Monday, March 13, 2017

Sostenuto

"Often, the most precarious part of a mounting, sustained line is found not in approaching the climactic notes, but in descending from them. Breath energy has been expended improperly on the dramatic "high" note, with nothing left in reserve." - The Structure of Singing by Richard Miller


i've been reading my vocal class text book from college. i pace around the kitchen making weird sounds as my husband watches sports on the couch with my boys, laughing as i try vocal exercises - weighing their value and my understanding of the technique required to perform them properly. i often have to read and re-read whole sections before i understand them - it's a slow, plodding read, but i do find i'm re-learning a ton, and i am enjoying it. 

i came to the quote above last night and i read it a couple of times before highlighting it in sunshine yellow. i want to remember that. Sometimes beauty is in the ability to hold on after the dramatic high - to remain constant and supported during the re-descending. i felt like that passage uniquely captures a tiny piece of mothering in these strange in between years - where i have adult children and a three year old. And of course, i would be a fool to assume that it's possible to hold anything in reserve from those years of sleep deprivation and baby making and the laundry and food and constant, perpetual action... but as the author describes the skills that need mastering in order to avoid cumulative strain and fatigue - as he explains that when we lack the ability to make rapid adjustments freely - the vocal instrument is sure to tire - it hits home. As the melodic phrase of my child bearing years has come to it's height and begins it's descent, i want to be faithfully sustaining the passage that follows as well as i live my life in sostenuto. 

"The ultimate test of technical ability lies in sustained singing. Energy and power are frequently required, but these attributes of the good singer must be balance by freedom."- The Structure of Singing by Richard Miller


Wednesday, March 8, 2017

learning to teach

Knowing something and having the capacity to teach it are two very different things.

I'm learning new things, and for each new thing i learn, i dissect it in my mind and try to organize it into a lesson - something digestible to a person wanting to learn. Things that have become intuitive for me over the years, little frills or licks on the piano, vocal effects, breath support or vocal onset... have become things that i slow down, pick apart, analyze and then offer back.
i'm enjoying the challenge, and i do feel like i'm getting better at it as i use one way of expressing an idea with one student and i see the lightbulb go off & then i file it away to use again with the next person. i'm gaining experience - and i'm so grateful to these first students who are so graciously gifting me with the opportunity of obtaining it.

But over and above all that, i want to share the one thing that motivates my desire to teach.

It's a single thought - and i'm sure that without it, i probably would have already quit... but i was praying about teaching one day, and i was struck with the knowledge that it's all about the people. As the idea hit... not idea - "transformative knowledge" is maybe a better way of phrasing it... i pulled out my "to do" list where i jot down ways to get better or things i want to accomplish that are outside of my normal.
i wrote my name... getting my future self's attention, and put a box around it.
"Paige, remember: God loves people. This is so important. Figure out how to incorporate this into every step."
Beside it, i placed a little empty check box... so that i would always see it and remember that i'm not done pouring out for people - the ones loved by Him - the ones He gives me to teach and to love too.

So, there is my snippet of thought on this Wednesday afternoon as i prepare another lesson and research method and technique and transpose another song that will be sung... Over, above and wound through this little bit of effort is the knowledge that i use to act upon:
God Loves People. This... This is what matters.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Something to offer

i've started teaching music.
i started writing a big post about how that all came to pass, but realized that i don't feel like writing it all down just yet... But i want to write about my music lessons.
i've been teaching a group musicianship class, but also some private lessons for piano or voice. It has been an almost painful stretching growth for me to learn how to teach... and it has felt so perfectly right.
One of the first requests for private lessons that i got was one that almost crushed me with intimidation. It was an inquiry from a music teacher. She taught classical lessons, but said she was interested in learning a little chording, improvisation and accompaniment - the things that i was offering. She asked if she could come meet me to see if i would be a good fit for her. We met, and under and around and over my fear and worry - i could tell that i just loved her.
Sometimes it's really, really hard to see any value in your own skill set. 
I had decided before she arrived that i would speak a little discouragingly - if she still wanted lessons, then i'd teach - but i'd be very careful not to promise anything above what i was able. She left from the meeting assuring me that i had what she wanted and she looked forward to our first lesson.
She gently spoke encouragement over each lesson - practicing furiously each little piece that i taught her, and encouraging me to see that i had something to offer.
Between each lesson, i was in agony. The door would shut behind her and i would moan, "Oh Lord, what on earth will i teach her next week?" i would attack my bookshelves looking for ideas and move my hands in slow motion over the keyboard, "How on earth do i do this?" i would figure out the theory behind what my hands naturally wanted to do so that i could show her how... And each week, a whisper of inspiration would strike and i'd ask her cautiously, "Would this be a helpful skill?"
Sometimes she would say, "Yes!" & sometimes she would say, "Nah, i probably wouldn't use that..." But every week, i learned something new, and every week she improved.
I feel like i'm being stretched, learning how to examine the things that i know... how to really look at them and figure out how to pass on which pieces that might have value. My hope is that my students learn as much as i feel like i am learning in these months as i am learning how to teach - and i am so grateful to each one for giving me this chance to grow.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Our Second Family

