The Gift of being Thankful

A culture left behind?

It’s been ages since I’ve posted anything. One can construe I’ve nothing to share because in the areas of art and music I now lack common sense. But, in my defense, I share a new page on improvisation covering the use of the Alternate Bass and I am starting an new section of my own arrangements! You can look for them under Improvisation and Arrangement tabs.

4WH7044_largeI’ve been teaching drawing to a lovely young adult. The subject about clouds came up and I was explaining to her that as clouds approach us they are higher and farther up from the horizon line and this is very evident when viewing mackerel clouds. She had no idea what mackerel clouds. I explained these clouds signified wet weather in 36 hrs. She had no concept of forecasting weather before the age when satellite/radar imaging is seen on smartphone.

The youth of our country are missing out on a great deal of life experiences. Fewer go to orchestral or traditional, acoustical concerts, they don’t wait weeks for their favorite book to arrive via media mail, they don’t learn social skills by working out differences on a pickup softball or football game in the backyard and they occupy themselves most often by playing or communicating with digital devices.

A better Gift

You see images of children frantically ripping off giftwrap to get to the present. They see it and maybe ooh and ah a bit and then immediately go on to the next gift. They don’t comprehend the time, expense and or thought that went into the gift. When there is so much offered to them, they can’t seem to value that there was a cost to the gift. There was an expectation that the gift is to advance the enjoyment and development of the child.

It comforts me to know that children still prefer printed books over e-readers. Parents still value the importance of music lessons, especially piano. Children still like to express themselves artistically with hands on material. With the frenzy of gift giving, you would hope parents revert to the tried and true giving of gifts. Christmas and birthdays were never complete unless we received a book. Some years there were a few more presents, often just one or two more (and one or both were often clothes). My parents did well trying to give us one thing we would really use. It’s hard to go wrong with books, music lessons, art classes or archery instruction. These expand the child’s world through words or improves their sense of accomplishments and helps eye, hand and mind coordination through the mastery of a skill. Yes, these are often solitary pursuits, but they are shared socially. By the way, if one of us children in my family struck out in the present department, we still better not make faces, pout or not be thankful because giving thanks is giving back a gift in return. After all, even God thinks it is wrong to be unthankful (2Timothy 3:2 “For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy…”). Much of our news is generated by stories of unthankfulness. It seems as if everyone is focused on how they are offended or unappreciated instead of being thankful for a country where they can express themselves and have the option to choose how they will live their life.

So, think about your gift giving, may you have a good response. Here’s a link to a past post about thanksgiving. Be Thankful!!

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War of the Worlds

There’s more to teaching piano than a degree. Play with fingers, think on your feet, yes – but hear with your heart.

Deep Bluesforget texting while playing piano

Have you ever had the “other world” encroach on your lesson time with a student? I don’t mean the ringing of cell phones and the beeps of a new text. They shouldn’t be anywhere near the piano bench nor allowed on until after the lesson. This “world” is a more old fashioned disruption. It is daily life brought into the lesson time or rearing it’s devious head in the middle of an important musical point you’re trying to make.

 

A similar incident happened when a nine year old started crying upon turning to the song “The Circus is Coming to Town.” I must be the most obtuse teacher around. I saw no reason for the tears.  The obvious connection to her tears – “The teacher said we are all going to die because of global warming.” Those were her exact words in 1991. I was flabbergasted. Firstly, global warning wasn’t going to be allowed during my lesson time! But, secondly, seeing her real distress (and my tissues piling up beside her) I was glad I didn’t mention this. I told her that we all needed to be responsible for taking care of the world (resources may have been too big a word) and God will take care of us. This satisfied her, but now I  had the problem. I was angry. Angry that a teacher would scare children with such topics when they had no concept of time and how true, natural science truly works. I had to explain this to the mother when she picked up her daughter a few minutes later, wondering why there were tears.

To cap my experiences off, a couple years later a young student and I were trying to make up words using the musical alphabet. Eventually, I chanced on the word D-A-D. A look of terror sprung up on her face and the tears started down her face. Tissues leaped into my fingers and I told her she was safe here and we could play a happy song to chase the sad thoughts away. To be truthful, I’m not sure why I actually got through the lesson as well as I did and the mother explained to me that the two of them don’t mention that word at home. And I thought I was having a bad week because a couple students didn’t pay up. This was a new level of perspective.
critismn not enough emotion

Effective Resolutions

So, some schools do teach you how to handle the unruly students. They convince you that showing the unwilling out the door is better for you than a hard-earned paycheck. You develop a love for a beautiful medium of expression and nothing prepares you for the student and the tissue box event. That’s where you need to draw on your love, not just for music, but for the student. Pray for a caring response and guidance on how music can help the student cope with the disappointments and heartaches in life.

Music Therapy – ancient remedy

There were many students who had very hard lives and never showed it, but I could hear it through their fingers and see it on their faces as they lost themselves in the notes pouring from the antique Steinway. Sorrows as old as time, remedies just as tried through the ages. Just as the Psalms tell of men, overwhelmed by sorrows, find relief through music and faith their faith in a faithful God. 

