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The Joke

When you're with an orchestra, touring to some cannibal island with a volcano, and there's a sacrifice needed, who needs to worry?

THe violas.  That's where all the virgins are.
I have serious Irish/Scottish/Welsh heritage.

Therefore, I have extreme difficulties with stating anything POSITIVE or HOPEFUL without immediately casting around for some wood to knock on.  Secretly make the old "horns of the devil" gesture with my fingers to keep away the Evil Eye.  Point at the ground while silently mouthing "by the grace of god...."

Really.  It's a problem.


Please indulge me by choosing an option above.

Dr. Smartypantz's book is trucking its way to the PUBLISHER.  He has a contract, and this is nearly the last step before publication.  PUBLI-Frickin-CATION!

My kids.  They both improved their already good grades.  They both improved their already pretty good BEHAVIORs, both in school and at home.  And they're fairly cute.

My studio is chugging along successfully.
I'm losing weight verrry gradually.
I'm showing self-restraint and willpower I didn't know I possessed.

I'm throwing LARGE amounts of money each month (for me, that is) into savings.  Like, I hope to have $5,000 saved between September of 2010 and May 2011.  This is not even HURTING.  The idea is that if I for some reason can't or don't teach this summer, my income (so to speak) could be the same as it is during the year.  Give or take.
I will be able to pay my taxes out of a specially-set-aside account that I've been paying into all year.  And probably have a lot left over.

I'm starting to feel all creative again.  I've been simmering on low for a few months now, and I think I see some little sprouts here and there.  I know that I am cyclical like that, and I've been keeping my eyes out.  What a wonderful thing, to be able to know myself.

I am going to write another post, separately.  I don't want to sully this optimism with the crap of others.


Of Two Minds

Kate #1

I want to get all organized, especially with teaching.  I want to send out automated bills, generated by PayPal or similar.  I want to keep all student records on computer, and hotlink to my smartphone.  I want to send video updates to their parents.  I want to have monthly 'themes' for lessons (like: January will be practice techniques, February will be tone, March will be hand position and efficient hand movements, etc.).  I want my students to each be working within a Royal Conservatory of Music (England) level, and develop their ear training, their theory and history, etc. 
I want them to be required to play in at least one recital a year.  I want to have them all satisfactorily prepared for contests and auditions.  THey should all be top of their sections in band.  I want myself to have well-planned semester activities, such as each spring a recital the week after spring break.  EaCH Fall, a masterclass.  Winter, a benefit concert at the zoo. 

Kate #2

I want to focus on holistic performance practice.  I want to be flexible.  I'd like to let each student explore their own interests as deeply as they want to, disregarding artificial deadlines like competitions.  I want them to have time to flesh out their ideas, and to develop new ones.  I want them to listen, to compose, to play. 
I want to keep studio communication spontaneous and whimsical.  I want to keep the reqirements of the semester to a minimum, to avoid taking too much time from personal exploration.  I don't want to "teach to the test" or the audition. 

is wrong with me?

feeling better

So dad's battery is running low.  They plan outpatient surgery this week to change it out for a new one. 

Ok then.  Worried?  A little.  Every time they do any surgery on anyone (much less my 81-yr.-old daddy) there is a risk.  


Sigh.  I wish he were 20 years younger.  Sigh again.



My mom called maybe 10 minutes ago.  Dad last night was reading, and heard a beeping sound.  He got up to look for it but couldn't find it.  Then he realized it was coming from his chest.  His pacemaker was beeping. 

So, naturally, he sat down and continued reading, since the beeping stopped.

Then went to bed.

Then slept. 

Then got up in the morning, made coffee, read the paper.  Waited for mom to get up.  Poured her coffee, chatted.

Then, a looong time later, says, "Oh.  By the way.  My pacemaker beeped last night."  Turned the page of the newspaper. 

Silence from mom.


"Yeah, it beeped.  A couple of times.  Wonder what it was."

