Brain]

Even though I’ve been teaching music for years, I’m always looking for better and more efficient techniques and ideas to keep me and my students motivated and engaged.

I’ve noticed a huge change in student attention spans and self-discipline over the years.  Lest you get excited, the trend is downward for both.

I follow and am a member of many Music Teacher blogs, pages, and professional organizations.  I keep reading the comment “Try Whole Brain teaching” on music teacher Facebook group comments.  I looked it up and I plan to try some of the ideas with my new students.

You can find information here:  http://www.wholebrainteaching.com/

I like the simple Five Classroom Rules.  I plan to incorporate this into my 5th and 6th general music classes.

If you’ve tried these “Whole Brain” tips and strategies, please share your successes (and failures).

 

I Am in Need of Music

I Am in Need of Music (Sonnet)

poem by Elizabeth Bishop, photos via Flickr Creative Commons
Adam Henning, CC license via Flickr
Adam Henning

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.

Abstract by Art G. CC license via Flickr
Abstract by Art G.

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!

Victoria Falls in Zambia at sunset, by Ryan.  CC license via Flickr
Victoria Falls in Zambia at sunset, by Ryan.

There is a magic made by melody:

Rhythm of Fire by Seth Rader

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,

Reflection on Johnny's Pond by Sathish JHeld in the arms of rhythm and of sleep.

"The pond" by Mikael Tigerström
“The pond” by Mikael Tigerström

 

sonnet by Elizabeth Bishop
I believe I understand what Elizabeth is describing with her words.  Early in my teen years, I discovered that music was a calming force for me.  Not that I always felt or feel calm when I play, but that the act of playing (of creating music) brings me to a calmer state of being.
Is it because my mind stops turning inward or spinning in worried circles?  I focus on the notes and the feel of the keys, the pattern of the chords and melodies — and there is only music.  Is it the physicality of the hand/eye coordination or the wavelengths of sound going through my eardrums into my brain that does it?  Or is it the “Zen”ness of the playing, the feeling of letting myself slip away until I only see and hear and feel the music?
There is healing, of rest, of flow (hence the imagery of water), of stillness, of floating.  Quiet Breath.
I don’t know why it works this way for me, but it truly does.
These are but a few of the many reasons why I will always be in need of music.

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

gettyimages.com

 

Thoughts

Embed from Getty Images

I’m thinking I may need to take a hiatus from my Joy 365 project posts.  I have enjoyed the challenge and the attention I’ve had to spend to notice joy, gratitude, inspiration, etc. But my life has become much more complicated in the last couple of weeks.  I will see how it works in the next few days, but I may need to revise the parameters a bit.  (Since it is my challenge to myself, I declare that is a valid plan!)

I recently started a new job.  I’m a long term substitute music teacher at two elementary schools (for the regular teacher’s maternity leave).  I am teaching K-8 general and choral music.  I travel between two schools three days a week and spend the whole day at one school the other days.  I plan for many classes each day, including a 70 voice middle school choir and a 6th grade music appreciation class!

I’m greatly enjoying this new opportunity and challenge, but it will not leave much time for blogging, I fear.  I’m also still accompanying the Milwaukee Children’s Choirs (Girl Choirs East and West).

Another issue is that I miss creating the posts I used to write.  The posts that were longer and more thoughtful about topics I mulled over for quite a while before sharing. I have nearly 28 drafts that I have worked on for various amounts of time, and I want to focus on those drafts when I have time to write.  I also miss answering comments and questions.  I feel a bit disconnected from readers and followers.

For April, I will post photos from the Art in Bloom exhibit — hopefully one per day (since I’ve figure out how to schedule posts for the future!)  This recent exhibit at the Milwaukee Museum of Art was beautiful and VERY inspiring to me on many levels.  I hope you find inspiration, too.

Thank you, as always, for reading and following.

 

 

 

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.

Embed from Getty Images

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.

Embed from Getty Images

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).

Embed from Getty Images

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.

Embed from Getty Images

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.

Embed from Getty Images

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.

Embed from Getty Images

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

Embed from Getty Images

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.

Embed from Getty Images

Final Few February Haiku

This post marks the end of my February Haiku (part of my Joy 365 project).  This was more difficult than the January photos.  I am already behind on March!  I’m not sure what I will be doing with March yet.  Stay tuned, and as always, thank you for reading and following The Tromp Queen!

