Friday, December 09, 2011

Quote of the day

Me, to six-year-old student: OK, so how far is it between D and E in the alphabet?
Student: One inch.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Tearful Violin

There was a question on a blog about whether people have had students cry in lessons.

I can't remember if I ever cried in a lesson; I don't like to cry in front of people. I did almost have a panic attack in a piano lesson when my teacher tried to get me to sing. I now realize that's a necessary skill, but I was in high school and super self-conscious, so she let me get away with humming.

As a teacher, I've had plenty of children cry in their lessons. It's usually due to frustration, and I admit that I sometimes push too hard and/or miss the child's cues that they're at the crying point. If it's a total meltdown, I utter a silent prayer of praise that the parent is in the room and I calmly end the lesson. If it's just regular tears, I let the child decide how to proceed. I never jump in to comfort beyond mild verbal reassurance, because that's not my role.

I actually prefer tears to the little guy I had once who just shut down every single time I asked him to change or repeat anything. I was reassured to find he did this with two other teachers before me; I hope he's finding life easier now than he was then.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Qu to the ack

Overheard in the Public Garden, from a young woman showing her friend around: And right over there, there's the famous duckling posse.

Cause for alarm?

Should I be concerned that the Red Line tunnel at South Station is filled with smoke?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Something almost not quite like that

This dialogue happened between me and a ten-year-old student who has a pet bird.

Me: OK, that really just needs a little more practice; I can't really say anything else about it. I mean, I can, but I don't need to.
Student: Yeah, you could say that it sounded like it was coming from the bird and that she was trying to talk through her tail!
Me: through her tail...
Student: It's like in this book (Terry Pratchett's Wee Free Men) where this one character says something about "...them sayin' my playin' sounds like a spider tryin' to fart through its ears."
Me: I could say that, but it wouldn't be nice. Or true.
Student: But it would be funny!
Me: Well, yes.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


"I love NEC. It's like basket weaving for musicians, only really hard." --- A cellist friend of mine

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Probably not quite appropriate

In a hall where I teach, a 9- or 10-year-old girl complained to her grandmother that the book she'd just picked up was "too hard". I was about to indulge in some gratuitous mental snarkery, when I noticed that the book was "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo".

Yyyyeah, um, let's see if we don't have some Nancy Drew or Babysitters Club for you around here somewhere, dear?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


OMG, the sight of the inbound train approaching Savin Hill is more than a little alarming.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

What Teachers Really Want To Tell Parents

I often consider myself greatly fortunate not to be a classroom teacher, because I simply could not do it, and I have great admiration for those who are and who care enough to do their best.

However, due to certain parental types, their hands are often tied, and some of the best teachers, no matter how much they love their students, are quitting because of the parents.

And as long as I'm writing open letters

Dear sir-who-appears-to-have-seen-better-days,

I don't mind when people don't have money to tip me. I did, however, find it a bit disturbing that you croaked "I don't have any money; this is all I have" and threw a half-smoked (thankfully no longer smoldering) cigarette on the ground at my feet.

I mean, thank you for not throwing it my case, I guess...



Almost right

Dear public school string teachers:

I could not do what you do, and I greatly admire you for it, but please, teach your students the appropriate bow hold for their instruments so I don't have to fix the young violinist who's been using a cello bow hold for a year.


(A new student came to me yesterday, and after I watched her play, I asked "Is your teacher a cello player?" *big eyes* "YEAH! How did you know?")

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Cause and effect

Sorry, kid, but when you deliberately smack a tree with your balloon animal, you forfeit the right to be upset when one of its little paws pops.

Low. Ri. Der.

Just walked past a guy on the Common who was playing "Low Rider" on the harmonica.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Whoa hey

As much as I like the renovations to Arlington station...and I really do...the wind tunnel effect on the escalator makes it surprisingly difficult to maintain my modesty.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Plan to ponder

If I decide to do a "Christmas In July" thing tomorrow and play entirely Christmukkah songs, will I get tipped well or beaten up?

(For anybody not in the Boston area, we're under an Excessive Heat Warning tomorrow, with a predicted high of 99F and heat index values up to 107F. Yes, I'm sure I shouldn't be busking at all tomorrow, but I like having a house to go back to when I'm done being itinerant.)

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Wait, what?

