Saturday, September 12, 2009

Suzuki students are the awesome.

So concert per se went well. Soloists did a great job. They ranged from five years old up to twelve; playing thirty-seconds up to five minutes from memory. Our accompanist was marvellous; I'm so lucky she is a Suzuki parent and sensitive to each child's character and personality. And the group pieces were lovely; gave everyone ELSE the opportunity to get up and perform for their parents/grandparents/etc. The disappointing thing? Sixteen students no-shows. I had forewarning for ten of those, and six just didn't show.

There will always be last-minute things; we're talking about primary-school-age children and life happens. At the same time, I'm really disheartened. The kids who came are motivated; they go into the holidays with a role model and will often try to play the piece THAT kid played, or be excited about what's coming up now they've SEEN someone else their own age play it.

The kids who missed out...miss out. And I think that for some of them they're actually missing out on a bigger message; concerts aren't just about THEM playing, they're about coming together as a community and being a supportive audience for everyone else, too. When a parent says (verbally or otherwise) "Oh, it's not such a big deal if we miss out, you were only going to play two pieces" I feel they're missing the point.

On the other hand, I know one child left halfway through because of a party. Am I annoyed? No, we compromised. I don't want her to feel like HAVING to play violin made her miss out on a party, and the party child & her parents came and sat in the audience for her (the violinist), understanding this was a big deal for her too. I understand we're all busy. I'm just disappointed by the choices some families make - especially when I feel they don't really understand the repercussions or ripples of their actions.

Some people who I DO know understand... all the yoga teachers beaming from the third row. Not just my very lovely inlaws, but some serious community. They all know who they are, and I am very grateful they came; even if it was merely for my sake and not for the artistic quality on display...although, we have a REAL concert. We don't sit there with polite, strained smiles. The applause tonight was heartfelt and thoroughly warranted.  My teacher was present tonight; I know she'll call me in the next few days and ask me about every child who played.

Funnily, during our "run mad with cookies" time I pointed out to my husband that two of my students are taller than me now. (I'm not especially short, but these are Grade 6 kids) One of the dads (T's dad) came and thanked me and said "You know, I remember when all our kids were the little ones in the front row, and now.... you have all these tiny ones." Yep. I currently have seven Grade 6 kids. Five of them have been with me since their prep year. This year I've taken on seven "babies" (three/four-year-olds).

Where will we be in another six years?

Tonight's concert programme:

Busy Busy Stop Stop (all)
O Come, Little Children (5yo S)
May Song (all)
Long, Long Ago (6yo G)
Allegro (8yo O)
Minuet 1 (all)
Musette (11yo R)
Two Grenadiers (all)
Witches' Dance (6yo S)
Boccherini Minuet (7yo C)
Gavotte in G Minor (all)
Bach Bourree (11yo J)
Seitz Concerto mvt 1 (7yo E)
Seitz Concerto mvt 2 (11yo J)
Bach Bourree (12yo T)
Vivaldi A Minor 1st mvt (10yo T)

You HAVE to laugh...or stomp on toes.

It's been a week of high drama and we're up to... Wednesday. Awesome.

There's really nothing to make you question your life choices like dancing about in front of eight hundred people. Wearing a pink tutu. With a crying five-year-old on your hip. Who only stops crying when you keep dancing. I mentioned the pointe shoes, right?

Pointe shoes are bad enough when my own sixtyish kilos are sloshing about on top of them; add another twenty of lumpen child (also wearing spiky pink tulle) and they're instruments of torture.

But really, no concert would be complete without the class who can't seem to see the audience (and therefore perform half their dance facing the back, the wings, and (only by chance) the front.

Such are the joys of kinder-aged children cavorting about in front of their adoring parents. The more recent concerts, with school-age children, have been more successful.

Sure, there was the boy who announced (in the middle of a quick costume change between ballet and tap) "Oh, my tap shoes don't fit me any more." Mmhm. In the five days since dress rehearsal your feet have grown THAT much.

Thank goodness for the senior student who retrieved his shoes from the bottom of his bag and undertook to stuff his feet into them. Miraculously, they somehow fitted again.

Oh, there were also feather dramas. Idiot me undertook the manufacture of swan lake headpieces. This means feathers hot-glued onto a paper base in a wing shape, two per girl.

