Confessions, Letters to My Kids, Music, Piano

Saturated in Music

Child,

Music is a vital part of who I am. My memories are steeped in concerts and recitals, practice times and rehearsals, clammy palms and shaky notes, exhilarating performances and spontaneous song.

I can remember back to my very first solo; I was the Little Red Hen in our kindergarten musical. Clad in yellow tights, red skirt and poster-board wings, I sang boldly even if confidence and skill lacked.

Piano and voice lessons became a weekly routine beginning in my 9th year. I almost never liked practicing and I never felt like I was any good. But my mom never let me quit, insisting she greatly regretting giving up on her own piano lessons in 5th grade. *sigh* I performed solos at least twice a year for the next…10 years…and I can’t remember a time that I wasn’t nervous. I made at least one critical error in almost every single song, and while some listeners may not have noticed, my little sister surely did. “You had that song perfectly,” she’d say with a hint of disappointment in her voice. I was disappointed too, Ash.

There was only one piano piece I played flawlessly:  Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata at my senior recital. I remember coming to the end of the song, holding out that last pianississimo note, having felt truly moved by the music perhaps for the first time in my piano career, and I heard an audible whisper, “wow” by an older gentleman in the audience. I knew then, finally, I had succeeded.

College piano lessons brought a whole new level to my experience. Though I wasn’t a music major (mostly because some voice in my head told me I wasn’t good enough), I wanted to keep up with my piano studies. Part of me knew I couldn’t let those last 10 years go to waste. My instructor didn’t go easy on me, though she was one of the kindest women I’d ever met. She required hours worth of practice, documented and described in detail. Her non-music-major piano recitals were held twice a year and we were required to memorize our pieces. You would not believe how difficult and challenging that was for me. Typically ok with being in the spotlight, I kept the piano recitals quiet. I invited no one except my college roommate. If I mentioned it to Kevin I was sure to say, “Don’t worry about coming.” I didn’t want anyone there to witness me messing up on the biggest stage of my “career.” I did just fine, though, sweaty palms and all.

Kevin came to at least half of my recitals, though, despite my urging against it. He and Brittney sat as my loyal audience, attempting to encourage me and calm my nerves. My most momentous performance moment came when I played the deeply moving piece by Debussy, Clair de Lune. The chills come back just thinking about it.

Here I am, five years later, and I’m simultaneously proud of myself and disappointed. I have made a bonafide career out of teaching piano lessonsI know! I can’t believe it either. (I’m also really wishing I had headed Mrs. H’s advice and completed the Associates Piano Pedagogy program at SAU. *sigh*) Here I am in my 5th year of teaching, the 3rd school year in a brand new town, and I was proud to host a Christmas recital featuring my studio of 28 (now 30!) students and 140 of their guests! WOW. It was truly an honor, a joy, a thrill to look out at that crowd. Despite all my doubts and fears along the way (they still creep in to this day) I felt I had truly accomplished something.  Glory to God in the Highest for allowing me to use the gifts He’s given which I’ve often viewed as meager. IMG_9953

The part of me that remains disappointed in myself rests in my personal piano advancements. I’ve felt stagnant for the past five years since those hours of rigorous practice. Sure, there have been times I’ve been stretched and needed to practice, perhaps even for hours (can anyone say, “pit orchestra”?), but my repertoire has remained the same. I have had exceptional moments to stretch my experiences and put a damper on my nerves. But new, challenging music? Not so much.

I plan to change that, though, Little One. and I’m telling you this for a few reasons.

You’re never too old to learn something new. Challenge yourself, even if it’s scary, even if it’s easier to stick with the status quo that’s getting you by just fine. Go farther. Make Jesus proud.

Keep me accountable. If you don’t hear me regularly playing piano, ask me to play. If you never hear me truly practicing, hammering out those tough measures note by note, encourage me to practice. I might need that.

Music will always be a part of our home. I’m not exactly sure if and how we’ll push you into the music realm, but I hope you won’t be afraid to TRY. I wish I had tried a new instrument in 9th grade. I missed out on the band experience. I hope you can find your niche and excel. BUT, should you turn out to be tone deaf (I admit, I really hope that isn’t the case) or your passions lie outside of music, I hope you can still appreciate it.

Music is a tremendous part of life, a true Grace from God. May your life be saturated with this gift.

Love,

Your Mama

Advertisements
Standard
Letters to My Kids, Piano

Cooked Butter is Delicious

Dear Child of Mine, 

One thing you’ll learn quickly is your mom likes loves to bake cookies and concoct cakes and create candies. (At least I hope you’ll find this out relatively early in your life…but maybe not, because from what I hear raising kids takes a LOT of time. Baking may take a back burner. pun intended.) The oven was on from 10am to 5pm today, as I was busy making sweets for my piano studio Christmas Concert which is coming up Friday.

