Monday, June 30, 2014

Monday's Muse

You can only become truly accomplished at something you love. Don't make money your goal. Instead, pursue the things you love doing, and then do them so well that people can't take their eyes off you.  ~ Maya Angelou

Friday, June 27, 2014

CTO … Heart's Delight

Everybody wants to know … Sweet Baby Girl has arrived!

Check This Out … Evalyn Fern Wilson was born into this world on Sunday, June 22, 8:11am.

Weight: 7 pounds 1 ounce  Length: 22 inches

I am a grandma! and I'm taking the summer off!!
Don't forget to practice!!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Monday's Muse

The worst hour of your life is only 60 minutes long.  ~ Anonymous

Friday, June 20, 2014

CTO … The Price of a Musician

Check This Out … This has been around awhile, but, sadly, still applies:

A guy calls the musicians' guild to get a quote on a 6 piece band for a wedding. The rep says, "Off the top of my head, about $2,000." The guy says, "WHAT? For music?!" The rep responds, "I'll tell you what. Call the plumbers' union and ask for six plumbers to work from 6 'til midnight on a Saturday night. Whatever they charge you, we'll work for half."

Thursday, June 19, 2014

… so long as I get somewhere!

"Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?"
"That depends a good deal on where you want to get to," said the Cat.
"I don’t much care where--" said Alice.
"Then it doesn’t matter which way you go," said the Cat.
~Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

Students ask me what they should practice, how they should practice, when they should practice …

Here's the thing about practice: It is a very individualized pursuit, most effectively designed by YOU to get YOU where YOU want to go. "Progress" means different things to different people. How would you define progress in your own musical endeavors, today?

  • mastering a new tune arrangement?
  • playing your favorite fiddle tune up to speed?
  • successfully playing backup during a jam session?
  • learning that tricky right hand root arpeggio pattern?
  • etc, etc, etc
Whatever the goal, it's important to have one (or three)! Then, make a practice plan that will get you where you want to be. The Cheshire Cat would say, if you don't know where you're going it doesn't much matter what you do in your practice. While it may be true that doing anything is better than doing nothing … you're bound to accomplish something … if you intentionally gear your practice toward accomplishment of your goals, you will grow in the direction of your dreams.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Monday's Muse

Music is your own experience, your own thoughts, your wisdom. If you don't live it, it won't come out of your horn. They teach you there's a boundary line to music. But, man, there's no boundary line to art.  ~ Charlie Parker

Friday, June 13, 2014

CTO … Traditional Music is Alive in Chatham County

Chatham County JAM (affiliated with the regional Junior Appalachian Musicians, Inc.) works to get young people playing music!

Check This Out … From their web site:
"Chatham County JAM education program introduces children (from 3rd to 8th grade) to the music of their heritage through small group instruction in instruments common to the Appalachian and Piedmont regions of North Carolina.  Instrument, dance and vocal instruction are augmented by stringband classes providing children opportunities to play and perform in small and large groups. Chatham County JAM strives to make the program accessible to all students by providing free or low cost instrument loans and free or highly subsidized tuition.  Field trips, visiting artists and an introduction to the rich history of music unique to local communities help complete our program offerings."

2013 JAM Camp fun
Next week, June 16 - 20, Chatham County JAM is holding their summer camp at the Farm Heritage Park in Silk Hope, NC. For the third year, I'll be teaching afternoon enrichment classes on the hammered dulcimer. I'm really looking forward to jamming with all those great kids!

Do you have some aspiring young musicians in your life? Tell them about the Junior Appalachian Musicians organization.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Take a Break? Resist the Temptation!

Pink … of course!
Summertime, and the living is easy. We hope.

This ought to help … I'm taking the summer off!

It's been a challenge to fit everyone in for "one more" lesson before the end of this week. The plan is to resume teaching after Labor Day. I'm clearing the schedule to make way for our first grandchild, Sweet Baby Girl, officially due June 26. Plus, I have a garden to tend, family and friends to visit, places to go, things to do. Did I mention a baby to hold?

Turns out my students are busy this summer, too. They need a break. Still, many wonder how they will get along without the structure of regularly scheduled lessons. It thrills my heart that some have actually asked for guidance in how to practice this summer. While it is difficult for me to spell out specifics that will work for every person, I can make some general suggestions.

