Dr. N.A.N.'s Blog

News, views, and how the world skews from San Antonio, Texas

Archive for October, 2008

Spaghettification and other buckyball-like discoveries

My stalwart road manager having a moment...

My stalwart road manager having a moment...

When I submitted my application for the Layman Fund Grant, I included in my project description a list of benefits that could come of “Piano-in-Tow”.  This list included blogging, media coverage and the possibility of an interview with a stray dog.  Well, I didn’t meet any stray dogs during the tour but I did meet some wonderful folk that I would like to mention.  The first person is Heath.

Heath and Penny hawking "Piano-in-Tow" memorabiliaHeath and Penny hawking “Piano-in-Tow” memorabilia

He was the muscle behind Dietz’s Music House piano moving services.  A little background–Heath is a musician by trade who loves cats, physics, books and is currently building a car in his living room.  Heath provided a great deal of comic relief throughout the tour including teaching us about spaghettification.  Who would have thunk?

Then there was Paul H. and his wife Lori and their children–they were the main organizers of my presentations in both Petersburg and Albion and all of them contributed to a very well-organized event.  I will not forget their hospitality nor their enthusiastic commitment to the arts!

And then there is Janet R.

Janet and me

Janet and me

who has been studying with me for over 10 years, driving the 100+ miles from Albion to Lincoln once-a-month.  She met us at Boone Central Middle School in Petersburg (12 miles north of Albion) to attend “PiT” and introduced me to the students.  Her introduction included little-known facts about me such as my love for cats, cycling and reading!  Janet’s words meant a great deal to me.

This is what "Piano-in-Tow" is all about.

This is what it's all about.

Last but not least there were the kids.  Wow!

Students at Columbus Middle School

Students at Columbus Middle School

So many of them enthusiastic about the piano, the music and me.  Two questions they asked at every stop (and sometimes more than once at each stop!) were–“How many hours a day do you practice?”  And, the ubiquitous question, “How old are you?”  I narrowly skirted this last one…


More students at Columbus Middle School

Finally back home where the follow-up details never seem to end.  And, then of course, there is the spring “Piano-in-Tow” tour to start planning.  Sigh.

One of my best moments...

One of my best moments...

If it’s Wednesday, this must be Beatrice

Having had a couple of days to reflect on my performances at the Hevelone Performing Arts Center at the Beatrice High School, I’ve come to the following conclusion:  10th-12th graders are a challenging audience with whom to connect but there is still hope for the future of classical music.  After my performance for band members and other interested parties, I invited students to come up and take a closer look at the piano.

What it's all about...

What it's all about

I was approached by a young man who started asking me questions.  I was immediately impressed with his ability to articulate his thoughts.  I was also impressed with his awareness of the world around him.  I think this young man’s future is bright and I know now that there will be at least one supporter of the arts in the future!

My evening performance at the Hevelone Center was well-attended, mostly by community members.   They were an enthusiastic crowd, perhaps because the first entry on their iPod wasn’t NineInchNails?  Following the performance, I spoke with several people, all of whom were musicians.  I was honored that they shared their personal stories with me–one of the many reasons public performance is so important to me.

Havin' fun...

Havin' fun

I get to meet interesting people from all walks of life whose experiences are fascinating and even touching.  Kind of like a “small eye on America”!

This “Piano-in-Tow” double presentation received a nice write-up in the Beatrice Daily Sun.

And finally, in Penny’s and my never-ending quest for a good cup of Joe, we discovered a nice coffee shop near downtown Beatrice!

It it’s Monday, it will be Columbus Middle School in Columbus, Nebraska.

Do you have any extra energy I can borrow?

Boy, am I’m pooped.  First, Rafaella insisted on waking me up at 6a.m. because she wanted to crawl under the sheets and she always asks by repeatedly tapping me with her paw.  I eventually got out of bed because I knew sleep wouldn’t be forthcoming until tonight…

A piano needs at least 3 legs to remain upright...

A piano needs at least 3 legs to remain upright...

Fast forward to 10a.m. and Penny and I are standing outside of my studio watching the piano movers making quick business out of disassembling my Yamaha in preparation for its trip to Schuyler, Nebraska.  It took some time to convince the movers that the piano had to go on the elevator without a piano board because it won’t fit any other way.  We’re finally on the road around 11:15.  We arrive at Schuyler Grade School just as lunch is being served.  (They didn’t offer us any…)

Ready to go...

Ready to go...

