Category Archives: piano studio, responsibility, teaching

How Do You Open A Closed Mind?

Art Supplies

I’m getting excited about painting. I used all my Christmas and B-day gifts to buy some materials. Since I’m usually house bound, I shop online. It’s hard finding what I need in the Wichita area anyway, so I pulled out my Dick Blick catalogs, made my list and after some online comparative shopping, stuck with my original order. With all the lesson openings in my piano studio schedule and the upcoming summer slow down, I figured it’s about time to paint.

Now, I’m pretty good at graphite drawings but it’s been a long time since I just painted for fun. Some one who saw my murals for church-use said they saw my artwork and that put me off a bit. Large scale murals painted for illustration purposes does not at all represent the nuances of fine art. I didn’t bother trying to sway a mind closed to the idea of discussion.

Closed Minds VS Ambitions

So, that brings up an interesting point – How do you open a closed mind? How can a piano teacher convince students they can do it? There are many reasons for a closed mind.

Now, I’ve engineered decks, wired an entire house, sewn suits, and trisected an angle with only a straight-edge and compass before the other student did it and made the papers – so I can safely say I’m a person willing to try most anything (I will not jump out of planes and ride backwards on a rollercoaster – so don’t even go there). But when it’s been a long time since I’ve done something, I admit to being afraid of failure.

Now nothing closes a mind from opportunities like fear. Fear from failing to get that scholarship is often pure fear. There are the fears of making a wrong decision that make adversely impact others and the fear of injury and such. These are legitimate fears but still they are often overcome with the reward of great satisfaction.

More commonly encountered, though is the fear of being laughed at or fear of not delivering on an expectation and maybe the fear of disappointing my own image of myself. I suspect the person who didn’t want to talk about my art was afraid she would have found I was as good an artist as her grand daughter. There is always someone better than you. Some will learn faster, play faster, paint better, throw farther, etc. The question is, “Can I live with the fact there are others better than myself?” This reasoning reveals more than Fear. Pride is often the underlying cause of our fears. Acknowledging that there will be someone better than you and that’s okay really frees you up to try new adventures. You’re not doing it to be the proven best. You are doing it to better yourself and to experience life more fully. So, sorry students, you do have to improvise! So go out and try!

Impro with Stride & Art supplies

Piano Skills and Improvisation

Since the start of January’s lessons, students here have been preparing for piano evaluations. I am a member of the Kansas Music Teachers Association (KMTA), a sub-chapter of Music Teachers National Association. All this means my students usually take the Music Progressions program offered through the state level. This is great. There is no competition, but students are evaluated on their performance of two contrasting styles of piano repertoire, listening skills, theory and keyboard skills (which include scales, chord progressions, intervals or chord inversions, etc.), all corresponding to ten different skill levels.

Nothing helps cement theory and keyboard skills as well as improvising music. As soon as I figure out how to insert links to my other pages I’ll include them for your convenience, until then, click on the improvisation page on the right. I discuss how to start improvising a melody offered a couple of weeks back.

Ducks, ice and art catalogs

We had one of those nice and nasty ice storms a couple of days ago. Coming from Massachusetts, we know when to drive slowly and carefully – a skill Kansans give little thought to. It amazed me to know the police only had to respond to a bit over 100 accidents on Tuesday’s commute home. Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks! Of course, there could have been another 100 plus that didn’t need to call in the police, but I’m hoping it will eventually get safer to drive in winter weather around here. I had the privilege of setting out around the duck yard the “anti-coyote” lights I made up and trying to pry up the water tubs from the frozen ground and still maintaining my balance. God was so good to me.

It always makes me feel good to actually experience winter weather in winter. In younger years I would have treated myself to a cup of hot chocolate after some outdoors time, but now it’s been a good cup of tea and crunching numbers from my want list in the art catalog. I got some Christmas and birthday money this last month and I’m determined to paint. Unfortunately I find my supplies greatly depleted so my list contains everything from canvases, gesso, hake brushes and acrylic paints. I think I’ll warm up with a couple of landscapes. Before my supplies arrive – I better set up my painting area. I’m starting to get excited about this! See, winter’s not so bad!

Empty studios, weather woes and merry meter maids

THE EMPTY STUDIO

Why Blame the Weather? (The Case of the Diligent Meter Maid)

Yesterday was a slow day in my piano studio. Why? The weather. Now my husband and I are teeny-tiny little produce farmers with some poultry, so we are always interested in the weather but the apocalyptic announcements of approaching blizzards on the Weather Channel that never appear are starting to jade me. After all, isn’t cable’s weather channel suppose to report weather? It’s ludicrous to see Cantore standing in lightly snow-dusted roads bemoaning all the snow IN NEW YORK in January. What part of winter doesn’t he understand? The result of winter weather in the Wichita area was the cancellation of school – again. Now, I’m sure if the school board was honest (Where’s the magic of “Liar, Liar” when you need it?) they would say, “We’re afraid of the lawsuits slapped on us when buses slide into students.” Now that is a valid concern. I could easily buy that one.

There’s no excitement in our society today. Everything is so “correct.”  But I admit I’m a transplant to Kansas from the Springfield, MA area. The Meter Maids there were made of firm stuff. You won’t see Cantore out there when one of them is on a mission to decrease the city’s budget deficits.

In 1994-95 the snow was piled as high as the meters. A man tried to climb up and over the snow banks to put his cold little quarter into the meter like any dutiful citizen would. Unfortunately, he slipped, he fell, he broke his leg and he watched while the meter maid whipped open her ticket pad and wrote him out a welcome present from the city of Springfield, Massachusetts. The shame and outrage from the public was so great, the major suspended parking meter fines until the snow season ended. I don’t know, but I would guess the fallen man could have sued the city.

Until a few years ago, most of us walked to school unless a REAL blizzard was in progress. My grandfather (Pepere, Joseph Goodreau, French Canadian) plowed for Ludlow (a suburb of Springfield), working sometimes 72 hours straight to make sure ambulances and other vehicles had access ASAP. He didn’t party it up or complain. My mother would meet him coming down our hill with a bottle of Pepsi or a cup of coffee. He was like so many others who plowed (or like today), fixed downed power lines or responded to accidents with tow trucks, ambulances and the likes. So we waited and waited for buses in subzero weather. Our school board finally drew the line at closing schools when the ambient temperature was below -20 degrees. Maybe we were soft after all.

PS

I love looking at Mt Washington’s website. In summer I feel cooler, in winter I appreciate how warm it is around me. In other words – this is one COLD place in USA.  To “travel there” follow this link:

http://www.mountwashington.org/

STUDIO NEWS

Next lesson in improvising will be posted in a couple of days. I’ve been busy shoveling.