Roots-part One

The Brookville Homestead

My husband and I had the privilege of staying with his aunt Darlene Phelps to attend the Memorial Day service held at the Mulberry Cemetery, locally known as “The Yordy Cemetery.” That Sunday night was spent hearing her tell of old times, sweet times and it was a wonderful bonding of two generations.

Monday my husband gave a good reminder of the undervalued contribution made by those most generous who fought for our continued freedoms. Afterward we drove by the old homestead whose appearance shows the neglect of the present owners due to very hard times. No longer visible are the flower beds and peacocks, pear blossoms and sheets on the lines. It was hard to find good photos of the place, but my husband’s cousin Sue Jameson came through in fine style – as usual – and I was able to document the homestead during Dwight and Irma Yordy’s years.

Brookville sketch small

First began the sketch. I used watercolor pencils. (Thank you, Celia. I love using them).

barn added-small

The time went quickly and I was rolling on when I realized it was past time to photograph the addition of the barn and trees behind the house.

The Cottonwoods on the side of the house are also started and the blush of Grandma’s roses can be seen to the right of the house.

layout complete

The tree trucks are more defined and the leaves are started. The detailing to the house is barely getting underway at this point. I am still trying to figure out how to handle the tangle of foliage behind the house.

contrast started

There is a long way to go before the contrast is set. I start by darkening the trees on the right and bushes in front of the house.

Also, shadows on the porch roof and ground are added.

The foliage around the grain barn out back is darkened along with the tree trunks in the foreground.

Brookville Homestead -Facebook copy

It is slowly taking form.

After adding more contrast with both watercolor and India ink, the painting achieves the finished look I was going for.

Here it is framed and ready for a generous aunt. Hope you enjoyed sharing this journey with me.

Holly Yordy

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Truth & Consequence ?

Remember the game show – Truth or Consequence? (That question , I think, just dated me). Are there any consequences today or is that term truly archaic?

So, What happened?

He was brought up in a Bible-believing Baptist church and attended a college of similar description. He was like many in his youth group. The standards set by his elders had no personal meaning for him, and slowly, over the next few years, he rationalized the subtle changes in his moral code. What could have been a dynamic life, blessed with the gift of persuasion, leading many to eternal life became known as the infamous Jim Jones incident, responsible for a thousand deaths in Guyana. This is the potential when biblical standards are not taken personally.” (The following excerpt was taken from my book, Music Ethics: A study of Musical Ministry in the Church).

So, what happened? Jim Jones developed a code of conduct where he believed he could use people rather than serve people. We see that today. Where? Lobbyists and politicians readily come to mind. Mankind tends to be self serving in one degree or another so society puts up laws and guidelines keep people – us – on the straight and narrow. The more disciplined a society is, the fewer rules are needed.

Food for thought

But we are not a disciplined society any more. Proof? Just walk into a classroom where a teacher has lost control over the students. (We covered that a few discussions ago). It’s not just the students – remember the mayhem during the aftermath of Katrina? So we all need accountability.

I say, the more we push God out of society, the more chaos caused by our self-serving attitudes flood into the void. It’s either God or government. David, when given a choice of punishment for numbering the people ( as found in II Samuel 24:10) said, “ I am in a great strait: let us now fall into the hand of the LORD; for His mercies are great: and let me not fall into the hand of man.” Seventy thousand died as a consequence of David’s sin. If you were in church, the sermon would, at this point, summarize:

  1. Actions always bring consequence

  2. Consequences always involve more people than the transgressor originally thought

  3. The LORD is merciful.

So this is “Holy Week” to many around the world. Let us take note the example Christ left us as quoted from Philippians 2: 5-11.

5 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: 7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: 8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. 9 Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: 10 That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; 11 And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

The Gift of Accountability -& the Studio

So, a disciplined life is accountable to someone or something. When we know “the rules” we find freedom to life and progress by them.

How does this apply to the music studio? Every lesson has accountability built into it. We listen to the consequence of the student’s adherence to last week’s “rules.” We write this week’s “rules” in the assignment book. We may even show the student how to accomplish (live by) a particular “rule.” If a student did not abide by the guidelines set down in the book, we reassign the work.

If you want to string out the biblical application more, you could say the “final judgment” for a teaching year occurs at the yearly recital and tests. Tests? Yes, in Kansas, the KMTA puts on a program called Music Progressions. This event tests students on performance, keyboard skills, listening, sight-reading and rhythm aptitude and theory. This topic should be discussed more thoroughly the next time we meet.

Unintended Consequences to Mandatory Education

The Motive

Last time I talked about discipline in the studio. It helps when there are options for the teacher when handling difficult students. When children are mandated by law to attend school until the age of 16, there are consequences. Consider the progression of events.

