Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Allergic Fiddler

I may or may not have mentioned this before, but I grew up in the Midwest. Apparently, there is some plant or plants here in New England that we don't have there (I mean, obviously), because I now have allergies.

So a warm winter = early pollination = happy trees and miserable Fiddler. When my choices are busking in the Public Garden (trees! plants! allergens!) or the subway (soot! decibels! lack of oxygen!), I'm staying home and feeling sorry for myself today.

Although I did have a lovely busk earlier this week, so that was good.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

In what other profession...

This article, while it mostly concerns public school classroom teachers, really highlights what teachers have to deal with every day. I still don't understand why teachers are so undervalued in our society. As far as I'm concerned, a good, broadly based education is the answer to almost every societal problem I can think of.

(Of course, your definition of "societal problem" and mine might vary.)

And of course, education doesn't begin and end in the classroom, and I have plenty of issues with certain aspects of American schooling, but really. Support good teachers.

Monday, February 06, 2012

Quote(s) of the Rehearsal(s)

Quote #1: Conductor (speaking in third person): The conductor became disengaged and started beating in 4/4 (in a 5/4 passage). Lots of luck!

Quote #2: Different conductor of a different group, while rehearsing the second movement of Tchaikovsky's Sixth Symphony: At this point, the beautiful music stops and EVERYTHING IS TERRIBLE FOREVER.

Quote of the day

A ten-year-old (not particularly quirky) student: I have learned to always keep a Sharpie in my shoe.

I may have said this before...

...but I think it bears repeating.

As much as I love teaching quirky kids, and I do, parents, please, if your child has a diagnosis, or even just an unusual learning style, it's really really helpful for me to know that up front. I've gotten terribly impatient with past students who I thought were just not listening or not practicing, while in retrospect, I now think they probably had learning disabilities of some sort. If I know that, I can work with them better, and it eases the frustration level of everybody involved.

I understand that parents don't want their children judged by labels, and I suppose there's no way for a parent to know that I don't do that, but there's a world of difference between "typical kid behaving badly" and, say, "kid with Asperger's Syndrome getting overwhelmed."

Music can give your quirky child a way to fit into a group. Trust me on this one, I was (OK, am) quirky myself. But let me help them and help you help them by giving me the information I need to make lessons enjoyable for all of us.

Thank you.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Concert THIS Friday, 1/27/12

I have been remiss in posting and especially in publicizing upcoming Fiddler-related events:

This Friday, January 27 at 7:30 PM at Christ Church Unity in Brookline, MA, the Fusion String Ensemble will be performing our Winter Warmer concert. (Not that this winter needs all that much warming, but I digress.)

We'll be playing works by Mozart, Mahler, Mascagni, Vivaldi and Hsu. We ask a voluntary contribution of $8 at the door (which is truly voluntary); all proceeds go straight back to the group for future endeavors.

Here's the flyer, at Fusion's blog.

First-world problem

One of my adult students had this to say the other day: "I need a new phone; the keyboard just doesn't work as well as it used to. *pause* That's right, I'm annoyed that my phone, WHICH TALKS TO SPACE, isn't at its best. Could there BE a more first-world problem?"

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Red Line announcement

"South Station, bus connections, out-of-state bus connections, Commuter Rail, Amtrak, all that good stuff."

Don't call me a cab

Just watched two people trying to give a cab directions to its fare's destination.

Why oh why 1) aren't cabbies required to demonstrate a basic working knowledge of Boston/Brookline/Cambridge/Somerville/Newton, or failing that, 2) isn't every cab equipped with a GPS?

The only cab company I've consistently been happy with is Veterans Taxi in Newton. They're dependable, polite, reliably take credit cards and each cab has a GPS, in sight of the passenger.

(Well, there was that one time the driver was listening to conservative talk radio, and the host said that nobody had ever died from a lack of access to health care, but the transportation itself was fine.)

Sometime when I'm at a computer, maybe I'll post my recent Bay State Cab experience. It was not a positive one.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Teaching without doing?

This short blog post on a software blog points to this longer post on whether it's possible to truly be an effective teacher in a subject with which one has little current practical experience. Although the post ends up having to do with math teachers, the author specifically cites his own piano teacher, who spent his days and nights playing piano, as well as a number of other teachers who live the subject they teach.

In my philosophy, teaching music goes beyond teaching my students the mechanics of playing the instrument. I'm not even referring to the nebulous concept of "musicianship" here, because so much of that comes from simply growing up, but the experience of being a musician.

Through being a musician, I've learned enormous amounts about how to behave professionally, that there comes a point where merely competent but reliable musicians get hired more often than exceptionally talented but flaky one, that you don't badmouth your colleagues, teachers, students, students' parents, venues, wedding planners, conductors, etc.*, that you don't get gigs if you don't call people back, and so much more, all of which is equally applicable to life outside music.

No, I'm not going to try to explain all this to the six-year-old who's struggling through Go Tell Aunt Rhody, but I am going to show them how to take care of their things, explain why they should listen to their teacher and parent, disallow any teasing in my group classes and give them enough responsibility that it's noticed when they don't practice or show up for lessons.

So while I think it's a bad idea to try to teach an instrument you've never played (and I mean, never even touched), I also think it does your students a disservice if you've never been a working musician on any level, and this idea, too, is applicable to any field.

*Badmouthing is not the same as venting. Venting is fine, as long as you're careful about to whom you choose to vent.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Happy New Year!

May 2012 bring you blessings beyond your wildest dreams. For me, I hope for more busking, more teaching, more music and more joy. Enjoy this from Cherish the Ladies!