"Donald.  Get your coat on."

"Naaah. I feel fine."

"DONALD.  Coat. NOW."

"Let's just call the doctor first."

Turns out cardiologists are hard to find on Saturdays in January.
Called the company that made the pacemaker.  THey said if it had beeped FIFTEEEN beeps, that means the charge on the battery is down to 75%, and that he had a year to get the battery replaced.  He insists it only beeped a few times.
They said they don't know what it would have been, then.
Maybe he should go get it checked out?


Mom calls me about 1 hour later.

She dragged him to the hospital -- he drove, naturally. 

She suggests they use the Valet Parking the hospital offers.  It's January in Chicago.  Snowy, icy.  Cold.

Naaah.  I feel fine.

In the ER, they do the paperwork and sit down.  When they call his name, he suggests that THE GUY WITH THE NOSEBLEED take his spot.  Since he's bleeding.

Dad?  HEART trumps NOSE.

Naaah.  I'm fine.

They sit.

Finally he goes in.  They won't let mom back there.

She calls me. She's reading Great Expectations (by Dickens) for their book club.  She thought I might want to know, since I tend to yell at her when she omits details like ER visits when we chat. 

I ask why she's not with him.

"Well, they said he should be fine alone."

Mom.  Break the rules.  Just go back there.  Claim dementia or something.  Do you think they're gonna tackle a 77 year old woman?  Swing your purse at their heads. 

"oh.  Ok.  Yeah.  I'll call you later."

In that 10 minutes since the call, I have:

Changed the furnace filter for the firs ttime this winter
Pulled down and scrubbed the vent cover in the bathroom for the first time since moving here 3.5 years ago
Swept the kitchen
Written this post.

Adrenaline, much?

I'll keep ya posted.


[Being the] Hairy East German Judge

It's 8 a.m.  My room monitor lady (RML) who is a local band director AND a (former - probably) Very Good Flutist is efficiently bustling about. 

The first students enter.  They are panicky and worried looking.  I try to reassure, but know it does no good.  They won't see me through the haze of adrenaline.  I get it.  So I just keep smiling, hoping that their parents will later mention this to the hysterical kid.

It begins.  Some boring 'chosen by band director' kind of piece.  Crappy accompaniment.  Bleh.  I sip my coffee in its styrofoam non-recyclable cup (why do they do this?), nibble on my donut.  Smile some more.  I have to remember to get up from my chair and talk to the kid -- who won't remember a thing because of adrenaline-amnesia.  Whatever.  I direct my comments mostly towards the parents who might be able to regurgitate them to the kids later.

And so it goes.  All high schoolers, but WILDLY different levels of ability.  I hear two truly abysmal entries back-to-back.  First one is a flute duo which CLEARLY hadn't played together (successfully) before this morning.  Out of tune.  Utterly unrelated tempi, rather different interpretations of the key signature.  It was a standard 18th-century gavotte and minuet.  I should say, it was WRITTEN as a standard gavotte and minuet.  It came out sounding rather 21st century John Cage. 
When they finished, I looked  at them and then decided just to say it. "Well.  I'm not going to snow you here.  I know you didn't really work this out together.  Or probably by yourselves.  I cannot really comment on how you played this piece because .... there isn't much to say.  I can, however, talk about how to improve your Flute Playing." and then I did.  Embouchure, breathing, etc.  When that was done, I said, "when you both actually learn your parts individually, then work together intelligently, learning the piece, that's when you bring a piece to contest.  Better luck next time!"

