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A Note to the Moon

I love late nights.  I love the silence, my wet hair from showering, the darkness and the freedom to create.  My best writing always comes from late at night.  So does my practicing, as my family is sure to tell you.

My creativity begins to come alive right about when everyone else goes to bed.  I get out my instrument, I sit in the darkness and I play to the night sky.  There is no distraction, I can focus on my sound while staring at the moon.  For some reason I have more patience with myself at night, I am too tired to berate my fingers for not behaving as they ought.  So I play a passage, again and again, with new rhythms and bowings and speeds until my fingers fly and the sound appeases the midnight air.  I play, or sometimes write, until exhaustion.  I love falling into bed knowing that I have created-that my skills have progressed even just slightly more than they had the previous day.  I also love the feeling of a tired mind, the feeling of satisfaction when my brain has exhausted its power of thought and creativity.


Finding Some Joy

Surviving the college audition process calls for some serious rewards for my sweet tooth.  I have tweaked this recipe from a few different sources, but it is inspired by the Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef blog.   As the cookies were coming out of the oven, friends and family grabbed these right off of the cooling rack.  The most common comment?  “These aren’t gluten free are they?”  I take that as a great compliment.

Kathryn’s GF Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies

Sift together the following:

60 grams brown rice flour

90 grams sweet rice flour

30 grams tapioca flour

20 grams sorghum flour

20 grams potato starch

20 grams cornstarch

30 grams oat flour

Add to the sifted flour:

1 teaspoon guar gum

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

In your Kitchen-aid cream together:

2 sticks butter, softened

1 cup sugar

1 cup brown sugar

Beat in eggs one at a time

2 eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Begin to add in flour mixture.  Add flour mixture slowly, wait for first portion of flour to completely incorporate before adding in the next portion.

Fold in the following:

250 grams rolled oats

300 grams chocolate chips

Use an ice cream scooper to scoop out even balls of dough.  Place on a cookie sheet lined with a Silpat or parchment paper.

Bake at 350 for 10 minutes

Joe Wright’s Legacy

Six years after the movie has been released, I still have the Pride and Prejudice piano music sitting on our baby grand. I can’t help it-Dario Marianelli wrote food for the soul.  I sit down at least once a week and pluck out the melodies, losing myself in the serenity and perfection of the pieces that connect with my favorite movie.  The year after the feature was released, my parents gave me tickets to see Jean-Yves Thibaudet (the brilliant pianist) at the Symphony Center.  After waiting in line for an hour after the concert to get his autograph, I presented him with the P&P piano score along with a guilty and apologetic smile.  I know I should have taken his brilliant Ravel album, or the Saint-Sans-but I couldn’t help myself.  He laughed, commented on how it was actually very good music and posed for a picture.

Unlike every other album I buy, I actually own the physical P&P soundtrack CD.  Even after burning it to my itunes, the disk continues to play….in my car’s CD player.  This soundtrack has been everywhere from the alps of Switzerland, to the hills of Quebec, the streets of Rome and Florence, the airplane rides to Ohio, the dorm rooms of U of Vermont, and everywhere in between.  The sweet melodies have been transferred to the viola and cello, sung in the shower and dreamt of long into the night.

The year that the score was nominated for an Oscar, I actually watched with bated breath throughout the entire ceremony to see if it would win.  It didn’t.  Does anyone, ANYONE, remember Brokeback Mountain? I thought not.  I HOPE not.  Does anyone actually listen to that soundtrack?  Not that I’m bitter about the outcome of the award six years later…

One year, my mom made the mistake of telling me that she ALMOST bought me the china set from P&P for christmas.  “What!” I exclaimed, my eyes widening at the thought of a set actually existing. “I found it online,” she replied cooly “it is made by the Royal Crown Derby company.  It was pretty pricy.”  “Even a single tea cup!” I cry.  Every once in a while, I bring up my bruised feelings on the subject.  I still love the pattern.  There is something so wistful about the idea of dining in a grand hall with candles lighting the room while wearing a gorgeous silk gown and being adorned in pearls.   As you can see from my earlier post, I have had that Regency Ball experience.  I loved every second of it.  The gowns, the dances, the jackets with long tails, but I especially loved the syllabub.  The only thing missing was the stately china set.

