Sunday, March 30, 2014

Road Kill

Today on the way to church I spotted road kill on the road.

Normally I avert my eyes, pretending I do not see it, yet the human side of me nearly always HAS to look to see what it is.

First, I spotted a o'possum.

So I sang the rabbit and possum song.

Drove a little further and saw something I've never seen before: a dead robin on the road.

I thought to myself: "Poor little robin!"

I found myself singing "Who Killed Cock Robin?"

Such a sad, perplexing song.

A musical "whodunit," if you will.

Then I saw a skunk on the road.

I could have sung the little skunk song.

Instead I just held my nose!

Oh, such is the life of a person with thousands of songs in her head --

Even road kill is inspiration for music!

Monday, March 3, 2014

You Know - That Trumpet Guy on Johnny Carson! (Part One)

The past month has been eventful for me in many ways. I guess the highlight would be when I got to talk with, you know, that trumpet guy on Johnny Carson.

Yes, if your first guess was Doc Severinsen, you would be correct!

Prior to his keynote address at a recent conference I strategically positioned myself in a seat where I could hear and see him without distraction.

On the 2nd row of the auditorium.

Little did I know that the couple who came and sat next to me were Doc's friends.

[Turns out Doc's friends were Allen Vizzutti and his wife. Don't know Allen Vizzutti ( Don't worry neither did I!  I've learned he is just one of the top jazz trumpeters in the world. And no, I didn't get his picture. :( ]

This first pic is when I first sighted Doc on stage as he was familiarizing himself with the stage area.

He came off the stage to talk to someone right in front of me. (Pic #2)
THEN he came down and sat on the arm of the seat in the first row (as you see in Pic #3) to talk to his friends who were sitting next to me. He was about 3 feet away from me.

He and his friends started talking about Doc's dogs. They noticed my listening in (OK, eavesdropping) and began including me in their discussion. I smiled and laughed along with them as they told stories of their pets. When Doc asked me if I had any pets I went on and on about how my brother and his family had just gotten a toy/teacup (?) Australian shepherd puppy to join their other dog.

Now, those who know me know that I do not have nor have I ever owned a pet besides the occasional carnival goldfish which usually met a watery demise down the toilet, so to be included in a discussion about pets, pet care, etc. was foreign territory for me.

But hey! If Doc Severinsen wants to talk to me about dogs, who am I stop him?

You might notice that I do not have a picture of myself with Doc.

For me, the experience I had is far more thrilling than a 10-second photo opp.

I did not want to appear the fan. (Even though I am!) It was not a photo opportunity.  He was relaxing before a presentation and talking with friends.

I wasn't going to mess with that. If I had I might not have gotten to talk with him for 15 minutes like I did.

Did he know I was taking his picture? Probably not.  Especially not the one of him on the stage. I tried very hard to be discreet - it would have just looked like I was checking for a message on my phone.


Did Doc really even notice me?

After all we didn't talk music or his career or my admiring him.


After he spoke (topic for Part Two of this series) there was a jazz concert.

I moved to another seat on the aisle back farther in the auditorium. I noticed that Doc and his companion (I'm not sure who she was though she did play in the concert that night) took my vacated seat next to his friends.

Midway through the concert Doc and his companion left the concert.

As they passed by where I was sitting Doc glanced up (I was on an elevated section right next to the aisle) and our eyes met. He smiled and gave me that jazz point with his hand - I waved with a goofy grin on my face.

Then they left the auditorium.

I sat in the darkened auditorium listening to some phenomenal jazz music and just smiled into the dark at the experience.

More later....

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Why Music Appreciation?

Historically music appreciation has been taught on the college level as what is called a "GenEd" or general education course for many years. It one of the required courses that a student may take to fulfill the fine arts requirement in many college curriculums.

John Knowles Paine was responsible for getting the course incorporated as a required course in the college curriculum during the 19th century . He was an early American composer and educator. What started out as an enrichment course at Harvard proved to be very successful.  As its popularity and value was realized it became a part of the core curriculum for Harvard students.

Each semester I tell my students they can blame Paine for the pain of music appreciation.


Regardless of the administrative reasons the course exists I have learned there is so much more to this course called music appreciation.

It is just like the child who sits and stares while the class sings songs around him and frustrating the teacher because she doesn't seem to be reaching him. Yet every night, according to his mommy's report, he sings all the time saying the "music teacher lady" (that would be me) taught him the songs.

Just like this child the music appreciation teacher doesn't always know how lesson content is being received by the students.

Blank stares are the norm.
Distracted, multitasking students are the norm.

Yet, some days acknowledgement that what is being taught is being heard...and shared.

Just a few highlights from this past week:

  • A student from last semester tweets that she misses music appreciation. My first response was "Really?" Then, though I realize she might miss the class for numerous reasons, a slow smile of satisfaction crept upon my face.

  • A current student shared with me how she knew the Hallelujah Chorus by Handel because she heard it sung at a singing Christmas tree program this past Christmas season. She also shared how she awkwardly stood with the rest of the audience while it was sung. I got to tell her how this long lived tradition had come about.

  • Another student was so moved by a graphic video portrayal of J.S. Bach's "Little Organ Fugue" that he'd left class and searched for it himself online so that he could watch it over and over again.

          You may watch it here:

          Pretty cool, huh?
  • Yet another student, upon hearing Vivaldi's "Spring" Movement 1 from The Four Seasons was prompted to by himself a violin. Yes, you heard me right: he BOUGHT a VIOLIN. He came to me wanting lessons. (I only know the very basics - we are in search of a teacher for him!)

         This is the video of Itzhak Perlman that inspired him:


Why music appreciation?

For this teacher these are but just a very few reasons why I teach it and enjoy teaching it:
Because it
  • exposes my students to new things
  • makes connections with other things, and
  • enriches their lives.

Yes, that is why.