But I will sing of thy power; yea, I will sing aloud of thy mercy in the morning:
for thou hast been my defense and refuge in the day of my trouble.
(17) Unto thee, O my strength, will I sing:
for God is my defense, and the God of my mercy.Ps 59:16

I teach improvisation to all my students so they can have a means of expressions and a skill to play new songs well past the years they were “made to take piano lessons.” But we must also give our students the skill to express their emotions through music as a form of therapy and expression. And, may the songs they require include many happy songs!

The High Cost of Ignorance

What are five things you wish you had learned earlier in life?

Everyday I am learning new things. A couple posts ago I mentioned the shortcuts some artists take that’s pretty much akin to a vocalist lip-synching at a concert.
After saying goodbye to the refrigerator repair man (hopefully not the compressor) I took a walk among the genuine creatures on the farm – the ducks and my Border Collie, Kansa. I was hunting grasshoppers when oCapture16ne crept it’s way up my pant leg. I learned grasshoppers only travel UP and I was dancing a jig trying to turn him around fast! The neighbors just had confirmation that I lost it. This incident is not profound in its own right; however, I was reminded of one of the most important lessons I’ve learned.

#1 It’s okay to laugh at yourself (and not at others unless they are laughing at themselves, too). I was at a small tiny town in north central Kansas, practicing on the organ for a funeral the next day. The town was astir with talk that a musician from the east was going to be playing at the ceremony. This was big news to them. It was important to me to make that good impression (after all, I had a reputation to make and uphold in only an hour). I pulled out the different stops and played some nice sounding chords. As the journey down the tabs progressed, the chords became more creative, maybe more intense, too. Well, I’ll just admit it, I started playing good old diminished seventh chords just like they did in the old movies when the train was boring down on the lady, tied up and lying on the tracks.
This was getting really fun!
As I took a break to set the tabs to a new setting, someone called out to me, “Heh, there, just wanna let you know the tower speaker’s on and the whole town’s hearing you make that awful noise!”
I guess then that knowing when to laugh at yourself is more important than making a good impression.

#2 You only have one time to make a great first impression but you should give people more than one chance.

A piano student’s mother sat in a lesson with her daughter for the first time. Now, I am a very good piano teacher and am passionate about teaching; however, I had a massive sinus infection (from sanding drywall mud) and this was a very bad day but not the type to cancel piano lessons. Without asking for my feedback, she stopped her daughter’s lessons because she said I lacked enthusiasm. The sad part was her daughter was learning well and enjoyed lessons, but the mother felt her daughter didn’t need her help anymore to learn piano and probably felt threatened.
How many times we wished we weren’t judge by the impression we gave others that in no way truly represented our self? How many times did we lose out on a good opportunity because we were quick to judge someone based on one impression?

#3 Being yourself is more important than being important. And there is no one more important than one in need. So, try to be giving.

I don’t know how much of my life was used up trying to impress or please others instead of just being my self. I’m not saying it’s wrong to try to make a good impression – on the contrary. First and good impressions are very important. They allow those you interact with to have confidence in your word and work. But if you think making great first impressions is hard, try being someone you’re not!
It’s like the time our family had a couple over to share a meal and to see our new house we built. Everything was going to plan. The meal was great, I got to use a dishwasher for the first time leaving both hubby and myself free to take the couple on the grand tour.
The lady guest and I were following behind the men when the man ask,”Why is there so much foam spilling out from the dishwasher?”
I tried to stay calm as I rounded the turn into the kitchen – but there was no denying the gallons of containers of foam engulfing the kitchen floor. It looked like a 7′ x 12′ hot tub spewing out suds galore! It must have been quite hilarious to watch me try to mop up the mess as elegantly and inconspicuously as possible.

Now, if anyone has a “right” to be important, you would think it would be Jesus Christ! Yet Christ took up the towel and washed His disciples’ feet. He specifically said that this was done as an example of an attitude for us to follow. His actions backed up the words He spoke, “The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him.” (John 13:16)

So-Amish or Mennonites? Which one answered God’s call in my life? womens-control-top-pantyhose_nude-rt
One Sunday our family was in route from Massachusetts to Kansas when our car motor’s belt broke in Berne, Indiana. My hubby quickly pulled to the shoulder. The Amish guided their buggies around us. The faces of the elders looked on in disapproval, maybe a little relish and youngsters looked at us with curiosity. Well, I sacrificed a pair of panty hose that actually got us a couple miles (literally) further down the road. Amazing invention – yet they still run when snagged, a pity. Again we were on the side of the road next to a large wheat field. More buggies and frowns came our way. The strong August sun had no competition from any shade and we were hot, discouraged and very thristy. Temps were near 100 degrees. Would you believe a Mennonite family came out of their house to help and we informed them of our predicament. Their neighbor, also a Mennonite, owned a garage and helped my husband replace the belt while the lady invited us into an air conditioned house and pumped us with iced tea and popcorn. Sure, the Amish thought they made the right impression, but –

you can’t beat the impact you’ll have on a life if you meet a need.

