Rancho la Puerta

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.”

While I was away, my new book was officially published- Music in the Westward Expansion: Songs of Heart and Place on the American Frontier. The book is available at McFarland , Amazon, or from your favorite book seller. And now on to my next adventure – book launching!

Music Is Radar for the Soul

“It’s like a song or an album is made and it’s almost like it has a radar to find the person when they need it the most.” -Jon Batiste acceptance speech at the 2022 Grammy Awards Ceremony

Jon Batiste, singer, composer, dancer, musician, and humanitarian extraordinaire recently received 11 Grammy nominations and 5 Grammy awards at the 2022 Grammy Awards Ceremony. His positive outlook on life and his music lifts us up as in the song “Freedom.” “It’s All Right” soothes the soul. “Cry” provides an honest commentary on life’s struggles. 

 In his acceptance speech for the album of the year, We Are, he spoke of the healing quality of music and how the perfect song has a way of finding us – like radar- just when we need it most. Do you have a song that found you just when you needed it most? I know I have- many times over! 

Listen to Jon Batiste’s acceptance speech for album of the year here: 

Watch the video of “Freedom” here:

Watch his touching and surprising interview on CBS Sunday Morning here: 

https://www.cbsnews.com/video/jon-batiste-and-suleika-jaouad-sharing-life-beyond-cancer/

Listen to his insightful interview with Terry Gross on Fresh Air, complete with musical explanations of his astounding piano arrangements. 

https://www.npr.org/2021/07/01/1012189203/bandleader-jon-batiste

Musical March Madness

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.

I eagerly await the page proofs of my forthcoming book (Music in the Westward Expansion: Songs of Heart and Place on the American Frontier), but am told that McFarland (the publisher) is working steadily behind the scenes and the book should be ready in the next few months. (Sigh….patience has never been one of my virtues). In the meantime, there are classes to teach, lessons to plan, and music to practice.

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Featuring music from the American West played on four instruments!

Unknown.jpegEmigrants Crossing the Plains (Albert Bierstadt), 1869

Our long journey thus began in sunshine and song

Peter H. Burnett,  May 22, 1843

For the past two years, I’ve been researching the history and music of the early American West for an ongoing research  project I call Heart and Place: Music of the Westward ExpansionThe history of the American West brims with inspiring stories, musical diversity, artistic creativity, and valuable life lessons relevant to our modern world.

Today I’m sharing four video clips featuring short narratives and music of the Westward Expansion -played on four instruments. I have played this music for concerts in Oregon, Washington, and Montana,  and even at Rancho La Puerta in Tecate, Mexico.  I’m looking forward to working with this music and history for many years to come.

Take a look here for more information on the Northern Cheyenne Courtship Flute. 

 

HEAR IT! SING IT! MOVE IT!

CD Cover

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! 

Below are a couple of the 15 songs you’ll find on the page:  Hear It! Sing It!  Move It! 

Up in a Balloon

Tía Monica 

Heart and Place at the C.M. Russell Museum,Great Falls, MT

 

 

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.

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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.

-John Steinbeck

 

Girls With Guitars

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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.IMG_3776.JPG

Buckets of FUN!

Bucket Drum

Simple Equipment

The Shoreline Jam

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.

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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:

Here are two websites offering tips on getting started with bucket drumming:http://www.bucketdrumming101.com

Join

 

 

Connection and Compassion Through the Arts

 

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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.

Yves Saint Laurent The Perfection of Style

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