So, making eighty-odd of these took a fair amount of time and used up my 2010 quota of swear words, but that's fine, they'll look great. They did look great. Even better when pinned in with WHITE bobby pins (I know, I'm OCD). And I made six spares. SPARES!

They looked less great when, five minutes before the performance, four girls are telling me there aren't any left. Of COURSE there aren't any left. Some featherbrains have take them HOME after the dress rehearsal and failed to bring them back for the real concert. And so the spares have been used by stupid people and we're STILL short.

Seriously. Would you not check that you have, oh, your LEOTARD? Do me a MASSIVE favor and check on the status of your headgear as well. Thanks so much.

I have the distinct feeling that my lovely flowers post-concert were guilted out of the girls who faffed about in the following way: "We can't find the white castle headpiece!"

Addressing this crisis requires problem-solving abilities far beyond the reach of any normal human. Clearly.

"Have you checked in the chess headpieces box? Have you checked in the pawn hoods box? Have you checked in the box of black and white skirts? And what about looking on the list to see who wore it last and asking them?Hmmmm?"

Invariably, five minutes later: "Oh, it's ok. It was..."
UhHUH. Because it would have killed you to have looked in more than one place before you made it someone else's problem. Skilled. Is it just me, or are we failing to invest our teenagers with common sense?

Friday, September 11, 2009


Possibly not the best idea in the world; my cold is getting worse instead of better and tonight has been a night of loud.  Interesting fact: when you blow your nose too hard and too often you can burst blood vessels. THAT's a whole load of disgusting right there, thanks. 
What in the name of all that is weird is kirtan? Essentially it’s a sung meditation in call-and-response style; the kirtanist plays harmonium (or guitar, or whatever) and sings the mantra, the participants sing it back, following tempo and dynamic. In the yogic tradition, the mantras are sung in Sanskrit, but kirtan can be practised in many ways and is a major part of Satyananda philosophy, which holds music and mantra to be a stepping stone to higher consciousness.
We skyped another kirtan group in Darwin tonight; one of ‘our’ teachers moved up there with her family last year and is trying to get a regular kirtan going. She led a kirtan and then R. led a kirtan on our end. Sadly our connection fell out before we were quite done, but c’est la vie. 
Concert tomorrow. I think I'm turning into my mother (this is the crucial moment at which my darling spouse (who is presently reading over my shoulder as I type) should interject with "No, of course you're not!" Hmmm. Doesn't count when you read it off the screen. 
I'm a little stressed about this concert tomorrow. I've had a HEAP of "Sorry!" statements in the last few days and I'm getting a little narky about it. If I kept a grudge book I'd be beginning Volume 2. Easily. 
Ah well, should stay focused on the good. There seem to be a few random people coming (i.e. NOT parents or directly related to students) and a few of our good friends might come along to see what who can do now.... so dinner afterward and some alcoholic therapy.

Oh, and in the name of all things funny (or just another example of the universe's current disregard for little ole me, Extranjera has very politely informed me that google reader and Blogger are pretending this blog doesn't exist.
Since I update every damn day with something approaching OCD, I consider this VERY rude. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE visit and switch your subscription over. 


Dear guy in a red shirt... Hang on, there were lots of guys in red shirts. Ok. Dear guy in a red shirt witha stupid straw hat who thought it was hilarious to sneak a joint into the gig: it's not very sneaky to openly smoke the thing and pose for a photo (ostentatiously exhaling a plume of smoke) two metres from a bouncer. You're a moron.

Dear women's basketball players. I don't like it when you push in front of me, dragging a bunch of tipsy friends who slosh beer everywhere. Pogoing is not dancing. Neither is shoving your butt and then your shoulders alternately into my body in some kind of drinking bird motion. From now on I am attending gigs in full punk goth regalia, just so I can wear spiky wristbands. Bodyslam me now, I dare you.

The guys were good. The regular drummer (Will Hull-Brown) and his wife had a baby yesterday, so
we got his tech, who was pretty awesome. The chemistry that used to really fuel their gigs is gone though. They used to have guests or play around more onstage and that camaraderie just ain't there no more. They still sound good, but the nutso eight minute improvs and detours are gone. Felix does the talking and Harry does his job. (And if you care, Felix dresses to the right. The jeans were a little wrong.)

So many nights
Till the ocean
How to explain
Days like these
Dumb things (Paul Kelly song)
No longer there
Two shoes

Wine song

I have this thing about nabbing setlists.
And then, because I particularly dislike queuing to get out of somewhere, we danced to the retro filler music and let the crowd melt away. Good times.

