I’m home after another rejuvenating week at the beautiful health resort, Rancho la Puerta, located at the edge of of Tecate, Mexico where the motto is Siempre Mejor- always better. Last week included lap swimming, hiking, practicing yoga, eating delicious food, admiring gardens, creating art, meeting new friends, connecting with old friends, taking a writing workshop, encountering wild life, strolling along brick pathways, spending time with Joe, leading a singing class, and performing a piano concert- “Music and Stories from Westward Expansion.”
A “June Gloom” day in Seattle made for the perfect opportunity to visit the VICTORIAN RADICALS exhibit at Seattle Art Museum (SAM).
The attention to detail in the array of colorful paintings, tapestries, clothing, jewelry, and pottery transported me into a romantic world of gardens, gods, goddesses, secret liaisons, betrayals, and courtly love! My hands down favorite painting was Musica, by Kate Elizabeth Bunce. The lovely young musician with her ornate lute, sumptuous dress, and intricate jewelry, posed in front of a blooming floral arrangement, swept me away.
At one point I was asked to kindly step back from a display case (got to close). The case held a book which was open to a poem entitled, Edward Gray. I was mesmerized by the beautiful poem written by an English poet, Alfred Tennyson (1809-1892). I thought to myself, someone must have set this poem to music. When I got home, I did a little digging online and found a piece of sheet music written by Arthur Sullivan (1842-1900), of Gilbert and Sullivan fame. As it turns out, Edward Sullivan set Edward Gray to music. Sullivan’s setting is operatic, covers multiple octaves, and is far too complicated for the purposes of laying down a quick track for my blog…….. so I modified the melody and accompanied myself on my Taylor guitar as I don’t have a lute lying around the studio, I do however, have plenty of floral dresses.
Here’s my version of Edward Gray:
Here are some more beautiful paintings from the exhibit!
Sigismonda (or Gismonda), 1897 by Joseph Edward Southall
I didn’t get the name of the artist for this one… the narrative of the painting is about a young man who died in battle, the women are handing over some of his personal belongings to his broken-hearted lover!
Couldn’t we all use more flowers, more color, more art, more music, more beauty, more love?
I just returned from a week at the health and fitness spa, Rancho La Puerta in Tecate, Mexico. This was my eighth visit to the Ranch as a visiting musical artist. The motto of the Ranch is ¡Siempre Mejor! (always better). My first visit was life changing, and each visit provides inspiration to lead my best and healthiest life possible! Here are my top 10 experiences from the magical week, in no particular order.
Wandering around the brick paths that snake through the entire property while taking in the colorful gardens!
Attending two concerts from Grammy Award winning classical guitarist, Jason Vieaux! I will never forget his magical playing and commentary in the intimate setting of the Oak Tree Pavilion. Here’s a pic of Jason below.
Hanging out with my handsome husband who worked at the Ranch for thirty-one years before retiring to live in Seattle. I literally took the Ranch home over six years ago, when Joe came to live with me and my daughter, Ruby. Now he visits the Ranch as my guest and gets to relax and do whatever he wants!
Seeing old friends and making new ones! Below, the lovely Manuela, Concierge Extraordinaire!
A wonderful hands on cooking class with master vegan chef and cookbook author, Jill Nussinow, the Veggie Queen! Joe, Ruby, and I been following a plant based diet for over two years now, never felt better.
Performing an evening solo piano program, Across the Borders, in the Oak Tree Pavilion! I also led two sing along classes in the same space, terrific fun.
Swimming Workouts in the beautiful fitness pool.
Watching a barn owl swoop into a tree at sunset like a winged white ghost from another world. Joe and I experienced this together. We also saw a family of 7 skunks the same night- luckily, they kept the family party moving! click here for some magnificent bird photos
Returning Home. Good to go away and oh so happy to return home to the yellow house. There’s no place like home.
Hear IT! Sing IT! Move IT! is available as a Pre-K or K-5 Residency! Laura will visit your school and teach the songs and dances in a classroom setting!
Hear It! Sing It! Move It!is my latest project, the online package includes a booklet and recordings featuring 15 North American folk songs drawn from English, French, Latin American, Caribbean, Canadian, and Sioux traditions. The complete recordings and the PDF booklet, bursting with lead sheets, a teacher’s guide and links for further exploration, are available gratis on this dedicated page!
The project, funded by a Teacher’s Enrichment grant from the Music Teachers National Association, was originally intended for preschoolers, ages 3-5. However, I think anyone, young at heart, will enjoy the recordings and the booklet!
