Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas

It may not be my own faith tradition, but this is a lovely poem and there's a lovely setting by Gustav Holst.

In the Bleak Midwinter
Christina Rosetti

In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,
In the bleak midwinter, long ago.

Our God, heaven cannot hold him, nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away when he comes to reign.
In the bleak midwinter a stable place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ.

Angels and archangels may have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim thronged the air;
But his mother only, in her maiden bliss,
Worshiped the beloved with a kiss.

What can I give him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;
Yet what I can I give him: give my heart.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Holiday Gift Guide

So there's really no way for me to let my families know what I'm about to write without looking like I'm asking for gifts, and I'm absolutely not. Also, it's probably far too late to be considering this now, since Chanukah is over, and Christmas is a week away, but I'm writing this now for future reference.


Should you or your child have a music/art/reading/whatever tutor, and should you wish to give him or her a holiday gift 'round about now, here's one teacher's opinion.

1) You really honestly don't have to get me anything. The best gift of all is a student who practices and is attentive and respectful in lessons. Although, should you be the parent a non-attentive, only-occasionally-respectful, rarely-practicing student, I am still fond of your child, else he or she wouldn't be in my studio anymore.

2) The things teachers will keep forever are handwritten notes/letters/cards/drawings from your child. I have a box dedicated to such things. Photos of the student are also a plus.

3) Gift cards/certificates are also highly appreciated. I have one family who generally gives me a gift certificate to a local music store and a couple others who give me gift certificates to a local bookstore, and really, you can't go wrong giving any teacher a bookstore certificate.

Although if this trend keeps up, I'm going to need a gift certificate to IKEA for more bookshelves.

4) Food is also welcome, although I'm picky about certain candies and such, but if I happen to get something I don't care for, it will go in the break room and many other starving musician teachers will be equally grateful.

5) Knickknacks/jewelry/clothing accessories: I'm grateful for any token of esteem, but these are risky. Examples will not be forthcoming, because I would hate to hurt anyone's feelings.

Now, all this said, should you happen to be aware that the teacher in question...enjoys the occasional glass of wine/brandy/rum/grain alcohol (I was going to say just "drinks", but that has connotations I think I'd prefer to avoid), a bottle of cheer is very highly appreciated, if that's within your comfort zone.

Merry Giftmas to all, and to all a good night!

The snow lay on the ground...

The snow was rather lovely, really, and I took yesterday as a snow day, but I had to dig out the car this morning, and now I don't want to do anything...except I didn't see my Monday students last week, and I won't see them next week, and I really do make an effort to be a responsible teacher. Mostly. I'm sure I'll feel better once I get going.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Fit to burst

I'm so proud of my students who just had their first solo recital today. They ranged in age from 4 to 8, and with one exception who just was too nervous and shy to play (and that was totally OK), they all got up and played their pieces with confidence and seemed completely comfortable on stage. And they all made friends with each other in the process, which was my secondary goal.

Also, there were cookies.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

more student entertainment

Different 8-year-0ld student: When I was little, I went skiing, and I fell down. And someone who was learning how to snowboard ran over me. Then someone else ran over me. Then one of my skis came off. Then my other ski went down the hill by itself.

His mom: And yet, he still likes to ski.

(I love any story that starts with "when I was little" when the kid's age is still in the single digits.)

Thursday, December 03, 2009

I love my students

So the mom of one of my students was telling me that the recorder teacher at his school yelled at someone in the class the other day.

My eight-year-old student told his mother this and said, "Yelling is the opposite of music."

I'm keeping that thought close.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Those crazy...crazies...

So Westboro Baptist, Fred Phelps' know, the God Hates Everybody But Us And We'll Make Sure You Know About It people (to whom I refuse to provide a link) in town again, and since picketing gay people and soldiers isn't getting them attention anymore, they've turned their attention to the Jewish community.

I will link to Chris Mason's Phelps-A-Thon site, because his idea of turning the pickets into fundraisers for whatever they're picketing is brilliant.

So yesterday, they picketed several places in Boston; the only one I could get to was their picket of the Jewish Advocate office downtown. There were about 10 of them to start, which went down to four, two of whom were young boys.* So I rosined up my bow and played my fiddle hard, 'cause hell's broke loose in Boston and the devil carries placards.

