Category Archives: Teaching

Oh hey there

I haven’t forgotten about you all. I’ve just been running around like a chicken with my head cut off.  Waking up, going to work, teaching, rehearsals, practicing in all my spare time until late in the evening, and when I have a few moments, trying to catch up on my emails! It’s been a busy start to the fall. Maybe I took on too many students. Maybe I have too many concerts coming up. Or maybe this is all okay, and transitioning from summer to fall is hard!

In any case, I’m here. I’m alive. I’m getting back. I’m only partially losing my mind, but most importantly, I’m making it work. Is this how I envisioned my life when I was in music school? No, but this is how it is right now, and it’s working. I currently have 45 students between home and schools, and I have a quartet, a duo, some other random chamber music groups, a concerto performance, an opera (done!) and so many weddings and other gigs…and it’s all fitting together.

I credit my to do list, my calendar, my sense of timing, and my insatiable desire to make it all work.

Sunday is a day off, though it will be spent catching up. This life isn’t for the weak Smile I’m exhausted, but so are so many other people. I’m sometimes frustrated, sometimes exhilarated, and having a good time teaching kids to play the violin (and adults too). I read other people’s advice on how to make it in the music world, and they recommend not doing a lot of things that I’ve done. Maybe I’ll write my own advice book.

But currently I’m trying to decide whether I should change into long pants or if capri length jeans are good for teaching today…and then I am back to it for 4 1/2 hours, so I’m going to just leave you with this!

How’s your fall going?

Swinging into Things

This month is flying by…the days are short but the hours are long. So much to do!

The truth is I actually had a two day weekend, but I spent it being stressed out. Well, not entirely, we took Mackenzie to the annual Maplewood dog swim for two days in a row. She had a wonderful time swimming and pooping in the pool (not actually allowed, but on the first day it didn’t stop her. The second day Louie had a great save…everybody is happy then, because if one dog goes, more tend to follow, thinking it’s a thing to do.)

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Yes, I already mentioned poop and I was two paragraphs in. Let me backtrack and tell you some other things too.

Saturday night I was cooking dinner and I sliced right into my finger while slicing an onion. Well, my left thumb. So then Louie helped me clean it off and we spent quite some time trying to decide what to do, unable to find an open urgent care in the area other than the ER…so eventually I decided it was okay and just needed to be wrapped really tight. There were tears and blood and probably sweat too, but it seems to be looking okay lately? Where does one go when you need urgent care after hours (8 pm ish) but not emergency? I didn’t want to pay ER prices or wait for hours over possibly getting a stitch or two.

In any case, I took a day off from violin and then the next day decided I could try it. I’m able to play, though I can’t shift into the highest of positions without difficulty, so I’ve been on a lighter practice schedule this week. I’ve got a little concert on Saturday evening with a flute and viola, so I’ve been working on that stuff, and otherwise mostly just keeping my fingers and bow in shape and trying not to stress out. I’m on a full teaching schedule this week, with all of my college and regular students scheduled and showing up, so we are really IN the swing of things, and things are swinging fast!

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I realize that doesn’t actually make any sense. I’m tired, I’ve been going nonstop until I sat down to write this (kind of a lie, I did have a short lunch break) and I even have been getting up early to run! My next day off is October 8 though, so that’s how things are going now. Busy busy!

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Sample schedule…the white parts are where I can practice and respond to emails and do all the other parts of my jobs that don’t get on the schedule.

I have to admit, after having a two day weekend I starting thinking about how life would be if I didn’t work weekends. I’d have to crunch some numbers to really figure out the difference financially, and otherwise, I’m torn. I love playing concerts, and I wouldn’t want to give those up entirely…at least not now! Maybe I’ll retire from weddings in a few years, if I can get enough money saved up, or something. I don’t know. I just know I kind of liked the two days off (that’s what normal people get every week, I hear) and it was nice being able to both be social and do some fun things and also be able to run a few errands and things. But yet, even though this week is nonstop busy, I’m loving the challenge of the flute/viola trio concert music and I wouldn’t want to not be playing that! I guess I am just thinking about the future, after all, I’ve got a milestone birthday coming up next year and I’m always trying to improve my life…or at least try to make sure I’m doing what I think is best.