Waiting for the train, hear an announcement of an Amber Alert that says to call "nine hundred eleven". There were even hyphens in the text; why is it not automatically programmed to say "nine one one"?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Oh, duh

The ado at Porter was due to the disabled train's actually having broken down in the tunnel between Harvard and Porter and passengers being evacuated. Gotcha.


At least the automated announcement apologizes for "any inconvenience this has caused" instead of "any inconvenience this may cause". But why does it say AleWIFE instead of ALEwife?

(Which reminds me of my nephew thinking it was pronounced "ah-leh-WEE-fay". Which, in fairness, happened the day after I pronounced a certain Cranium category as "sculp-toh-RAH-dayss". It's Sculptorades. I live in a heavily Spanish-speaking area, ok?)


Looks like something happened at Porter. Two ambulances, two fire...vans..., couple Transit police cars. No wait, there are three of all the above, bunch of emergency personnel and a guy with what looks like a news camera. Now I'm wondering if the "disabled train at Harvard" was a front or if something else happened at the same time.

I'm on a bus!



After six full ones, now there are three in a row. I have hope.


That's. Not. Empty. And now people are refusing to get off so the full one can go.

I should probably not have done that

Now I know that I (and the aforementioned bunch of people) have been standing outside for 45 minutes with a heat index of 99° F. Numbers so often make everything worse. So grateful that it's slightly overcast and that I remembered to put on sunscreen.

And yes, there is shade from the station, but there are also a lot of elders and children who need it more than me.

And yes, we could have all walked to Harvard and back by now.

T guy just said he's got two coming empty. Might actually be able to get on one!

And that one... least took some folks. But it seems like they can't take enough to make the waiting crowd any smaller.

So that's a total of four so far that I, and a bunch of other passengers, haven't been able to get on.

And that one... too full to take anybody. At least there is a T guy over here now, trying to keep people out of the street and from trying to force their way onto an already packed bus.

Of course

The shuttle coming from Alewife is already too full to take more than about 10 people.

And again...

No T employee outside and people are making it all the way into the station, only to be turned back at the gates.

(And yes, other passengers are trying to catch these people, but earbuds and paying attention to your surroundings don't always mix. )

Have I mentioned WTF?

The 50 people I was waiting with JUST NOW got told that oh, no, we should be waiting on Holland St. So we dutifully trudged over to join the other 150 folks waiting. People are jumping on the first bus they see just to get SOMEWHERE.

For this, I need Twitter

People trying to use 96 bus as a shuttle. Driver looks confused and alarmed. So far, 1 packed shuttle bus has left in 20 minutes.


Oh, I see. The shuttle is on the opposite side of College Ave, on an unmarked bus. Pretty sneaky, T.


If you're going to SEND people to shuttle buses, how 'bout first making sure there ARE shuttle buses? Maybe some direction too?


Are there any T employees aboveground to tell us where the shuttle is or to stop people from going all the way downstairs only to find the trains are broken? No, there are not.

Oh, Red Line

Sitting in Davis. Two trains have been just sitting for about 10 minutes "due to disabled train at Harvard." says shuttle buses are running outbound from Harvard to Alewife. Nobody has mentioned this to any passengers. Every so often, a knot of inbound passengers get off the train and head upstairs, presumably to regular buses. I'm not gonna busk down here right now because the two idling trains make it impossible to hear announcements anyway.

Oh, now I can hear one of the drivers announcing something on her train, and a bunch of people are leaving. I assume it's about shuttle buses, but those of us outside the trains CAN'T HEAR. going upstairs now.

Monday, July 11, 2011

The Day The Music Died

An article about the dissolution of an excellent music program in L.A. and the administration's refusal to answer any questions.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Note to self

If your case is in direct sunlight in mid-80-degree weather, and change has been sitting there for a while, be careful when grabbing a handful of said change. Ow.

Friday, July 08, 2011

Context clues are your friends

Ok, I know some T stations are confusing, but I was busking at Park Street on the Green Line platform, and I observed a young couple staring at the map of the lines, and one said to the other, "So where's the Green Line?"

I don't know; I would think the GREEN maps, the GREEN trains, the GREEN poles and the GREEN signage might provide a clue.

The blind woman who asked me how to find the Red Line was doing a better navigational job than those two. All she needed to know was which side of the construction to be on; she knew exactly where she was going otherwise.