I already have multiple batches of Homemade Spritz Cookies and Mint Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies in the freezer, but I today I added Chocolate Covered Butter Toffee sprinkled with sea salt to the list.

12_14_13 Toffee

Seriously, child, this candy is like a miracle in your mouth. It’s THAT good. Who knew a pound of butter could turn into something so delicious? (I try not to think about the pound of butter become pounds on my hips. I truly believe indulging in your favorite foods is totally part of living fully. We just have to have the self-control to not cross the line into gluttony. But that’s another sermon for another day.)

I hope my piano students and their parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends will enjoy my sweet little Christmas gifts to them. Their support is continually an encouragement to me and to my business and I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to thank them. 

Are you going to have a sweet tooth, I wonder? 

Will you be playing in a piano recital one day? 

Time will tell.

Love you,

Mama

Subscribe.

Standard
Piano

Piano Recital [Year 2]

IMG_7028

Though I started teaching piano in September 2009, June 2012 was my very first piano recital as a teacher. I hosted a second recital at Christmastime at a local assisted living establishment. This year, I was excited to have 16 students performing in the recital (doubling my 8 from last year.) They all did a tremendous job.

IMG_6880
I played duets with many of my students! Fun!

IMG_6942
laughter is key

It made my heart sing to see our church sanctuary filled with at least 100 people in the audience, many were friends and family of my students and some were there as my beloved support system. (If you came just to support me and listen to some lovely music, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.)

IMG_6822

My mom, grandma and Chuck made the drive from Ohio to encourage me and they did much more than that. Grandma played a 20 minute prelude while families found their seats, and did a fantastic job of entertaining our ears and calming some nerves along the way. Both Mom and Grams helped tremendously by keeping the cookie and punch reception flowing and plates filled. Thanks!!

IMG_6980

Kevin was my faithful photographer and captured hundreds of phenomenal photos to remember the occasion. And yes, he even played a four handed duet of The Entertainer with Matilda, one of my Middle School students.

IMG_6837

One very thoughtful florist from our church learned of my recital and coordinated the Sunday floral arrangements with my piano studio colors, and even made pipe cleaner music notes and “Eccles Studio” letters to accent each bouquet. So wonderful!

IMG_7017

I was thrilled to present two special students with the Annual Awards of Excellence for Most Accomplished and Most Improved Pianists. It was a very hard decision as many of my students showed noteworthy progress and have used their piano skills in more than just personal practice time.

IMG_7035

After presenting those unique awards, I gave first year (with me) students a music tote bag with my Eccles Piano Studio logo, and to my second year students, I presented these sweet new tshirts. (I wore mine yesterday and already had someone ask about piano lessons! Score!)

Eccles Piano Studio TShirt

IMG_6851

Way to go, everyone! I look forward to another year of lessons with you (and some newbies, to total 23 students in the Fall…and growing! Yay!)

IMG_7022

Subscribe.

Standard
Music, Piano

The Preview of Beauty and the Beast

It’s show week again for the local high school’s spring musical. I can hardly believe it’s been an entire year since my first experience in the pit orchestra. (Last year was The Sound of Music, remember?) I was honored to be asked to participate as one of 4 adult instrumentalists in a 25 member orchestra. The connection I have with the band director and show director has been awesome. They are fantastic leaders and a lot of fun to work with. Because of these weeks and months of practicing, I also have great relationships with many of the students, which, you may imagine, is definitely a focus for Melanie-the-youth-leader. Now, when I attend other school functions (sporting events, concerts, etc), I can point out many students by name. What a gift!
 
The music in my synth strings score is much easier than last year’s Sound of Music parts, so I have put in far less practice time. This is partially laziness, I admit, and partially because I have learned the unique art of playing one small part in the mix of a large ensemble. My music just doesn’t work without all the other instruments. It’s actually quite boring to play all by itself, but man, put it with the full orchestra and suddenly it’s a beautiful thing!
 
Awww the joys of band.
 
This week includes nightly rehearsals from 4-8pm and a midweek “preview” for the students in the elementary, middle and high school. Tomorrow’s preview will go in 30 minute increments – we will perform straight through the show, pausing every 30 minutes for a new class to fill the auditorium.
 
AND, my mom is driving in for a visit and to see the show! It’s going to be a busy, awesome weekend!
 
 
Standard