Monday, May 11, 2020

Monday's Muse

Music is enough for a lifetime, but a lifetime is not enough for music. ~ Sergei Rachmaninoff

Monday, May 4, 2020

Monday's Muse

Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.  ~ Pablo Picasso

Monday, April 27, 2020

Monday's Muse

I used to think anyone doing anything weird was weird. Now I know that it is the people that call others weird that are weird.   ~ Paul McCartney

Monday, April 20, 2020

Monday's Muse

Music is your own experience, your thoughts, your wisdom. If you don't live it, it won't come out of your horn.  ~ Charlie Parker

Monday, April 13, 2020

Monday's Muse

It's just another morning here (it's morning)
It's just another morning here
It's just another morning here (it's morning)
And it's a miracle that it comes around
Every day of the year.  ~ Nanci Griffith

Monday, April 6, 2020

Monday's Muse

I've always thought people would find a lot more pleasure in their routines if they burst into song at significant moments.  ~ John Barrowman

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Essential Routine

I don't know about you, but I've been practicing social-distancing for more than two weeks now to help flatten the curve of the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. But today is the first full day of NC Governor Roy Cooper's "stay at home for 30 days" order.  (It went into effect at 5pm yesterday.) Of course there is allowance for the provision of essential services and moving about for essential purposes, such as acquiring food and meds, exercise and outdoor time. You know, if this had to happen, I'm grateful it's happening in the spring.

In these days of lock-down and sheltering-at-home it's more important than ever to maintain a semblance of routine. Granted, there's nothing "normal" about not working, or working from home, or home-schooling kids, or that empty social calendar. Yet, you can still put structure into your day.

Give some thought to the flow of your day, such as: when you get up, when you go to bed, when you eat, when you feed the kids, when you take a walk, when you turn on tv, when you don't turn on tv ... and how about when you practice your music?

Music practice is a solitary endeavor and can serve to root us in our day. If you don't already have a regular practice time, maybe today's the day to start. Set aside a chunk of time every day. Don't be surprised if you find it difficult to focus, simply because of the anxieties associated with the current uncertain circumstances. Take it easy. Be kind to yourself. Maybe you don't want to tackle that insanely difficult piece right now. Play something you know, just for fun. Or get back to basics by playing scales, arpeggios, etc. Just play something! And when you feel like it, dig into something more challenging.

In a world where so much is out of our control, it is important to commit to practicing the things we can control. Don't use this time to forget about your own good habits and routines. Make your own daily schedule and stick to it during this time of sequestering.

Be well, and don't forget to wash your hands!

Monday, March 30, 2020

Monday's Muse

Well-being is realized in small steps, but it is no small thing.  ~ Zeno

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

In case you haven't heard ... WSDF 2020 Cancelled

From Kirk House:
Public Service Announcement:
The Winston-Salem Dulcimer Festival for 2020 has been cancelled. We are disappointed, of course, but in our current environment it seems we have no choice.
All registrants who have already paid will receive a full refund - either by check, if you paid by check; or via PayPal, if you registered and paid online. These will be processed as quickly as we can, while observing 'social distancing' from each other.
Our festival committee considered the option of simply postponing, to some later date (in the fall, perhaps); but the logistics of doing that were simply too much to overcome.
The good news? All of our scheduled instructors are available, and willing, to participate in next year's WSDF! So as of now, we are "on" for the first Saturday in May, 2021! Hope to see you then!

Monday, March 23, 2020

Monday's Muse

This is the time to be slow,
Lie low to the wall
Until the bitter weather passes.

Try, as best you can, not to let
The wire brush of doubt
Scrape from your heart
All sense of yourself
And your hesitant light.

If you remain generous,
Time will come good;
And you will find your feet
Again on fresh pastures of promise,
Where the air will be kind
And blushed with beginning.

  ~ John O'Donohue

Monday, March 16, 2020

Monday's Muse

I've found that luck is quite predictable. If you want more luck, take more chances.  ~ Brian Tracy

Monday, March 9, 2020

Monday's Muse

To be creative means to be in love with life. You can be creative only if you love life enough that you want to enhance its beauty, you want to bring a little more music to it, a little more poetry to it, a little more dance to it.  ~ Osho

Friday, March 6, 2020

CTO ... Winston Salem Dulcimer Festival

Check This Out ... Looking for a fun musical outing in our own backyard? NOW is the time to make plans to attend the Winston Salem Dulcimer Festival. Save $15 if you register before April 6!

The Winston Salem Dulcimer Festival is a one-day event for mountain dulcimers and (once again) hammered dulcimers. Marya Katz will be teaching the all-day hammered dulcimer sessions. There will be a short concert by the instructors at the end of the day. Check it out!

Winston Salem Dulcimer Festival
Saturday, May 2
Hope Presbyterian Church, 2050 N Peace Haven Rd, W-S

  • doors open at 7:30am
  • classes begin at 8:30
  • lunch and open mic noon - 1:30
  • more classes 1:30 - 5:00
  • concert w/instructors 5:30 - 6:45

All the important information can be found on their website:

Monday, March 2, 2020

Monday's Muse

Politicians and diapers must be changed often and for the same reason.  ~ Mark Twain

If you haven't already, don't forget to VOTE tomorrow!

Monday, February 24, 2020

Monday's Muse

The person who says it cannot be done should not interrupt the person doing it.  ~ Chinese Proverb

Monday, February 17, 2020

Monday's Muse

This is the real secret of life: to be completely engaged with what you are doing in the here and now. And instead of calling it WORK, realize it is PLAY.  ~ Alan W. Watts

Monday, February 10, 2020

Monday, February 3, 2020

Monday's Muse

You practice and you get better. It's very simple.  ~ Philip Glass

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Should We Sit? or Should We Stand?