Sound the trumpet

Just saw a guy pedaling his bicycle along the Southwest Corridor, wielding a trumpet. I guess that's an effective way to warn pedestrians, but wouldn't a bike horn or a bell be easier? And safer?

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Was that...?

I could swear I just walked past Bill Gates. Guess there's no reason it couldn't have been.

Sunday, July 03, 2011


I was just busking in the Public Garden when a gust of wind came up and dumped one of my gig books into a fountain. Now I'm sitting on a bench, peeling apart photocopies so they don't dry into a solid mass. Apparently, Mother Nature hates music.

And I'm hungry.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011


I don't know why I ever take the elevator from Park Street to the surface. I get more out of breath trying not to inhale the redolent aroma of stale urine than I do climbing the stairs. I wonder if more public toilets would help alleviate this problem.

Or elevator attendants. I'd gladly wait an extra trip or two if it meant the elevator didn't reek. Plus, job creation!

Monday, June 20, 2011

St. Augustine, on music

The early church fathers walked a delicate balance between regarding music as an appropriate means by which to worship God and regarding music as a sinful temptation. The following is from St. Augustine's Confessions:

"When I remember the tears I shed at the psalmody of Thy church, when I first recovered my faith, and how even now I am moved not by the singing but by what is sung, when it is sung with a clear voice and apt melody, I then acknowledge the great usefulness of this custom. Thus I hesitate between dangerous pleasure and approved wholesomeness, though I am inclined to approve of the use of singing in the church (yet I would not pronounce an irrevocable opinion upon the subject), so that the weaker minds may be stimulated to devout thoughts by the delights of the ear. Yet when I happen to be moved more by the singing that by what is sung, I confess to have sinned grievously, and then I wish I had not heard the singing. See the state I am in! Weep with me, and weep for me, you who can control your inward feelings to good effect. As for those of you who do not react this way, this is not a concern of yours. But Thou, O Lord, my God, listen, behold and see, and have mercy upon me and heal me --- Thou, in whose sight I have become a problem to myself; and this is my weakness."

It wasn't me, man

Apparently, there is a certain Massachusetts accent and delivery that, when I was accosted in South Station with, "Wanna stop killing whales in Boston?", caused my brain to respond with, "Wasn't planning on starting!"

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Artsy article about Arizona

(Login may be required, if you don't know about bugmenot, this is as good a time as any to learn).

This is an article from the Arizona Republic about the discrepancy between the lip service paid to the value of the arts in the school curriculum and the budget allocation for the same. (Hint: they're not equivalent.)

Monday, June 13, 2011


A post by another blogger, detailing exactly how precise and swift a violinist's hand movements have to be to produce something one wants to listen to. We have to make shifts, on an unfretted fingerboard, in fractions of a second, and they have to be accurate within a tiny range in order to sound correct. This is why we practice.

Music 1, Football 0?

Interesting bit about a high school in Illinois that refused a high school football team (for now) and reinstated music and middle school sports that had suffered budget cuts.

In my ideal world, the arts and sports would peacefully co-exist, and students would have the time and energy to participate in both. In reality, of course, there's a clear line of demarcation, and the arts tend to get axed in favor of sports. To become highly skilled at music, football, baseball, art, dance, soccer, anything really...that takes a lot of time and dedication, as does excelling at academics.

I kind of have a piece in my head about why music is more inclusive than sports through middle and high school and how that switches at some point in adulthood, but it's not fully formed yet. Will keep y'all posted.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Fusion String Ensemble

I'm actually going to be playing with a group again this summer! It's been a while. We're called Fusion String Ensemble, and we're planning on having concerts this summer in Boston and Montreal.

I've never been to Canada. Fortunately, I already have my passport.

Check us out here.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The End Is Near, Practice Anyway

So I was talking to a student's mom about the May 21, 2011 Doomsday prediction.

Her: So we'll plan to meet next week as usual.
Me: Barring Apocalypse.
Her: Right. We may not have food or power, but you don't need those to play the violin. I'll just tell [student] to keep practicing.
Me: Yeah, we'll just brush off the locusts and carry on.

We may be a bit irreverent.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Interesting little article

This article, written from a pro-TM standpoint, talks briefly about the similarities in brain function between musicians, top-level managers and Transcendental Meditation practitioners.

It may come as no surprise that the rest of the blog has many positive things to say about the Maharishi University of Management in Fairfield, Iowa. I lived in Iowa, not far from Fairfield, for a few years, and I still don't know much about the place, but I'm all in favor of any* positive press about music lessons.