I just remembered.

Last night I got breathalyzed by a cop.
An exceptionally good-looking cop, but still a member of law enforcement.

He gazed deep into my eyes and said "So, how's your day been?" I stuck my chin out and stared back (I'd like to say defiantly, but I expect it was more of a zombie psychout from the deep pits whence my fatigued eyeballs lurked).
"Hmm. And have you had anything to drink in the course of this long day?"
"No. I wish I had, though."
He laughed. "One long breath, thanks. Ok."
Me, waiting for the readout: "I can go home and get completely blind now, right?"
"Yeah, just get out of your car first."
For the record, this is eight thirty on a Wednesday night. And I didn't even get one glass away from stone sober. I probably should have.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Cat empire plays prince of wales for a fool

Burma may be developing nuclear armaments. Apparently our government is calling upon the Burmese government to be transparent and abide by the nuclear anti-proliferation treaty they've apparently signed. Listening to parliament radio is a singularly comic and depressing experience, alleviated only by the furious intervention of "Order!" and "Your time's expired!".

We are a highly incoherent nation. My mother once counted the number of times my father said "Um," in a five-minute phone conversation (something like 87 times), but I think he could give our politicians a decent run for their money. (Their money? Sorry, I meant our misspent taxpayer dollars.)

Tonight we're en route to The Cat Empire's debut of their four-week residency at The Prince of Wales in St. Kilda. Back in yr 12 the bass (and double bass) player and I happily harassed each other in an underpeopled music performance class. Being the only two string players, we felt ourselves superior to the drummer, pianist, saxophonist and vocalist who slouched around us as our teacher (who'd majored in lute at university -LUTE!!!) droned on about perfect and plagal cadences and degrees of inversion.

I'm sure Ryan's found the niceties of music theory terribly invaluable in his subsequent career; identifying specific key modulation and chord inversions is crucial to the melodic trajectory of a good improvisation. (pffft)

There's music, and there's music, and all the theory in the world is going to be utterly useless unless you can PLAY your damn instrument... And the only way to do that is to immerse self in environment and play. Wow. Somehow this became a rant. I hope you're all feeling convinced. And if you're in Melbourne in the next few weeks, go to one of The Cat Empire's gigs.

Actually, read tomorrow's post for confirmation on that; it's been a while since we've heard them play. I will be devastated if they're crap; our first date was the launch for their first single ("Hello") and he crowd shot from that gig is the liner for their first album, so yeah, nice first date commemoration.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Happy day...

Go T! Congratulations to one of my students; she played her way to a scholarship/music bursary thingy at a local college today and I couldn't be happier for her. She is not a child to whom violin comes easily, but works damn hard and has seen the results of her consistency over the last few months pay off. I've worked with this (nearly teen!)kid for six years, and her parents have been behind her all the way. Actually, not so much behind as beside, in front of, beneath... all the things they should be.

J's at a scholarship interview this afternoon; hopefully he goes well. His presumptive secondary school usually gives scholarships to singers, so a (mostly classical)violinist may be too wacky for them... but we'll see.

Today's been a good day. Three sleeps till our concert and I'm actually not losing sleep over anyone flunking their solo or bursting into tears. They're well prepared and mostly seem to appreciate the improvement they've made by focusing practice on an already-mastered piece and taking it up through different skill levels. And I haven't been at all surprised by the parents/children who have chosen to make that effort!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

How can one day last so long?

You know those days that seem to go on, and on, and on and on...endlessly. Just when you think "Hey, this is it! I'm all done!" nope. Reality comes crashing in, boots hobnailed on the outside (you know, the pointy ends of the nails sticking outward, instead of in. Hang on, then wouldn't the boots fall apart? Shut up, logical brain. You're getting in the way of a good decent kinda crappy metaphor.).

Anywho, it's been ONE OF THOSE DAYS. For everyone, it seems. My esteemed colleagues on facebook have lost their mojo, Suzukisinger's fighting a valiant battle against a nearly-two-year-old who's decided daytime sleeps are for chumps, hubs is sounding more like a beached seal and less like an IT boy, and my day has simply drifted on and on and on and on. I feel like the top layer of my skin is missing in action. Just when I thought it was done, the dvds I handed out tonight? May or may not work. Just to be safe, I'm reburning them all.

Even this awesome person who blogs very intelligently about parenting was having an off day. But her blog is the cool. I feel like I get smarter every time I read a post. Visit her.

The high point of my day occurred at 9.50a.m., when E. (4) played the first phrase of Lightly Row with beautiful, independently placed fingers (which I honestly wasn't anticipating for another two weeks). I told his mom so and had the pleasure of seeing her face absolutely light up. They've come to three group lessons in the last three weeks and E. has learned so much from the older kids. It's also a great way to evaluate how far he's come; his ability to focus on a teacher/activity and let distractions go is much higher than at the start of the year - even noticeably different to last term. Very cool to see.

That's where I'm stopping, before I get started complaining again.

No! Another good (and funny thing): (older) siblings in a family asking if they can join in at our Saturday concert and play Twinkles on violin too. They're not violin students at all, but I like the idea that they want to join in and be part of it :) Of course I said yes. I'm really looking forward to it.

Oh, and here's the condensed milk recipe. Makes about two tins' worth.

Place 1.5 cups (280g) sugar in bowl.
Add 2 cups (200g) milk powder and mix.
Add 3tbsp MELTED butter
pour over 1 cup HOT water and mix (blender or hand, doesn't matter)

Keep refrigerated for up to one week. (May need a little gentle heating before use if you store it like this in case sugar crystallises.) Happy cookie-baking!

Monday, September 7, 2009

happy condensed milk love.

I just learned how to make condensed milk. Oh my goodness. Suddenly, those cookies I couldn't make because I had no condensed milk? GUESS WHAT. Actually, since returning from my uncharacteristic excursion to work today and my afternoon shift, I've been very domestic goddessy. Not only did I cook risotto using stock form scratch and rosemary-roasted potatoes... I then washed up after myself and have finished off with a strawberry and pear crumble which is browning nicely even now.

Some days I frighten myself a little. Good thing we can eat leftovers tomorrow and hubs can cook Wednesday night.

Sadly, I think one of my families is going to move to America at the end of the year. They're going to be a seed mission, or start a church. This couple presided over our wedding vows and I've taught their middle daughter for... six? years. Fantasically, they want me to find them a Suzuki teacher in Charlotte. Less fantastically, they're moving to America.

On a very selfish note, we've just conquered the first half of Book 4 and J. is playing really beautifully. She's put in so much work on her own initiative in the last few months and I'm sure we will hit the end of Book 4 and the big scary Bach D Minor before the end of this year. It's a mega bummer losing a kid like that, because her lessons are really a pleasure, and we've had our rocky "I can't do it!" patches.

Lately her attitude has matured and she's begun to realise the heights of her capabilities.
Hopefully the wonderfulness that is my teaching will get me headhunted to teach workshops in US and we'll see each other again in the not-too-far-off future. For now I guess we just do what we can do until they move.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

recovery Sunday.

Days when you don't have to get up are the best.

Days when you wake up with the bed all to yourself and the hum of a whipper-snipper in the backyard are even better. Because then you can reach for a book (finished Middlesex yesterday, now rereading The Wonder Spot) and eat chocolate while reading in bed. Oh yeah. I think I was in the shower around... noonish? (Don't hate me, I'm usually very good.)
Last night we spontaneously wandered down the peninsula to a dance. If I make it to my fiftieth still dancing, I will not wear halter-necked polka-dot dresses with full swing skirts and ankle socks with flat shoes. NEVER. K and I decided that the worst thing your loving partner/friend/keeper can do is say "Honey, that looks beautiful! No-one would ever notice the two-inch overhang ALL AROUND YOUR DRESS."
If they really love you, they will gently suggest something more stretchy and a shopping trip the next day.
Verandahs are for houses, people. Do not aspire to become a house.
Curves = damn sexy. Curves bisected and tortured and generally distorted by badly-cut fifties' repros are not da bomb.
Right now I'm thinking I should slip into something a little more comfortable restricting and head on down to a slightly different Sunday gig for a bit more dancing. Exercise is definitely against my religion (like paying for parking) but dancing is incidental exercise. Entirely doesn't count. The lovely hubs, while acquitting himself with some serious panache and flair last night, is going to hit his geek metier (Magic cards) and then we'll all regroup for dinner. I can't quite come to terms with the idea of going to work tomorrow (I usually work at home Monday mornings). Driving an hour is not appealing. However,  driving fifteen minutes to dance? Very doable.