Go ahead, dig into the guide, sing or play your way through the songs on your own, or share them with a special person in your life. Feel free to pass on the link to children, grandchildren, teachers, friends, musicians, librarians, or your next door neighbor. It’s up for all to enjoy!
Fourteen performances in four days in six different venues! (Sounds like a country song) I’ve just returned to Seattle after presenting my program,Heart and Place, Music of the Westward Expansion, in Great Falls, MT last week. The week involved hauling around a guitar, fiddle, Cheyenne Courting Flute, and sometimes a full size keyboard, and amp along with samples of C.M. Russell artwork.
The C.M. Russell Museum sponsored the residency which included programs in middle and high schools, as well as an evening performance in the museum.
The highlight was playing a concert in the intimate setting of the museum for around eighty people on a beautiful Yamaha grand. There was something magical about playing 19th Century music surrounded by Russell’s artwork and artifacts from the same era. Many people in the audience were from my hometown of Choteau. Choteau is 50 miles down the road from Great Falls. Thanks to all who made the journey down the road!
I can’t say enough about the dedicated arts professionals in Great Falls including the music and art teachers in the classrooms, along with the Music and Art Supervisor for Great Falls Schools, Dusty Molyneaux and Eileen Laskowski, Education and Programs Manager for the C.M. Russell Museum.
I’m in love with Montana. For other states I have admiration, respect, recognition, even some affection. But with Montana it is love. And it’s difficult to analyze love when you’re in it.
Billings, Montana, marketed as Montana’s trailhead, located in South Central Montana in Yellowstone County, serves as Montana’s largest city with a population of nearly 115,000 residents. I was born in Billings while My Dad was attending Eastern Montana College (now Montana State Billings). My Mom reports we lived in a humble abode ( a garage) for around $30.00 per month. We lived in Billings for my first four years, then moved to Poplar, Montana, then ended up in Choteau, Montana.
My recent trip to Billings, accompanied by Joe, was nostalgic, relaxing and educational. The primary reason for the trip was to pay a visit to Jay Old Mouse and learn about the Northern Cheyenne Courting Flute. In a couple of packed days, we visited the Little Bighorn Battlefield, hiked along the Rim Rocks, strolled along the Victorian Mansions in the Historic District, and visited the Western Heritage Museum. We also spent time with my brother and family who drove over from Clyde Park, near Bozeman. (also ate at a great restaurant called the Wild Ginger!)
Girls with Guitars! Last week, I taught a beginning guitar day camp that introduced these young ladies to the guitar. Thanks Ruby (my daughter), in the pink shorts, for helping me this week! We had a blast. We met for two hours every day Monday-Friday and our week culminated in a performance for family and friends on the deck.
Our songs for the week included….. Firework by Katy Perry, You Belong With Me by Taylor Swift, This Land is Your Land by Woodie Guthrie, and a traditional camp song… Ain’t No Bugs on Me.
I’d like to give a shout out to Rob Hampton of Heartwood Guitar. I love Rob’s site and frequently pull from his 600+ chord charts for inspiration. Thanks a million Rob for all of the great work you do! (I’m convinced you never sleep) These girls certainly appreciated learning such cool and accessible songs!
Here are two wonderful links to the song: Girls with Guitars who was written by Mary Chapin Carpenter performing it here. Also check out the incomparable Wynnona Judd performing it here. Oh, to be that fierce on stage!
Everyone love guitar, including French composer, Cécile Chaminade (1857-1944), who wrote this piece for solo piano: Guitare , which I recorded a couple of years ago on Women with a Past.
Remember that old song, I don’t Want to Work? Well, last week, I got paid to bang on the drum all day! Among my music offerings including performances and private lessons, I work in communities near and far as a teaching artist. This means I utilize my skills and knowledge as a music educator and performer to tailor music experiences for a variety of audiences. For example, I’ve crafted tambourines and danced the Tarantella with elementary students, I’ve taught singalongs at retirement homes, and I’ve taught teenage Spanish classes the Salsa!
This past week, I taught classes in bucket drumming as part of an arts camp offered to elementary aged kids and teens through the Shoreline Lake Forest Park Arts Council. I was one of several teaching artists offering unique arts experiences including, movie making/editing, theater improv, print making, fiber arts, cartooning, silhouette creation, and cooking, to name a few. The goal of the camp, according to Kelly Lie, Shoreline Lake Forest Park Arts Education manager? The Three E’s: Expose, Experience, Experiment! I’ll say, the campers experienced the three E’s in a big way!
My class, Rhythm Explosion, included Latin American percussion, bucket drums, body percussion, and repurposing recycled materials into percussion instruments. I met with two groups of students each day for a week. The overall experience culminated in an Arts Showcase where all participants presented their work to family and friends. Our final performance included both improvisation and composed pieces.