*OK, I'm sure someone could Godwin's Law an exception or two right about now, but let's not.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Heard at Forest Hills

Orange Line operator: The doors will close and reopen, reeeeeopen, that's two words, Re Open.

Thursday, April 21, 2011


I teach a six-year-old and her mother.

Me, during mom's lesson: So I know the harmony part seems really slow compared to the melody, but if you don't keep it slow and calm and subdivide in your head, it ends up being entirely too fast and rushing...
Six-year-old: You mean like how you're talking?

Sadly, she was entirely correct.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

on the 41 bus

Driver, upon arriving at Forest Hills: Goodbye, see ya, au revoir, auf wiedersehn, sayanora, adieu, bye-bye, cheers, l'chaim, prost, slainte, skol, have a great day and try not to hurt anybody!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

I find this mildly surprising

From the L.A. Times, an opinion piece in which the author reminisces about his childhood and how playing the clarinet and saxophone in the band saved him from being bullied. Of course, it seems like it had more to do with the band's association with the sports teams, but still, I never thought that being a musician would be much protection against bullying.

(Me, I was a weird and awkward smart kid, got teased, but never really bullied. I'm still weird and awkward, but I have a bunch of weird and awkward friends now, so it's all good.)

Thursday, March 10, 2011

How to properly remind people they're in a giant train cave

OK, so the Stockholm subway has exposed rock in certain stations.

How cool are those, and why can't the MBTA have nice things?

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Should I worry that this nearly made sense?

Fifth-grade student: You want to hear my new best theory?
Me: Um...sure?
Student: OK, so, the days I hate are Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Pick one, and I'll tell you why I hate it.
Me: Okay...Wednesday.
Student: OK, so, Wednesday leads to Thursday leads to Friday leads to Saturday leads to Sunday leads to MONDAY which is ALL DOOM AND GLOOM. But I like Tuesday because it's the farthest away.

Yes, this student does speak mostly in bold and italics.

No, you're not

Dear young man on the bus:

OK, see, I'm a thirtysomething white woman from Iowa. And yet, even I know that if you're bouncing around the back of the bus going into great detail about your outstanding warrants, how they ain't gonna get you and how you got shot because "that's what we gangstas do" are not, in fact, a gangsta. Especially if you're not talking to anybody in particular.

Even the twelve-year-old boy and his seventeen-year-old brother who got off the bus at my stop thought you were high, drunk and "ridonkulous".

At least you probably inspired them to stay in school, in case they were considering otherwise.

Yours in baffled disdain,

The Fiddler

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Suddenly just a little claustrophobic

I like to try to forget that Porter Station is the deepest station in the Boston area. Then they take away the ceiling and expose the rock underneath, and it becomes much harder to forget that you're in a giant cave.

Women and Street Performing

(As I was writing this post, I happened to wander over to a friend's Facebook page and discovered that, in addition to being Mardi Gras, it's International Women's Day. So let's say this post is for International Women's Day, shall we?)

In doing some light reading, I found this about ancient Greek musical practice:

Among the musicians acclaimed for their recitals were a number of women, who were excluded by law from competing in the games, but special decrees gave exceptional performers the chance to be heard outside the framework of the contests. Women were limited to playing stringed instruments*, since the aulos was considered suitable only to slaves, courtesans, and entertainers.

I remembered an article I read about women and busking. The author of this piece is a singer, so much of the article involves the double standards around what she could acceptably sing and say in public and what men performing nearby could (hint: the guys got away with a lot more). I don't have to worry about lyrics, but I'm still quite aware that female buskers are in the minority. In the subway, I see a couple young women with guitars and a young woman who plays viola, and outside during the summers, I used to see a woman with her bagpipes, but otherwise, it's still very male-dominated.

In fact, until 2004, the following law (Police Rule 75) was still on the books in Boston: ""A female licensed itinerant musician shall not play a musical instrument in a street unless she is accompanied by an adult male licensed itinerant musician."

I believe that law was claimed to exist to protect women. It dates back to the 1850s, when a female busker would have attracted a great deal of the wrong kind of attention, as women were supposed to be at home caring for house, husband and children. I'm curious as to how many "female licensed itinerant musicians" there even were back in the day. The word "itinerant" carries the connotation of not having a fixed address, which I'm sure would have been particularly scandalous for a woman (she said speculatively).

