Emigrants 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 Expansion. The 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.
Snow is starting to fall. Looks like we’ll be having a white Christmas in Seattle! Here’s to peace, love, music, health, and joy today, and every day. Here’s my daughter, Ruby, and I playing Christmas Cookies (Dec. 17, 2017 at Music Center of the Northwest), originally recorded by George Strait, written by Aaron Barker. Merry Christmas!
“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”
Piano Phasing, a concert featuring more than 25 pianists (playing at the same time) was one of the highlights from this month. Four of my students and I participated in the event, playing a composition by a Dutch Composer, Kristoffer Zeegers. For a taste of what piano phasing is all about. Thanks to Seattle teacher GraceAnn Cummings for making this possible and for Classic Pianos in Bellevue for hosting the event.
The experience was meditative, loud, and cathartic. I can see the attraction of making a lot of noise. What a treat to participate right along with my students in a performance. I adore my students xoxoxoxo!!!!!
In addition, there were adjudications sponsored by the Seattle Music Teachers Association. Nine of my students played two memorized pieces and received written and verbal feedback on their performances from a wonderful adjudicator from Spokane. Three students participated in the Young Artists Festival at the University of Washington- which is adjudications…. amped up a few notches with very high level playing, expectations, and world class adjudicators.
I adjudicated for a local festival myself, spent a Saturday from 8-5 listening to about 50 young pianists play two pieces each while I worked with another adjudicator to give feedback on their performances. Some of their performance attire could melt a heart! A six year old in a pouffy white dress with black polka dots comes to mind.
Oh March, never a dull moment. I started a music residency at Ridgecrest Elementary featuring Cuban music and dance. I’m presenting music and dance of Cuba in narrative, photos, and videos, and then we salsa, rumba, and sing our hearts out! It’s great to spend a day dancing. (or a week! ) I’ll see every student in school for two classes when all is said and done, by the end of next week.
There’s a new project in the works for the fall, and probably for the next several years. The new project consuming my creative energy is Heart and Place: Music of the Westward Expansion. I’m reading a wide array of history of the West in the 1800’s, including the Lewis and Clark Expedition, diaries of pioneers and settlers of the Western frontier, and anything I can get my hands on. The story of Westward Expansion is complicated, compelling, heart-breaking, inspiring, and massive! I’m spending a good amount of time talking to historians and people who have personal stories (for example, this wonderful story, featuring Al Wiseman and the Métis fiddle tradition). What a delight to work on this project which is quickly becoming an obsession. In a way it feels like coming home to my roots.
I’m determined to add traditional music that would have been played on the trail by he early pioneers to my performance repertoire for this project. In pursuit of that goal, I’ve started taking fiddle lessons. A humbling experience, to say the least, but I’m highly motivated and so I spend an hour every day sawing on my new instrument, the fiddle! Rosin up that bow!