  1. Motives were just. For the most part, these laws were passed to protect the future of the child. Not all parents valued education enough to send their child to school. These laws made sure every child had the same opportunities for a successful life as children of parents who did value education.
  2. Schools that were once filled with students who’s parents valued education were now populated with some children of parents who cared less or resented the need for education.
  3. Teachers who once had the support from appreciative parents now must also try to teach children without the support of some parents.
  4. Children who know that parents at home resent teachers telling their little “Johnny” what they can and cannot do push the barriers that define a controlled classroom.
  5. All discipline breaks down, thus creating an environment of non-learning for both the troublemakers and those students who want to learn.
  6. Teachers are frustrated and spend more time on implementing what little disciplinary actions they have left in their arsenal than on the lesson material and teaching the willing students.
  7. More students fail to learn as they should and could and the drop out rate is increased as once willing students fall behind and become discouraged.

I admit this is VERY simplistic. It does not even take into account the breakdown of parental support and training once offered by multi-generational households and neighborhoods. Not discussed is the trivialization of meaningful curriculum and life skills and the glorification of multiculturalism and self-esteem. Finally, what is staring us in the eyes today is the union’s growing domination over communities using the fear of strikes and unmet “educational” demands and the indoctrination of the teachers that the community undervalues them and their work was worth more than the current contract. The present mandatory education requires a COMPLETE overhaul.

The Fix

So, what was once an attempt to pass laws so all children could learn how to succeed in the world has become the root cause for an increase of failure within the educational system. Money is not the answer. An over-simplification of a corrective action might be:

  1. Define and prioritize the goals of the school classroom. Pay for the most important things first, then communities won’t feel guilty for not affording everything.
  2. Determine needed skills from a teacher to teach the material, maintain an atmosphere that encourages learning and be mature enough to be realistic in the expectations from students, parents, colleagues and administrator/community.
  3. Decide appropriate actions the student must do to achieve social/intellectual maturity for his age and match the curriculum to each level of growth.
  4. Demonstrate a respect for teachers and students by establishing boundaries of conduct from each of them towards the other and, likewise, within the educational community at large.
  5. Demand accountability from the teachers and school personnel for the expenditure of time and resources of the community’s largess.

We use these steps often in solving problems we face in our daily life. For example:

  1. The car brakes down. We know we need a working vehicle so –
  2. We determine we need a mechanic with the right skills.
  3. We set criteria that helps us chose the right mechanic.
  4. We show we respect each other when the mechanic is honest about the need and the car owner pays him for an honest day’s work.
  5. When the fix doesn’t work, we expect a warranty – the mechanic makes good on his word and work.

Accountability and Enticement

If this applies to us in our everyday life, shouldn’t we demand the same from those who borrow the brains of our children so they can program them seven hours a day? These steps mean the whole educational system needs to be reevaluated, but isn’t it worth it? If the community wants educated citizens to reside there, shouldn’t they demand accountability? Money really hasn’t come into the equation except as a show of respect in #4 of each discussion above. If you think money is needed for a good education, ask those who walked to the one room school houses found in this country’s younger states and passed proficiency tests a majority of today’s teachers would fail. Mandates require accountability on the part of all parties and the enticement from teachers for students to learn.

We are blessed not to have students mandated to take piano lessons – it leaves more option for us. So, the piano studio is an option. Maybe not for the student, but at least the parent. Are you ready to be accountable to them? Can you entice the unwilling student?

A Piano Teacher’s Impact, Discipline in the Studio

March is “one of “those months” for our family. Birthdays galore! Now this can be rather fun – all that cake, ice cream and goodies, but I am on a so-called “diet war” with my sister. We both set our own goal for how much weight we want to shed by April 1st. Needless to say, it’s looking grim for me. Now I wouldn’t be worried about this except my sister had to e-mail a reminder to me about it. She also mentioned looking up info on our former piano teacher, Ernest St. Jacques. Now that brought back some memories.

The Legacy of a Piano Teacher
Ernest St. Jacques showed up to my sister and my first lesson wearing a tux. My first thought was, “He means business!” Later I found out he played bass with a small band who entertained diners with the sounds of the 20’s-50’s, hence the tux. He was first violinist at the symphony orchestra and professor of strings and composition at the Smith College in South Hadley. For 5 ½ years, year round (even in the humid summer months) he wore a tux and we sat straighter on the bench because of it. This was a gift given to Deb and myself – a qualified instructor. He never raised his voice, lectured or veered from his soft, French inflected voice. In other words, he was professional not just in his performance career but in the teaching studio. My MTNA colleagues would gasps disapproval when I tell them he usually went 15-30 minutes over for my lesson time. I had so many questions and he loved to share those little mysteries behind the magic of sound. (I feared Deb and a distant cousin of mine who studied violin with him after our time slot may have suffered a bit from this.) But God was very good to me. My college professor, Celia Steward was just as professional. “Let’s get down to business” was the approach, but caring and respect also was evident. So how does a teacher maintain discipline?

