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Smelling like the Alps

March 24, 2011

I think (hope!) the travel shopping is all done. The birthday shopping is mostly done. I have one more run to do for cake and doughnuts. This afternoon’s project: packing.

I ran into a friend of mine at the big box store I went to this morning, the only place I could think of where I could get electronic gadgetry for AJ’s birthday tomorrow, groceries for our trip, a pair of jeans for AJ (as he’s suddenly showing a lot of ankle), and assorted birthday supplies. It was possibly the weirdest assortment of items that have ever shared my shopping cart.

Mr. Spy had also asked me to pick him up some deodorant, but I was baffled by the array of choices. I remember when your options were “scented” or “unscented.” Now there’s “Matterhorn,” “Arctic Force,” and “Swagger.” (I am not making these up) None of these names gives any indication of what they might smell like. I stuck with “Classic.”

* * * * *

I had a stellar evening at Studio 2 last night. I got to work on music by Suzuki, Bach, Handel, Corelli, Charlie Daniels, and Guns N Roses. If I can figure out how to get a Regina Carter or Stephane Grappelli arrangement in there, I’ll feel pretty well-rounded.

For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been prepping my most advanced and my newest student on music for an audition. The music was hard and included a lot of things she’d never done before. The audition was last Thursday. Today she came in all smiles — she’d gotten in. I was so proud of her. She worked extremely hard. And I was a little proud of me too, because I know that I was able to help her. I’ve never taught advanced students before this year and I was a little nervous about taking them on, but I feel like it’s going well. The best part, though, was that we got to relax a little. We woodshedded some noodly passages in her Vivaldi concerto, but we had fun with it. She’s a little shy and she started coming out of her shell a bit.

It has surprised me how much I have been enjoying working with the young teens. I was such an uncomfortable teenager myself that it didn’t seem like something I wanted to revisit through someone else. But I’m constantly amazed at the way these kids put themselves out there, by how hard they can work, by all the things they do. It’s kind of amazing watch them test out their confidence, starting out as if they were balancing tentatively on one wobbly toe and moving toward a strong straight, unwavering leg. I’m not sure if it’s the discipline of studying an instrument, the nature of the student-teacher relationship, or something else, but I enjoy the way their music study weaves in and out of their personalities, the way it affects them. From what I’ve seen, I’d say a good argument can be made for the importance of musical study in developing self-esteem, discipline, flexible thinking and maybe even passion.

I’ve got four who fall into this age group, all girls, all wrestling with issues of achievement, of wanting to be cool but doing something a little geeky, of the pressures of all they have to do. They are probably more like the kind of teen I was than the kind of teen I think of when I think o the category “teenager,” which is probably why we have a good rapport. Being the teacher also puts me in an interesting position. I’m a figure of some authority, like a parent, but I’m not their parent, so I seem to be in some kind of liminal space between parent and friend. And it’s kind of a nice place to be. I do think that I teach differently now than I did before I became a parent. It’s not so much that I’m more parental toward my students — I think my basic approach is more or less the same. But I’m more apt to push them toward independence than I once was. I spend more time on the front end on technique and being explicit about the ways they can explore on their own. Last night, my audition winner, M, was tuning her violin. Most violin students start off with their teacher tuning their instrument for them and then move to tuning each string to the teachers string of the same pitch. But in orchestras, the oboe plays you an A and then you’re on your own to tune your own instrument while everyone else is trying to tune theirs. So I’ve been working on hearing and tuning in fifths (the interval between violin strings) — i.e. tuning the strings to each other. M looked at me after each string she tuned for approval. I nodded when she’d gotten the first one right, but when she got the second one I just looked at her. “You tell me.”

“I think it’s right?” she said, raising her voice as if it was still a question.

“You think or you know?”

She set her jaw. “I know.”

“Yes, you do. Now you can do the rest yourself. Trust your ear.”

She smiled, and she is not one who smiles easily.