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At the Cardinals game over the weekend. One of the fun/social things I mentioned. The weather last weekend couldn’t have been more beautiful. My heart goes out to everybody who was affected by the recent hurricanes while we were so lucky. It makes you really try to appreciate what you do have!

Anyway, I’m off to practice. I’m still doing the #100daysofpractice challenge on Instagram. Even though I haven’t had 100 in a row due to vacation and then a cut thumb, I will still do 100, and I’m doing every day otherwise. I think I’m following the spirit of the challenge. And it really does give me extra incentive to practice, even just a little bit, because so often that little bit turns into a much longer practice.

It’s always good to be home

Louie and I had a wonderful vacation in the Smokies and Asheville. I had every intention of starting a post about it today, but I’m a little more crunched for time than I’d thought. I promise I won’t wait too long!

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One sad thing is that we had to cut our trip short by one day. Well, that’s not what was sad. The sad thing is that my dad’s brother, my uncle Sam died and I wanted to get home so that I could get to his services which were in my Dad’s hometown in Ohio. It was nice to see my family though. I got to see my grandmother again, and my parents, sister and niece, loads of aunts, uncles, and cousins, even if it was a very short visit and for a very difficult reason. Leslie and I were able to play for the service which I find is a nice distraction and something nice to be able to do.

Then I had to hurry back home to get to work, and I feel like I’ve been working nonstop. I haven’t though, I’m just not quite on “work mode” yet. I had a few new students last week, which was fun. I had a full week of private teaching, but I haven’t started up at the colleges yet. We also had a few house guests, and of course, THE ECLIPSE, which was on Monday. We got about 45 seconds of totality, and it was really neat. I kind of wish I had known more what to expect and maybe I could have appreciated it more. Mostly I was just terrified of messing up and being permanently blinded, and that was about as far as I’d gotten.

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I felt like the eclipse really signified the end of summer. Now it’s time to buckle down for the busiest fall semester I’ve had since moving to St Louis. Performances highlights will include playing Astor Piazzolla’s Four Seasons of Buenos Aires with the Metropolitan Orchestra of St Louis, playing Tchaik 5 with the Illinois Symphony (decided I missed playing full orchestra music and I needed to remedy that, so I’m playing a few concerts with the Illinois Symphony this season), and playing the King and I in the pit at the Fox Theatre. The quartet is slow getting off the ground this year, and I think that’s okay…we had a few busy years and a lot of the things we’ve done either don’t want to book the same thing each year OR have shut down for various reasons, and I think we just got tired of pushing. We have some irons in the fire and some concerts booked for the spring and somewhat oddly, next summer.

So that’s pretty much it for now. I need to get back to practicing, and then a wedding, and then I’m tired and want to stay in and relax tonight. Last night my brother-in-law stopped through on his way home to Arizona and we went to Union Loafers for pizza (yum) and the night before another out of town friend was here, and we went to Polite Society. Next weekend April is in town visiting (woo-hoo!) and I have a million weddings too…fall is here, at least schedule-wise, and my bank account is getting happier again.

How’s your August been going?

Transfer Students

I’ve had a few “new to me” students this week. I enjoy transfer students because somehow it’s easier to teach a student that is already used to being taught. The ones I had this week seemed wonderful and really fun, and I’m looking forward to continuing with them.  I get new ideas from seeing how they learned in the past, too, and feel like I’m always learning and improving. Let’s not pretend: I often feel like I’m not as good of a teacher as I should be, so I’m constantly trying to figure out how to improve.

This week flew by, mostly, because the nights were full of Opera rehearsals (and last weekend.) I’m playing Carousel with Union Avenue Opera, and it opens tonight. And might I add how great it has been sitting in the back of the second violin section rather than having to lead as in other gigs I play: it is SO much easier and less stressful yet still enjoyable.

Fridays have been an interesting day in the summer, because I’ve been teaching only in the mornings, so I’m done for the day, except this whole “opera” thing later tonight. The question is, what to do this afternoon? I’ve spent 30 minutes catching up on emails and a few other items, and now, practice, read, or nap? Maybe a little of each is ideal. I am definitely on my third cup of coffee.

