Monday, November 14, 2016

Growing a business

What a great day!  Lessons from 9 in the morning to 7 in the evening.  An unusual day for me anymore, and reminiscent of my full studio in Severna Park.

Don't get me wrong.  I didn't teach straight through.  I had breaks in the day.  Breaks during which I could sit at the piano and play a Chopin Etude that I had learned in high school, among other things.  It's so enjoyable to pull out an oldie and have my fingers know what to do.  No longer Presto, but I do remember it.  Feels good.

When I planned this move to a smaller home in a new town, I had not anticipated quite so much down time.  I long for a full studio, a week full of days like this.  September has always been a worrisome month.  With schools back in session, the music season begins as well, but never with gusto.  The uncertainty of homework demands and sports schedules seems to take precedence over scheduling piano lessons.  Usually by October, my roster is full again.  This year things are a little slower.  I don't know many people here, my own children are grown and no longer in school, so I don't have that link.  Now that the sports season has changed, the clocks set back to standard time, and the election is over, I am seeing an uptick in queries which will hopefully lead to more names on the daily lessons roster.

Yes, today was a great day.  Tomorrow I make the trek back to Annapolis, where I still volunteer at the food pantry, and since I'm in the area, I still have a few in-home lessons.  These 2 days together are are great reminder of what I am capable of.  Now just to fill that roster.  I love what I do, and I do it well.

Saturday, October 29, 2016


Just a quick check in.  I arrived at the recital location early, but not ahead of my students!  They were the first to check in.  Since I was not in charge, I had the pleasure of chatting with them and their parents and grandparents before the recital began.  I relished that opportunity -- in the past, I was always too busy setting up and confirming arrivals.  I could relax today.  Someone else was in charge.

The recital was a hit.  Twelve young pianists played their heart out.  Everyone was beaming, (except for Darth Vader, who was behind a mask, even when he performed!).  Yes, everyone was in costume too, even most of the teachers!  Two of the teachers played the role of emcee and assistant.  Armed with balloons and dressed as characters from the movie Up, they shared jokes to lighten the atmosphere for these young performers.  For many of these kids, it was there first recital, and they were a bit nervous.  The adults' corny behavior put everyone at ease.  Each child received a certificate and treats at the end of the program.  I was so very proud of my students' accomplishments today.

I have some pictures which I hope to post later next week.  Check back Friday.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Halloween Recital 2016

We've been learning spooky Halloween tunes these past few weeks, all in preparation for a multi-studio recital tomorrow afternoon.  The music is new, unknown, and because Halloween is such a treasured holiday among the younger set, they learn the music quickly.   They then have a few weeks to add the subtle nuances by which they own the music. With tempo markings like eerily and gloomy, they take those dots on the page and paint great musical pictures of ghosts and goblins lurking on a dark Halloween night.  Others might have giddy or fun to guide them to portray musically a night of trick-or-treating.

The Halloween recital has always been one of the highlights of my year. Traditionally, I have taken my students to the local assisted living residence to perform for the residents.  The kids really get into this performance.  The parents too.  I joke that there are more family members than residents.  This is always the first performance opportunity of the year, the kids want to show off, and the parents want videos to share on social media.

The multi-studio recital is new to me.  Due to my move to Frederick, my student base has dropped.  I am rebuilding, but it all takes time.  I joined the Frederick County Music Teachers Association this year to meet other private music teachers, but more importantly, to find opportunities for my students to perform.  This is our first such occasion.  It will be fun to see and hear what other young pianists play.  I know my own students are well prepared, and I am looking forward to an afternoon of Halloween fun, costumes included.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

New school year. New routine.

Busy few weeks.  Shaking the sand out of the beach towels one more time. Getting the kids back to school.  Continuing to mow the lawn.  That's the one constant as we transition to a new school year and a new routine.

My day to day is anything but routine.  That's one of the joys, or not, of moving. I've gotten comfortable in my new surroundings, and very comfortable having no schedule, no calendar.  I can't say I've necessarily used all my time wisely, but I have accomplished a few things over the summer months.  I spent a lot of time at the piano.  Beethoven and Brahms mostly.  The Brahms in particular is an angry piece, lots of forte and fortissimo octaves.  I like to play at night, but I live in a row house.  I don't want to wake my neighbors, so I keep my foot firmly placed on the soft pedal.  So far, no complaints from next door.

My tomatoes came in all at once, so I've also been busy in the garden and the kitchen.  My latest kitchen project was pickles, bread and butter pickles.  Oh, how I love bread and butter pickles.  I have definitely enjoyed the summer months.

Unfortunately all good things must come to an end.  I find myself creating a new routine.   I still have a few lessons in the old neighborhood, but that entails a round trip commute of 120 miles.  Fortunately, I've had some success finding students in my new home town.  I need to continue advertising, marketing.  That is not my forte.  As I continue to learn that skill, my new studio will grow.  That's what I'm counting on, anyway.  Like I tell my students, it all takes practice!

Piano is my forte, one student at a time.

Friday, September 2, 2016

And the beat goes on...

Where did the summer go?  School started a week ago.  Lessons start back this week. I have been between jobs since the end of April.  So much to do to get the old house sold, and to get moved into the new house.  I have definitely missed teaching; I set myself a goal of September 1.

Early on, I was gung-ho to get things put away, arranged to my liking.  I moved from a big house with a big yard to a tiny house with a tiny yard.  Perfect, really.  I can stay on top of things here, not get buried in the responsibilities of maintaining a large home. But I brought too much stuff from the old house.  I've got most of the boxes unpacked, and I've made more than my fair share of trips to Goodwill and the Restore.  The music books, however, are still in boxes under the piano.