25 Tues — First rehearsal with area HS students preparing for upcoming district solo/ensemble contests.

image by TTQ
image by TTQ

Singers prepare songs.
First run-through:  a little shy.
Music minds the gaps.

26 Wed — Meet with photographer at Milwaukie’s Art Museum lobby to take head shots for my new job as MCC accompanist.

image by TTQ, CC license -- at Milwaukee Art Museum
image by TTQ, CC license — at Milwaukee Art Museum

Hair, make-up, jewelry:
Head shots at Art Museum.
Carved marble profile?

27 Thurs — Driving across the state from east to west. Going through Pville en route to quilt retreat.

Driving Driftless roads
Passing bluish-white meadows
Trees and cows dot hills.

Tears rush to fill eyes.
I don’t live here anymore.
“Home” is elsewhere now.

28 Fri 

image by lynn Dombrowski attribution, sharealike CC license via Flickr
image by lynn Dombrowski attribution, sharealike CC license via Flickr

Favorite coffee shop:
Time to chat with my dear friend.
Joyful day begins.

quilt and photo by qurikyjazz aka Jill CC license
quilt and photo by qurikyjazz aka Jill CC license

Next stop: Quilt Retreat.
Bound with stories, tools, advice,
Hugs, laughter, sorrows.

Connections endure:
Souls and voices — we still hear.
Fabric soothes us all.

February Haiku Project Continued: 19 to 24

February Haiku Project Continued:  19 to 24

image by Conrad Kuiper via Flickr CC
image by Conrad Kuiper via Flickr CC

Stark shadows on snow.
Branches cast graphic shapes:
Nature’s modern art

Fragile bunny tracks
Trail the length of my sidewalk.
Snow too deep for hops?

image by Nedra via Flickr CC
image by Nedra via Flickr CC
image by The Tromp Queen, all rights protected (please don't copy)
image by The Tromp Queen, all rights protected (please don’t copy)

Anything better
than a roomful of girl teens
laughing and talking?

(Answer:  No! life is good)

 

image by Bob Haines GSFC Photo Club via Flickr CC, stained glass Library of Congress in DC
image by Bob Haines GSFC Photo Club via Flickr CC, stained glass Library of Congress in DC

Late afternoon sun —
Long winter shadows on snow —
Golden light shimmers

Ebony sketches
As ink on pastel batiks —
Twigs, branches, sky glow.

(I wrote this thinking about tree branches silhouetted against the sunset, but this stained glass window captures the look, color, texture, and the feeling so I’m going with the “non-literal” illustration this time.)

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 4: Happiness Haiku

http://www.flickr.com/photos/nexus_6/3017902989/sizes/l/
image via Flickr CC by nexus6

Girls’ choir spins pure tones
Words of comfort, peace and grace:
No tears in heaven.

He will wipe every tear from their eyes,
and there will be no more death
or sorrow or crying or pain.
All these things are gone forever.
Rev. 21:4
(New Living Translation)

I got a call on Sunday from the Artistic Director of the Milwaukee Children’s Choirs.  Suddenly, they were in need of a replacement (permanent!) pianist.  Thanks to a friend and fellow accompanist, I was recommended and asked to play.

I went to the first rehearsal this evening.  The group of young 3rd to 5th grade girls meets once a week in an absolutely fabulous downtown Youth Arts center.

The room was filled with red t-shirts, snazzy boots and wiggly, smiling girls.  When they sang it was angelic and the room was transformed into a huge gothic cathedral!

The first song they sang with piano accompaniment was a setting of Rev. 21:4.  My heart lurched when I opened the music. Tears sprang into my eyes as I quickly scanned the piece. This verse was one that I held onto two years on this very day — the day my Dad died — the day he fell asleep on the couch in Indiana and woke up in heaven!

He had been sick for so long and had been so miserable. It was a great comfort to me to read these words and to keep them in my mind and heart that week — through the funeral planning, all the visitation hours, through the sorrow, laughter and tears.

So as I sat there in that room with all the that young vibrant musical energy, I was filled with gratitude and joy.

God brought me through. I believe I was sitting in the exact place I was meant to be at that moment.
Thanks be to God!