I have a lot things in my head, and I feel like summer is nearing an end…what else can I actually accomplish this summer while giving myself a little more time to relax before the fall hits…I’m starting to get excited, but when you basically double your weekly workload, or more, it feels a little overwhelming to look at. I do have a lovely vacation in between too!

If I sound lazy to you (which I’m sure I don’t, but in case) remember that during the school year I basically work everyday. Sometimes I think I must be crazy, but I don’t know that I chose this life: it chose me, and I kind of love it, even though I complain. I love the hustle, I love the bustle, I love feeling like I’m really pushing myself to do all these things, and I love having a varied schedule full of different things in different places. I just also love traveling, having relaxing days, and reading. It’s a constant battle.

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One last Blue Apron meal from the other week. We both loved this meal—it was absolutely delicious. Purple Rice and Miso Spinach Bowls. I do love the Blue Apron meals, but it’s a lot of work cooking each one. I’m thinking of trying something called “Platejoy” that is a meal planning service next. I do enjoy cooking but some nights want and need a 20-30 minute meal rather than a 45-60 minute meal.

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I don’t have any particularly fun plans for the weekend, just working a bit and starting to assemble what we need for the camping trip. I think it’s usually best to pack ahead of time so you know if you are missing anything! The itinerary is basically done (if you have any suggestions for Asheville/Smoky Mountains, do share in the comments though!) and it’s just a matter of loading the car and hitting the road. One more week!

Getting Ready

As you know, my work schedule is quite irregular. Some weeks I only have my students and get to have a “regular” schedule, but other weeks I have extra rehearsals and concerts which makes for a very busy week. A good skill to have is the ability to look ahead and figure out what needs to be done ahead, and also to figure out what can be done ahead to help out when work will be too busy to do anything. Since the past two weeks have been very light weeks, I’ve been working on a variety of projects to prepare for the fall. I’ve been updating my syllabi for the courses I teach, I’ve prepared new “interview” forms and questionnaires for new and returning students.

The key to being busy and getting stuff done is organization! I told Louie I feel like it doesn’t come easy to me, and he thought that was funny, because I am always working on being organized and trying new things, and I have loads of binders and notebooks, but the truth is that I still feel like so many other teachers are more organized and I can learn so much from them!

In any case, I’m also doing lots of practice, running (the heat, my god, the heat!) and relaxing. July has been a low income month, but it’s been easy and relaxing, at least. So often I’ll have busy times where I also don’t make much money, so I’d prefer this! I started a project on Instagram with the hashtag 100daysofpractice where I post a video of my practice each day. I didn’t come up with the idea, in fact, I think Hillary Hahn might have, and my friend Ingrid is doing it…in any case, I won’t have 100 days in a row because of vacation, but as I said on my first post, life isn’t perfect and if I don’t do the project because of that, then I’m already failing. Follow me there—I’m “hannahviolin.”

Other fun stuff: Some Blue Apron meals—we’ve been getting it about once a month since we started, so I believe this is our 3rd or 4th time.

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My food photography is not good, plus it’s dark by the time I eat…in any case, this was delicious: Crispy Catfish & Plum Sauce.

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And then Sweet Corn & Pepper Empanadas with Charred Sugar Snap Peas and Radishes. The radishes were amazing and I enjoyed making my own empanadas. It’s something we often share as an appetizer at Mission Taco, but it was nice to have homemade (and likely healthier) ones.  That recipe came with a side of lime yogurt for drizzling, but I wasn’t sure for which part of the meal, so we put it on everything. Sometimes you feel like Blue Apron makes you do a lot of sauces and garnishes and sometimes they are easy enough and delicious (in this case) and other times it’s a lot of effort for little. But overall, still liking the service, and we have one more meal to make from this shipment.

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The next few days are quite busy with some extra performances and rehearsals. I’m really looking forward to playing Carousel with Union Avenue Opera! And soon…vacation for real…we are going to the Smoky Mountains and Asheville. If you have any suggestions let me know! I have a lot of great ideas and a bunch of stuff already planned, but any more suggestions are welcome.

Back to practicing!

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.

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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.