Friday, November 19, 2010

The Net

Believe it or not, I think daily of subjects to blog about. I forget most of them by the end of the day (which is why my blog lies dormant for months at a time). At least half of them are unimportant concepts that only I would find interesting.

Tonight, as Dan watches our latest Netflix arrival (a typical tale of mobsters, guns and knives), I entertain myself with the computer (because I finished reading my library book and I don’t feel like sweeping the kitchen floor or organizing a closet).

I know my parents and the generations before me feel this even more strongly than I do – but I frequently realize how attached we are to anything electronic. Every morning at the office, I turn on each computer, charge my cell phone, log onto the internet for the day’s use, sign into my e-mail account and work out of it throughout the day.

Fifteen years ago, we had nothing but a TV and VCR – how did we go about life? What did we do? How did we pass our time or accomplish any tasks without internet, e-mail, cell phones or any other gadgets?

My family first got “the internet” when I started college in 1998. We only got it because one of my professors at school assigned course work that students were supposed to do “online.” (He was a groundbreaking one in that regard.) I remember asking my dad, “Do you think we could get the internet here at home? I need it for a class.” We did already have dial-up-save-it-to-your-hard-drive-for-free Juno e-mail.

Free dial-up Juno e-mail, by the way, was great. Two or three messages could download in just under three minutes. It was thrilling to watch that little status bar climb to 100% as your mail came in. (Even advertisements and spam were exciting). A few years earlier, I remember trying to wrap my head around the concept of e-mail when a friend spoke about “talking to someone” via electronic mail on the computer. Ten years before that, it amazed me to watch how our local librarian's computer could "talk" to the library across town and see if the St. Matthews branch had my book.

I find myself trying to remember what we did with our time back then, and wondering how we accomplished all our day-to-day activities that now seem to require net browsing or phone apps. There was no texting. No Netflix. No e-mail. No forwards. People called each other on the phone (landline, of course), talked to each other, read books, studied things, played games.

Today, most people will consider you odd if you don’t have an e-mail address. If you don’t have one, you are either:

a. Lying.

b. Too young or too old to figure out how to use the computer.

c. Amish.

d. Living in a foreign country where it is impossible to find a computer.

Occasionally (and only for very small fractions of time) I want to rebel against the unveiling of brand new amazing devices every week -- the newest iPhone, the newest blackberry capability, GPS for all your friends, the app for anything you’ve ever imagined, and so many others that I haven’t even heard of because I don’t follow electronics news. All handy tools. I keep telling myself that I don’t want to be so connected to the rest of the world. Mostly because I know if I had a phone that made it easy to text or check mail, I’d be doing it all the time. The way I see it, I’m already losing more than a few hours each week, suctioned away by typing and browsing the web.

I wonder what I could become if I had each one of those hours back. I would get a lot more piano practice that way. Wonder what I could have done this evening if I hadn’t been sitting here writing about my time getting sucked away. It is a net, after all.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

More Lessons Learned

* * *

While discussing how to make a proper stage bow for recital:

Me: "Be sure to keep your arms at your sides when you bow."

5-year-old student: "But I want to bow like THIS..."
(Takes a very low bow with one arm in front of his body and the other behind his back.)
"'s how you bow to a KING!"

Me: "But that's not a good way to bow on stage. Besides, there aren't going to be any kings at the recital next week."

Student: "God is a King. And He will be at the recital because He is everywhere."

* * *

Another 5-year-old boy:
"I need help with this song I am trying to figure out. If you know this song, you can help me. If you don't know it, then I will teach it to you."

* * *

From the eight-year-old girl who loves scales and chords (and apparently quarter notes also):

(Counting out loud in 2/4 time): "One...two; one...two."

Student: "You forgot to say the other beats."

Me: "This piece is in 2/4 , so we only have two beats in each measure."

Student: "Oh, I feel sorry for poor old beats 3 and 4! They get left out!"


