Category Archives: Teaching

April Showers

We all know that expression! But anyway. I sit here at the computer, waiting for my parents to arrive for a short visit. It’s been a hectic week, of course, but that goes without saying. I look back over the past year and am pretty happy about what I’ve accomplished, but I am finding I definitely need to stay on top of things! I’ve let a few things slide and I’m trying to figure out how to keep it all under control.

One thing I tried to incorporate last year was a monthly student newsletter. I’ve let that slide this year and, as a result, my students aren’t as up to date and informed as I’d like them to be. I had 4 students play at the Festival yesterday (so proud!) but I wanted more. I need to make sure everybody knows what is going on, because we are ALL busy and pulled in so many directions. I think the newsletter can help with that. I need to make it monthly and it needs to come at a consistent time. Maybe the first Monday of each month? I’m not going to make that this month, but I can make it a new goal.

I’ve also set up a small ad buy for my teaching website. While most of my referrals are “word-of-mouth” I know I need to be a little more proactive. I have three graduating and I’ve lost a few this semester. While I’m pretty busy at my two college positions, I still want a few more private students. A more full studio means better recitals and MORE word of mouth. All of this plays together!

This weekend has been more of a work/relax weekend than anything else. We hit up the Mexican restaurant right near our house on Friday night (they sent an email advertising cheaper than usual fish tacos so Louie and I were drawn like bugs to a light!). Yesterday I worked until 6 pm (I ended up having to judge a few students in the morning, including saxophone which is traditionally one of my least favorite instruments. I tried to be impartial and not hold it against the student though!)—Festival, rehearsal and teaching, then walked the dog, made dinner, and read. It was nice. Today I’m free until evening and am looking forward to a short visit with my parents.


My parents are pretty hard-core campers. Look at my mom standing in front of their tent in the snow! I don’t envy them too much, as it looks quite cold,  but I do envy their time to travel. (This is a thought that drives me to save for retirement..I just filed taxes and I’m currently broke because I put all my extra money into retirement savings. Fingers crossed the car repairs I sunk money into last month hold up for awhile.)

Anyway! You’re probably watching Opening Day today, but if not, come out to see me play with MOSL in Kirkwood this evening. That’s the group I’ll be solo-ing with in the fall (so excited, can’t wait, must practice!) so you’ll hear more about them in the future.


I will be less anxious, hopefully, after Tuesday’s election. So many things hang in the balance.  Fingers crossed, everybody, and if you haven’t been able to vote already, go vote on Tuesday! Everybody should make their voice heard. No, your one vote won’t “make a difference” but collectively we all do. I always figure, whatever I do, that other people will too, which makes me feel like my actions and behavior are important and that they matter. If I do something, or if I don’t do something, other people like me will do or not do the same.

We’ve had another quartet concert since I last spoke with you, I played two opera performances (fairly successful) and played with another chamber group at a retirement community. I’ve been busy! And then I got a bit of a cold, so I’ve been limping through this week and trying to take it easy and recover, and I’m getting there…or at least I’m still limping and haven’t totally falling over (to continue that lame metaphor.)


We got in a short hike at Castlewood over last weekend. It was basically summer weather, which is uncanny…but nice, I guess!


Halloween was fun. Louie and I went to our friends’ house to pass out candy. We had a lot of visitors, and only a few adults trick-or-treating. I kid you not: one woman showed up with two bags and said she was trick-or-treating for “the babies” who were “sleeping” and shoved her bags in our face and said “gimme some candy.” It was a bit like a hold-up, honestly, but all she got was some candy, so it wasn’t a super successful hold-up from her end.


I got the trophies for the Arch Cup! Several of my students participated and those that received a Superior Plus get a trophy.


So far the students have been really excited. The trophies are bigger and shinier than I thought they would be!

Go vote! (Unless you already have, in which case, don’t vote again.)

End of summer

August is a tough time. It’s busy, it’s near fall, but it’s still hot outside!

