Dr. N.A.N.'s Blog

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

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Spring has Sprung!

And, thank goodness for that!  I love the wild flowers that bloom during the spring in south Texas. I smile every time I drive by a carpet of bluebonnets or Indian paintbrush or pink mallow.

Sometime last fall, I discovered that I really liked some of the student repertoire I was teaching. So I decided to learn it and showcase “my” discoveries by videotaping some informal performances of it and including some brief pedagogical narration about the compositions. These videos also give me a chance to feature my beautiful studio and German Steinway concert grand located in Bulverde, TexasIMG_0870 (1)

The first two pieces I recorded are from Accent on Classical, a compilation of early to mid-intermediate works by William Gillock.  To me, the two most charming pieces from this collection are “Homage to Chopin” and “Capriccietto”. The “Homage to Chopin” has a whimsical quality that encourages the student to explore and develop tempo rubato.  This piece is also a wonderful vehicle for the young student to develop an una corda pedal technique, beyond just pushing the left pedal down for measures at a time. In “Capriccietto”, Gillock writes what I would describe as intermittent pedaling which does require some foot dexterity to avoid dirty pedaling. There is also an eight-measure passage where the student can make a crescendo and an accelerando–I have yet to meet a kid who doesn’t like to play loud and fast!

I remember when I was growing up, William Gillock’s music was all the rage amongst private piano teachers. As I got older and started to develop my own musical taste, I remember thinking that Gillock’s music was somewhat juvenile and why would I want to teach it, let alone play it???? My, how things have changed.

I hope you enjoy this little video. I look forward to making more of them!

P.S. July 1st, 2017 will mark the 100th anniversary of William Gillock’s birth.

Only a Musician

could appreciate this:

 

Last Friday, I was walking Carl Spencer around the neighborhood like I always do and we came across a garage sale. I immediately stopped and started  poking through the clutter. I didn’t see anything interesting so I decided to continue walking. But then, something caught my eye. Leaning against the garage was a double-length Manhasset Music Stand for $3.00!  To think I was the first person to recognize this amazing ganz medsea — WOW! I quickly handed over the $3 and whisked away my purchase. Now when friends come over to rehearse and make music, the floor doesn’t have to be littered with music! photo (9)

Vocabulary

In musical vocabulary, words such as forte, piano, subito, diminuendo, ritardando, etc. are common, everyday words. To me, those words are important because they describe in simple terms, how to play a passage. But do they actually describe the character of the music?  Words like coquettish, menacing and joyful are much more effective at sparking students’ inspiration. How about fragile? Or despondent? Another favorite of mine is ominous. Hmmm, I also really like fierce. And caress. Now, how do you define the word caress to a 10-year old?

 photo (6)

Practicing: A Family Affair

This is a very short article I wrote for the Armstrong Community Music School website. Parents of music students can look at my suggestions from several different angles. Many of my friends know what angle I would be interested in!!!Image

How can I help my child to maximize the benefits of music lessons?

In my many years of teaching, I have come to recognize several important facts. Probably the most significant one is that children whose parents take an active role in their practice sessions at home come to their lessons better prepared and more eager to learn than those children whose parents don’t offer some at-home supervision.
Typically, when a student is well-prepared for his/her lesson, they are excited about coming to their piano lesson and eager to share with me what musical accomplishment they have made in the past week. (Some even work ahead of the material I have assigned.)  These students have parents who sit with them regularly to review lesson materials, ask and answer questions, and make sure that written assignments are completed. I think this kind of gentle assistance develops confidence and a feeling of well-being in a young child. Music lessons should be viewed as fun, not as a chore. Even when a parent doesn’t have any formal musical training, they can inquire about their child’s lesson, review the given assignments and encourage their child to practice every day.
For me, parent participation in daily practicing is a win-win. The child will certainly notice improvement, I can spend lesson time on new material instead of reviewing old information and as a bonus, the parent can know that he or she is getting his or her money’s worth!