It's weird how that kind of worked out.
It was another evening with a bunch of little boys piled on the couch tucked in and around their dad watching *sporting event*.
i glanced at the TV... "Football's over... i thought it was football you guys were into?"
"It's not football, it's just sports. Sports never ends. It's always in season."
"Oh."
My college girl looked at me, "I'm confused... i still thought we were a fiddle/jamming family..."
"Nope," my husband replied cooly, "That was our last family. Our new family is a sports family."
This week, my littlest girl is on a road trip with her grandma and my bigger girls are all out interfacing with the world. My little homeschool is overrun with testosterone and little wrestling boys who are constantly needing snacks and reminders to shut down the wii.
i used to feel bad for Neil being so desperately outnumbered by girlies. He patiently listened to squeaking fiddles and watched fashion shows. He tenderly combed long hair and endured countless hours of girl talk...
But i see him now, with a satisfied smirk on his face as his boys grow like weeds around him. The seasons brought about a surprising change, and now i am the one who is outnumbered. Even my tiniest boy climbs out of my arms to tear off his shirt and pound his chest as he jumps into the fray to wrestle with his boys.
And so i'm learning how to mama my boys as they grow - even though it feels so very different to me than it did with my girls, and i'm finding my footing loving these boys *and* girls in the order and timing they were given... and it's all joy.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Little Spice

Cai and i have been trying to have a date every month...
This month, we met at a little Indian restaurant that she picked. The server had brilliant blue eyes that sparkled against his dark skin and Chris Tomlin thrummed from their speakers. It smelled amazing. She was running a little late, so i waited, watching the window & felt my cheeks pull and rise into a deep smile as i finally saw her blonde head bobbing in the window - blue eyes searching for me...
There's something about watching your child look for you. At church last Sunday, i went to pick up Ephraim and Gage from their class and i was surrounded by parents taller than myself, but between their shoulders, i could see his platinum curls and his sky blue eyes searching faces... searching, searching... until his eyes locked with mine. His face was wreathed in grins and his tiny skinny legs started hopping as he called out and waved to me. He knew i was his, and that he is mine. And it struck me as i reached out my arms to him, how there were all these little pairings of parent and child at that doorway - each one magnetized to the other, in perfect matching sets.
She let in a tiny burst of spring air as she opened the door.
She's like food; like air, sun, light, warmth, softness and refreshment... all wrapped into a tiny passionate package.
Back home, folding laundry, Gage asked me, "So, how was your lunch with Cairo?"
"It was good, Gagey. So good. Sometimes i really miss her. I miss her living here with us..."
Time is measured so differently when you're a child. He lived with her for his first eight years, but these last 6 months she has been gone have felt like a whole other lifetime to him.
"I miss Colin."
"Yeah, i miss Colin too."
One can never have enough big brothers, and Colin with his gentle baritone and open arms has been with us so long, that Gage doesn't even remember a time when he wasn't...
But they are each other's more than they are ours now... Their own little entity - their own little circle of gravity envelopes them and keeps them orbiting each other... What kind of crazy alchemy is it that makes takes two and makes one? That separates from origin in order to create something new, something precious, something awe-inspiring in it's fragile beginnings? Marriage just takes my breath away.
The kids often ask me, "Are we nine in our family or are we eleven?"
And i never know how to answer.

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