I played all the Jewish music I could think of, including Chanukah music and selections from Fiddler on the Roof; they were out there long enough that I had to repeat myself a few times, and I was shivering and couldn't feel my fingers by the end, and I doubt I disrupted them in any way, but it was worth it. I took Chris's idea and put a sign in my case stating that proceeds would go to Mazon: A Jewish Response to Hunger. I think I made about $20 for Mazon. I should send WBC a thank-you note, like Chris does for the Phelps-A-Thons.

They'll be picketing the Cathedral of the Holy Cross starting in about 10 minutes. I thought about going out there too, except it's colder now than it was at 1:30 yesterday afternoon, and if I just go and listen to their rants, I'll get unnecessarily angry and won't be able to do anything productive with it. Also, I'm still in my pajamas.

*A note here: I think Fred Phelps is seriously mentally ill, and I think his daughter who's taken the role of leader is also mentally ill...even if she didn't start out that way, being raised in such an environment would warp anybody. I have compassion for them in the sense that living a life filled with so much pain must be so very difficult. I have no compassion, however, when it comes to their use of their children in these pickets.

Friday, November 27, 2009


So I thought this guy had tipped me a very crumpled $5, which was appreciated. (I mean, all tips are appreciated, but some tips are more appreciated than others.)

When I got home and uncrumpled it, I discovered it was a $50.


Heaven help us all

I'm about to get dressed and head out for some Black Friday busking.

It's almost 6:30 AM. The Dunkin' Donuts at the Cambridgeside Galleria has already been open for 3 hours.

Carrying the sentiments of yesterday forward, I'm thankful I don't work retail anymore.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Jamming for the Dead

I saw a guitarist busking next to the Granary Burying Ground today.

I don't know; for me, that crosses a line. I know that people aren't currently being buried there, but it still seems a bit disrespectful.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

More student stuff

One of the pieces in Suzuki Book 2 is "The Two Grenadiers" by Schumann.

One of my 8-year-old students took to calling it "The Two Granite Ears". Another kept calling it "The Three Grenadiers" by mistake (too much Dumas...or candy...); now he's calling it "The Three Minus One Grenadiers".

In other news, Meeska Mooska Mouseketeer! Mousecartoon Time now is here!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Check your algorithm

OK, so I just looked up the lyrics for "C is for Cookie", because I couldn't remember which other food "with a bite out of it looks like the letter C". The site pulled up the lyrics, which is right, the other songs from the "Sesame Street Platinum All-Time Favorites" album, which is right, and a list of other similar songs.

Which turns dreadfully wrong when you look and see that the second song is "Y'all Niggaz" by DMX (to which I will not link, as I want to keep this a basically family-friendly blog).

Upon reflection, I can see how it happened...gangsta rap and Sesame Street songs share characteristics of a fairly strict meter and rhyme scheme, simple harmonic structure, and repetition of key words or phrases, so they are quite structurally similar. However, in this situation, one might want to figure out a way to analyze for content.

Now I want to write my thesis on the comparision between Sesame Street songs and gangsta rap. I think that might not get approved.

Celebrity sighting! I think.

I swear I saw Cameron Diaz walking her dogs in the Public Garden yesterday. If it wasn't her, it sure looked like her...regular people don't have cheekbones like that. The only reason I'm not positive is because she was alone (except for a single photographer), and nobody was mobbing her, but then again, this is New England, and people tend to respect others' space.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

I love my students

In which I relate some of the things my students have said lately. I will give only their ages; if you happen to belong to one of these students (although I'm not aware that any of my families read this, one never knows on the Internet), please realize that I post in the spirit of love, never mockery. These are all different kids.

"This is going to take forMINUTES!" --age 4 (did not mean "four minutes", definitely meant "forminutes")

"I hate zippers. They get caught on everything. Once I zippered my skin. I don't even like sliding doors." --age 9 (after getting violin strings stuck in the zipper on the violin case; neither of us knows just how.)

Me: Try putting your second finger across from your thumb.
*long pause*
Student, age 8: Oh my God. I forgot what "across" means.

Me: What does this little dot here mean?
Student, age 8: Soft. Loud? Short-long-fluffy-ARGH!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

O Canada

I don't mind getting the occasional Canadian coin; I know they're basically the same size, shape and color as our coins, and they get mixed in a lot.

But I found about 12 Canadian coins all together in my case, which leads me to surmise that some Canadian reached into his or her pocket to tip me, and while I appreciate the thought, Canadian money still isn't legal tender in this country.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Things that make the Fiddler go Hmmm

A while ago, a couple was in the Public Garden having what I assume were pre-wedding photos taken, on account of the man was in a tux and the woman was in a gorgeous white dress with a red overlay and gold trim. I don't know fashion terms or I could probably be more specific.

