Summertime! I hope you are enjoying activities, places, and people that bring you joy. The studio is buzzing with summer lessons, and preparations are underway for upcoming August author events. I’ve have launched a series of short music videos that go hand in hand with my book, Music in the Westward Expansion: Songs of Heart and Place on the American Frontier, and I’ve created dedicated page on my website just for the book. I encourage you to visit the book page for new updates-including music clips and videos! I hope to connect with you soon either online, at an author event, or around the neighborhood!
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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.”
March is a frenzied month for Washington music teachers! Many teachers and students across the state participate in the WSMTA (Washington State Music Teachers Association) Music Artistry Program, or MAP for short. This event takes place at multiple venues across the state and entails teachers registering their students to play for visiting artists who travel to chapters all over the state to hear performances from hundreds of students. The visiting artists provide written and verbal comments and also work at the piano for a few minutes with each student. I am a WSMTA visiting artist and recently spent six days adjudicating students from the Edmonds and Olympia chapters of WSMTA. In those six days, I put some miles on my Leaf, stayed in hotels, and worked with 15 teachers and over 125 students- around eight hours each day.
The days zoomed by with outstanding performances from piano students of all ages! Students performed music by the likes of Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Schumann, Schubert, Amy Beach, Scott Joplin, and Chopin. Upon reflection, I am inspired by the dedication and high level of professionalism of the organizers and teachers, the hard work and polished performances of the students, and of course, the never ending parental support. It truly takes a village- a musically minded village. These types of events are not easy to pull off as there are many moving parts.
I barely caught my breath after the whirlwind of MAP events and headed back into my studio for my own practice and to resume lessons with my 23 private students. I also jumped right back in at the Academy for Precision Learning in the University District where I teach several weekly general music classes to grades K-12.
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?
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:
Yves Saint Laurent The Perfection of Style is on exhibit at Seattle Art Museum,now through January 8!
Spent the morning in awe and giddy delight as I took in this amazing exhibit at SAM. Left inspired by the colors, the designs, the textures, the history, the process, the sparkles, the variety, the creative output, the elegance, the life, the style, and the genius of Yves Saint Laurent (1936-2008).
Today’s recording: Cordoba from the Spanish Suite Andalucia by Ernesto Lecuona
Don’t Advertise Your Man piano and singing by Laura
Here’s my awesome guy, Joe Sweeney! He does laundry and helps my daughter with her math, he also is an amazing bird photographer, very funny, extremely handsome, and the love of my life. I could go on and on, but before I do, I think I’ll take the advice of Clara Smith who first wrote this old blues tune back in the 1920’s, Don’t Advertise Your Man. Sippie Wallace came our with her version in the 1960’s. Bonnie Raitt has also recorded a sassy version.
Be sure to check out these recordings, and remember, girls, Don’t Advertise your Man!
Mozart Sonata K. 545, Andante, photo taken by Laura in the Ravenna neighborhood of Seattle.
An overcast spring Seattle day calls for a break from the Cuban pieces I’ve been working on. Time for some classic Mozart. A Mozart sonata with its clear sonata form, lyric melody, and clean accompaniment, is always fresh and elegant. It’s something like a trusty little black dress, a Timex watch, a pair of faded Levi’s, or a cup of good brewed coffee. This andante movement of the 545 sonata reminds me of the cat in this photo- unsentimental, refined, classic, and cool.
From an article I wrote for the Seattle Music Teacher’s Staccato Notes, November 2015
Keeping It Light (Leggiero)
by Laura Dean, NCTM
Building a Studio Community
After the recital, a group of students, ages 5 through 18, lingered at the piano. They took turns singing and playing while parents visited and remarked how delighted they are the kids are having such a wonderful time with their music lessons. Other students munched on refreshments, wrote on the black light wall, and joked together as our recital reception came to a close. This is the scene at my last studio recital held in an interesting venue which lends itself to a festive event. Many of these students and families have been with me for over a decade. This leads to the question: How can you build a strong studio community that keeps students coming back year after year?
Here are a few ideas that have stood the test of time from my studio.
The Photo Door. Every fall, I create a new photo display on the door of the studio featuring each student and a particular theme. This year, I purchased a bag of photo booth disguises, and students chose which disguise to use as they posed for their photo. Currently, the door is filled with adorable photos of students sporting cardboard crowns, beards, mustaches, bow ties, and top hats. The students look forward to the new picture wall every year, the door reminds them they are not alone, that all of these other students are also taking lessons.
The Birthday Song. When a birthday rolls around, students receive a piece of sheet music of their choosing. I use http://www.musicnotes.com. They usually select a pop favorite, rock classic, movie theme, or something from a video game. The website allows us to print a one page sample which helps us determine if the student can technically handle the piece. We make the final decision and with a click of the mouse, we download the song and instantly start to work on it. FUN!
The Sing-Along. If you’ve ever listened to A Prairie Home Companion, you know the joy and power of the group sing-along. Garrison Keillor (my hero), is a master at leading the sing-along. All of our recitals either begin or end with a group sing-along. I print the lyrics on the back of the program and everyone joins in. We’ve sung a variety of songs from Amazing Grace, to Moon River, to We Will Rock You. Parents and students know this is part of the show and everyone looks forward to it. (Think of guests on the Ellen Degeneres Show who know they are going to dance as part of the gig.)
The Theme Recital. Each December, we play a recital featuring traditional solo piano repertoire from the major time periods. In the Spring, we produce a recital with a different theme each year. Examples of past themes include: Jazz Standards, Movie Themes, The Beatles, Rock Classics, and Broadway Musicals. This is a real hit and lends itself to creative programming that delights both the performers and the audience.
Mini music camps: In the summer and during vacations, I often offer mini camps (with a maximum of 6 students), with emphasis on learning something outside of the usual curriculum such as Beginning Guitar for Piano Players, Finding Your Singing Voice,and Composition. This offers students a chance to get to know each other and to explore a new way of making music.
A little thought, planning, and creativity goes a long way to building a strong studio community. This strong community means students and parents are likely to be committed to their music lessons for the long run. Now, how about a quick trip to Display and Costume to pick up some student disguises?