Festivals, Renovations, and Recitals–Oh, My!


To my dear readers patiently awaiting new posts, I offer my sincerest apologies for not writing more often. I’m afraid these past few weeks have been quite busy for me, so I made the decision to take a break and focus on keeping other priorities in line for the time being.

That being said, I have every intention of continuing my blog, so please bear with me just a little longer until I can get back on track. There will be more hymn analyses, children’s stories, teaching and writing thoughts, student quotes and maybe even a few surprises to come your way in the near future. 😉

In the meantime, I hope you will be satisfied with a short rundown of recent excuses events in my life.

First, there was the piano solo festival in October. This is an opportunity for piano students to play a prepared piece by memory for a judge and receive feedback and a grade in return. I had four students participate this year, which meant I was poring over music months in advance to find a suitable piece for each student, then I was teaching them their piece and helping them memorize it and iron out the details in time for the festival. For all but one student, this was their first time participating so there was some nervousness involved on their part as they didn’t know quite what to expect (and some nervousness on my part as well as I didn’t know how they’d handle the pressure).

However, it’s all over now and I’m proud to report that all four of my students received the top two grades! Way to go, everyone!!

Trent Madison Fall Festival

Katie Fall Festival

Jamie Fall Festival

Of course, just because the Festival is over doesn’t mean their pieces are. 😉 On the contrary, one nice thing about holding the Festival in the middle of the semester is that we can take the constructive feedback they each received and apply it to their pieces, making them even better in time for the recital! So, while each student earned a well-deserved “break” from their festival pieces for a couple weeks, we will be diving back into them shortly to get them spruced up and perfected for the December recital.

That’s one of my favorite things about festivals and contests such as this–the fact that students are given the opportunity not only to perform in front of others, but that they can learn the value of accepting constructive criticism and applying it to improve themselves. After all, apathy is the enemy of progress. I’m not saying all musicians or music students should be so stressed out all the time about being perfect that they never enjoy the music itself, because they view anything less than perfect as a failure. But we should always be seeking to better ourselves.

This is why I view the festivals as a stepping stone, or a “pit stop” along the way to learning a new piece, rather than the final destination. And I try to share this view with my students. Because it’s not just about a grade based on one performance. It’s about the experience, learning from it, and applying what we learn to better ourselves as musicians. At least, that’s what I hope my students take away from this.

and-now-for-something-completely-different-1

But that’s not all that’s going on! Recently, my husband and I embarked on a new chapter of home ownership–renovations. It’s exciting, exhausting, and a little nerve-wracking all at the same time as we wait to see what the final outcome will look like. This past week, we’ve had workers in our home for the better part of each day. And since I teach after school, that means I’ve spent each morning sharing my private space with strangers and awkwardly trying not to get in the way while at the same time keeping track of what’s being done.

Basically, right now our house is a disaster. We’re getting every single wall painted, so furniture is crowded in the center of each room. We’re also renovating the shower in both bathrooms, installing a new back splash in the kitchen (in addition to the new countertops that were recently installed), and getting some much needed upgrades throughout to breathe a little personality and life into our blank-slate home. It’ll all be worth it in the end, I know, but trust me–you don’t wanna see our house right now. LOL

So I’ve been spending each morning supervising the gutting and reassembly of each room, and making futile attempts to clean the other rooms that haven’t been touched yet, while knowing that their turn is coming in the near future so it really doesn’t matter all that much. 😉

Still, it’s all rather exciting and I will try to share some pictures of the end product eventually.

Finally, there’s also this little matter of hosting a student recital in December in my (hopefully completed and reassembled) house. As my husband can attest, recital music assignment time is kind of a long and arduous ordeal. It involves me poring over mountains of books and sheet music, narrowing down which pieces are suitable for which students based on level, personality, and the amount of challenge they can handle. Then from there I have to sort through each individual stack of “contenders” to pick the winners. Many times I’ll give students a few pieces pre-approved by me, to let them have at least a little say in what they want to play.

The point is, choosing recital music takes a lot of time. And for at least a week my work area (usually either around the piano or the living room couch) is covered in haphazardly-stacked piles of music which rather resembles Mr. Ollivander’s wand shop: By all appearances, there is no organizational method whatsoever, yet somehow I still know exactly what each pile is for and where each piece is located therein.

Ollivander's Wand Shop at Universal's Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

Ollivander’s Wand Shop at Universal’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

Just replace the boxes of wands in the picture above with piles of music, and you’ll get the idea. 😉

So thank you for bearing with me as I try to get back on track, and I promise I will do my best to make it up to you in the near future!

Cheers!

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