As I attempt to find a way to satisfy my craving for Jane Austen, I have continued to craft my fanfiction piece.   After reaching 15,000 views on the story, I feel that I owe it to the people who have spent their time on my writing to finish the tale.  Unfortunately, my audition season brought on three months of writers block.  The document entitled “Chapter 19” has been opened and reopened, and currently contains a whopping 427 words.  It is time to come back to the story, to set aside the roller coaster of the last few months and begin to craft my plot again.  This morning I was attempting to knit together Lady Catherine’s character.  I committed an utterly disdainful, haughty woman to the page.  She was outspoken and rude.  I read and reread the dialog, and I just couldn’t bring myself to continue.  Judi Dench lingers in the back of my mind as I write this shrewd character.  This is not how Judi Dench would say it, I argue with myself. She is not evil, but spoilt.  She has an issue of entitlement, which led to her pride.  But that is not what is on the page.  I delete the scene and decide to elaborate more on Mr. Collins’ apparel.

It is amazing that one movie can have so much power, so large a legacy.  Austen fans still have many a heated discussion over which movie is better, 1995 or 2005.    But what truly amazes me is the power that the characters created by Joe Wright and Deborah Moggach, with a little help from our dear Jane, have in my imagination.

Your Daily Dose

There are few things that I love more than late nights involving Austen and dark chocolate (with a great soundtrack of course!).  Tonight is proving to be one of those nights.  Bloch 1919 performed by Yizhak Schotten in the background, my bittersweet chocolate has been consumed (truth be told we buy chocolate in 1lb bars.  My mother and I claim that it is for baking, but that is simply not the case…).  I open up pages, and stare at the blank screen.  I always surprise myself with how daunted I feel when I stare at an empty page.  Each and every time I wonder how I will find thoughts to fill that page and the next ones after it.  But somewhere around 600 words, my creative juices begin to flow.

It has taken me a gap year to figure out that I am innately creative.  Of course anyone who knows me might have been able to spare me the joy of this new discovery, but I had to figure it out for myself.  What I learned this year is that my music is merely an outlet for my creativity, my creativity does not come as a result of my music.

Ever since my Juilliard audition on Monday morning, which marks my last college audition, I have been completely wiped out.  I have slept for hours, eaten well and done all of the usual to-dos of daily life.  But I admit, I have been too tired mentally and physically to practice.

What I have discovered in these past few days of not practicing is that I must find another outlet for my creativity.  I find that my writing gets all of the creativity that is usually put into my music.  The words fly onto the page without second thought, and the reviews for the story are more frequent and praise the tale that is beginning to take shape.  I have even noticed this in my cooking.  Since the cook in the house has been ill since we got back from New York, I have been on dinner duty for several days now.  Each night the refrigerator door has been opened, items chopped and sauteed for delicious meals.  And everything has been done without a recipe.  Even my food is better when I don’t practice!

Perhaps creativity is like our energy levels, we only get a certain amount for each day.  Maybe it is our job to be wise with our creativity-to pick and choose carefully what receives the creative juices for each days.  Where has your creativity been going recently?

Ear Training and Children’s Music

I am the eldest of three, with an almost six year gap between myself and my youngest sibling.  Obviously a lot of development happens in those first six years of life, which left my parents and I listening to a lot of children’s music.  At one point my hatred for Baby Beluga became so prominent that when the CD disappeared my parents disciplined me quite severely, only later to find that it fell behind a shelf.  Not that I’m still bitter or anything.  But I still despise that CD–“Baby beluga in the deep blue sea, spins so wild and spins so free” oh please, give me some real music.   Unfortunately this was the tip of the ice burg for children’s music growing up.  The rest consisted of young children singing horribly out of tune twinkles and ba-ba black sheep to really basic guitar chords.