10-year-old girl, after listening to the composer Ravel for the first time:

"And I thought BEETHOVEN was crazy!"


Dan and Bailey love yard work.

Dan mows the grass, Bailey trots after him, and they play a game of fetch the whole time.

Earlier this spring, Dan tilled the back corner of our yard for a vegetable garden.

At first, it looked like the picture above. But now, after a few short months:
  • The sweet potatoes are taking over the dirt that belongs to the other vegetables.
  • The corn is much taller than we are.
  • The squash plants were so crowded that we had to transplant them AND hand-pollinate them since the bees aren't doing their job.
  • The romaine plant gave us 4 salads during its lifetime.
  • We have jalapenos every few days.

The garden contains 3 different kinds of peppers, tomatoes, zucchini, yellow squash, romaine (now deceased), 1 strawberry bush, cantaloupe (no fruit yet), sweet potatoes, corn, and beans. I don't think I left anything out except the innumerable species of weeds that also enjoy our dirt and water. (Why do the bees pollinate THEM but not the squash plants?)

So far, we've eaten five strawberries, one zucchini, four jalapenos, one green pepper, and romaine leaves. Pulled our first ripe tomato off the vine today. It's probably going to go into some sauce for lunch tomorrow. It's a "Victory Garden," because it's a victory for me that I haven't killed anything in it yet. (Except the romaine, and that was on purpose.)

Friday, April 23, 2010


Remember the little girl who was thrilled to learn her scales and chords? (Here she is at the piano).

She had a new statement for me at her lesson this week:

"I learned how to conjugate the triads!"

(And I could barely remember if I had actually said that phrase in passing the week before... after all, she was SO excited about learning her C Major primary chords!)

Let's hope she remembers this if she ever takes music theory in college!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

What they say...

Here is another collection of things my students have said. (Parents, you will definitely recognize your kids here... I hope they keep it coming!)

1. A homeschool answer for sure...
Me: "Did you do anything fun while you were out of town on spring break?"
Student: "Yes! We went to some museums!"

2. I was explaining dissonant intervals like 2nds and 7ths to an eight-year-old. I said, "Do you hear these two notes? They don't sound good together." She shouted, "Discord! Cacophony!"
(Another homeschooler.)

3. Seven-year-old girl: "I went to Burger King and got a drink... and I played 'Cuckoo' with my straw and the lid."

4. Same girl, working on a song in her sight-reading book. "I just LOVE this piece SO much. I NEVER want to check it off. I always want to keep working on it!"

5. Seven-year-old girl, putting hands together on one of her Suzuki pieces for the first time: "OH! I sound just like the CD!"

6. As my students were getting ready to leave, the 5-yr-old brother came back inside with a dandelion in his hand and ran to his mom. "Mommy, I picked a flower for you!" he said. His older sister apologized to me, "Oh, I hope that wasn't from your garden."

7. Same little boy came in for his lesson the next week and said to me, "Here is your money -- I'll pay you today after we finish our lessons." In his hand he had two quarters. I asked him where he got the money and he answered, "I found it in the car." Then he said, "Mommy, I'm paying for our lessons today so you don't have to."

8. I encouraged my 7-yr-old violin student to practice a lot so he could get very good, and told him to watch a young violinist prodigy, David Horvat, on YouTube. (See it here.) My little student responded, "Oh, I've heard of him! My grandma says he makes $150.00 a day just by playing on the street! AND, he almost got run over by a car!!"

9. (This is my favorite...) Eight-yr-old student to her mother: "Mrs. Hall is so nice and sweet and always happy. And she's so patient, too. It's almost like having another mom!"

10. Another 8-yr-old girl. The week before, we had practiced the C Major scale out of a "scale and chord exercise book" for the first time. I didn't realize how excited this had made her. At her next lesson, the first thing out of her mouth as she walked through the door was her absolutely jubilant exclamation, "Guess what! I'm all ready to learn the C Major Primary Chords!" (She is the first and only student I've ever seen to be excited about scales and chords...)