It’s been fun seeing many of my students again the past week! Most I saw at least a few times over the summer, but a handful I hadn’t seen since May. Some are noticeably taller, some tanner, and many have new hairstyles. It’s fun watching them grow up and it’s great to have them coming back. I have less new students this year than in the past, and I’m glad to have so many continuing (over 30 returning).

Oh, and I’ve got a new part time job. I’m now on the Applied Music Faculty at Washington University of St Louis. I’m thrilled to be teaching some college students! It might sound more prestigious than it is, but I am quite excited.

I’ve been reconnecting with friends and colleagues, setting up and attending lunch dates/meetings, rehearsals, and even a few social activities. My parents visited as part of their epic Alaskan Road Trip, Louie and I rode in the Moonlight Ramble, we had Taco Thursday…basically things are getting back to normal crazy, instead of traveling/camping crazy. And of course it’s back to paying bills and getting mail and responding to emails and phone calls…instead of just packing the car, flashing our national parks pass, and being on the road…


And I’ll continue to blog and tell you, in installments and with lots of pictures, about my road trip to Utah and Colorado. If you missed my recent posts, I recommend you check them out.

And so it begins…to Aspen

Bear Necessities

Yesterday the National Parks Service celebrated its 100th anniversary. St Louis Public Radio put a call out on twitter for pictures and I sent one in, which is posted in this article!

Oh, and really good news, my dog Mackenzie is doing well. Her hair has grown back in and it’s thick and shiny and I’m thrilled.


She looks like a normal, healthy dog Smile

Oh, and for some levity, since sometimes lately I feel like my posts are too serious. I saw this cartoon somewhere and loved it.


Happy Friday, readers! Will I see you this weekend at Union Avenue’s Doubt (audience member, not playing since I was on a trip) or at the Festival of Nations?

IU Retreat for Violin and Viola Teachers

I’m home. I’ve been home for a few days.

I always forget. I forget how much you learn going to a camp or a festival or a retreat. I spent 6 days on the campus of Indiana University at the Retreat for Violin and Viola Teachers started by Mimi Zweig, and it was just amazing. I am still processing all of the information I got, and I have tons of reading and practicing, and teaching to do in order to really understand, but it was exactly what I needed. I only wish I had stayed for both parts and not left after Part I!

I was anxious going into it, but all my fears were subsided. The other participants were nice, I made friends, I wasn’t the oldest, I wasn’t the only one who had been teaching for years already. It was just a great time.

Then I had to come home, and get right back to teaching. I have just over 2 weeks now until we head out for our big summer road trip, and there’s lots to do.

I’ll write more later, what I learned (martele, we did a lot of martele…), how it was (REALLY busy! and so many meals at a coffee shop right across the street), and what I will do going forward.

It was a great experience. Next summer, part II…or both parts again.

And another week bites the dust

These weeks. They fly by.

It’s so easy to get angry about things you see, and so easy to expend energy being angry. And maybe being angry is worth it, but mostly just living my life and doing my best and staying out of it makes me calmer and happier. (I’m referring to both politically and a professional situation.)

I remind myself this is why I’m happy teaching at home. I teach the way I want to, and don’t need to let anybody else tell me how or what to teach. It’s freeing, and I love that aspect of it. I also get to charge what I want (within reason, of course) and don’t have to give anybody any of my pay (except taxes, of course). It’s pretty great! And now I can also have good health insurance, and go to the doctor when I need to and get things covered by this health insurance. I’ve never been healthier or happier, or had more money in the bank.

And that’s why I have to just keep plugging away. I can’t worry about other stuff. I can’t worry about what people think. This is my life. I love playing the violin, I like teaching (I don’t love it, it’s not my favorite thing, but I like it a lot!), I love traveling and taking pictures and reading, I like getting out and hiking, I love food, I love music, I love doing races and events with friends.

Anyway. Now that I have that off my chest! I am SO glad I did the Festival for my students. I got a wonderful note from one of the moms that just made me smile, and I am looking forward to even more students playing next year! We have a recital coming up that I’m trying to get organized—it’ll be right before Louie and go to Arizona for a week—so there’s a fair amount of organization required. (And packing lists! What to bring to visit Leslie, attend a symphony concert, and hiking/camping?)