There's a whole long sociological post that could be done around this issue, but I think this is enough for me for now.

*I've long found it interesting that today, the flute tends to be associated with women, but when I think of famous flautists, the first two names that spring to mind are James Galway and Jean-Pierre Rampal, who are...not women. I can't actually think of a famous female flautist.
And the Wikipedia list of flautists is distinctly male-dominated...India.Arie is the only woman whose name rings a bell.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Security sponge

Fifth-grade student, after moving up to a full-size violin: "The person at the violin store gave my dad the sponge* back, so I'm gonna keep it and call it Lucky Sponge."

*Many students use shaped foam as a shoulder rest; I just learned the official name is The Loft Sponge.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Pretty sure I misheard that one...

"Next stop, Roxbury Crossing Water Buffalo."

Monday, February 28, 2011


The bus just stopped at Lake Street. Today, aren't all the streets Lake Street?

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Music makes kids smarter!

So says this study from 2008.

The article mentions that children who study an instrument score higher in verbal ability and pattern recognition, as well as finger dexterity and auditory discrimination. The authors of the article suggest that the former two are not related to music.

I think it's fairly obvious that pattern recognition is intrinsic to musical study. I insist upon my students' learning scales and arpeggios because they show up time and time again in their pieces, and if the student already understands the pattern of the major or minor scale, he or she does not have to relearn the finger pattern every single time it appears.

As for verbal ability, I suspect that might have something to do with the one-on-one instruction; I try to minimize talking in my teaching (and don't usually succeed), but my earliest lessons often involve learning the names of the parts of the violin and the bow, so the kids are getting new words that they would not otherwise need to know. Or old words in new ways; many small children find it extremely funny that part of the bow is called the "frog", even though it looks nothing like a green amphibian.

(Many small children then think the pegs are the pigs and the scroll is the squirrel, but that's a different lesson.)

Or maybe children whose parents enroll them in music lessons also have parents who place an emphasis on verbal ability in general. Correlation does not equal causation; all of these skill areas may be enhanced by the values of parents who also value music.

I do know that all three National Merit Scholars from my high school class were musicians. Two were string players, and one played trombone. And I'm quite sure that learning an instrument or proper use of the voice makes the brain and body work more efficiently together.

In short, enroll the whole family in music lessons!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The value of play

from NPR: Old-Fashioned Play Builds Serious Skills

I don't know if any of my families read this blog, but if they do, please do not take offense at the following. I may or may not mean you personally.

So the article talks about how, as children's play has changed, so has children's cognitive development. The seven-year-olds of today barely have the executive functioning of the five-year-olds of forty years ago. I teach a small group ranging in age from 5 to 8, and it's just about impossible to get them to stand still. Of course, they do feed off each other, and they seem to be having a good time, but I'm trying to work on stage presence as well.

(In an aside, I observed something similar when watching the Up Series. The seven-year-olds in the first documentary, from 1964, are far more articulate than most of the seven-year-olds of my acquaintance. How much of that is from the decade, how much from the children's being British and how much from the filmmaker's choice of subject is, of course, up for debate.)

I see this happening with a number of my students. I teach in a fairly well-off community, and so many of these kids are already overscheduled, overworked and overwhelmed by the age of six, seven, eight. Some of them end up with a couple hours of homework each night in fourth grade. Some of their parents still do absolutely everything for them. (Here I will not give specific examples, because that would be crossing a line.)

So it ends up that I have students who've been with me for three or four years who still need me to remind them what happens next in the lesson, because their executive functioning hasn't kicked in yet. They truly cannot remember the order in which the parts of the lesson happen. And I almost always do the same things in the same order, largely because if I don't, I'll forget. (Hey, I never said my executive functioning was ideal.)

And I do know how much these children are loved by their parents. The Suzuki method has the parent stay in the lesson with the child, so I see the interactions, and I see how much love is there. And I know the parents understand how difficult and painful this world can be and that they're trying to shield their children from suffering; who wouldn't?

And I also know that, even in a semi-suburban area, letting kids roam free in packs just isn't done. It's all play dates and scheduled activities, and maybe that's the only safe way anymore.