Monday, January 25, 2010

Sunday Baroque

My Sunday mornings changed radically in November.

Since April 2006, I had been church pianist at Our Mother of Sorrows - I would go play for the 8:30 AM mass, and then hang out in the rectory until the next service. The music director is my good friend Chris, who I've known since college. In between services, he and the priest and the deacons and I would drink tea and coffee, eat snacks, chat, read the paper, run errands, and then walk back into church for the 11:00 mass -- Round Two of the same stuff (and usually more well-performed the second time around).

This past November, Chris accepted a position at the church of St. Raphael, and I was happy to be able to follow him there. Mass schedule is different; I now play one service on Saturday and one service on Sunday.

And since I am the only keyboardist at the new place, I am now learning the organ.

I have been a pianist all my life. Can't even remember what it was like NOT to know how to play piano, so this new musical challenge excites me. I've tried playing the organ a few times in the past, but with great difficulty. ("What's a hautbois?" "What happens if I push the Swell button?" "How do you make it louder?" "Why can't I hear anything?" "Why does it go so slow?" "What's a gedeckt?" "How do you turn it on?" etc.)

I took my first lesson a few months ago... felt like I was sitting there with Johann Sebastian himself as my teacher explained the stops and pedals and other workings. So I've started (trying) to get to church early to practice organ before rehearsing with the choir.

I'm hooked now. To touch a key and hear the instrument sound out of the walls... to hear your sound coming at you from the back of the church... the floor vibrating and the sound consuming the air. The whole church feels like the instrument. The power is addictive.

It's difficult to remember I'm there to practice -- exercises, technique, fingering -- and not just to play around. I admit I do not usually resist the temptation to play every baroque piece I have memorized - with each and every different combination of stops. (The Bach minuets sound GREAT!)

I do practice the obscure-yet-instructive organ samples put forth in my lesson book. They're all by Bach and Pachelbel and lots of people I've never heard of. Some are hard and some are easy... but they are all fun to play because it doesn't feel like *I* am the one making all that sound.

After the St. Raphael service, I drive over to Southeast to meet Dan and my brother Nathan so we can all go to church together. While I'm in the car, the classical radio station broadcasts a weekly program called "Sunday Baroque" -- playing all the greatest (but sometimes not-so-famous) works of Handel, Bach, and others. I turn it up loud. (This must be why Dan says I'm partially deaf). It's great inspiration for my next organ morning.

I get to Southeast just in time to hear all of the sermon -- and also just in time to miss the boppy songs at the beginning of their service. My timing is excellent. I hope no one gets offended by that, but this is MY blog, and in it I type MY opinions. Some people love that music, but not me. I am a musical snob.

When the morning of church and music is over, we go home for lunch and a day mostly of rest... and washing the dishes.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Christmas Eve - Part I

Ever since 2005, I have spent Christmas week with Dan's family in South Carolina. (Sorota Christmas is coming later this week!) Dan's dad takes the week off work, and we spend most of our time sitting around the kitchen table playing cards and eating.

Everyone comes to Dan's parents' house on Christmas Eve. This year, it was Dan's Aunt Lynn; his cousins Beth and Cory; their kids Cody & Raegan; Dan's cousins Wayne and Rachel, their kids Kayla, Katie, and Olivia; and Dan's Uncle Lloyd.

I don't have a group shot of everybody... I'm looking back now and seeing that most of my pictures are of the kids opening presents. Cody's greatest wish this year was for a Nintendo DS, and his great Aunt Brenda (Dan's mom) bought it for him. As you can see, he loved it.

His little sister Raegan got a "talking dollhouse" -- also from Brenda -- and I think Bailey liked it as much as she did. Bailey was into everybody's presents, especially the wrapping paper.

Bailey also likes tickling Cody!