They had their photographer take their picture with me, which while I find it flattering, I wonder why they want a stranger in their photos. I mean, I'm used to being a photo op, but not so much for a wedding.

Still, they looked very happy, and I'm always glad to be a part of a happy occasion.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

I know they're smart, but...

Busking in the Public Garden, saw two smallish dogs leashed to each other. I didn't know dogs could take each other on walks.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009


An older man walking past in the Public Garden stopped and told me, "I'm surprised they haven't made you quit yet."'s legal to busk in the Public Garden (although there are rules against having music at your wedding ceremony, but that's another story); I'm playing a fairly quiet instrument, and I'm not singing offensive lyrics. Or any lyrics. Why would "they" make me quit?

I wonder if it was sour grapes, but I didn't pursue the matter.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Little pitchers have big ears

There's a stage magician who has been setting up in the Public Garden across from the ducklings. I haven't had time to watch his act, but he seems popular.

The other day, he was between acts; I think he was setting up for the next round, so there were just a few kids and parents watching him. I'm not sure what happened, but he jumped back from his table and dropped the S-bomb in front of six or seven six- or seven-year-olds.

I don't consider myself particularly prudish, but it does seem that if one is gearing one's act towards small children, one should have an emergency backup supply of not-quite-swear words for such situations.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Overheard on the Common

Four middle-aged working-class Boston guys in a conversation.

One says, "Yeah, so you owe us two bucks from Friday. We only matched two numbers; we didn't get the ball, the whatsit ball...the crazy ball."

I shall now call Powerball, Crazyball. On the rare occasions on which I need to speak about Lotto at all.

Identify yourself

Yes, I do studio work and gigs; yes, I have a craigslist post to that effect.

However, if you're going to call me to do studio work for you, please leave a name and location, or you're just going to sound sketchy and I'm not going to call you back.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Boom bike

In my years busking in the Public Garden, I've learned to tune out all sorts of beeping horns, wailing sirens, cursing pedestrians and quacking Duck Boats.

Of course, there are also boom cars, which I usually notice peripherally while busking (I notice them far too often at every hour of the day and night on our street, but that's a different story). I heard what I assumed was a boom car, but it kept coming closer instead of continuing on. Suddenly a guy on a bicycle appeared; the bike had a boom box duct taped to the rack.

My first reaction was annoyance; this thing was super loud, and how dare he inflict his music on the rest of us?

My second reaction was a realization that I'm making part of my living inflicting my music on innocent passersby; do I really have the moral high ground in this situation?

My third reaction was yes. Yes, I do.

Friday, August 21, 2009

This was rather sweet

A young man tipped me with this poem he wrote, telling me I'd inspired him. I hope he doesn't mind my sharing it; I don't know his name. I took it upon myself to re-line-break some of it.

The Why of Art

Isn't it funny the nature of things
That one day can be a tragedy and on another
We may sing

Isn't it peculiar the things of nature
That it all works in perfect harmony
Disrupted only by malice of man

So I ask to you
What beauty is in intelligence
That it may ruin that which is devoid of computation

But in fact the beauty is in what we may create
For the nature of art, not unlike other things, is pure Beauty
But Art too is a thing of nature

So with our mind's eye we can create tragedy
Or shall we sing?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

A thousand apologies...

...for spending June complaining about how cold and rainy it was. On the other hand, the few people who brave the Public Garden in triple-digit-heat-index weather are very complimentary and tip well.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Human nature might not be so bad

This happened a while ago:

I was busking in the Public Garden, as is my wont, when a man nearby collapsed to the ground. Before I could dig out my phone to call 911, one or two other people already had. The guy was conscious and trying to get up, but he was clearly disoriented, so a couple of nice motherly types were insisting that he lie down and wait for the ambulance, while three or four others stood around to kind of protect him from being stepped on, since he was in the middle of the sidewalk near an entrance where there's a lot of foot traffic.

What particularly impressed me about this incident was that the man was the type who makes a living from the garbage bag of cans he was carrying when this happened, and all these people stopped to help him anyway and make sure he was OK.

The EMTs stashed the bag of cans in the shrubbery; I don't suppose taking it with them would have been practical.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Haiku for you

Sunny day to busk
Walking through Public Garden
Crossing little bridge

Gaze into lagoon
See strange fuzzy-looking fish
Take a second look

Find it's a duckling
Relieved, as I was quite sure
That fish don't have feet

Friday, July 24, 2009

Houston, we have linkage

I just put up a few links of folks in the Boston area I've worked with...they're all nice people who make great music. Note the eclecticism of the list.

Amazing focus

So I'm used to mesmerizing small children, but the other day in the Public Garden, there was an eight-month-old baby in his stroller who not only looked more like Winston Churchill than most babies, but who had a facial expression of utter concentration on what I was doing, as though he only needed the slightest furthering of language development to produce a witty, yet accurate, critique of my technique and repertoire choices.

If you've ever sat in a meeting with a professor and outlined an essay proposal which said professor thought would be an excellent topic but wanted to make sure you took certain aspects into account, that was the facial expression involved here.

He and his mother stayed for at least half an hour, during which time she fed him, and he played with some type of Big Bird baby toy, all the while checking in every so often to make sure I was still playing to his liking. He laughed with a mouth full of pureed food occasionally, so I think I did all right by him.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Then again...

Standing in contrast to the previous post, I was busking in the Davis Square T station, and I played "Somewhere Over the Rainbow". A non-inspector T employee came downstairs from his booth, settled on the bench next to me, and said, "Play that rainbow song again."

Of course, I did.

Afterwards, as he got up to leave, he said, "You saved my sanity."

Saving T employees' sanity is a GOOD thing.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Behold, The Power of T Inspectors

Busking at South Station, a T inspector told me I had to move to the posted location, because I would be in the way of traffic. The posted location is about six feet from where I was, but there's a big giant fan in it. The big giant fan wasn't on, but I'd be equally in the way of traffic (i.e. not-at-all) in either location.

So a couple days later, I did an experiment; I spent half my time in the posted location and half in my preferred location. I made as much in the first ten minutes in my preferred location as I did in the previous hour in the posted location. I don't know why, but I've found this to be true in the past as well.

Subway busking would be SO much easier if anybody were steering the ship; as it is, the Transit Realty Authority (better known as the TRA) and the Metropolitan Transit Authority (better known as the MTA) are levying a burdensome, wait...the TRA and the MBTA have each told me that Performer's Area signs are the other's responsibility, so most locations that are supposedly kosher to busk in don't have signs at all. Alewife and Back Bay have shiny new signs, but those are the only places I've seen those particular signs.

I also discovered that, according to the rules, T inspectors can take one's permit at any time for pretty much any reason, so I really have to stop arguing with them, no matter how politely. I have an issue with the fact that one person having a bad day can take away half my income on a whim, but this is the life I chose, innit?

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

I keep an ongoing ad on craigslist for teaching lessons and playing at events. I just reposted it and just received the following replies:

I am writing in response to your Ad on Craigslist to inform
you that I would be celebrating a wedding ceremony with my wife who
is from Barbados . The wedding will take place here in Barbados So, I
am emailing you now asap my wedding which will be held on the July
25th 2009, I want to know if you would be available for that day ,the
cost you will charge me if you would render service for 6hours from
9am - 3pm . I will be responsible for your Transport fare from the
airport down to the Barbados where the wedding will take place . So i
will want you to give me a total cost for the service and transport
fare so we can arrange on payment.

Michelle Patteason

(I know, difficult offer to resist, and there's nothing IN ANY WAY SUSPICIOUS about it...but wait, what's this next one?)

My name is Mr Deigo and i would be celebrating a wedding ceremony
with my wife who is from Canada . The wedding will take place here in
canada So, I am emailing you now asap my wedding which will be held on
the july 25th 2009, I want to know if you would be available for that
day ,the cost you will charge me if you would render service for
6hours from 9am - 3pm . I will be responsible for your transport fare
from your location to the hall where the wedding will take place . So
i will want you to give me a total cost for the service and transport
fare so we can arrange on payment.

I will be Responsible for Your Transport fare from the airport down to
the canada
Hope to have a business with you
Mr Deigo
Jesus is Lord ..

(My favorite part is "the canada".)


Well, and then there's:

How's it going?
I am messaging you regarding your ad.
I find your personals interesting.
I am nice looking female. I am coming to your area in few weeks.
and searching for a man to show me the place.
This way we could discover each other.
I am going to send you my picture when you answer.
I am coming from Russia.

(I have no comment.)

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Dear Craigslist violinist-seekers:

If you're looking for lessons, I'm happy to talk to you. If you live an hour away from Boston, aren't near anywhere the MBTA serves, and want me to come every week, you don't get to be shocked when my availability is very limited by the fact that I only have access to the car one day a week. Perhaps your search for lessons should take place closer to your home?