Having tried to build a music room out of a dining room has been more challenging than I had anticipated.  Where I want a music room that will accommodate a dining table, I have a dining room with a piano in it.  One step at a time, I guess.

I found bookshelves last night.  Don't you love Kohl's?  I had a 30% this month, expiration date August 31.  So, I hit the website at 10, with not a moment to spare.  Finally settled on 2 black bookcases, 43" tall.  Six shelves in all, I hope it's enough to house all the music.  Great thing about Kohl's.  If I don't like them, I can return them to the store.

And here we are, September 1.  All I've wanted to do is teach, and today I get to do just that.  I've dusted and vacuumed, I've arranged and rearranged the room and rearranged it again.  I have the bookcases on order, and my enthusiasm, which admittedly had waned a bit in August, is returning with gusto.  My class roster is not too full yet, but that's okay.  Just like I don't want to overwhelm my students with lessons the first week of school, I too will get to slide slowly back into the habit of working and scheduling and routines.

Yes, summer flew by, but it dragged a bit as well.  I am looking forward to a slower-paced fall, filled with music and routine.  But mostly music.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Going Home

My kids gave me a violin for Christmas 2 years ago.  I was so excited.  It was on my wish lit, and still on my bucket list is learning to play it.  The first 4 months or so, I pulled it out often.  Found the proper app so I could tune it correctly.   Learned how to care for the bow.  Figured out The Irish Jig for a St. Patrick's Day party.  I was so gung-ho. I always put it away properly when I was finished playing.   [I also learned how not to tune it correctly.  I was trying to find concert A.  I tightened that string, and no change in pitch.  How can that be?  I tried again, same story.  Third time, BOING! the E string broke.  I had been turning the wrong peg!  Oops.  I put it away and forgot about it.  (And I call myself a music teacher.)]

I re-discovered my violin when I was packing to move.  In the new house, I kept that violin visible.  I wasn't going to lose it among the boxes.  I wasn't going to forget about it among all the other demands on my time.  This past Sunday, I took it out to see what I remembered.  I wanted to play Yankee Doodle.  You can imagine how out of tune it was after so many months resting in its case.  No prob, I said.  I know how to tune it!  What I didn't have was much luck keeping the little bridge in place.  The bridge, that little bit of wood to hold the strings above the body of the instrument.  It sends the vibrations of the strings to the soundboard of the instrument, which then sends the vibrations to the surrounding air and creates music.  (Sometimes questionable music -- squeak, cringe.)

Anyway, I tightened up on the A string, and pop!, the bridge went flying across the room.  I fetched it up, replaced it, worked on the D string and pop! again, under the furniture goes the bridge.  This went on for too long.  I decided then and there it was time to get serious.  It was time for a violin lesson.  Went online, found a teacher at the local music store, and started lessons last night.  Oh, such fun.

Maybe.  But first, the teacher had to replace the bridge for me, and tune that poor, neglected violin.  It had sat so long, the pegs were loose,  The bridge was not cooperating.  The fine-tuners were set, hard to turn.  Yeah, I spent most of that first lesson watching and listening as my teacher tuned my violin.  Exciting?  Not really.  Important?  You bet!  Now I think I can proceed without popping the bridge, or the E string, and if all goes well, receive the pitch results I'm aiming for!

We had a few minutes left in the lesson.  I learned how to hold the bow properly.  What I had read online way back when was good, if perhaps a little incomplete.  Last night, not only did I learn how to hold the bow; he also taught me how to hold my arm, my fingers, my wrist.  A lot to think about.  I did well enough that he finally let me play Twinkle Twinkle Little Star!  My form was not good, I dropped my arm, arched my wrist, bowed up when I was supposed to bow down, and really played Twinkle Twinkle Little Star!

I heard Dvorak's New World Symphony as I drove home. When I got inside the house, I pulled out my dear violin, tightened up the bow, and played the theme from the Second Movement.  I will never make the concert stage, but what satisfaction to hear a favorite tune and be able to reproduce it, just like that.  I think I'm going to like these lessons.

[This post was supposed to have gone out on 8/6, but seeing as it is still in my draft box, I'm going to try again.  Between 8/6 and today, I have enjoyed my violin lessons and finally moved beyond Twinkle, Twinkle.  I have also experienced something of what my own students face every week at their lessons.  Topic for another post.]

Saturday, July 30, 2016

This just in, from Frederick!

I have just recently moved to Frederick, MD, and I'm taking the summer months to get situated and explore my new hometown.  So far I like what I see.  I've been to see a play and an art show, enjoyed a concert at the park just about every weekend, eaten my way around town, and toured a few wineries. Who knew Frederick was home to such viniculture?  It's a relatively new industry here, but the hills and valleys surrounding this city are quite conducive to growing grapes of such varieties that the wines from this area are enjoyable!  The fireworks in the park last night were spectacular.

I have been enjoying time at the piano this summer. I have read through volumes of lesson books, beginner to advanced, as well as supplemental materials.  I am currently reading Music Makes Your Child Smarter,  by Phillip Shepard.  I am familiar with the premise but had not appreciated the amount of research to back up the thought.  No, it does not necessarily make your child smarter, but it opens neural pathways, thus allowing the brain to be more receptive to processing and storing information.  The key is creating music, playing an instrument, engaging the brain in the creative process.

That's where I come in.  I am just setting up shop, as it were, here in Frederick. I plan to open my studio door in September.  The piano is tuned, I've just ordered new glasses so I can see the music, and I  am eager to get started.  Part of my plan is to write here once a week.  Wish me luck in that endeavor.  Here in my new abode, tiny house, tiny yard, I think I will find the time to get more accomplished.