But I worry sometimes that these kids are going to be completely unprepared to look out for themselves when it's time. When I was a freshman in college, one of my fellow freshman violists absolutely could not handle being out on his own and had to drop out of school to move back home. I don't know all the circumstances, of course, but the impression the rest of us had was that he'd never had to do any chores or have a job or be responsible for himself before; his folks had always taken care of everything. Really nice guy , talented musician, never disrespectfully irresponsible; just very easily overwhelmed.

I don't have any answers. I just hope that, when the time comes that there are piccolo Fiddlers toddling about, we'll be able to find a balance between letting them be kids and teaching them responsibility.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Makeup lessons, as seen by an economist

This article was written by a Suzuki parent who is also an economist. Her take is that makeup lessons make no economic sense; if ya miss, ya miss, and the teacher is under no obligation to provide makeups.

At the school where I do most of my teaching, the policy states that students get one makeup per semester for any lessons they miss. Teachers have to make up anything we miss, of course.

For my private students, I figure missed is missed...sometimes I have a contract with a similar policy, but more often, I don't get around to making it. I think the times I cancel and the times they cancel tend to even out, and I don't make up the ones I cancel. I have a good rapport with all my private families at the moment.

I should still probably have a contract though.

Open your eyes, look up to the skies and see...

So I was passing by Brigham Circle today, where a bunch of people were standing outside the building that houses Stop & Shop, J.P. Licks and T.G.I Friday's, among other businesses. One fire truck was already there and another was pulling up. Apparently, nothing was actually on fire, but the alarm was going off for quite some time.

As I watched, three people who were not with each other tried to get in to the Bank of America ATM vestibule. Two stopped when they noticed the flashing lights and BEHHHP BEHHHP BEHHHP of the fire alarm. The third used her card to get the door open and had to be gently dissuaded from entering by a man standing near the door.

All three of them walked past the plaza, and apparently not one of them thought it odd that there were about a hundred people standing in small clusters all over the place in considerably chilly weather or noticed two fire trucks, an alarm sounding and that all the lights in the building were off.

Maybe they should have been allowed to withdraw their money and give it to me.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Algorithm fail

From the preface to the sixth edition of A History of Western Music by Donald Jay Grout and Claude V. Palisca:

"To be sure, the scope of what we teach and study under the heading of music history has broadened since Professor Grout wrote the first version of this book. The limits of Western music were generally agreed upon then, and hardly anyone doubted the value of studying its history. As populations everywhere become more diverse, the relevance of the Western art tradition to the music that is practiced and heard daily has understandably been questioned. Western Music in our title, which motivated an Internet retailer to award it the distinction of "best seller" in the category Country and Western Music, really acknowledges that the musical culture of Europe and the Americas is but one of several cultures whose distinguished histories deserve study."

Not quite the same definition of Western music there.

Of course, let's not forget the experience of Jake and Elwood.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Sounds like a personal problem to me...

5th grade student: Is it just me, or does my hand always sweat while I'm playing?
Me: Well, it would be just you either way...
Student: Oh. Right.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Probably unnecessary anxiety

After reading about roof collapses caused by accumulated snow, I find myself a bit nervous about standing under the snow-laden glass ceiling at Forest Hills.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Non-automated Red Line announcements also better

While pulling into Park Street: "Please take your newspapers, coffee cups, coats, hats, gloves, cats, dogs, kids, sofas, chairs AND tables."

Monday, January 24, 2011

Small person dialogue

The following exchange occurred between my six-year-old student and her three-year-old brother:

Brother, who had just been explaining their cat to me: You have to pay 'tention!
Student: Who, me?
Brother: No, Kitty*!
Student: Pay attention to what?
Brother: To Kitty!
Student: So...Kitty has to pay attention to Kitty? That doesn't even make sense.
Brother: ...oh.

*Not Cat's Real Name

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Thanks, but...

Dear well-intentioned sir:

Although I appreciate your concern in pulling up next to me and asking me to roll down my window so you could say, "That's dangerous, you'll want to clear the rest of the snow from your brake lights," I can't help but feel oddly snubbed by such advice coming from a middle-aged man driving a clean and shiny Lexus which has probably never spent a night outside in its life.

Also, the brake lights were only slightly obscured, and the top one was totally clear.

On the other hand:

Dear youngish chick who drives a car of the same make, model and uncommon color as ours,

Thanks for the peace sign! I tried to return it, but it doesn't really work with mittens.



