Sunday, February 28, 2010

Student memory

This happened when one of my now-eight-year-old students was five or six. (I can't believe I've had some kids that long...this is the longest I've been in one place to teach.)

During his lesson, he started chatting away in an almost Joyceian stream-of-consciousness.

Me: OK, can we get back to violin now?
Him: I'm just telling you things I know!
Me: Yes, but you're telling me everything you know.

Whadaya know about that?

Turns out they actually do sweep the train cars out during the day, at least occasionally. I had no idea.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Not mine, but still

One of my colleagues told me that, during a four-year-old's lesson, he looked at her and said, "You have the biggest teeth ever!"

She just sighed and continued the lesson.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Observed on the T

I freely admit to being far too Midwestern and white to get the extremely-low-pants thing, but...

When you're sitting down, and your belt is horizontal across your thighs? Your pants might be a little too low.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Silent type

After a 12-year-old's lesson, I was talking to his mother before he finished packing up and came out of the room, and I was praising his newly found attention to detail (12-year-old boys + detail work usually = something that doesn't happen).

He came out, and I told him I was saying nice things. His mother said, "She says you're doing really well with detail work, is that right?"

Student: *grins and blushes and shrugs*
Mom: A man of few words.
Student: Mmhmm.

Out of the mouths of...adults?

I have a couple adult students, one of whom has a five-year-old daughter who is also my student.

That adult was giving me a ride to the T the other day, and she said, "I think it's good for [daughter] to see that, even though I stink at violin...and I don't mean that in a bad way...that I keep playing anyway."

(Note: She doesn't "stink" at violin; she's doing very well...she just has slightly ridiculously high standards for herself.)

Monday, February 22, 2010

Observed behavior

A couple friends and I sight-read some chamber music for fun yesterday. One of them is taking a class for which she had to make a chart of observed behavior. She chose to observe the number of times each of us swore during the hour or so we played. She and I tied for the highest number; our pianist friend is far more polite (but still had her moments).

Let nobody fool you into thinking classical musicians are genteel and refined; we can swear like sailors at unexpected key changes and the like.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

So close...

One of my 9-year-old students was reading the front of a tuner her dad uses for his guitar.

Student: "Korg Guitar And Bass Tuner..."
Me: That's bass [base]. A bass is a fish.
Student: Oh, of course.


Student: We didn't do our final bow (boe)!
Me: I think you mean bow (bough).
Student: Right.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Nice to hear

As I was busking outside last summer, an older woman came up to me and said, "I'm taking violin lessons myself. I started as an adult, and it's so nice to hear someone just playing melodies simply and well. It gives people like me hope."

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Quote I liked

Alan Lomax and colleagues did a comparative analysis of thousands of songs across the world's cultures. I'm not going to go into detail...or really explanation...but I liked this quotation about the project:

"And Lomax's overall conclusion, supported by very many correlations of this kind, is that 'song style symbolizes and reinforces certain important aspects of social structure in all cultures' (p. vii). If this seems at first sign a rather far-fetched and extravagant idea, then it is worth thinking a little more about what 'style' actually means in this context. Style is not the way someone chooses to sing but the way in which they sing without making any conscious choice; as Lomax puts it, 'if a culture member sings at all, he has to sing in the style of his people because it is the only style he knows. It is in fact almost impossible for anyone really to change his singing style. It takes years for a non-European to learn opera; it has required half a centruy for Europeans to learn to perform American jazz' (p. 28). At the same time style is something to which anybody who belongs to a given culture responds with precision: 'any culture member can immediately sense that something is stylisitcally wrong about a greeting, a cooking pot, a song, or a dance, without being able to explain why this is so (p. 12)." --A Guide to Musical Analysis, Nicholas Cook, pp. 200-201

So that's why I play everything like it's an Irish fiddle tune.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Porter Square announcement

One of the speakers at Porter fades in and out and has been doing so for a long time.

One of the regular announcements goes something like "Fare evasion on the MBTA is against the law"etc. The speaker faded in just such a way that it once said, "Fare the law".

And here I thought that was only the law on the Green Line.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Then there are the younger siblings...

I teach at some students' homes, so families are around. One of my students has a two-and-a-quarter (so he informed me)-year-old little brother. I got to their house, and:

Brother: How you get in here?
Me: Through the door.
Brother: The door? That door?
Me: Yes, that one.
Brother: Why you not come in through door in there? (gestures towards kitchen)
Me: Well, the only door in there is the refrigerator, and I can't come in that way.
Brother: Yeah, you too big to fit through 'frigerator.

Never mind that in most houses, the refrigerator doesn't have outdoor access. And yes, I am smaller than a refrigerator, but he's probably never seen one without all the shelves intact.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Ah, 10-year-olds

10-year-old student, halfway through lesson: Oh my God, I have a huge scab on my finger!...wait, maybe that's a tomato. I don't know. I had a tomato skin stuck on my teeth earlier, and when I tried to get it off, it got stuck halfway down my throat.

I still don't know if it was a scab or a tomato. Nor was I inclined to pursue the issue.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Back to it

I've been working at my occasional-desk-job quite a bit lately, so I haven't been busking. Next week is school vacation week, though, which means that I will be minimally teaching and hopefully maximally busking.

Sometimes I think that I should get a morning job, but then I remember that I really enjoy the flexibility of my current's the self-discipline that trips me up.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Personal Space and the T Do Not Mix

So if you're going to get all huffy about my accidentally sitting on your coat, perhaps it would be best to make sure that you and your coat are, in fact, occupying the same seat.

Just sayin'.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Cute Student Moment

I start and end every lesson with a bow, as is the Suzuki teacher way. One of my students, during his bow, was surprised by his pants. "I thought I was wearing my black pants, because they're so hot, but it turns out it was these pants!"

I love my students.

Friday, February 05, 2010

A different thought

From a rehearsal last night:

Conductor: OK, let's start at rehearsal letter F as in...Frank...
Me (to stand partner): There's a different word starting with F that I've been wanting to say*...
Stand partner: *cracks up*

*Not because of the group or the conductor in any way, but because I was making so freakin' many mistakes and couldn't play in tune to save my soul.


One of my students threw her violin into the wall last night.

It was absolutely an accident; I was doing something to her bow and wasn't watching, and she was swinging the violin around, as children are wont to do, and it slipped out of her hand and crashed into the wall.

I think more damage was done to the wall than to the violin, but I used my "Quietly Scary Teacher Voice" to tell her that that's why we don't swing our violins. Big eyes, lots of nodding that she understood. I think the next couple of weeks are going to see a lot more diligence from me in terms of making sure my students are holding their instruments appropriately. And calmly.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Who are you to judge me???

(Title a la Dorothy Zbornak)

I was busking at Porter, playing "Sunrise, Sunset", when a guy came up and told me...not asked me, told play something happier. So I switched to "To Life", which wasn't happy enough for him. I think I then switched to "Devil's Dream", at which point he said something like, "See? People like HAPPY music!"

If all I played was fast fiddle tunes, both I and my audience would probably get bored. Interest lies in contrast. And I like Fiddler on the Roof, even if it's not "happy" enough for this guy. Hmph.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Summer Memory #3

Busking in the Public Garden, a young man walked by, stopped, pulled out a penny whistle and accompanied me on the Kesh Jig.

He was quite good, and it was far preferable to people who try to sing along while I'm playing, bless their hearts.