May 20th, 2012 :: Reading Days
Measure me, sky!
Tell me I reach by a song
Nearer the stars:
I have been little so long.
Weigh me, high wind!
What will your wild scales record?
Profit of pain,
Joy by the weight of a word.
Horizon, reach out!
Catch at my hands, stretch me taut,
Rim of the world:
Widen my eyes by a thought.
Sky, be my depth;
Wind, be my width and my height;
World, my heart's span:
Loneliness, wings for my flight!
May 13th, 2012 :: Performing Days
Last Saturday evening (5/5 @ 5PM!) was our spring recital. I swear these recitals come around faster every year.
(“Is the recital going to be at that ‘Ten Thousand Stars Church?’” one kid asked me. “Well, yes, it is,” I answered with a straight face, liking the inflated notion that now my studio had its own church. I must confess that sometimes, I lie. Especially when it is funny.)
Some time ago, a student asked me if we couldn’t someday have a recital that featured the music of a single composer. I thought this a brilliant idea, and immediately tried to book Beethoven for the event. Turns out, it is hard to get old Ludwig to commit to a date.
Truth is, Beethoven would have been a highly inappropriate choice. Beethoven, in spite of his genius, did not write music for the young beginning pianist. Nor was he much concerned with making his music particularly “pianistic”. He couldn’t have cared less to write a piece that was heavily patterned in such a way to make it sound more difficult and impressive than it was. No, when it comes to those little things that give ease and confidence to young musicians, Beethoven was a tough cookie.
Which is why I am once again eternally grateful for Dennis Alexander.
Several years ago (six to be exact), my friend Anne stood in my kitchen and announced, “You will never guess who just moved to Albuquerque. Dennis Alexander!” To which I responded, “It can’t be that Dennis Alexander.”
To our great fortune, it was.
Since that time, Dennis has become not only a colleague and mentor, but also a friend. Indeed in my world, Dennis is right up there with Beethoven. Hardly a day in the last 20 years has gone by when I haven’t taught one of his great pedagogical gems.
Over the years, my students have had the great privilege of trying out music he has written before it has been published. He has guided me through thorny pedagogical dilemmas, offered feedback to my own performances, coached my students before important events. And as every kid knows when we play Musical Trivia Pursuit in performance class, “Dennis Alexander” is the answer to the question: “Who is the composer who recently moved to Albuquerque?” (Lately, however, the kids have been arguing this point, telling me that Dennis Alexander did NOT “recently” move to Albuquerque, but has lived here “a LONG time.” Just goes to show you “a LONG time” is different when you are 7 then when you are almost 40!)
But even more importantly than all those things, Dennis graciously agreed to come to our recital last Saturday night.
And so, the 5/5 @ 5PM recital featuring the music of Dennis Alexander was born.
Last Saturday there were performances of the old favorites from the Finger Paintings collections, which were among the first pieces of Dennis’ I ever taught.
There were several duets performed that night that came from a new, just published, collection of duets: Just for Two, which are duet arrangements of his popular Just for You books.
A left hand injury inspired me to teach the fiendishly difficult, but lovely “Arioso for the Right Hand” to one high school student. Working on this piece together led this otherwise cool teenager to exclaim, “Oh! It is so beautiful!” That alone was worth all the struggles we have gone through together for it was the first truly unguarded and touchingly vulnerable response I had witnessed from her in years.
My favorite moment involved a brother/sister team who played “Giggle Bugs” from one of the aforementioned Finger Paintings books. The older sister played the teacher part, exactly like I did for HER seven years ago on her first recital. It seems we have come full circle, and beyond that, it appears I might be teaching myself out of a job.
Afterwards there was the predictable punch and cookies, photos were taken, children ran around in recital clothes letting off steam, parents breathed a sigh of relief that yet another recital performance was behind us. Dennis posed for pictures and signed dozens of autographs. (One tiny child seemed confused by this concept, and kept bringing her program to me to sign. “Kid,” I finally said, “my autograph is worth nothing. Nothing, I tell you.”)
Even on evenings when I am not particularly anxious about the students’ performances, even when I can sit back and relax confidently knowing that the kids have got things under control, even when I can honestly say we are as ready as we could be at this particular time, even when all that, these studio recitals still take an enormous amount of energy. The good will generated at these events is worth every ounce of time and effort, but nevertheless it is somewhat a distraction from the work we otherwise do week in and week out.
It’s time to get back to the business of learning to be a musician again….
May 6th, 2012 :: Ordinary Days
Outside the window, the roses wave in the sunlight....
The table and chairs beckon, waiting for the first al fresco lunch of the season...
The courtyard, which just weeks ago was covered in snow....
....now is bursting with green....
Pink tulips stand at attention....
The orange poppies are rioting for space and attention....
The hollyhocks are staking their claim everywhere.....
Purple alliums look like giant lollipops....
The roses climb up the walls....
The back garden sits quietly under the shade of the elm treess.....
Yellow Lady Bank roses fall over the trellis....
Brightly colored chairs lure us out in the evenings, to sit and linger in the fading New Mexico light, cocktails in hand....