Saturday, January 22, 2011

Dearest Boston Weather

1) I know how to dress for warmth, but I don't think I own enough clothing, even if I wore everything at once, to be warm enough to busk when the high is 11. Farenheit.

2) More snow Wednesday? Srsly? I have recitals on Saturday, you know, and I'd really like to see my students before then.

Last Wednesday, my 20-minute-in-traffic bus ride to Brookline Village took 45 minutes. This should still have been OK; I allowed extra time. But then I waited for 30 minutes for a D Line train. First one that went by ran express. Second and third, too full to get on. I gave up, called and made my apologies to my student's family and headed to the little convenience store in Brookline Village.

In the time taken by the phone call, the walk to the store and purchase of a 2-liter of Diet Coke, four...FOUR...more trains went by.

This made a total of seven trolleys in ten minutes, after 30 minutes of nuthin'. WTF, D Line. The T owes me payment for a 45-minute lesson. (Because that will TOTALLY HAPPEN.)

All that said, however, I have great faith in my students' abilities to prepare for this recital.

Thursday, January 20, 2011


The Orange Line. The Orange Line. The Orange Line is on fire.

(Three times in as many days, I think.)

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Seen at Brookline Village

Aren't small long-haired dogs supposed to be wearing hooded parkas with matching boots if they're out in crap like this?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

with apologies to Messrs. Bernard and Smith

So I occasionally dabble in parody, and as I am the Chief Groundskeeper of Fiddlerheim, and as snow shoveling takes much time and not much mental effort, the following happened.

Over the ground lies a mantle of slush
Once gleaming white, now it's grey and brown mush
Our hearts are sinking each time we start thinking of clearing.
Now Old Man Winter has become our foe
Blizzard, Nor'easter or just plain old snow
Each time we clean up, we hear there's another storm nearing.

Cell phones ding, are you listening?
Text alerts, school we're missing,
No end is in sight, we're cranky tonight
Shov'ling in a Boston wonderland.

Gone away is our good mood
Here we're saying some words rude
We dropped the F-bomb in front of our moms
Shov'ling in a Boston wonderland.

In the alley we can build a snowman
And pretend that he is Mayor Tom
He'll say there's an emergency of snow, man
And through the town the parking ban is on.

Later on, we will all boast
That we make the best French toast
With milk, bread and eggs and a dash of nutmeg
Shov'ling in a Boston wonderland.

In the roadway we can build a snowman
And use him to save our parking spot
We'll be mighty proud of Mister Snowman
Whether we shoveled out that space or not.

Later on, we will all boast
That we make the best French toast
With milk, bread and eggs and a dash of nutmeg
Shov'ling in a Boston wonderland.

Not via the Orange Line

I'm fairly certain that a diminutive Pakistani gentleman just asked me how to get to Mel Bay.

Adult conversations

I have a couple adult students right now, and I very much enjoy working with them, not least because of conversations like these:

Me: We discovered a ridiculous amount of dust on the shelves above the bed.
V (in a French accent, on account of she's French): Oh, I think the dust can be pretty. When the sunlight hits it just so, you can pretend it's silver.

I like the way she thinks.


The next conversation was in the context of how chocolate is toxic to dogs and cats.

Me: When I was in college, I had a roommate who had a dog who ate an entire pan of brownies. He was sick for a day, but he was fine. I don't think I could even eat an entire pan of brownies.
K: Oh, I could. If I had to.
Me: If you had to...
K: You know, if someone came up and said, "You have to eat this pan of brownies or you'll never see your family again." Although that's probably not very likely to happen, is it?

If you don't eat the brownies, the terrorists will win.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Less than reassuring

Overheard between two elevator guys at Porter:

Guy #1: Is this how this is supposed to look, all spliced together like this?
Guy #2: Hm. I dunno. I've never seen anything like that before.
Guy #1: Me neither.
Guy #2: I guess it's supposed to look like that.
Guy #1: Yeah, OK.

At least it was one of the shorter elevators? Hm.

Not an auspicious start to the day

First, I got on a Red Line car on which somebody had vomited all over one end of it. I managed to sit far enough away to avoid most of the smell.

Then, at Davis, there was a man next to the busking bench who smelled so strongly of urine that I gagged. I understand that he must have troubles that I can't even imagine. I wish I could call someone to take in of such people...he wasn't being disruptive or threatening or doing anything but standing there, but he and his four plastic bags of what appeared to be trash must need help.