 

The Narboni/Cole TNR program

100_0537As many of you probably know, I am an animal lover, particularly cats. I have been involved in some form of cat rescue for many years. When I moved to San Antonio, I was dismayed to find an overwhelming population of stray and feral cats in my neighborhood. So, I decided (along with my S.O. Heath Cole) to start our own TNR or Trap-Neuter-Release program. San Antonio is very fortunate to have many low-cost options for spaying and neutering including the San Antonio Humane Society. Their services are VERY reasonable and the process is uncomplicated. Drop-off kitty in trap in the early morning, pick-up after 4:30pm the same day.

So far we have trapped 3 cats–one male and two females. We decided to name the male Snoopy because it was his snoopiness that got him into trouble (aka the trap). After he was neutered and ear-tipped (international symbol of altered feral cat) , we re-released him into the neighborhood. Then we trapped Little Miss Muffett who had been hanging around the house every evening, asking for food. It took us weeks to trap her because she was very trap-savvy. We would set the trap and she would carefully stick her long neck into the chute, grab food and step back out, all the while avoiding the trigger. One night, she got a little cavalier and caught herself in the trap. Turns out when the veterinarian shaved her belly in preparation for the spay, she discovered a spay scar! Thus, we re-released Little Miss Muffett to the backyard, knowing that she could live a relatively safe and kitten-free life in our neighborhood. She continues to come to the back door every night in anticipation of dinner.

Our most recent score is a female named Little Miss Penny P. She had been living underneath the building of the Crossroads BBQ restaurant and I had spotted her several times while Heath and his band (The Coup Deville’s) gigged there on Wednesdays and Saturdays. We set a trap on a Sunday night while the restaurant was closed in hopes that she would be willing to come out while it was quiet. While we sat in the car about 100 feet away (Heath played Angry Birds and I read a book), she eventually crawled out from underneath the restaurant and immediately discovered the food. Eventually, she got into the trap and the rest is history. We will re-release her into our neighborhood once she has acclimated to our area.

Onto the next feral feline… Read the rest of this entry »

Go west about 1500 miles and turn right

I have always wanted to visit Alaska but I could never justify a trip somewhere during which  I wasn’t playing the piano or teaching someone else how to play.  But then my parents announced that they would like to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary by taking the whole family on a private cruise through the inland waters of Alaska. We all jumped at the chance to visit the land of bears, eagles and whales.

I didn’t know what to expect–was this going to be endless days on a boat looking out the window but not really experiencing nature Alaska-style? I was also worried about becoming seasick. I have always avoided boats because I am so prone to it. Ugh.  Well, the first day on the boat, I discovered the  non-drowsy formula for dramamine and that solved my problems.  (Actually, it worked so well, I ate everything in sight!)

During this trip, we were treated to first class cuisine (thank you Chef Stef), kayaking trips to deserted islands, hiking through old growth forests and non-stop eagle and whale watching. I particularly enjoyed focusing my binoculars on land  near the water’s edge (usually at dusk) when bears were more likely to come out and forage.

I would fly at the chance to go again…

My favorite time of the year

Actually, summer is my favorite time of the year but this spring has certainly been wonderful. Several weeks after returning from my two week sojourn to Texas and Colorado, I now have some perspective on this trip. It was a really nice work vacation–I performed and taught and still had time to relax, admire the bluebonnets on many of my walks, eat a lot of sushi (and of course La Fogata hot sauce) and spend time with my parents.

I look forward to playing many more recitals in south Texas (including Christ Church and First Presbyterian Church) and even in Vail, Colorado at the Vail Interfaith Chapel.

I also enjoyed spending time with my sister while exploring Vail and Grand Junction.  Thanks to her job, she has amassed some amazing stories about life on the western slope of Colorado.

Back in Lincoln, I have returned to my practicing workbench. And when I’m not practicing, I’m probably planting, mowing, sewing, baking, teaching or dreaming…