July 29th, 2012 :: Recipes for Technique
It’s been a while.
I started to write another blog post about ear tunes and wacky harmonization options before realizing that, once again, I was jumping over myself. It’s all about the sequencing, I have to remind myself a thousand times again. Successful teaching is all about good sequencing.
And so: back to chords for a moment.
When last we looked at chords, we were following the 3 basic steps of set-up, blocked chords, and accompaniment patterns, presumably in the left hand, and merrily transposing the fun to every major and minor key. All good. But don’t stop there.
Once the same sequence has been established for the right hand, then the world is your oyster. Time to add LH roots and multiply the possibilities.
New chord assignments can look like this:
Roots in LH, chords in RH.
Or to clarify:
RH: I IV I V V7 I
LH: Do Fa Do Sol Sol Do
(I like that octave drop: Sol-Sol-Do. Mimics so many Baroque and Classical cadences.)
And since sequence is god around here the steps look like this:
- Set-up RH
- LH roots: Do-Fa-Do-Sol-Sol(8va lower)-Do
- RH/LH blocked together with pedal
- Patterns: Broken, Waltz, Tango, Bossa Nova, whatever
Of course, this can (and should!) be done in any key. Of course, this can be done in with major and minor harmonies. Of course, the rhythmic accompaniment possibilities are endless. As are the teaching and creative implementations. The world, indeed, is your oyster.
July 22nd, 2012 :: Ordinary Days
Recently I witnessed two people greeting one another in the grocery store. “How are you?” the woman asked. “Oh, you know,” the man replied as he grabbed a box of Cheerios off the top shelf, “livin’ the dream.”
We are trying to find the dream around here. The cats are living the dream this spring, as this has been a record year for moths. They love moths, or rather, they love to torture moths, batting them senseless and then running around the house carrying the little guys in their mouths. “I don’t think the moth did anything to deserve that,” one student remarked watching the girls play, tormenting some poor winged creature. She was right.
Matt, on the other hand, seems bent on saving moths, in a charming sort of way. One night he announced at dinner that he had rescued two moths from the choir room at church and released them outside. “Well, that’s great,” I replied, flashing immediately on the bad Chicken Soup story about saving starfish. The point of the starfish story is that in spite of the futility of saving starfish on the beach (after all, there are thousands! Ten thousand, probably!), throwing them back in the water is a small act of hope and kindness. Besides, as the punch line of the tale goes, for each starfish you save, it “matters to that one.”
“What are you trying for here?” I asked Matt. “Chicken Soup for the Choir Directors Soul?”
Without missing a beat, Matt said, “Matters to that moth.” Ah, the dream is alive and well.
Of course, the care and the rescue of the individual is the point in most of the microcosms of our lives. We teach not the faceless sample or target populations that make up the research, but the individual, vulnerable human beings that walk through our doors: Camy, with her freckles and quirky learning curves; Tony, with his boundless enthusiasm and energy; Sophie, with her fast fingers and quicker mind. Matters to that one, we tell ourselves, and that one, and that one.
Some starfish students have been flung far, living and playing in colleges across the country. “What’s new?” I email them, nudging my way into their worlds. “Oh, livin’ the dream,” responds Kara.
“You know,” I write back eagerly, “you are the second person this week I have heard use that phrase. The other guy was about 60 with a long grey ponytail and Birkenstocks. So 1970’s of both of you.”
Several days passed. Then I got this reply:
“Amy, I’m pretty sure it isn’t the same dream. Love, Kara.”
July 15th, 2012 :: Reading Days
perfect summer sky--
one blue crayon
missing from the box
-Evelyn Lang, The Haiku Anthology
July 8th, 2012 :: Student Days
I am, at long last, done.
(“Hooray!” says Matt, who has endured three long years with a distracted wife. “Hooray!” says the cats, who think there have not been enough laps to nap on. “Hooray!” says my students and families, who have patiently put up with wacky scheduling and no flexibility on my part. “Hooray!” says my friends, who have are tired of always hearing that I can’t hike. Or go to lunch. Or have coffee.)
It’s been a long, long three years. And, truth be told, an even longer last month. June was a blur of human development class and studying for comps. After hours of reading and research, I’d emerge red-eyed and teach for a few hours. I practiced just enough to assure myself that I would be a musician again someday. I watered the scorched garden while formulating essays in my head on adult development theorists like Daniel Levinson or Jean Baker Miller. I swam laps and walked while mentally sorting out the differences and similarities between Piaget and Vygotsky and tried to apply their theories to teaching music. I painted doors and muttered ways to improve self-efficacy or maximize cognition. The irony was not lost on me that the very things that improve cognition---rehearsal and context and organization---were horribly abbreviated in my own work last month.
Last Monday I sat through oral comp exams, and once again, recited what I knew, applying, whenever possible, the application of learning theories to teaching piano. I walked out that morning with another useless masters degree in hand, the evidence of three years of work and effort completed. (And done well, my committee assured me. They seem both proud and amused about having a little musician interloper in their department.)
I spent the afternoon and evening kicking myself for all the smart things I should have said and didn’t. “It’s like when you get a standing ovation at the end of a performance,” Matt commented later, “but you can’t stop thinking about that place in the second movement where things went awry.” Exactly.
Am I glad I did it? Absolutely. Was it worth three years of my life and all the stress and headaches? No question. Have I found the knowledge learned to be helpful to my teaching? Every day and twice on Sundays.
Am I glad to be done? Oh, yeah. You have no idea.
“So, what’s next?” my comp committee asked me Monday.
“So, what now?” friends celebrating the end with me have asked this week.
There’s plenty on the immediate horizon: I have concerts to play in the next few months. I have many many lessons to teach and a fall schedule to begin planning and preparing for (How can it be that time already?). I will be in mid-Missouri in September giving a workshop to teachers. I am presenting at the New Mexico MTNA conference in November. Dennis Alexander and I are finishing up a book of pieces intended to be taught completely by rote. There’s a big writing project underway, and about a dozen possible articles in the works. Somehow, in the midst of all of this, the degree will find a way of earning its keep I am sure.
But mostly, the answer to “What’s next?” is I don’t know. And for the time being, that’s welcomed. I am trying to be intentional about this transition, to close this door mindfully, to celebrate crossing the finish line at last. After a blurry, whirlwind month, it’s good to see clearly once more. I’m eager to embrace the idea of possibility in my life again, to stop thinking every moment that there is something I should be doing that I’m not, to go hiking and have lunch.
More than all of that, I’m ready to reclaim the life I had before with all its messy peculiarities. Funny, but in the end, after three years of dipping my toes into another field and world, the greatest lesson learned was that I was perfectly happy already in mine.
July 1st, 2012 :: Performing Days
-Source unknown, but brilliant