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

 

 

Sweet Santa Fe Spring Break 2017

 

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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.

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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.

 

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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.

Ahhhhh, Santa Fe. We’ll be back!

 

 

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Coronado Historic Site

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A collection of santos

 

 

 

 

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.

Don’t Advertise Your Man, Yellow House Salon #15

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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!

Clara Smith

Bonnie Raitt and Sippy Wallace

Lágrimas Negras, Yellow House Salon #12

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Still dreaming of adventures in Cuba.  Today, a post featuring Lágrimas Negras (black tears), a traditional Cuban Bolero written by Miguel Matamoros. My group learned this piece under the instruction of a wonderful voice teacher at the havana music school.

The bolero, in two parts, opens with a slow lament. The singer has been abandoned and suffers immense pain. She sobs black tears over her lover’s  transgressions. The second half picks up as she decides to suffer no more.  Above, my recording, a piano arrangement of Lágrimas Negras.

 

Don’t miss these three different takes on Lágrima Negras:

Cuban Singer/Guitarist with Cuban footage

American Cuban Songstress, Celia Cruz

Cuban piano master Bebo Valdés and  flamenco cantador, Dieguito El Cigala

Please visit Weeks 9, 10, and 11  for more on my Cuban adventures.

Obini Bata, (Yellow House Salon #11)

 

IMG_0573Obini Bata is a government sponsored bata drumming and performance group. In fact, this is the first group of women in Cuba to play Yoruba drums professionally, a role typically reserved for men. Bata drums are hourglass-shaped drums played in a group of three.

Yoruban music has African origins, Nigerian, to be exact.  This music and dance were originally used in religious ceremonies. The leader of Obini Bata, a former principal ballarina, tells us the group strives to portray Yoruban music and dance as a cultural art without religious implications.

The group has performed all over Cuba and Nigeria. The performers rehearse 4-8  hours every day in their bare bones studio in a crumbling building in the Central District of Havana. Our visit includes a powerful private performance of singing, drumming, and dancing. The women also conduct a workshop for my  group where we try our hand at Yoruba drumming (much harder than it looks), sing a  Yoruban song, and dance in long white skirts.

For more about my adventures in Cuba, please visit week #9 and week#10 of the Yellow House Salon.

 performance and documentary  footage of Obini Bata  (en español)

Yellow House Salon #2 Wayfaring Stranger

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Fueled by a sunny Seattle day, an invigorating yoga class, a stop for coffee, and a bouquet of fresh flowers,  I  headed home to record episode #2 of Yellow House Salon.  Two and 1/2 hours later here it is.

Today’s episode is two recordings based on the traditional folk song, Wayfaring Stranger. This song has a beautiful, longing melody with words that speak of our journey through life. Walking through my wonderful Wedgwood neighborhood, I don’t feel like a stranger, on the contrary, I feel a great sense of belonging and contentment.  That aside,  here are  my two takes on Wayfaring Stranger.

Laura singing/playing guitar Wayfaring Stranger, Traditional

Laura playing Wayfaring Stranger from American Ballads by Roy Harris.