Dr. N.A.N.'s Blog

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

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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

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!

Anatomy of a collaborative experience

Craig backstage of Kimball Recital Hall and one of his 3 (!) tubas.

Craig backstage of Kimball Recital Hall and one of his 3 (!) tubas.

Besides the leaves turning and the temperature dropping, fall always means a tuba recital.  Craig Fuller and I have been playing together since I arrived at UNL in 1995.  Craig is part of the low brass faculty at the School of Music where he teaches euphonium and tuba. I remember the first time we played together–the director at the time sent me an email telling me that Craig was looking for a collaborative pianist and would I please step up to the job.  I remember being annoyed because I didn’t want to play for a TUBA player.  I was hoping to collaborate with a visiting bassoon player who had a big reputation coming from an important music school on the east coast.  Alas, I was not given that assignment but instead was told to play with Craig.

Well, that was 14 years ago and Craig and I have played at least one recital every year with few exceptions. We have covered the tuba repertoire as well as many pieces that Craig “borrowed” from other genres.  He has lifted French horn repertoire, voice repertoire (Brahms, Beethoven–An die ferne Geliebte, Schumann, Wagner), oboe music, Bach viola da gamba sonatas–you name it, we have probably either played it or at least considered playing it!  What’s amazing about Craig is that when he plays the tuba, it doesn’t sound like a tuba.  Well, I guess it always sounds like a tuba but he can play with the speed and accuracy and lightness one would expect from a flute.  This man can even execute trills on the tuba!

Last night, Craig and I played yet another recital at Kimball Recital Hall.  Click here

Craig Fuller - Tuba Recital

Craig Fuller - Tuba Recital

for a blow-up of the program. After it was done, Craig made a very wise observation.  He said that as much fun as it is for us to perform together, our rehearsals are even more fun.  I have to agree with him.  Our rehearsals are often filled with laughter, gossip and silliness.  And, we have an understanding–Craig always brings the coffee and chocolate.  No rehearsal is complete without these two things.

For the next several weeks, I know I’ll keep checking my calendar looking for my rehearsal schedule with Craig only to be disappointed because the fun has come to an end.  Of course, until next year…

Amy, my student and expert page turner

Amy, my student and expert page turner

A Best Friend

Most all of us have had at least one best friend.  I know I certainly have had several .  But, there is only  one friend I have had through the years that has seen me through more life experiences (and stood by me through those experiences) than any other person.  Her name is Penny.  I first met Penny when I joined a local health club because I was in desperate need of exercise and knew the only way I was going to get it was to pay for it.  (Guilt can be a tremendous motivator.)  I naively signed up for Penny’s spinning class thinking to myself, “How hard can it be to ride a stationary bike?”  Whoa.  Little did I know how challenging spinning could be and then to add Penny to the mix only magnified the difficulty by 10x.  Although that first class was very humbling, I knew I wanted more.  So, I signed up for Penny’s classes as often as I could, knowing that Penny’s way was the only way. It wasn’t long after I started spinning that I approached her about riding outside.  She kindly agreed and our first ride was a 24 mile trek on crushed limestone from Lincoln to Eagle.  (For those of you familiar with the extensive trail system in Lincoln, NE, we rode the MoPac trail.)

Standard issue: double latte in a "to-go" cup

Fast forward ten years later and thousands of cycling miles behind us, Penny and I are still riding, laughing, drinking coffee and yakking it up.  Sometimes, Penny can make me laugh so hard that I cry.  Frequently, in the late evening, I’ll find her logged on and we’ll start iming about the day’s activities.   It is almost inevitable that our “conversation” will digress and Penny will have me howling.  It is for this reason that I have asked Penny to be my road manager for “Piano-in-Tow“.  I know she would be fantastic at engaging the students and keeping me in line.  Now all I have to do is convince her to say yes!

P.S.  I have also been pestering Penny to write a guest post for this blog.  So, stay tuned…