The great thing about bucket drumming? It only requires a five gallon bucket, a pair of drum sticks, and imagination. (Ear plugs don’t hurt either!) There’s something cathartic about banging out rhythms in a group, or solo experience.
The work the students (with the help of some outstanding teachers) completed during the week was impressive. The showcase included a professional looking gallery of visual art along with a variety of live performances. Upon exiting the showcase, audience members were offered an icy cold fruit pop made by the culinary arts class.
Lorie Hoffman, executive director of the Shoreline arts council gave a presentation during the week about being an artist. She told us, “Making art makes my heart sing.” This week made my heart sing. I can’t help but think experiences like this have ripple effects and improve the world little by little, poco a poco.
“It is in Apple’s DNA that technology alone is not enough—it’s technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us the results that make our heart sing.”
–Steve Jobs, in introducing the iPad 2 in 2011
For more on bucket drumming, I encourage you to check out this clip:
Santa Fe proved a sweet destination for Spring break 2017. My (soon to be 15 years old!) daughter and I headed down to the beautiful Southwest for some desert fun in the sun.
Santa Fe, steeped in complex history and diverse cultures, is a mecca for art and history museums. The Museum of Indian Arts and Culture and The Museum of International Folk Art, are both situated on Museum Hill overlooking 365 degree views of the mountains and the sweeping desert landscape. We stopped at a café for an outside table taking in the view between museum going.
Along with an impressive historical display depicting the lives of the indigenous cultures of the Southwest, The Indian Arts and Cultures museum included thought-provoking works by contemporary Native American artist, Frank Buffalo Hyde.
The plaza in downtown Santa Fe, a stroll from our hotel , was a terrific place to people watch, listen to music, window shop, and talk to the jewelry vendors selling their wares just outside of the Palace of the Governors (one of the oldest buildings in the country, dating back to 1610).
My favorite museum, New Mexico History Museum, tells the heartbreaking and captivating stories of the American Southwest – the native people, the Spanish colonists, the Mexicans, the Santa Fe trail, it’s all there! A bonus exhibit on Flamenco dance and music was a highlight. Turns out Santa Fe is a hot spot for Flamenco dance and culture.
Ruby Dressed as a flamenco dancer.
Then there was the Georgie O’Keeffe Museum showcasing a collections of paintings showing the evolution of her art throughout her career. I was as fascinated with her life as I was by her beautiful paintings. O’Keeffe lived 1887-1986, and spent much of her time at Ghost Ranch outside of Santa Fe, she was ahead of her time as an artist, traveler, observer, and independent woman.
It wasn’t all museums, we also took an afternoon to enjoy soaking and relaxing the 10,000 waves, a Japanese inspired spa just outside of Santa Fe. We also enjoyed the delicious and spicy Southwest cuisine and loved the crisp clear mornings and sunny afternoons.
One of the highlights of my week was teaching a the salsa in an elementary school next to a 4th grade Muslim girl who had a huge grin on her face the entire time. Her eyes were beaming as she gave me a big bear hug at the end of the class before heading out the door. In that moment of humanity, we were saying to each other, “I get you, and you get me.” I’ll never forget it.
I just spent one week in an elementary school in Shoreline- teaching a Cuban cultural/dance/and song workshop to 45 classes and 600 kids in all. This residency was made possible by a grant from a local arts organization, The Shoreline Arts Council. To say the least, it was rewarding, to take kids on a “classroom trip to Cuba.” I showed photos and videos of my trip, taught a tradition Yeruban song, a Spanish song, and taught the basic steps of two Cuban dance forms: Rumba, and Salsa. The previous week, I spent a day in a high school Spanish classroom giving the same workshop to 5 groups of high school seniors (150 students in all), yet another arts experience made possible with an arts grant.
You’ve heard it before, the arts transcends borders. When kids are exposed to the arts and culture through the arts, it broadens their world view, takes them outside of themselves, and makes them more compassionate human beings.
After one class, a second grader commented, “I see that even though a leader of a country can be thought of as not a nice person, that doesn’t mean the people that live there are bad.” Too true, my friend!
Here are some comments from the high school seniors:
M.K. I appreciated the opportunity to express myself through artistic movement
L.E. It was the most fun thing I’ve done in Spanish all year.
E.Z. It was cool to learn a tradition of another culture.
L.E. I’m glad I put myself out there to try it, it allowed me to be exposed to others.
Arts funding is currently under attack under our current administration. Please take a moment to read this article in the New York Times about the importance of arts and arts funding to our society.