Voluntarily.

We weren’t important, but that caring, Mennonite family, just by being themselves, made us feel important to them and that makes me feel small just thinking about it.

Enough for now. Watch later for more lessons I wished I had learned. BUT – what do you wish you had learned earlier?

How Does One meet A Day of Infamy? A Study in Contrast.

FDR said we will always remember this day as a day of infamy. The attack on Pearl Harbor was brutal, almost entirely unexpected and it roused the “sleeping giant.” The Great Depression and WW2 made the 50’s so much sweeter. But where is this giant the Japanese admiral spoke of? For the most part, today’s Americans are oblivious to the nation’s financial and leadership crisis. Many are struggling to find employment and cope with new governmental regulatory changes.We are in a darker period in America and many fail to see it, yet-

In all of this we are to still give thanks.

I am beginning to think God is One Who sees the glass as half full. (I’m slow.)

Our neighbor called this week to say their grandson’s Neuroblastoma cancer has returned. This is devastating. It is times like these we can focus on the good care available and the happy times Connor brings to those around him. For these we can be thankful. For those who care, updates on his condition and how to pray for him are in: https://www.facebook.com/PrayingForConnerHill.

Our lives are much like a work in progress. Good works or art consist of a delicate balance of light and dark, bright and somber. Can Debussy’s “Claire De Lune” draw the listener in if no notes on the bass clef existed? Visual artists know that beginning artists struggling with the use of contrast but it is the very use of this element that takes the artwork to the next level.  See the difference in the drawing below.

bad drawing Untitled-Grayscale-close-upGod puts the dark strokes among the light ones in our lives to paint a picture to glorify Him. It’s hard to appreciate the darker strokes in our lives, especially when it touches such young, innocent lives.

After all, if God can only be a good God in the good times, He’s not much of a god when the hard times come.  So have faith in God’s goodness and let’s pray for Connor and the many others like him -maybe it’s you – and give thanks to God for the blessings He has showered down on us and for holding His loved ones through the dark times.

                                                                                                                                 

Thanksgiving

What IS Thanksgiving?

Today, in the midst of baking rolls and pies, it is good to to rest the feet and reflect on what Thanksgiving means. Of course, we can say we’re thankful for family, friends, our freedoms as US citizens, health, possessions and jobs, but what if we don’t have them? Can we still be thankful? Consider this-

Martin Rinkart was a pastor at Eilenburg, Saxony during the Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648). Because Eilenburg was a walled city, it became a severely overcrowded refuge for political and military fugitives from far and near. As a result the entire city suffered from famine and disease. In 1637 a great pestilence swept through the area, resulting in the death of some eight thousand persons, including Rinkart’s wife. At that time he was the only minister in Eilenburh because the others had died or fled. Rinkart alone conducted the burial services for 4480 people, sometimes as many as 40 or 50 a day!

During the closing years of the war, Eilenburg was overrun or besieged three times, once by the Austrian army and twice by the Swedes. On one occasion, the Swedish general demanded that the townspeople make a payment of 30,000 thalers. Martin Rinkart served as intermediary, pleading that the impoverished city could not meet such a levy; however, his request was disregarded. Turning to his companions the pastor said, “Come, my children, we can find no mercy with man; let us take refuge with God.” On his knees he led them in a fervent prayer and in the singing of a familiar hymn, “When in the Hour of Utmost Need.” The Swedish commander was so moved that he reduced the levy to 1350 thalers.

This is the servant God used to pen the words:

“Now thank we all our God With heart and hands and voices,

Who wondrous things hath done, In whom His world rejoices;

Who, from our mother’s arms, Hath blessed us on our way

With countless gifts of love, And still is ours today.

O may this bouteous God, Through all our life be near us,

With ever joyful hearts And blessed peace to cheer us;

And keep us in His grace, and guide us when perplexed

And free us from our ills In this world and the next”

Martin Rinkart (1586-1649)

Translated by Cathrine Winkworth (1827-1878)

(Taken from “Crusader Hymns and Hymn Stories. Hope Publishing. 1966)

Walled in, no freedom, no food, little or no family, jobs, possessions and health, yet they gave thanks to God. God tells us in 1Th 5:18 “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” It is obvious that a thankful heart is not based on circumstances but perspective and frame of (spiritual) mind.

My prayer for you this thanksgiving is not that you will have an abundance of things and happy circumstances, but you will know that no matter what your life brings, God is always the certainty of love, grace and forgiveness. Maybe that’s what Martin Rinkart knew.

As my husband, Glen, and my worlds fill with challenges, it is good to take pleasure in the small ways laughter comes to us. Since I have no piano students this year, art projects are filling the hours (as if they needed filling!) I leave you with a pastel still in progress of the one that spends the most time with me-Kansa.

Kansa - 9 x 12 pastel portrait

Kansa – 9 x 12 pastel portrait