Both of these things happened before 9AM. Never mind the warm beverages; send my friend Jim Beam.*

*While the Fiddler is fond of her dram, she does not actually endorse whiskey before breakfast. Usually. Today may be an exception.

Overheard on the T

"Boots are not pants. Tights are not pants. Leggings are not pants. Pants are pants. Wear some."

Frozen Fiddler

The high today is supposed to be 18 degrees. Farenheit. Send warm beverages.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Nearly more interesting of a day than I wanted

So I was in South Station, busking merrily away, and a fellow busker I know asked when I'd be done and if I'd watch his stuff. I agreed to do so.

Fast forward a couple hours, I'm packing up and listening to a scammer work the crowd, same guy who's been recently released from jail, had beds in rehab units in Springfield and Fall River and needed to buy a pair of pants for a job interview, but he'd managed to steal the shirt, all within the past couple of months. When I turn around, scammer guy and a Transit Police Officer are standing right there. Scam Man asks how to get a permit to busk, so I tell him and he goes away.

Officer starts asking me about the stuff in the corner; I tell him I know it's there, and I'm watching it for another busker, who had told me he'd be on one of the benches on the platform. I watch officer go looking for the guy, who then appears in front of me with a cup of coffee.

Officer comes back; we ascertain the proper ownership of the mound of gear in the corner, and then the officer tells the other busker that he needs to stay with his stuff or take it with him, because people had been calling in about an abandoned pile of things, and busker was lucky that the bomb-sniffing dog hadn't gotten down there and they hadn't cut open all his bags.

Officer actually came across as politely as he could given what he was saying; busker agreed not to leave his gear seemingly unattended.

I can't decide where the problem lies, though. I think it's some with the busker for leaving his stuff, some with the public for freaking the heck out, some with the Powers That Be for encouraging the public to freak the heck out, some with me for agreeing to watch his gear.

If the dog and more cops had gotten there, I would have spoken up, of course, but I'm not sure how much good I could have done...I don't know the guy's name. I know who he is; I've seen him around for years, and I know he's introduced himself to me, but I can't remember his name. Oy.

He is, however, not the only busker who leaves their gear unattended, especially at South Station. I never understand why people do that. Of course, they take their money with them, but I've seen instruments left alone for more than a couple minutes, and that just seems like a bad plan.

Not that I'm really one to talk. More on that later.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Does this happen to other people?

My main teaching gig is at a private music school. Every so often, I hear someone else's student in a lesson play something that makes me want to burst in to correct them.

The most recent occurrence involves a teacher whom I know to be excellent, so I'm sure she was focusing on something else at the time, but it took some effort for me not to yell through the wall "For the love of God, play a G-natural!"

But then, I'm sure many of my colleagues feel the same way when they overhear one of my lessons.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Let it snow

12-year-old student, on Tuesday: All our teachers said, for a snow day, to sleep with our pajamas inside out and with a spoon to protect us from the Sumerian sky god Enlil. Also to pray.


I'm a bit curious what school he attends in which all his teachers told them this, but it seems to have worked.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

In which the Fiddler is sleep-deprived

So I haven't been sleeping all that well lately, and when the Orange Line pulled into Downtown Crossing, my brain did something different with the usual announcement.

What the conductor said was the usual "Downtown Crossing, change here for Red, Green and Silver Lines."

What I momentarily expected was to get off the train and see this:

I don't know either. But it's never boring being me.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

And in other sad news

Debbie Friedman, Jewish singer-songwriter, responsible for quite a lot of the music used in Reform synagogues these days, has died of pneumonia. She was in her mid-50s, and it seems she's been taken too soon.

Everyone else is posting her Mi Sheberach, the healing prayer. I'm posting something else.

Miriam's Song

Rough weekend

May the memories of Christina Greene, Dorothy Murray, John Roll, Phyllis Schneck, Dorwin Stoddard and Gabriel Zimmerman be a blessing, and may healing come to their families and loved ones, as well as to Congresswoman Giffords, of course.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

A note received

Earlier in the year, when I was still busking outside, I received the following note in my case:

"I became homeless a month ago when I ran away from my partner and don't have any money to give you. I just wanted you to know that your music gave me so much enjoyment this morning, at a time I needed it so much."

He did sign his name and his e-mail address; I never wrote to him. But I'm glad to have helped, even a little.