Is it better to sit or stand at the hammered dulcimer?

From Wikipedia"The hammered dulcimer is set before the musician, who in more traditional styles may sit cross-legged on the floor, or in a more modern style may stand or sit at a wooden support with legs."

My son plays the hammered dulcimer in the style of a classical Indian santoor player ... sitting cross-legged on the floor. I don't know how he does it!

Seems safe to say there is no "right" way, but most people do have a preference. I suppose that in a perfect world we would all have the flexibility to do it any which way.

The physics of it all should inform us as to the "sweet spot" for striking the strings for most accuracy. Coming down directly from above the string seems most likely to produce an accurate strike. Indeed, Dan Landrum advocates standing with the instrument fairly level for that advantage.

As we all know, though, the position of the  hammer related to any individual string ... from top to bottom and side to side of the instrument ... is constantly changing as we play. Flexibility seems key. That's why I prefer to stand.

Standing allows for more freedom of movement ... less reaching if you can lean in to the instrument or shift from side to side. I find sitting to be restrictive. A long time ago, though, I DID mostly sit… with the instrument at an extreme angle. At the time, I was having a lot of shoulder and neck issues. Tilting the hammered dulcimer at a very steep angle put the high strings within closer reach which helped my shoulders and neck relax. Now I'm not so uptight (maybe??) and I stand almost exclusively, but am lucky to have had lots of experience sitting AND standing, mirroring students to match their preference.

What if you can no longer play the instrument in your preferred manner?

Sometimes, because of physical limitations, players have no choice but to sit ... or stand ... exclusively. If a person habitually plays one way or the other, having to change to the other way can be disruptive to playing. Accuracy can really suffer.

A friend contacted me recently with exactly this issue. In order to continue playing she feels she must switch from her preferred standing to sitting. Any tips? 

First, acknowledge that this is a big change and it might take a little while before it begins to feel "natural".

Treat the new playing position as a skill that will require retraining the muscle memory. It will sort of be like acclimating oneself to a new instrument.

  • Go back to the basics... scales, arpeggios, valley rolls.
  • Play your favorite "golden" tunes.
  • Focus on accuracy. Slow down if need be.
  • Can you identify specific problem areas? Make up exercises that force you to practice in those areas.
Pay attention to your set-up
  • Don't be afraid to experiment with the angle of the instrument.
  • Try different chairs, stools, benches. For example: I like an adjustable stool that twists so that movement is built in.

Listen to your body. Treat your music practice like the workout that it is, especially if you are experiencing physical limitations of any sort.

  • Stretch problem areas before and after practice ... fingers, wrists, shoulders, neck, back
  • Don't stay in one place too long, i.e. in practice position at the instrument. Take frequent breaks. Look up, look down, look all around. Go get a drink of water. Take a walk to the mailbox.
  • Determine how long a reasonable practice session should be for your abilities. Set an alarm to help you stick to your schedule. 10 minutes? 15? Personally, I tell Siri to "set an alarm for 30 minutes from now" and she does it! I record my 30 minutes on my practice log and go do something else for a few minutes. Refreshed, I come back for more.
I would be interested to hear strategies that other players have found to be useful in changing relative position to the instrument. Feel free to leave a comment or email me directly.

Monday, January 27, 2020

Monday's Muse

Even if you can’t sing well, sing. Sing to yourself. Sing in the privacy of your home. But sing.  ~ Rebbe Nachman of Breslov

Monday, January 20, 2020

Monday's Muse

Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.  ~ Martin Luther King, Jr

Monday, January 13, 2020

Monday's Muse

Things that matter most must never be at the mercy of things that matter least.  ~ Goethe

Friday, January 10, 2020

CTO ... Pittsboro Irish Session - Some Changes in the New Year

The Pittsboro Irish Session has been held monthly on 3rd Sundays of the month at The Modern Life Deli (aka: The Mod). But The Mod is undergoing some changes associated with the exciting addition of The Mod Other Side. From their website:

We are now proud to present our newest addition, the Other Side, a 21 and over bar where modern life coexists with rustic style. We offer a wide selection of spirits, wine, rotating drafts and entertainment for everyone. Enjoy a round of pool, a game of ping pong, dart boards, games on the big screen, and live music on the weekends. 

Check This Out ... The next Irish Session will be held in this new space, at The Mod Other Side, on Sunday, January 19, 3:00 - 7:00pm. Really good wood-fired pizza, fantastic selection of adult beverages, and awesome Irish music. Whether you're a player or one who enjoys listening, bring your instrument, bring your friends, and check it out!

Monday, January 6, 2020

Monday's Muse

Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.  ~ Arthur Ashe

Friday, January 3, 2020

CTO ... Marya Katz to Offer Annual MLK Day Workshop

Check This Out ... Marya Katz is taking registrations NOW for her annual one-day hammered dulcimer workshop in Winston Salem, NC planned for January 20th. It's an MLK Day tradition! This year's topic: Moravian Traditional Music, including "brass band" orchestration. As always, Marya knows how to make it fun!

Check out the details:
Monday, January 20, 2020 (How's that for an auspicious date?)
9:00am - 3:30pm
College Park Baptist Church, 1701 Polo Road, Winston Salem
Cost:  $65, includes lunch; No fee due now. Please pay at the door!

Then, be sure to send a note to BOTH Marya  ... to let her know you can come ... AND Terry Lefler ... so he can collect lunch orders.

Don't hesitate to contact Marya if you have questions or concerns. All are welcome!

This is a great way to jump-start your music practice in the new year. Sign up today!