As a Suzuki teacher I feel the need to put my foot down.  Having your child listen to out of tune music hinders their ear training.  Is this obvious to anyone else?  The music is painful!  And when we hold those horrid notes to be CD worthy, what are we training their young ears to listen for?  Kids learn how to match pitches fairly easily-do you want to make your kids tone deaf?

I had the chance to meet up with a former babysitter of mine this past week.   She now has her own little one who adores music.  He walks around with his little CD player and changes out the CDs himself.  We commiserated on the pitiful array of children’s music.  I even volunteered to record an album for their little one–some IN TUNE nursery rhymes and lullabies.   But luckily for my schedule, I ran into an NPR article on children’s music that led me to, a blog that critiques children’s music.  Brace yourselves, there is some pretty cool stuff out there.

Saddle up your horses kids, this is some seriously good music.  Brady formerly shared the stage with the likes of Bob Dylan and Dave Matthews.(I’m rocking out to the music on his site as I type–I love this stuff!)

Here’s a newsflash: the Grammys have a children’s music category!

After growing up in a veggie tales generation, I have a soft spot for Veggie Rocks.  My personal favorites are the News Boys singing “In the Belly of the Whale”, Reliant K “The Pirates Who Don’t do Anything” and “Promised Land” by Sanctus Real.

Ziggy Marley has a delightful album entitled “Family Time” that has a definite jamaican twist.

As for classical-lets not promote the idea of ‘boring’ being synonymous with ‘classical’ for the next generation.

For upbeat music try:

Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto no. 1 (I love Lang Lang’s recording)

Ravel Quartet

Mussorgsky/Ravel Pictures at an Exhibition -Tuileries, Ballet of the Chickens are some favorites

For Lullabies:

Ahn Trio Lullaby for my Favorite Insomniac

Helen Callus Portrait of the Viola

For Soundtracks:

Honestly, I think soundtracks just keep getting better.

Check out Mr. Magorioum’s Wonder Emporium

Toy Story 3?

Get creative-what are your child’s favorite movies?

Violist’s Best Friend

Emma joined our family a year ago last Thanksgiving.  My sister, dog lover extraordinaire, had been begging for another K-9 addition to our home.  She perused the shelter sites daily, researched breeds, checked every book on dog breeds out of the library, and perfected the art of nagging… I mean, pleading 🙂  The day before Thanksgiving, two dogs were posted on the local animal shelter website.  Alerting all of us that there was a Westie there, whom she claimed would make a great pair to our mom-loving-squirrel-chasing-non-dogfood-eating Westie.  But there was also a pup labeled as a poodle mix-a stray that was the most unfortunate recipient of the name “Trixie”.  Thank goodness those little eyes won my heart on the website, because before our family knew what we were about that little miniature Goldendoodle had wormed her way into our hearts.  Sweet little Emma (Trixie was much too degrading for such  a cutie) is what we like to refer to as the perfect dog, she is all sweetness, gentleness and so eager to please.  And she is brilliant.  This dog is so smart we can’t think of anything else to teach her.  She can do everything already.

But here is where the friendship begins.

Our house is filled with music for many hours each day.  Between the piano, cello, viola practice in addition to all of my students lessons we were rather apprehensive about how Emma would react to all of it.  To our amazement, she immediately took a liking to the viola.  Every day she would trot into the music room when she fist heard my viola case open.  She proceeded to stay for the entire length of practice time- and that is usually around 4 hours.  Much to my utter amazement, she sat through every viola lesson that I taught.  But whenever the violinists began to tune, she was out of there!