Discipline in the studio

It is fascinating to listen to people describe their past and present piano teachers. I’ve heard stories about the most gracious, experienced pianist in our church yelling at her student for not being more prepared. I was shocked until more and more people told me of different teachers resorting to such tactics. It reminded me of the story my father told me about a teacher whacking the backs of his hands with a rubber hose only to get it with the belt when he got home. That was in the thirties and forties when education wasn’t advanced and it only turned out WW2 generals, rocket scientists and computer developers. Now-a-days discipline is a no-no and we pride ourselves on voters who think the three branches of government are President, Congress and Senate. They must have sat in the class taught by the professor who thought there were 57 states. Now I apologize to those students who don’t know better and yet have succeeded to learn so much more. Discipline is necessary for success in the studio or classroom.

So I started teaching and followed the same approach as “my” Mr. St. Jacques because I didn’t know better and God was good to my students. I do not raise my voice. I will tap out rhythms on the piano. But I tell my students and/or parents (depending on the age) that it is not mandatory for them to be there and I am not required to teach them. In fact, this philosophy was put to the test when a thirteen year old student refused to obey me when I asked him to stop playing around on the piano while I was talking. He banged his fist on the keys and I calmly got up and exited to the parent in my waiting room.

I told her that I will not teach some one who obviously does not want to be there. Two lessons were plenty enough time to come to this conclusion and I would not be swayed to do otherwise. It hurt. Like most teachers, the income was needed. But I wanted to protect my antique Steinway (1879) and I was determined to respect myself as a professional piano teacher. So, about discipline:

1. Project professionalism in your policy, appearance and demeanor.
2. Ask (politely) the student not to do___ but let’s do___ instead.
3. Give fair warning of consequences. If there is no improvement, I tell them that I will inform the parent (if the problem wasn’t grievous enough that I haven’t done so already).
4. Talk to the parent and state that they will no longer be a part of the studio family if the problem is not corrected. (This usually happens when students repeatedly forget music or don’t complete written assignments). I take this time to inform them why this issue is important.
5. Do what you said you would do. Sad, but needed. No raised voices, no deflating remarks nor temper tantrums to rival Beethoven’s outbursts, just professional expectations and responses.

All of the above points are stated in my studio policy – such a beautiful thing!

Well, how did I do? How do you? In the near future we better talk about the mandatory classroom.

I Found a Forgiveness Song

Just Musings Today-spiritual ones, that is.

 

Christmas is this week. With the commercialism of Christ’s birth, the message usually gets lost. People are about fed up with “Deck the Halls” by now and I can’t blame them. Sure, I play carols throughout the year. In fact, my large collection of CD’s, tapes and records (ask your parents) get year-round service. But don’t throw out the season because it’s celebrated with the wrong motives. Claim it as your new project of protection. Why should the spotted owl deserve more from us than the King of Kings? So look for those little caroling books you couldn’t throw away and read the words to “Go, Tell It on the Mountain,” “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming” and one of Handel’s lesser known Christmas tunes, “While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks.”

 

After Christmas, I will be explaining to you how to improvise those tunes you enjoy the most. But let me say Christmas is a time of joy& hope – God loved us enough to save us, it’s a time of shame & reflection – because my sinful state compelled Him to leave heaven on this rescue mission, it’s a time of thanksgiving & praise – He succeeded in His mission! Now, I leave you with the words to a real “Forgiveness Song” (read the last blog), a carol I have enjoyed in both English or Polish:

Infant Holy, Infant Lowly

“Infant holy, Infant lowly, for His bed a cattle stall;

Oxen lowing, little knowing Christ the Babe is Lord of All.

Swift are winging angels singing, noels ringing, tiding bring:

Christ the Babe is Lord of All, Christ the Babe is Lord of All.

 

Flocks were sleeping, shepherds keeping vigil till the morning new

Saw the glory, heard the story, tiding of a gospel true.

Thus rejoicing, free from sorrow, praises voicing, greet the morrow:

Christ the Babe was born for you. Christ the Babe was born for you.

Text: Polish carol, paraphrased by Edith E.M. Reed, Music: traditional Polish carol.

Any “Forgiveness Songs” out There?