They got the first III of the day.  Technically, there are 5 scores they could get, 1 being highest, 5 being worst.  I have given a few 5s, some 4s and plenty of 3s.  Most judges ONLY ever give 1s or 2s.  Ever.  I don't believe in inflation. 
Now, a performance has to be incredibly HORRIFYINGLY awful to be a 5.  For example: last year, 3 high school flutists played Edelweiss (from Sound of Music).  This is SUCH an easy piece.  It was in 3/4 time, and had 1 or 2 flats.  Can't remember.  The shortest note was maybe an 8th or 16th note (in the "blossom of snow" part).  Mostly quarters.  Well.
One girl played it in 4/4/ time.  One played it in MINOR.  It was so unrecognizable that I was actually flipping through the book to see if maybe they were all playing different PIECES.  They got to the end (each at a different time), then smiled at each other. 
My jaw was twitching withthe effort it took to keep it from dropping unattractively.  I smiled and told them "I must tell you, I can completely tell that you -- none of you-- have done any work on this at all.  I don't want you to think that you fooled me.  You didn't.  That being said, I will give you some suggestions on how to be better flutists.  I will not comment on this piece at all, because there's nothing to say."
And I gave them the 5 they so richly deserved.
Damn, that felt good.

But returning to this weekend.  The next flutist played a very popular piece (Bizet's Minuet de L'arlesienne fyi).  It's in 3/4, 3 flats. 
She played it in times ranging from 2/4 to 9/4 to 3/8.  Her sound was good, her notes were about 60%. But the rhythm?  HOLY CRAP.  The pianist didn't even attempt to follow her after the first few lines.  This is a LONG piece.  
When she was done, I smiled.  I started with "Your sound is lovely today.  And this is a great flute piece you chose.  Now, you know it's in 3/4 time?  That means that there are 3 beats. In each measure.  Only.  I get the sense that you learned the notes, but were just kind of hoping for the best when it came to the rhythm.  That's not going to do it. "  I gave her some examples of how one might learn rhythm (counting, conducting, etc.) and reminded her that rhythm is the backbone of all music, and that it's not optional.  And that perhaps learning the notes -- all ofthem -- is also not optional.  And I delivered the final blow.  "A good sound like yours is wasted when you can't actually play the music.  Don't let this continue.  It would be a shame.  Good luck with your studies in music."

I smiled the whole time, and truly tried to be helpful, but good GOD. 

After that I heard several 2-rated pieces.  By 10 am I had given about 8 2s, 4 1s and 2 3s.  At this p9oint, my room monitor closed the door (there was noone in the room with us) and said, "I don't know how to say this, but ... you're really REALLY not supposed to give 3s.  It's just not done.  Here, we try to encourage as many students as possible to go to State (you only go to state if you get a 1)."  My jaw did its "try not to drop" twitching thing again.  She continued, "The other judges don't give out 3s.  Really -- we're trying to ENCOURAGE the students to come back in the future."
I stared silently at her.  WTF?  She asked me if I was new to judging. 


I smiled and said, "well.  Thank you for informing me of that.  I believe in encouraging students.  I encourage them to see the truth."

Then I got up to sharpen my pencils.  She opened the door and let in the next student.

Over the day, I gave a total of 6 3s.  Not bad, really.  There were no entries that truly justified 4 or 5, but I was ready to give them if necessary. 

I felt her lips purse, heard her little snuffle of disapproval each time she got a sheet from me that wasn't a 1.  WHen I handed her the ones with the 3s on them, she stood next to my desk for a few beats of silence while she perused my grades and my comments (which she wasn't supposed to be reading, except to check that I filled out the form correctly).  I smiled.

more later.


Cant' Get This Analogy Out of My Head

Hey - bear with me.  This is a not-fully-processed thought.

In music, we either phrase notes TOWARD something or AWAY FROM something. 
Not all "towards" are the same, just like not all "aways" are the same. 

Think of this:

in Autumn, there is burnished richness, comfort, harvesting.  A time for gathering warmth to yourself, preparation, closeness.Then you are moving towards the winter solstice.  You are settling in, preparing for night.  There is anticipation, but it's more like regret, or dread.  Hunkering down. Then, there's the moment of being still -- the moment of the deepest part of winter.  There is no motion, only dark. 