First of all, resist the temptation to "take a break" from music. While it's true that I am taking the summer off from teaching, I am NOT giving up on playing and practicing the instrument. My students do get a break from their lessons … but we've all been working too hard to risk losing ground … which surely will happen if you don't touch your instrument for weeks on end. Play (and practice) regularly, if only for short periods of time.

Now that we have established that, the most important thing you can do is consciously set goals and write them down. Decide what you'd like to learn this summer. These should be specific goals that are achievable within the given time frame … between today and Labor Day. Think about two categories:

  1. Tunes
  2. Skills/Techniques

Refer to my blogpost A Plan for Your Summer Practice (07/03/13) for help in making goals.

While most of you will have plenty of tunes to choose from when making your "tunes" list, you may have more difficulty coming up with "skill / technique" goals. It's always a good idea to let the tunes you're learning inform your technique / skills practice. The best exercises are derived from weaknesses discovered in the attempt to master a new tune. Having trouble with hand separation? Noticing that your valley rolls have become a bit sloppy? That's where to put your focus. Or maybe there's something you've been meaning to get to, such as … finally understand the difference between dorian and aeolian modes, or figure out all those 7 chords. There's no time like the present!

If you're still at a loss, here's a list to get the brainstorming started. It is not all-inclusive, mind you. I'm sure you will think of other skills that need improvement!

Back to Basics

  • Hammer Strokes - single strokes; double strokes; tremolos, rolled chords, octaves, valley rolls (flams), etc
  • Scales - major, minor, chromatic; multiple octaves; starting from left and right hands
  • Arpeggios - left and right hand patterns; multiple octaves
  • Hand Separation - ascending / descending bass lines

Music Theory

  • Study music theory. Learn more about chords. Understand modes.
  • Learn to find chords all over the instrument. Root chords. Chord inversions.
  • Learn to play back up. Use arrangements that have been worked out by others. Create your own back up for a melody you already know and play well.

General Music Stuff

  • Learn to read music.
  • Train your ears. There are plenty of apps designed for this purpose!
  • Learn to use the metronome. Play with a steady rhythm. Play tunes at tempo.

Take it to the Next Level

  • Add to your jam tune repertoire. Make a list of your favorite jam tunes. Keep the list in your instrument case so you'll always be ready when it's your turn to call a tune. Get those jam tunes up to speed. Work out a back up arrangement for your absolute favorites.
  • Find your own style. Develop your own arrangement of a favorite tune.
  • Create a gig for yourself. Make a tune list. Get those tunes performance ready. Do it!
Need a little more pressure and help with accountability? Send me your goals. I'll check in with you at the end of the summer. Keep hammering and good luck!

Monday, June 9, 2014

Monday's Muse

Life is brief, even at its longest. Whatever you are going to do with your life, get at it.  ~ Jim Rohn

Friday, June 6, 2014

CTO … Ruth and Steve Smith Release NEW CD

Ruth & Steve Smith's eagerly anticipated CD of instrumental hymns is now available!

Check This Out … As seen on FaceBook:  "Well, our new CD has finally arrived and we first want to make it available to all of you, our Facebook friends, before we offer it on our website and across the Internet. Give a listen to some samples of the music on the order page by clicking the link below! If you order over the weekend, we'll ship your CDs on Monday. We are quite pleased with the outcome and hope it will bless you all!"

Check it out! You're going to want to order your own copy of "He Leadeth Me"  and LIKE Ruth & Steve's FaceBook page while you're at it!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Tomorrow … tomorrow … there's always tomorrow!

Perhaps you've noticed a paucity of mid-week postings on this blog. I've been away a lot recently … way long gone the entire week of Easter, plus traveling 15 of the 31 days in the month of May. Don't get me wrong. It's all been good stuff! Beach vacations, professional meetings, family visits, a wedding, baby showers, even a dulcimer festival. But such a schedule does push some things to the back burner.

One thing that has been pushed aside is my personal dulcimer practice. I've done what is necessary to keep up with students, but by the time all my other jobs are finished there's been no time or energy left for my own practice. Sound familiar? Well, if it makes you feel any better, I've been hearing a lot of "true confessions" in the music room lately. Let us take some comfort in the fact that we're not alone in our neglect of the instrument. But, then, let's make a plan to get going!

Today I confessed to my own teacher that I have not been playing. It was late in the evening when I got his response, "Start playing!! Tomorrow!!" Will do, Ken!

Monday, June 2, 2014

Monday's Muse

Music was my refuge. I could crawl into the space between the notes and curl my back to loneliness.  ~ Maya Angelou  RIP 1928 - 2014