I finished the book “Japanese Lessons” by Gail Benjamin yesterday. It was recommended to me by a colleague (from Suzuki Institute). The author spent a year in Japan with her family, and describes how the Japanese schools are run (and the differences between the US and Japan). I found the book to be pretty interesting. I just spent ten minutes trying to write a summary of my thoughts on the book here, but decided to just delete the whole thing, because I can’t write a summary. Quick summary: schools in Japan are very different than schools here, but the answer isn’t in more Math and English classes but in more free time, recess, arts, and leaving the students alone to do their own thing. Which jives with everything we learn about how children learn–it is NOT in 1 1/2 hour periods studying one thing, sitting still at a desk, and trying to be quiet for hours upon hours.
I played a wedding at the Hyatt Regency Downtown yesterday. Here is the view from a window (this is the famous St. Louis Arch!)
What a beautiful day it was! It was not as humid as it had been the past few days, so Chris and I sat outside at a sushi restaurant afterwards…delicious sushi! (fits in with my Japanese theme, right?)
Tonight we went out for dinner with the whole Book Four class. We decided to go to a nearby “town” for barbecue ribs, to Guy and Mae’s Tavern. We split some ribs, and had potato salad, baked beans, and spicy pickles. It was all very delicious! The restaurant is in a tiny town called Williamsburg. I am continually (I don’t know why, but I am) surprised by how far apart towns in the western half of the US are, and how those towns might not contain much. But that was some excellent “barbecue.” Of course, it’s not barbecue as I know it from South Carolina, but that is another story entirely.
Lesson from dinner: students should chew gum during lessons to keep their jaws relaxed.
Main lesson of the day: Lighten left hand fingers. You don’t want to press down too hard. Try to slide a business card between the fingers and the fingerboard. You should be able to touch the fingernail and feel it vibrating.
Except me? One wedding down, four to go! Tonight’s was a nice ceremony at the Piper Palm House in Tower Grove Park. I’m looking forward to attending a wedding there in a little over a month, but it was a beautiful evening tonight. Not too cold, not hot.
Tomorrow–two weddings and a reception, and Sunday another wedding. Then Sunday night I look forward to seeing friends perform at Maya Cafe again–Chris is playing a quartet, and some of my friends are doing some tangos and such. Should be fun, and they do have tasty margaritas there!
I went to have Nicaraguan food with a friend today. We went to Fritanga, and I really enjoyed it. It seems that plantains are the mainstay of Nicaraguan food (and I’m okay with that!). I’ve been taking advantage of my newly found free time by meeting various friends for lunch or dinner, getting a pedicure, and catching up on all the things I was putting off. It’s been a relaxing week, at least, though I’ve ended up being quite busy…odd combination.
It looks like next fall I might be much busier teaching. I’m hoping so! Busy is good, and I guess if I can’t do the performing I’d like to, I’ll teach more.
Those are the delicious Chocolate Hot Cross Buns I made for my classes! Originally hot cross buns contain such things as raisins and currants, but that sounded gross to me. I wanted chocolate … and I discovered that in Australia and New Zealand, Hot cross buns (I can’t for the life of me figure out how I really should be capitalizing this…probably NOT doing so, but it just doesn’t seem right any way) can contain chocolate chips. Needless to say, they were fantastic, AND my students loved them.
Today I played for Heidi Harris. She gave me a lot of fantastic information to think about. One of the things that struck me is how much she seems to practice using just open strings to get the proper bow feeling. I have never been an open string type of practicer, but in my Suzuki pedagogy class Vera teaches us to teach our kids various passages with open strings, so why NOT do that myself? Nobody ever really taught me how to practice, and since I’m not really that introspective with my own playing (I am more of a doer than a thinker) I just keep plugging away at the same things. It’s funny, one would think I would give more thought to my practicing, (as I give lots of thought to many other things), but I don’t. Probably because I really do dislike practicing. It’s one of those things I DO (well, not regularly 😉 ) because I know I need to, but I have never been a huge practicer, nor have I ever enjoyed it. The results are nice however! To sum up today’s lesson: work on intonation, work on tone quality, and solidify rhythm. Sounds an awful lot like what everybody tells me…just gotta do it now! But the open string practicing is a new thing that I will be testing out.
Looking at today from a pedagogy standpoint, I really loved Heidi’s teaching style. She was a positive yet critical teacher. She made me feel good about myself and my playing, yet was able to be very critical and point out what (many things!) needed to be improved. She told me HOW to improve them, HOW to practice, what I should be aiming for, and made me feel like this was all very possible with practice. I feel like that really covered everything I needed today!
I’m going to bug a few more people in the next month to listen to me. I also recorded today’s lesson on my new recording toy. We’ll see how things go!
I wanted to show off my fantastic bacon, egg, and cheese bread. I made this for a potluck the other day. It was time consuming yet delicious. My trainer wanted the recipe after hearing me describe it, that’s how good it sounds! (I told him it was NOT my fault if he ended up getting fat from it.) Caveat: I am not that great at taking photographs. I need to figure out some settings on my camera. (puts on to-do list….)
Musicians are great at eating and cooking, and the potluck was a great success. In addition to my bacon bread, there was macaroni and cheese, a delicious beet salad with feta cheese, and quite a few other things. For dessert we had cupcakes, shortbread espresso cookies, brownies, and angel food cake. WOW!
Tonight was the Stephen Prina concert at the Contemporary Art Museum with Chamber Project St. Louis. It was a success, I think? I enjoyed playing with the group, and perhaps will do so in the future again, if they ever need a violinist again 😉
I signed up for a pottery class with a few friends. I am looking forward to getting my hands dirty and doing something artistic away from music! We musicians generally have trouble finding the time for hobbies, but many of my friends and colleagues here have fantastic hobbies and lives outside of music, and I find them very inspiring! Now I just need to return to my mandolin practice…or buy a better mandolin (step one?)
We got a great review for the most recent Winter Opera St. Louis performance! Granted, what do they know 😉 but it’s still nice to have good publicity. Our season is done for now (as the Winter is over…well in a few days at least), but good reviews are good for business. Crazy world we live in…(tongue in cheek, of course, dear Readers!). I had a great time playing, and look forward to next season.