Then, you are freed from the darkness, and are sliding away from all that tension.  Released.  The energy of the release allows you to coast towards light, towards growth, towards green.  It's all openness and relaxation.  Possibilities.  You arrive at the spring Equinox, and there you balance perfectly on the head of a pin.  No motion, just balance and stillness. 

Following that, you move towards summer.  Anticipation, excitement, fertility, growth.  You are energized and focused on where you are going.  It's a powerful motion forward.  There is increasing depth and richness, luxury.  Complexity and tangles.  Heat.  It inevitably climaxes at Summer Solstice.  You stand still at last, baking, panting, jubilant.  Triumph.

Then relief.  Bathed in the satisfied glow of a job hard-won, basking in the triumph, you accept your congratulations, you sit down with a cool drink, you let the rush of giddy power ebb away.  You're not ready yet for a new adventure.  Time slows.  You start to get organized, knowing you will have a job to start soon.  There's the cool in the air, the smell of leaves and pencils.  It's time to put away the lawnchairs.  Autumn Equinox poises you -- holds you back for one moment, before the ice.  Neither here nor there.


Yesterday I listened to 56 high school flutists in the Detroit area.  As I drove out there the night before, I enjoyed the fact that I was going to a hotel by myself for a night, and that I wasn't in the nervous frenzy that I assume most of the performer were in.  I remember that night-before-contest feeling.  It's wonderful and awful.

As i sat in the hotel, on the bed (which I totally checked for bedbugs, I'll have you know.  I googled it.), I again thought of those 56 kids cleaning their flutes, checking their copies, figuring out what to wear.  And I sat and Epilady'd my legs and gave myself a facial and watched Grey's Anatomy on Netflix.  Then I painted my nails (metallic silver, fyi) and used a PedEgg to file off a few pounds of grody dead skin from my heels and toes.  Blechh.  it was very relaxing to just do all that boring girly stuff all by myself.  And I kept marveling at the difference there is, being on the 'other side of the desk,' so to speak.  I wonder if even ONE of the competitors considered that the judge might be thinking of THEM that tense night before.  I was sending them good vibes, wishing them well, and hoping they weren't being too afraid of who _I_ might be.  Would they get the scary, mean judge?  The boring one?  The smelly ugly one? (hey - it happens)

Then, charmingly, at about 2 a.m., one of my neighbors started arguing with the woman he was with.  yelling.  I ignored it for a while, but at about 3, I called the desk and asked them to please deal with it.  "OH!  Well, if anyone ELSE complains, we'll sure come up and talk to them."

... um.  Anyone ELSE?  Gah.

I turned up the fan on the heater to high to muffle the shouting and rolled over.  Sleep must have come somewhere around 4.  I had scheduled a wakeup call at 6, and set my cellphone alarm to 6:15 for some snoozing.  I got a call at 6:35.  Cellphone's ringer was turned OFFFFF.  I must have STEPPED on it during the night when I got uup to adjust the fan.  I needed to be AT the meeting for judges (15 minutes away) at 7:15.  BLAHHHH!  And I sorely needed a shower.

Quickest shower in memory... semi-dried the hair, was glad to find I had some bobby pins in my travel case, so pinned up some rolled-up pieces of hair into something resembling a 'do, dried and curled the front and a bit in the back, and remembered to toss my makeup in my purse so I could do it at the red lights.

No breakfast to be seen (thanks a lot, Day's Inn.  hide the damn breakfast room), so off I went.  To find the car frozen shut.  Michigan in January =  AWESOME.  Couldn't find address for contest, so had to get on my phone and check email, which took time, as I seemed to be in a reception black hole.  Sigh.

On the road at 7:03.  Snowwwy and icy.  Shit.  Slapped on powder base and very red lipstick at redlights, put in earrings while carefully driving on a straight part of the road.  Eyeliner at next red light.  Fluffed hair that was finally drying while driving, then slopped on some amethyst eyeshadow to match earrings at next light.  Decided against taking off glasses to do mascara, because it was too icy. 