The night before a major concert, I realized long after I had been in bed that there was a page of music that hadn’t been practiced that week.  I made my way to the music room and opened my case.  Just my fingers began to move the zippers, I heard “thump thump thump” on the stairs, little Emma’s head appearing at the top of the staircase.  She proceeded to curl up on the couch and stay for the entire practice session.  When the viola went back into its case, I heard “thump thump thump” back down the stairs.   That is what I call dedication.

This dog must be part angel, she is the joy of this year. I will miss the scratching on my door two hours before my alarm goes off because she wants to curl up at my feet while I sleep.  I will miss my practice partner, her romping through the snow all the while trying to eat as much as she can, and having the soft feel of her tongue giving me kisses.  How I will miss this bundle of grace, kindness and encouragement.

A Walk Down Terminal Lane

Before I was allowed to ride my bike around the block by myself, I was flying to Cleveland, Ohio for my viola lessons.  Alone.  Once a month I woke up well before the crack of dawn to drive to the airport, viola and bright pink purse in tow, to board the 8:05 flight.  It was always a scary experience flying by myself.  First, the security people did a double take when I told them I didn’t have a drivers license, and no my parents weren’t with me.  Second, when other travelers see a 12 year old walking down the concourse with a huge black case they tend to stare.  Third, a tween going to lunch by herself in the middle of Oberlin, Ohio isn’t exactly an everyday occurrence.

I learned a lot from my solo travels.  Things like managing my time with boarding airplanes, printing tickets and attending lessons.  Becoming responsible for my things-packing everything I need and making sure it all got through security.  I learned how to take initiative to find what I was looking for-stoping to ask questions.  I learned how to do hard things.

One trip to Cleveland was marked by particularly curious TSA members.  I sent my viola case through the scanning machine, and it received some very quizzical stares.  Thinking this was due to my age and an instrument, I brushed off the rude stares as nothing out of the ordinary.  I went to my lesson, unzipped my case and there was no viola.  I had left it in my room at home.  I had to confess to my teacher, who chuckled and graciously lent me one of his very large instruments for the lesson.

One of my trips as a 13 year old led to a disaster of a different sort.  I left my cell phone charging at home, as did my mother.  Unbeknownst to mom, we were experiencing weather delays.  Not having any change on me, I went to the Hudson News shop to buy a pack of gum-purely for the change.  Being a tiny tween I was much too nervous to just ask for some change for the pay phone.  So I called my dad and asked him to pass on the news of delay to my teacher in Ohio.  Between the time I had made the phone call and the time I got back to the gate the plane had boarded and left.  So I went and bought another pack of gum, took the change and called my dad to inform him of my misfortune.  Unfortunately, since my mom forgot her cell, she had to drive an hour and a half home before she got the message to turn right back around and pick me up at the airport again.  Needless to say, I have never forgotten my cell phone for a flight since!

This week my dad and I flew to Houston, TX for a college audition.  Walking into Midway Airport brought on a whole slew of memories.  My stomach was all butterflies as I waited in line for security, eyeing those terrifying new full-body scanners.  I had the whole system down for those wonderful five years of commuting–the lane all the way to the right, shoes off, electronics out of the bag, viola on the conveyer belt–the whole nine yards.  This time I had no idea where to go, what to do, what they would ask for.  It was like being twelve all over again.

I proudly handed over my drivers license with my ticket to the TSA agent, my heart swelling at the joy of being able to have a normal source of identification.  No longer do I carry the obnoxious pink bag, but the instrument still goes everywhere.  I proceeded on to the moving walk way, noting the stores along the way where I used to stop for breakfast before catching my flight.  These hallways mark my childhood and my passage into maturity.  They welcomed a little girl marveling at Bach Cello Suite no. 1 and now bear witness to a conservatory applicant playing Bach no. 6.  They’ve seen the unruly waves turn into straightened tresses of long brown hair.  TSA has scanned three violas, all of which were held in affection.

One sight I will always love is that of the Chicago city lights as I descend back into my home city.  As the plane’s altitude drops by the second my heart swells with pride at returning to the place of my birth.  As much as I love new places and new people, there is no place like home.