Fast forward to 1:30pm and the piano is upright in the school gymnasium, the speakers are setup, the risers are in place and I’m just waiting for the first bunch of kids to arrive.

Hi! My name is Dr NAN.

Hi! My name is Dr NAN.

They start to show up at 2pm and I start engaging them in conversation, hoping to make a connection with some of them so that they will stay focused on my presentation.  (I think I was somewhat successful!)  My presentation begins and they are active participants, clapping after every piece as well as asking lots of questions.  The microphone that I was given chose to work only intermittently so Penny kept handing me a different one until we found one that worked.

Playing the piano is the easy part...

Playing the piano is the easy part...

At one point during the show, a little girl asked me why I tapped my foot during Jam! I explained that I thought the empty measure needed something.  Somehow, the kids took that to mean they could all bang their feet on the risers so we had about 70 kids tapping their feet at the same time.  Mix that in a gymnasium and you can only imagine the noise.  After the show, I invited students to come look at the piano and they literally descended on the instrument and me.  They were poking around, playing notes, looking inside and causing general mayhem.  This moment might have bothered their teachers but I loved it.  I felt like the Pied Piper.  It was great to be surrounded by so much positive energy.  As the children were filing out, we handed each one of them a “PiT” temporary tattoo.  The tattoos will probably end up everywhere but on their arms…

Before I realized it, the gym was empty, the piano was already on the truck and it was just me and Penny, reliving the past hour.

Me and my wonderful road manager

Me and my wonderful road manager

I offered to find some good coffee for P but we couldn’t find anything resembling a coffee house so had to settle for a convenience store.  We got back on the road and drove through a torrential downpour to Lincoln.  As soon as I got home, I took a nap.  Whew–keeping up with 6th graders isn’t easy!

On the eve

If my watch is correct, 19 hours from now I will be in the middle of my first presentation of “Piano-in-Tow“. I have been preparing for these two weeks for the past 6 months.  I can’t believe it’s almost here.  The car is packed, the movers are scheduled, the “Piano-in-Tow” t-shirts are folded, my notes are printed and hopefully, my fingers are ready to move.  Now all I have to do is get there.  Thankfully, Penny will be by my side the entire time.  As I have mentioned in this column before, Penny is my steadfast friend and road manager!

As part of the continuing promotion of “PiT”, William Stibor (NET-Radio, host of Friday Live) interviewed me on Friday.  As always, he made me laugh and hopefully, I convinced a few more folks on the importance of “Piano-in-Tow”.  I have another interview on KFOR-1240 (a local AM station ) next Thursday morning.  I’ve been told they have an electric piano in the studio so I might share with their listeners my rendition of “Turkey in the Straw”.  (That is if the keyboard

What were you saying about me????

What were you saying about me????

has enough notes on it!)

I would like to give special thanks to another person who has been instrumental in my successful promotion of “PiT”.  His name is Mike and he is on the staff at the School of Music.  He was the cameraperson for the attached photos.  (When Mike isn’t hard at work for the school, he can be found drawing cartoons, cariactures and various other funny things…)

I’ll be checking in on this blogsite tomorrow after my first go.  Stay tuned for some memorable experiences!

Tow it and they will come

Gino, another "PiT" convert

Another "PiT" convert

I don’t remember what 8 hours of sleep feels like anymore.  “Why?” you ask?  It’s called “Piano-in-Tow“.  I have spent more time on the phone, writing emails, practicing, making lists and whatever else I can think of in preparation for “PiT”.   In10 days, 1hour, 57 minutes and 1 second Penny (my trusted adviser, road manager and confidante) and I will hit the road.  First stop, Schuyler, NE where a group of 6th graders will be anticipating my arrival with a large grand piano.

Penny and I spent some time today decorating the backside of cardboard that will support my music–a couple of girls with magic markers, a box cutter, several feline assistants and lots of coffee.  A potentially very scary scene.

Then there is my father who comes into my parents’ kitchen yesterday sporting a “Piano-in-Tow” t-shirt.  May I say adorable?

I am going to play a run-through for a handful of piano students at UNL next Thursday.  It will be much easier to keep their attention than a roomful of teenagers…

I finally cleaned the grime off of the Yamaha’s keys today.  At least 10 years’ worth of it…

So, everyone, keep your fingers crossed that I don’t break a piano string between here and Petersburg, NE…

Penny and Rafaella working together on "PiT"

Penny and Rafaella working together on "PiT"