Arrived at the location (whew) and found a spot RIGHT OUT FRONT.  Which I thanked Ganesh (or whoever is keeping track of karmic parking coincidences this week) for that.  Rummaged around for my cell charger (naturally the phone had gotten unplugged last night when I stepped on it), and then dashed in.  Remembered too late that I was still wearing my black everyday clumpy shoes, not my pretty kitten heeled silver with rhinestone sparklies pumps.  Decided I didn't care. 

Found what I thought was the judge room, but everybody looked all colorful and happy and chatty.  Whoops.  Volunteer room.  They pointed me to the _next room_ full of middle-aged men mostly in dark suits and (horrifyingly) women in sweaters with music-themed appliques.  (WHY would an adult wear such an item?  I don't care how cold it might be.  NO saxophones and eighth notes on clothing.  NONE. Please.)  They were all sitting in chairs with music stands pulled up in front of them, busily pre-signing the comment sheets (a good practice, which I quickly did as well).  The food was better in this room.  Yogurt, bagels, donuts and pastries, fruit.  Bottled water! Coffee!  The other room was just a gallon jug of OJ and some boxed donuts.  Perks of the job, I guess.

Apparently in my rush, I sat in the "piano judge" section.  You see, these things tend to fall into the following categories:
  • Piano people (thin, neat, high-strung, cheerful.  Often wearing cardigans and carrying large tote bags of supplies like hand sanitizer, nail clippers, metronomes, tissues, Tums.)
  • String people (Asian or frumpy late-middle aged white, loudly talking about suzuki and NASTA, often wearing woolen shawls, sometimes guilty of having violin-themed accessories like earrings)
  • Band Directors or Retired Band Directors (middle aged to elderly men in Republican suits, glad-handing each other and bellowing manly comments, ignoring anyone else.  often wear a lapel pin showing an association to a music fraternity, a team or university, or social lodge like the Elks)
  • Young/New Enthusiasts (mostly men, but some more group-sports type women; very clean. Respectfully and conspicuously  listening to the BDs, but then breaking off into smaller groups, and gossiping about people they know from college and high school.  Often casting furtive glances at the BDs to make sure they haven't left yet. These are usually either student teachers or first/second year band/orchestra teachers.  Many just graduated from the local universities.)
  • The Girls (usually woodwind people, some who teach in schools part time, or are private teachers.  Usually the best dressed, with makeup reflecting the actual current trends.  Eyeing each other competitively.)
I was running late, so I didn't bother to move.  Plus, I hate "the Girls."  I don't need that crap.  I'm here to get paid.

Now, I just got invited to judge this contest maybe 2 weeks ago.  The former "queen bee' flute teacher in my town (who mostly retired from flute to run an import store in town) HAD been contracted to do it, but her store was moving to a new location and the move was happening this weekend.  So they called me to sub.  IMagine my excitement to be the Backup Judge.  Sigh.

So I had to go through each and every of the 56 sheets and sign each sheet, And I had to carefully cross out HER name and print my name below.  Yeah.  Made me feel so vital to the system.  "Hey KID.  You got the SECOND CHOICE judge today! Congrats!"

So much m ore to tell.  I am cold though, and must go warm up.  (note to self: get space heater for basement)


My kids aged 7 and 9 made dinner.  Yeah, I helped.  But rice pilaf with dried cranberries?  From scratch?  Paprika/basil chicken sauteed in olive oil?  Creamy garlic/bayleaf sauce?  Made from a roux?
And a kid who carefully cut up three color bell peppers?  And arranged them artfully on the platter of chicken.

I am pleased.

Reeeeaally Bad Joke

*Note: The Flute Concerto by Jacques Ibert is one of the most difficult concerti for our instrument, and runs more than 30 minutes. 

FLutists like our men like our Ibert: long and hard.




Kate The Magnificent

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