• • • • •

Today is apparently spring cleanup day in our town. There’s nothing but broken down bookshelves, worn Harvest Gold sofas and decrepit La-Z-Boys as far as the eye can see. Out on a walk, I was tempted to rearrange the abandoned furniture into rooms along the curb. Maybe stock the bookshelves over there with the old books and magazines over here. That broken lamp might be nice next to the recliner with the springs poking out the back. Interior design for the exterior.

• • • • •

I finally made my reservations to New York. So there’s no turning back from this Jeopardy audition now. Now it’s time for the homework. I’m planning on doing a little studying over spring break. I also have to fill out a short questionnaire. I’m supposed to tell them 5 short things about myself. “They only need to be one-lines.” The underscoring suggest to me that people are sometimes inclined to write an essay about what they did last summer. I have no idea what I’m going to say. I can tell that this is going to be one of the most challenging assignments I’ve ever had. You’d think writing five sentences about myself would be no problem after all these year’s of blogging. “Tell us about your job, hobbies, embarrassing moments, claims to fame (awards, honors, etc.), your wildest ambition or some unusual things you collect.” Okay, this is just asking for fictional treatment. Maybe I should just sit on my hands.

But of even more concern than the questionnaire is this: “Come dressed as you might for an actual appearance on the show.” Oh, God. Never mind my lack of knowledge of sports or wars (foreign or domestic). What the hell am I going to wear???

10 Comments leave one →
  1. March 24, 2011 2:33 pm

    It is an unhealthy fact that when I have a student (or my child) succeed at something, I take far to much pleasure in it. At least I’m aware of it… 😉 Oh, and back in college, I was at a second hand book store and saw 4 LPs of Stephane Grappelli. I didn’t then – and do not now own a record player, but I had to buy them. I felt I needed to own them more than anyone else.

  2. Lilac Leaf permalink
    March 24, 2011 3:26 pm

    Mark wears Arctic Force. I think Classic smells a little like cedar chips 🙂

    I’d rearrange furniture with you, if I were there.

    And wear a sweater. Sweaters will never steer you wrong.

  3. freshhell permalink
    March 24, 2011 4:07 pm

    The “what will I wear” question is indeed the hardest and fiction won’t help. You could either wear pajama pants (I’ve notice they’re very popular in public these days) or a….well, your pants won’t be seen hidden behind the podium so wear a….a black top. There! Problem solved! Next!

  4. lemming permalink
    March 24, 2011 5:23 pm

    Your bit about hearing reminds me of the music teacher whom I sit next to in choir. Sometimes she’ll say I’m right. Sometimes she’ll say I’m wrong. Sometimes she just raises an eyebrow, which means, “well, are you or aren’t you?”

  5. March 24, 2011 5:35 pm

    Reva, I feel a little guilty about it too. But that doesn’t change the fact that I feel good about it. I’d also feel really bad if she failed, because I’d feel like I failed. I think that’s okay. How well your students do is how you know how you’re doing as a teacher. Grappelli was amazing. I got to see one of the last concerts he played in Chicago with the symphony. He was extremely frail — they brought him on stage in a wheelchair — but once he started playing, you never would have known it. In my opinion, those LPs are probably worth buying a record player for. Or you could stop by next time you’re heading into Chicago. I’m on your way and I have a working turntable.

  6. March 24, 2011 5:37 pm

    Lilac Leaf, it’s been so nice to see you around these parts again. Are you blogging elsewhere? I miss reading. I agree with you about Classic, but I was afraid Arctic Force might smell like polar bears. Or fish. Freshhell, thank you for taking the pressure off! And lemming, that sounds like a useful sort of person to stand next to.

  7. March 24, 2011 5:44 pm

    Wear something like what you wore for the conference in Cincinnati. You always look tailored, and that’s a good thing.

  8. Lilac Leaf permalink
    March 24, 2011 7:07 pm

    Still blogging at the same place, just under lock and key. And not as much as I used to… But if you like, I’ll add you to the safe list. Let me know what email address you’d like to use.

    Since you agree with the cedar chip aroma, you’ll know what I mean when I say that I think Mark smells like a hamster when he wears that 😉

  9. March 25, 2011 8:10 am

    Happy birthday to AJ!

  10. April 7, 2011 9:33 pm

    I shudder to think what “Swagger” might smell like.

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