My thoughts are scattered.

On deck for this weekend: a Passover dinner (Seder?) tonight, Farmer’s Market and perhaps Yoga outside tomorrow, Symphony tomorrow night. Probably we want to get a hike in to prepare for our vacation in May. The weather is beautiful today and the weekend looks amazing. After this weekend I’ll have a few weekends with work so I want to take full advantage of this one!

Thoughts on Self-Doubt

This cold has really knocked me out. I’m assuming it’s a cold because it’s all been in my head, but I’ve been dealing with it now for weeks (unless part of it still was allergies, I’m not a doctor…) and am finally (I hope) on the mend. However, this past week has been tough, and then the weekend too, especially on Sunday when I suffered from a terrible cough all day. And then at night and in the mornings it’s tough too. ANYWAY.


So that’s why I haven’t been doing a whole lot of interesting stuff, mostly, wake up, try to clear up a bit, maybe do a tiny bit of practice, teach as much as possible, go to bed. But finally, the sun is out, and I’m moving into the “get other things done too” part of it.

Over the weekend some of my students were playing for the Music Club Federation Festival. For that they had to memorize two pieces (in some cases only one, but those were concertos) to play with a pianist in front of a judge for a score and comments. You can get up to 5 points for the highest score, and if, over the course of several years, you accumulate 15 points you can get a trophy…for the next 15 you get a bigger trophy, and so on. In high school there are ways to get more than 5 points per year. In any case, I ended up getting completely stressed out over this (the night before) and basically having a total freak-out over a minor detail I had messed up (which ended up not mattering at all) and I am thankful for Louie for talking me down and telling me that no, I am not a terrible teacher if my students haven’t practiced enough and that no one is judging me on how they play. Sometimes I get these moments of self-doubt where I think of how this wasn’t what I was supposed to be doing, this isn’t why I went to conservatory, and that I am a total failure as a musician.

As it turned out all my students played quite well, and I’m waiting to get all the comments back later today and find out everything, but I look forward to convincing even more students to play next year and hope the same ones will do again, and by golly, the way to ruin everything is to worry about what you were supposed to be doing rather than just focus on where you are now and where you are going. I am not a failure, and just because I’m on a different path than many I went to school with…I’m not a failure. In all honesty, I’m on the same path as many others I went to school with and I don’t consider them failures ever! I think being sick for a few weeks now really started to make me feel useless, and taking cold medicine really can mess with your brain and make you forgetful.

So much of what I read about teaching is from confident people who always write as if they know everything and if you just do it their way it will work. I’m here to say that sometimes I try a million things and none of them work, and sometimes I think none of them work and suddenly something works, and sometimes I feel like I’m the worst teacher ever, and other days I think that all my students are amazing and I must be the best. But I usually feel like everybody knows more than me and I have a lot to learn…and I’d honestly rather be like me than overly confident and acting like I know everything! I’m constantly trying to improve and figure out how to do things better, and since every student is a unique individual, there are no “one-size-fits-all” solutions! Maybe in twenty years I’ll feel differently, but I’ve been teaching for 20 years already…

I think music lessons are important, I think that one on one attention for the kids can be so important, and I think that I need to remember that my students don’t have to play like child prodigies to do a great job, they just have to try to be the best version of themselves, at that time, in that room, and that is good enough. I learned a lot about myself and my teaching over the weekend, and I’m proud of all the students who participated (so so proud, for their hard work for months, for doing something that scared them—their nervous faces beforehand, the relief afterwards, the glee when they found out their scores—for doing something that scared them and finding out they could and that they were stronger for it) and we’ll be doing it again next year. Oh, and I found out that several students didn’t hear me say “the judge” and assumed there would be a panel of judges, perhaps three, I’m thinking, like American Idol or something. One said that it was much less scary than it was in her head.

It was much less scary for me too. I’m stronger for having my students play, and I think that maybe I’m doing some things right. Either way, it was all worth it—the best part so far was seeing one of my students at his lesson yesterday. I’d found out he got the highest score and when I told him, he got the biggest grin on his face, and I don’t think it went away for over 5 minutes.