Tomorow is my eldest granddaughter’s sixth birthday. They grow up so quickly! Happy birthday Alexandra! To tie up a lose end relating to Christ’s birthday –

Lose Ends

No one has given their favorite carol(s) yet, but there’s still time to share the goodness. On my debut blog, I gave my readers a quiz – here are the answers.

“TITLE” Known As:

  1. Vertical planes adorned via bunched Ilex –  Deck the Halls
  2. Permission for Ice Crystal Precipitation  –  Let It Snow
  3. Quiet Nocturne  – Silent Night
  4. Praise to Jehovah  –  Hallelujah!
  5. Happy sounds of the Chimes  – Carol (literally, happy song) of the Bells
  6. Ag hollow metallic device  – Silver Bells

Musings – When does forgiveness begin?

Christmas is more than a birthday. In the movie “The Music Box,” the character played by Maureen O’Hara defines the meaning of Christmas in these words, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” Many would recognize this quote as John 3:16. God’s act of forgiveness towards mankind. Of course, a man’s restoration to God happens when we ask for God’s forgiveness, but still, an interesting thought – when does forgiveness begin? There are many songs about love, but how many of forgiveness.  Sure, there’s “I’m Sorry” made more popular by Bounty’s commercial. We tie forgiveness with actions – or we should. It is no more different than love. Prove you love me, show that you’ve forgiven me. Sometimes we have to forgive the offense over and over again because daily life brings the hurt up, but eventually, the emotions line up with the conscious decision to let God take care of the account and you are only responsible for your actions and feelings toward the former offender.

What does this have to do with music? Not much, because I cannot think of any popular songs that deal with the topic of forgiveness in a realistic manner. It makes one wonder, “Why?”

 

Give the Gift of Music!

One of the best Christmas gifts you can give is the gift of music.

Decades ago my younger sister prayed for a piano – daily – for two years. I came home from school a few days before Christmas only to find a piano in the living room. Yes, the small living room. But the night before lessons started I dreamed I was playing beautiful arpeggios (didn’t know what they were called at the time) and sure enough, my piano lessons with Mr. Ernest St. Jacques opened a whole new world for me.

Now I have the privilege of showing my students the same world. Adults as well as children can learn to play piano. One of my most ambitious students started playing for worship singing in just two years of beginning piano instructions and played for a double wedding a couple years later! Most play for enjoyment and children learn a valuable discipline in mental assimilation and coordination. Whatever your motives, give the gift of music!!

If you haven’t solved the Christmas quiz, checkout my last blog.

Christmas Quiz – Are you up to it?

Can You Recognize these familiar songs in the titles below?

  1. Vertical planes adorned via bunched Ilex
  2. Permission for Ice Crystal Precipitation
  3. Quiet Nocturne
  4. Praise to Jehovah
  5. Happy sounds of the Chimes
  6. Ag hollow metallic device

Well, how did you do? I’ll have answers in a couple days. Til then, Merry Christmas! You may want to read my feelings about one of the oldest carols known. If so, keep reading.

MUSINGS

So what is the longest Christmas Carol? I suspect it would be “The Twelve Days of Christmas” – a song greatly aggravating to my mother, but she had five children singing it in one of those tiny little ranches (which did NOT sprawl) and prone to migraines (which we probably caused) so I can actually understand why it would be aggravating. As a piano teacher, I would HATE to be forced to listen to my students play all the verses! Come on, teachers, you can admit to your closet fears and hates. So, that’s probably my least favorite carol.

I must say, one of the oldest carols is one of my favorites – “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.” My sources say it has been sung from the Latin Text since the ninth century. There’s a great deal of Biblical doctrine found in the words. Whether the singer refers to The Christ as “the Rod of Jesse” or “Day-Spring,” meaning Sun-rise or branch (Is. 11:1) or sings of our great hope in the words “From depths of hell Thy people save and give them victory o’er the grave.” – a wonderful promise stated in I Corinthians 15:20-23 – it is surpassed by the word “Emmanuel.”

GOD with us. Such love is found in John 3:16 where God says He loved us and in Philippians 2:5-11where it details the cost of that love. It was the Emmanuel part that touched my heart and made me realize I needed the Savior that God was telling me He was.

So, “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” just doesn’t cut it for me. Actually, it is Caribou that live in the Lapland, angels never sang at Jesus’ birth, we don’t really know how many wise men there were and they weren’t in Jesus’ presence until He was a toddler. Let us not lose sight of the whole reason for Christmas because of all the errors found in the songs. So, what is your favorite carol? Okay, favorite carols.

This sight is not meant to be religious or preachy – just a little thought provoking and engaging the reader to share their thoughts and questions – musical or otherwise.