Category Archives: Teaching

Anxiety

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.)

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

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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.

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

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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…

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Pet people are the best people

I’ve found so much wonderful support over the past few weeks from all different people. We humans sure do love our pets! I’m settling back into my schedule of teaching and playing and missing the fatness but not too much. (I do miss her! And gleefully look forward to each day’s timehop to see if she is featured!)

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For instance, there she is today. What a sweetie. I can picture how it feels to pet her Smile

Do you ever feel like your emotions are a roller coaster? For me, some days I’m loving life and feeling good and connected to the world, other days I feel stressed and annoyed and that nobody understands me. I’m going to assume that’s pretty normal, but it’s rough on occasion. I heard a bit on NPR today about meditation and relaxation and thought maybe I should work on that. There are a fair amount of work-related things that get me riled up and I just want to be more calm and less stressed over them. On the one hand, I want to make the world I live in better, but on the other hand, maybe I should just try to relax and accept the things I cannot change.

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Mackenzie certainly never worries about whether she is fitting it or whether she is being paid fairly.

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Chloe doesn’t worry whether her playing is valued or whether she lacks confidence. She also never worries about smiling enough or whether her personality is too strong.

So, the snow from last week was thawing by the weekend and Louie and I had a lovely time walking about Forest Park. My new iPhone has a feature where it counts your steps, so I usually try to keep it in my pocket, even walking around the house. Saturday was one of the few days I got over 10,000 steps. Even on days when I run for a couple miles I only tend to end up with 8000/9000 steps. I guess I sit too much? But!

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There were so many geese sitting on the ice. I thought maybe they had a guest speaker.

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I never noticed this rock before. I like the shadows.

Earlier in the week I’d taken Mackenzie up to a nearby park.

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Sticks are one of her favorite things!

Besides walking around, we went to Farmhaus on Saturday night (had a gift certificate from a fried) and had dim sum at Lu Lu’s on Sunday.  Both were relatively easy to do eating pescatarian which was very nice. Farmhaus didn’t have too many listed menu options without bacon but the server was very nice and the kitchen was very accommodating. For dim sum we just had to ask about stuff, but again, it wasn’t too hard. I think the further I get into this the more I want to continue—I don’t really miss meat and I feel like little steps are a good thing.

This week is crunch week for the Perseid Quartet as we are playing a concert in Edwardsville on Sunday. I’m really looking forward to it—I’m so happy to play chamber music and have really enjoyed my quartet time. I feel I’m learning so much from the other players and I’m continually being challenged. It’s really awesome and helps me feel happy and appreciated as well. My students have been wonderful this month as well, and I have never regretted branching out and turning into a full time at-home violin teacher! Being my own boss is really the best. Even though there is often loads of paperwork and so many records to keep (and taxes to pay, so many taxes!), I think it gives me the best chance at success.

Last picture before I leave you to go feed Mackenzie and practice until my next student arrives. Leslie sent this. Can you spot the real cat amongst the stuffed animals (do I need to restart Caturday??)?

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Catalunya doesn’t wake up in the middle of the night and have trouble getting back to sleep.