Mount st. Helens


Boom!  Summer is here and the living is busy! My recording blog is on a temporary  hiatus  as I’ve been very busy with the Seattle Opera in Schools (teaching in summer school), my private students, and preparing for my Cuba concert in the fall.  I participated in an amazing piano master class in Portland over the weekend with the inspiring  Dr. Jill Timmons, my mentor. What a thrill and humbling experience to play a concert hall sized  Bosendorfer, valued at $300,000.00 (that’s a whole other story).  Joe and I made a weekend of it and spent the next day  at Mount st. Helens.

 After an overnight at a Super 8 along I5, we headed toward Mount St. Helens. In all, we spent about 4 hours at Johnston’s Ridge, the highest visitor’s center. We took  in the exhibits, lectures, and movies  and also took a short hike on a very pleasant trail with great views. There were two really interesting films about the eruption and the geology of the mountain which is still, by the way, active!   The rangers also do a great job with their talks. It wasn’t an entirely clear day, but it was still spectacular. What a bonus, that the area was alive with wild flowers at their peak bloom!  You can see  by the pictures, the side  of the mountain blown out with the landslide still looks quite barren.
The eruption was in May of 1980, 57 people died, you can see the memorial below. The explosion could be heard as far away as Missoula, Montana. I still remember waking up to an ash covered Choteau, Montana when I was about 10 years old, everything was covered with the grey dust including cars, steps, sidewalks, etc.
On our way down from the mountain, we stopped at an adorable road side cafe overlooking the Toutle River- picture of Joe drinking coffee.
Here’s an article looking back at the eruption  from the Helena’s KRTV:

Yellow House Salon #3, The Bird


Western Tanager by Joe Sweeney

Birds are big in my house.  My partner in life,  Joe Sweeney, is a master birder and hosts a  blog, Short and Tweet Bird Reports, featuring a short story and a wonderful photo each week. He spends a great deal of time birding, photographing birds, reading about birds, and sometimes leading bird walks for the Seattle Audubon.

A hummingbird feeder hangs on a window near my piano in the studio, the resident hummingbird’s name is Presto.  Presto visits multiple times daily. My students and I  enjoy watching her comings and goings.

This brings me to this week’s recording, The Bird from American Ballads by Roy Harris.  The Bird is in the early stages of practice (Remember the intention of this blog is to show my work.). While working this piece,  I imagine a colorful, elusive bird flitting from one tree to another, never landing in one place long enough to get a good look.

Here is The Bird by Roy Harris, recorded today.

Rancho la Puerta: fuel for the body, mind, and spirit


Leaping into Monday morning feeling refreshed  after a week at the top rated destination spa, Rancho la Puerta, located on the edge of Tecate, Mexico in the Baja.  The week was spent practicing piano in the beautiful Oak Tree Pavilion, hiking, swimming, attending yoga classes, listening to insightful speakers, visiting with friends, practicing Spanish, eating delicious healthy meals, and relaxing. I was a guest presenter for the week offering a a class (Sing-Along with Laura) and an evening music program (Women with a Past).  

It was at Rancho la Puerta where I met my significant other, Joe Sweeney, four years ago.  Joe was a fitness instructor and bird guide at the Ranch for 31 years. He now lives with me in Seattle where he is a personal trainer and bird photographer.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

As I reflect on the trip and plan for the next few busy months ahead, I’m inspired by the Ranch motto:

Siempre Mejor (always better)

For more information on Rancho la Puerta, visit:

Joe’s beautiful bird photos and blog:  

Like a Sunflower

Mammoth Sunflower in Laura's Garden

Mammoth Sunflower in Laura’s Garden.         Photo by Joe Sweeney

After a glorious Seattle summer full of hiking, swimming, time with friends and family, gardening, weekend trips, a week long music residency in Fife, a speaking engagement in Eastern Washington, home improvements and relaxing, it’s time to settle into the rhythm of the fall.

The fall rhythm includes balancing family and home responsibilities with a full teaching schedule (32 private students), daily practice, booking concerts and residencies for 2015 and beyond, and mapping out goals for the year. I’ve got performance trips to Mexico and Alaska on the books for 2015, and am working on completing my second recording, Women With a Past, before the end of this year.

Like this glorious, gigantic sunflower in my front garden, which started from a tiny seed, I’m planning on aiming high and encouraging my students to do the same!


Visit Joe Sweeney at: