follower

the other night i went and spent a couple of hours with the widow of the man that had been my tennis coach my last two years in high school. he was the basketball coach, and a math teacher, and knew nothing about tennis, but he went to several camps to learn, and more importantly, he basicly turned over most things to me. it seems this is how i really like things, to be in charge, but not in charge. it gives you the freedom to act, but none of the responsibility. truth be said i am more of a follower than a leader. i know i have leadership skills, i just don’t really like to use them. and in the case of not wanting to be a teacher, it might be because i loved being a student so much. the widow was my first grade teacher, and i realized sitting there that not only did i love her and her class, but there were only two teachers during my whole time in public school that i didn’t care for their classes. i was always the kid that loved the teachers that other kids hated. why? because those teachers were actually doing their job and pushing us, finding extra things to show us and make us do, and they didn’t put up with shit. they wanted an orderly classroom, and most of them got it. funny, with all the talk of add, odd, adhd, etc….how so many accommodations are supposed to now be made for the students, who are now so many of them drugged to ease these problems….shouldn’t it be the opposite? sorry, i do believe the student has a more active role in actually learning. a great teacher makes all the difference, but students can learn what they need to with sub-par teachers, and i didn’t meet too many of them until i got to college.

i’ve all ready said i was in the gifted program in elementary. our junior high (7-9) was a 6 day cycle (PE and some other classes alternated even/odd days) and a 9 period day with a “floating” period. every day this period would float down and replace another class. this was actually amazing as every 10 days a class would not meet or at the end of the cycle the floating period knocked out until the next day when it replaced first period again. consistency with reprieve (not that i saw classes that way)…what a concept. it allowed freshman to take all their core, plus a language if they wanted, and band/chorus both. and extra classes galore. we had to take a period of “exploratory” classes: child care, art classes, cooking, industrial arts.

i took a lot of art classes even though i am not good. painting, clay, 3-d. i took cooking. but my favorite were industrial arts classes. plastics class where we made a ton of stuff (and had to learn the properties of different types of plastics….none of these classes were particularly easy, but they were rewarding…electricity (the final project was a board of 20 electrical connections, some incorrect or broken that we had to fix so the board would light up (i was one of two that got it right on the first try), and small engines. i was the only girl in this class. we partnered up, found unworking lawn mowers (apparently this not too hard, my neighbor had one) and half the period we learned how engines ran and the other half we worked and fixed the lawnmowers until they ran. clarinda eventually did away with this scheduling as they said students had a hard time with the schedule. actually i remember all of us loving it. but i’m sure it was a scheduling nightmare. i imagine that was the real reason it was changed.

high school was modular scheduling. kinda like college. certain classes meant certain days and certain periods were longer. which again was awesome. some classes that really needed continuity (math) met every day (i still don’t understand how block scheduling can be good for math where each concept builds on the last, and the student has no time in between lessons to do the homework and get the concept settled in their mind before the next is introduced), and science labs could meet once a week for 90 minutes and actually have time to “do” the labs. again, you could take up to 8 or 9 classes a semester with this model. band and chorus…no need to make a choice. continue with foreign language. and take lots of classes that are just things you want to take. and college prep (back then there weren’t classes that doubled for college enrollment. i still think this is a stupid process. most of these students don’t have the capacity for full understanding if these classes are taught the way they should be in college, and it is a lot of pressure on both the teachers and students. let students have 1 free attempt at certain college courses they want to try to “test” out of….i personally think that is a better way, otherwise a lot of good college profs end up trying to “catch up” the students in advanced courses because of the skipping of dual enrolled classes their freshman year). for my non-core i took some theatre, art (again not great, but a fantastic teacher who included art history along with the hands on), advanced science, and advanced english.

the two teachers i disliked were the spanish teacher (who hated my dad and treated me as such) and the history teacher (ex-military captain who ran her class as such). history was my only B in high school. i was tired of starting in the same old place (this was american history) and not getting to the good stuff (in my eyes anything past WWI) and just didn’t study the way i needed to. i had this teacher for a current events class and loved it. she was a much different teacher in this class, and i got an A. but the B in her class was definitely my fault. the fact that i didn’t like her personality or the content had nothing to do with her not presenting the content correctly or in a way i could grasp it. so again, when students blame teachers, i doubt that very often is poor teaching really the case why a student doesn’t do well.

college i would find more teachers that i didn’t like, mostly because they didn’t always “teach”…

my favorite class in high school was government. in college “government” class for this instructor became a political science class where he could spew his views–amazingly enough conservative republican for my teacher. ugh.

one of my theory classes was taught by a brilliant, yet often drunk or hung over man. you really had to be attentive to mood.

one psychology class had a woman who thought we were all dense. yet she lectured nothing out of the book (which i love, we can read the friggin’ book) and her tests were NOTHING from lectures or the book….turns out they were the previous teacher’s tests, and once we got copies from the library test vault we all aced them. excellent in class, poor tests.

but most of my college classes and teachers i also loved. which is good as i chose to take some extra and dual enroll for masters classes when i could so i could do mr. mitchell’s final tower choir tour to florida before he retired. i should have been student teaching that semester. but again, this allowed me to take several independent studies in theatre, several extra PE courses, an independent study in diction, and i was two classes (percussion methods and hs instrumental methods) away from dual certification. i had taken secondary instrumental lessons (trombone/french horn), all the other instrumental methods (they were 4 separate courses at that time) and instrumental literature. i knew better than to get the dual certification though. it could make me be forced to teach band.

my main band instrument is trumpet. in 7th grade i was hitting high c and d’s and the high school director would come down and work with me occasionally as he was also trumpet. then i got braces, totally changed my embouchure and after they were off, i never could get my range back. too bad, i honestly think i would have tried to play professionally. again, piano is thought of more of a solo instrument so people push you that direction…trumpet they push you more toward symphonic or jazz work. to be a 2nd or 3rd trumpet in a broadway pit, now that would be nirvana.

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first job

my first teaching job was everything that weymuth warned people in his class NOT to take. i followed a person who had been there forever and was loved by the students and community. i was to be the “scapegoat” according to everything we’d discussed in class. this was a k-12 position in one district that traveled to three schools in two different counties. my morning was high school chorus (and often early rehearsals with people for all-district, contest, musical, etc). then i drove 20 miles and was at the elementary the rest of the morning where i taught 3 classes which rotated every other day. then back 10 miles to the middle school where i ate lunch and taught all afternoon. after school might be other rehearsals or musical practice depending on the time of year.

my first year was stellar. there were several of us who were new and we all bonded. the principal at the high school loved me. the previous teacher had done a good job, but, really wasn’t versed in choral music. her love was the musical, and small ensembles and soloists. i loved everything. i grew the chorus from 35 to around 60 (extra rehearsals with kids who had class conflicts) and, by second semester, recruiting athletes that i had gone to every football, basketball game, etc (another weymuth technique). i was totally immersed in teaching. i would leave maryville around 6:30 am, get to school at 7 and often return home around 9 or 10 pm. my “mentor” was the art teacher. after the first week she told me i should be mentoring her. i told her she was awesome and that both my parents had been teachers and i had had great role models and thus not a lot of questions for her.

my high school kids went from singing 2 and 3 part to 4 part. my middle school kids were singing 3 part. the elementary concerts went from each class singing 2 songs to each class singing 6-7 songs. the middle school/high school concerts which previously had been with the band, were now split as our performances were long enough the administration wanted to separate them. i had more students making all-district. i had more involved in contest and a higher percentage of I ratings (which i don’t care about). i had a girls double quartet and a mixed double that would sing 4 part national anthem at the ballgames. i taught life skills, ran the clock at the middle school basketball games, and was one of the 8th grade sponsors.

the first year i also had a great group of senior leadership. they made things even easier (i still keep in contact with many of these students). the school musical was great, but was one of those piddly written for school that can’t do a real musical musicals….and i argued and won that if we had the talent we should be able to do a full fledged musical every year (previously it was ever 4 years–which meant for 3 years anyone who wasn’t a senior during the real musical year didn’t get to do much). i cast according to talent, so the second year we knew we had the talent for “annie”. the girl we had pegged for the title role gave a great audition, and she was a junior. her sister, a freshman, gave a better audition and got the role. everyone questioned, and then when the show rolled around, they became believers.

my third year, i lost a ton of leadership but still had a lot of talent. we did “little shop”. the girl who was audrey was hated by most of her class. i did have one parent who came in and questioned her getting the part over another girl who “looked more the part and was a sophomore”. even though it wasn’t her business, i explained that they could both handle the part, but, the senior who was audrey couldn’t handle the high trio part as the sophomore could, nor could the other two seniors who were the rest of the trio get along with her. again, show was a success.

all of the teachers had trouble with mickey prettyman. she had two sons in school. the older was ok. didn’t really like school, but didn’t cause problems. he actually loved chorus class and had a good voice. the younger was a smart-mouthed, smart kid who knew he could get his mom on a roll. he was constantly in trouble with all teachers. most of the time when she came to conferences she didn’t want to know about her sons though, she wanted to know the justifications for everything she had heard from her friends about classes her kids weren’t even in. i did put her in her place once at conferences. she questioned a long term assignment and the way it was graded. i told her even though i didn’t think it was ANY of her business since her sons weren’t in the class i knew people talked, and showed her the rubric and how the students basicly would self-grade…so there was NO WAY they didn’t know how it was graded. first time i ever saw her walk away speechless. i got kudos from other teachers.

every year i got evaluated by 3 principals. every year my evaluations were stellar. at the end of the year, one of the principals would do the “summative” evaluation that went to the superintendent. my third year it was done by the middle school principal and she marked me exemplary in all areas and wrote great comments. two weeks after i had this meeting with her to get my evaluation and the week before taking the largest number of kids to state solo/ensemble contest the school had seen, i was called in and told i was being non-renewed.

so unexpected. it was explained to me that i could resign, or call msta. the superintendent also said that all 3 principals and he himself had recommended me for renewal, but the board had voted not to. i called msta. basicly, msta is the biggest joke for non-tenured teachers. my representative was nice. she explained that in missouri, you basicly have no rights, that i could ask for a reason from the board, but that they would not have to prove it, only provide one. it couldn’t be taken to court, but that i could ask for a meeting with the board and present my side and ask for a re-vote. she recommended though that i resign. i asked for the reason. they cited classroom management, which was totally the opposite of what all my reviews had said for 3 years. i met with them and pointed out all i had done for the students and community. the long hours, the increase in numbers, tutoring kids to get their gpa up so they would be eligible for contest and sports…and they revoted, and i lost by one vote (apparently the first time i lost by 2, so at least i turned one person).

let me tell you what a blow this is….let me tell you how when your whole life you are told that if you do your best at something everything will work out…well in this case it was bullshit. nothing worked out. i had to finish the year and act like nothing had happened. my self esteem was blown. i had no faith in anyone or anything. a lot of faculty sympathized, but couldn’t do anything to help. and, i had no idea why this was going on. in fact, one dear parent approached me after my last concert and said how great it was and how they knew i was being dealt a low hand and to keep my chin up as there were better things in store. but i couldn’t believe it then. all i knew is that there must have been something i did wrong. even when i was out interviewing and learned the real story (the person i had replaced couldn’t find a job they liked better that paid as well, still lived in the community, and wanted her job back and had good friends on the board–apparently my superintendent let that slip every time he was called for a recommendation on me and two of the people i interviewed with told me) i still couldn’t believe it wasn’t my fault.

honestly, i didn’t want to teach anymore. to pour your heart and soul into something and then just have it vanish. and it jaded me. i was so depressed for so long. i lost all faith in my abilities and in people. and i had to find another job soon.

probably the worst part is living in the community where you attended school. to know that all everyone knows is that you have been let go…and to think that they also think you did something wrong. one of the few times in my life i have totally retreated long term, and only was social when forced to be. and i became a not so nice person. my witty sarcasm was very biting during this time, and i apologize to those who might have felt its sting.

positive attitude

so up until the end of my first teaching position i had a really positive outlook on life. i was pretty happy the majority of the time. not to say that i didn’t have the shades of realism and the idealistic nature i have now, but i was for the most part overly positive and would always find a silver lining. especially for my friends and their situations. my friend cheryl once told me i am the most positive person she knows, and for her sake, i remain that way around her when i return home and visit. i have always been a caretaker with my friends, a giver, a listener…and totally am uncomfortable to have the roll reversed, and have several times been burned when it has been. or maybe just been disappointed by people in general. but that was my roll…to be the fixer and the protector for so many of my friends.

my non-sleeping habits actually started in college when i felt to a degree i had let a friend down when i was hard to wake up. back then, with tennis practice and weekend meets and the stress of the music department, i would when i could sleep 10-12 hours easily, and hard. one night i was fast asleep on the couch in our house (i shared with 3 others) and everyone was out for the night or weekend. i had just come back from a overnight, two day tennis trip and was exhausted. i had curled up with our house-cat, and one of my roommates returned home apparently not in a good state of mind. her boyfriend and best friend had chosen on her birthday to tell her they were in love with each other and had been seeing each other. she was devastated, had been drinking a lot, and was on the phone with her mother, who was trying to calm her down…in fact i eventually woke up very slowly and groggily to the phone in my ear and her mom trying to get me to wake up as shaking apparently did not work. apparently they had been trying for over five minutes. as i came to, her mom told me to stay up with her and keep an eye on her as she was extremely worried. we spent the rest of the night downstairs, her crying softly in the recliner and falling in and out of sleep, and me trying to console, listening from time to time, and apparently acquiring the guilt that would fester and seldom let me get a solid hard sleep for most of the rest of my life since (alcohol, and sometimes in the company of “safe” people, i can actually get real sleep). otherwise i am very easy to wake now, and get on and off sleep 4-6 hours a night on a good night, usually waking 5-6 times a night and sometimes being wide awake for hours.

i suppose that this could be considered a blessing or a curse, as several friends and students have actually taken me up on my offer to call at any time of night if they needed to talk, or needed a ride, etc. i had one student who was a victim of physical abuse. it took her the longest time to tell me all of it, and only with the promise that i would do the opposite of what teachers are legally bound to do, which was to report it. this really is a double edged sword as how do you build trust and then break it by turning around and lying, or breaking a promise. and, her reasoning was very good. she was in high school, most of it was over, it had been reported before and her mother had found a way to squash it as she herself worked for social services and knew the ins and outs of the system. so in the past, reporting it (several times) had done nothing but exacerbate the problem. at this point the student was leaving her locked room every night and walking down to the river where she had alcohol stored, drinking, sleeping a bit, and then returning home a couple of hours before needing to be at school. and needed to find a way to talk about it and ween off the alcohol. once the trust was built, i was a nightly phone call where we would talk options, vent, and try to figure out other coping mechanisms. i gave up drinking for 2 years in an attempt to show that there were other ways to relieve stress and escape from your thoughts and feelings that haunt you. this person also had a medical condition (a lot of kids with hard core medical issues are abused by the parent that looks like a saint by dragging them to every specialist to try to combat the problem, but then turns around to take out the stress of the illness and financial drain of the family) which was not helped by drinking. if their levels would get too low, they would go into an almost catatonic state…and i was one of the few people that knew how to get them out of it…in fact when this person went to college, their roommate ended up calling me a couple of times when it happened in front of her, and she knew that i knew what to do and would not panic.

when i am not in a vulnerable state, i am really great at reading people who are trying to hide stuff like this…but when i am in need, that is harder to see, as we are blinded by our own issues. and, i don’t trust that people will follow through with their offer to be there for me. it only takes one time where you really need that person and they basicly tell you they only offered to be there because they thought you needed it at the time, that they didn’t mean it long term…one time when you feel like you really can’t go on. so i don’t falter with people, but i have learned not to expect it in return.

which is hard now. these past couple of years have been hard on my psyche for many reasons, and i have thought several times i am at a breaking point. which sucks. this post is way ahead of its time as i haven’t gotten to the reason i became less naive, more cynical and untrusting, but it is very current with today’s feelings. almost 3 years ago when i decided to trust again, and then had a situation that bent that trust…well, i guess i am still standing, but it has definitely put a major wall back up. but one of about four people who saved me from completely falling apart (and one of two who knows at least part of the story) is offering to be a friend no matter what. and i am so close to really trusting again…but the doubt still creeps in.

“and crawling on the planet’s face, some insects called the human race…lost in time and space and meaning.”–richard o’brien

summers

i really only remember working summers. in junior high i had a full-time babysitting job for several years that went from 7:30 am-5 pm, and then i would go play tennis. the summer after my freshman year in high school, jeff hookham and i took over the summer tennis program for parks and rec…it would be my first of nine summers in this position, and jeff was the first of three different people i would work with (one summer i ran the whole program by myself), the other two being george auffert and robin powers (one of my former tennis students). jeff and i taught 9-12 four days a week and started with about 35 students. george and i really worked to build up the program and by our second year, we had about 90 students and were teaching 8-4 four days a week. by the time robin was teaching with me we had well over 120 students and started at 8 and went to 5, for 4 days a week, and went from the six week program to 8 weeks.

while i was in high school clarinda started a summer community theatre group. i was hired as the accompanist. i can’t remember if the first show was “music man” or “oklahoma”. soon i was also playing for villisca’s summer shows, my first there being “the fantastics”. after a few summers i moved into being both accompanist and vocal director for both towns. this position in clarinda cost me a dear friend. my good friend sara had been the vocal director the previous summer, and balster had called me about two months before we would have started rehearsals for the summer to announce they were to do “sound of music” and would i like to be vocal director. i inquired about sara, and he said they weren’t going to hire her back, whether or not i accepted. i took a few days to decide, and my dad suggested i take it as someone else would get the experience if i didn’t, and sara would understand…except no one told her. she called me one night and was so excited as she had found out SOM was the show, and asked if i was going to play again…and i asked if she had heard from balster and she hadn’t. i ended up telling her i had been asked to VD…and that was the end of our friendship. hard to say if it was worth it…i had a great experience, but if i had to do it all over, i think i’d pass on it. i’d rather be loyal to my friends, even if it cost me the position and future positions…and i’m not sure why i feel this way completely as i’ve had a lot of supposed friends screw me over…but it still felt and feels shitty to think i did this.

villisca would run their show early in the summer and clarinda’s later. a typical day for me would be 8-4 (or 5) at the courts, shower, drive to villisca, give a tennis lesson over there from 6-6:30, and have rehearsal from 7-10. long, long days. clarinda was easier as i had time to eat in between tennis and rehearsal, but, being in town i went out after rehearsal more also. adult cast would go to the indaclar bar…and i didn’t drink. i was for several summers the “designated” walker for the local pharmacist. it was about a nine block walk to his corner, and then another three blocks to my house. some of the shows i remember doing during this period were: fantasticks, oklahoma, music man, wizard of oz, godspell, gypsy, sound of music, annie get your gun, annie, brigadoon, and once upon a mattress. eventually i would quit coming home for the summers and do community theatre in maryville while i worked on my masters, or had the summers off from teaching. it is hard now not being involved in summer shows.

random

my thoughts have been all over the place today, so this may meander a bit.

i wasn’t popular in high school, but i wasn’t unpopular either. i managed to fit into all worlds. i was studious, but witty and sarcastic. i was in the band, choir, and involved with the theatre department. but i was also an athlete, and as the number one tennis player in the conference (3 years soph-senior won conference tournament) it wasn’t that i just went out for a sport. i didn’t drink (i actually held up my athletic oath), but i liked to have a good time. i was generally always nice and caring to other people and listened well. and, i seldom hung out with people in my class. our high school was 10-12, and as a sophomore, i hung out with mostly seniors, and as a junior and senior i hung out with people in the class below mine. i didn’t really have a best friend, but 5-6 better than most friends. and there were those rarer people that i’d been closer to in junior high that i would have liked to have been better friends with, but some of them had for whatever reasons (sometimes the division of schools) discovered other “better” friends that they were inseparable from. one of these would be tracy lovett, who was probably the smartest and most talented person in town. i think the first time i watched mtv was with her. great artist, exceptionally bright, first chair flute, and a fantastic voice. we were both teachers’ kids so we knew the trials and tribulations that went with that and could commiserate. today she does exceptional photography and drawings/paintings and her facebook posts are very poignant. being an accompanist also had its perks, as there were a lot of people that might not have really given me the time of day, but i served a purpose, and then they would realize i was pretty fun to hang around…and i was constantly busy, which doesn’t make for hanging out a lot with anyone. when not in school or school activities, i was often babysitting (i chose to babysit over being a prom server). one of my best friends my own age was george, who took over lead trumpet when i got my braces on) and was my mixed doubles partner for most tournaments after jeff hookham graduated. george was a theatre tech major at nw, so it was nice to have him around for most of college.

college wasn’t much different. i had tennis friends (even bailed one out of jail), music friends, and presidential scholar friends. and second semester when i moved to a different dorm, there were older students who stayed in the dorm all weekend, and we would have dorm parties. the music department had lots of cliques, but again, for the most part i could float in and out easily (not fond of bullies such as rick henkel and tim evans. tim apparently grew out of this a bit. rick i didn’t keep up with to find out). and again, being an accompanist served its purpose in letting people at least get to know me. sn-everytime i have taken the meyers-briggs i come up enfj…..but i am very close to the middle of introvert/extrovert. i don’t really like to be the center of attention but i want to be around people i like and respect all the time…i don’t like being alone. if i am comfortable in a group and in the right mood, i will be a little more outgoing to annoying…but if i am with a lot of strangers, i am very quiet. sometimes i force myself to be social with strangers, mostly if i think i will never see them again.

even though i was playing for all the choirs as a freshman and a ton of lessons, i felt like my talent was subversive to everyone else’s. i hadn’t been recruited for the music department. a lot of people already knew each other from camp. accompanists were kinda treated like crap sometimes, expected to jump when people wanted them for extra rehearsals and such….and i was always ready to please. to be the yes man. and, i was again pretty much always in a good mood. in fact i have to say that college was probably the best time of my life. again, extremely busy with a class load of 19-22 hours a semester (including ensembles), tennis practice, 20+ hours of lesson accompaniment, 10 hours of tutoring a week for my academic scholarship….so not a great amount of time to hang out or party, but there was always the lab/hall time in fine arts and the spontaneous atmosphere when the end of day approached. and there was so much talent. my freshman year the most talented vocalist had to be jenny fleming. and i wanted jenny to like me as she just had that air of cool all around her. i remember suggesting a duet for her and georann to sing for tour that i knew probably no one else had music for or might have even heard at that point, and they ended up liking and using my suggestion, and of course i got to rehearse and play for them. not sure that jenny saw me as much more than an annoying freshman, but she would at least give me the time of day. and, she taught me a lot about loyalty. there was this guy in the department who thought he was hot shit….i shall name him jarvis, as that is what he named his cock. and he was giving georann a hard time, and jenny (who from time to time would take shit from other people about herself) laid into him one day and set him straight. i have always tried to be there for my friends, but this taught me that a true friend will also stick up for you when you aren’t around to witness it…and to this day, i will take a lot of crap and still give people a chance, but if you mess with my friends then your chances are over. now jenny is one of my constant facebook friends and i am happy about that. i wish i could hear her sing again…in fact, her duet on spring show my senior year in high school (with polly ketterman) is still one of the best i have ever heard.

and in college i still for the most part hung more with older or younger. maybe it is the competitiveness. i have never really liked that. i had enough of it in sports, and in music it just seems wrong. everyone has such a different voice or style…so why can’t everyone be great? and i know people are vying for solos and parts and such, but sometimes it just turned out to be so mean and hurtful the way people would treat each other. when kara came in as a sophomore, people heard her audition through the door (i was playing) and asked about her when i came out. i said she sounded awesome and seemed nice, but a lot of people had heard “stories” and snubbed her for awhile. in fact, i remember after a regional nats competition not long after that (which she won) telling amy that everyone was wrong and she wasn’t stuck up, didn’t think she was better than everyone else (although she clearly was) and that she should give her a chance. and amy did, and for awhile we were like the 3 amigos, and then suddenly it was amy and kara are best friends and i’m kinda a third wheel. that changed a bit when i moved off campus into a house kara lived in, and now i keep up with kara and our friendship is strong. amy and i occasionally comment on each other’s facebook, but last fall i pissed her off taking a stance with my friend charles about how gay people are treated, and amy, being the firm christian she is (not a liberal christian) got offended. crazy how things change and change again. another incidence with amy…i had set up to student teach in corning as the teacher there was amazing. i had talked to her semesters ahead, it was close enough for me to live at home and commute, and i was excited to work with this strong program that did musicals in the spring as well as contest. amy had relatives in corning (she was from western nebraska) and talked me into letting her have corning instead so she could stay with relatives. i ended up in villisca, which was fine, but the teacher in corning ended up getting sick and amy took over all the duties after about her third week…i hated that the teacher was ill, but would have killed to have had that opportunity. but again, friends come first.

polly ketterman was student teaching or had just graduated right before i entered as a freshman, but she would return as a grad student. her boyfriend (buddy) was not your usual sight around the music department. tattoos, and slick…we hit it off, and i played for polly’s lessons, so on tours and such, for awhile i was polly’s sidekick. one tower choir tour buddy met us at the hotel, and we ended up going to some apartment of one of his friends, and then they left me there alone for awhile…pretty amazing to think back how trusting i was and no questions were asked. i really just gave everyone the benefit of the doubt.

i miss raquetball with ed huenemann. and laughing with tony brown, laura gripp, and chris selby. my drinking habits changed with the introduction of sweet hard liquors….thank you dave ward and mike beckner. crazy times but seriously the best times ever. i sometimes wonder how different our friendships might be if facebook had been around then, and we had kept up better all along.

nerves

being an accompanist is hard on the nerves. people are relying on you. and i don’t think i realized until my first senior recital that musicians make mistakes….or skip entire sections of songs. i was pretty good at jumping with people and making things sound seamless…covering up others’ mistakes.

it is also very hard to be a freshman in college and filling big shoes. mr. mitchell’s ex-wife had been the tower accompanist. there might have been one other person in between us. our first performance was at the christian church. we were doing this endless fast bach piece and a couple others. we started the bach, and somewhere about the fifth page i apparently had forgotten to keep breathing due to nerves, and started to black out…in fact i did. my vision went, my body went numb. i could hear everything around me (very different from passing out where you don’t) but i couldn’t see or control my body. i fell into the piano and two guys from the bass section came over and sat me upright as i started to regain my sight. mr. mitchell didn’t even notice. the rest of the service went well. one more thing to worry about and keep reminding myself that i would have to breathe on a regular basis.

was trying to think of recitals i played in college or for nw students. all are senior voice recitals unless noted. this is very incomplete:

karen troh-graduate
kandy kunzman (hester)
don davis
sheryl warren
kara shay thomson (weston)-junior and senior
amy demlow (boyce)
susan holden (riffle)
michelle lewis (hatcher)-flute
libby whittle
tracy ward
sarah thomas
charles hossle
alyssa harvey (walker)
melissa cummins-flute
julie wood (bookless)-flute
matt bonsignore-trumpet
agnis retenais-saxophone
nathan simmons-saxophone
troy cronkite-baritone/euphonium
jeff bishop-saxophone
valonda burke (larsen)-flute
courtney duncan
sara dexheimer
april wells (newquist)-flute
darcy maret (mikelson)-sax
andrea boyd-flute

i know i’ve left out many….maybe someday i’ll sift through the programs in storage and post some more.

losing my piano scholarship

i am a sight reader.  it is what i do.  usually, if i can’t sight read a piece then it is going to be super hard to learn.  and really learning pieces takes awhile for me.  dr. edwards once told me that people who sight read well often do not memorize well……well, maybe that is true but i have an extra bit of excuse.  all my memory work in piano is muscle.  i have no visual memory.  most people say what does that mean?  my explanation is i don’t form pictures in my head (except sometimes when i dream–yep, makes it that much weirder).  maybe a better explanation is one i found on the internet the other day when my friend sarah was in disbelief mode:

I have never been able to “see” something in my mind’s eye. When I was 12, I underwent various IQ tests because my teachers had identified me as a candidate for the gifted and talented program. The person performing the test told my mother that I could not visualize. Until then, I thought everyone was like me– that the ‘mind’s eye’ was a figure of speech, not a reality. I can recognize a face when I see it, but not pull up a picture in my head to describe it to someone. The same is true of objects, landscapes, etc. I can memorize a list of facts about an image (color, size, shape, etc) but never see it. To remember where a building is on a street, I would have to memorize a list of the buildings in order. I could not ‘see’ that it was next to such and such place. This has been more of a curiosity in my life than anything else; it did not interfere with me obtaining a Ph.D. in a scientific field.

so yeah, except for the advanced degree, that is me.  i was first aware of this difference in high school.  in spanish class i could translate and write really well, but had trouble speaking.  it took me too long to think of how to say things.  the teacher asked me if i formed and read responses in my head and i asked what she was talking about.  one other time in college i read mention of it in a book.  until post college that was all i ever really thought about it…except for when it came to piano.

a lot of musicians see the page of music or part of the page when they memorize.  not me.  not at all.  memorization is completely muscle memory from playing a passage over and over and over….well you get the picture…no pun intended.

easier to do in high school when you work on one song during contest season.  college is a whole other ballgame.

so i made mention previously that i was doing a lot of accompanying.  tower choir, chorale, celebration, jazz band.  20+ hours of voice lessons a semester, plus senior and graduate recitals.  i played in all four studios, but mr. mitchell had me in patty schultz’s and his studio the most.  he said patty was picky and hard on accompanists (weymuth said the same to me years later when i accompanied a choral reading workshop where he put me with patty and mulholland.).  i never had an issue with patty and loved playing in her studio. i also had to as part of my scholarship play for instrumentalists on recital.  i was usually put in the flute studio with dr. mcdonald.  she was hard on accompanists and never quick to give any kind of complement.  the lit was hard, but interesting and a lot of my friends were flutists.

another scholarship requirement was that you get a B or above in your lessons.  i had dr. kramer, and i will say by the time i taught at nw, he was a completely different person.  i will not elaborate in print, but i respect the work he does now with the students, and can see a lot of great things he did while i was a student as well.   in lessons we were assigned 3 pieces a semester.  1 had to be memorized for juries.  my first semester i had a 3 page mendelssohn piece (memorized), a beethoven sonata movement, and a bach 2 part invention.  i got an A that semester.

second semester i had two senior recitals and a graduate recital.  i talked to kramer about feeling like i couldn’t commit to all the accompanying and my piano pieces…and stated that performances where people were counting on me seemed more important than work for a class where all i’d be hurting was my grade.  i don’t remember the pieces at this point…but i managed to squeak out a B.

third semester….by now i was pretty much “the” senior recital accompanist.  my sophomore year i played at least 3-4 senior recitals per semester.  i have a more intense conversation with kramer as i’m again feeling overwhelmed.  i also tell him about my memorization problem.  this semester he assigns me a 3 part invention, a liszt piece, and a chopin piece.  there was no way memorization was going to happen.  i asked how much it would lower my grade.  his response was that he would talk to the other two teachers and explain my issue…juries come, i don’t have a memorized piece…i get C’s and dr. bobo writes, “you are doing too many hard level pieces in one semester”…..no shit.  really?

i get notice that because i have a C i am losing my scholarship…..patty is my adviser….she gets it before i do and calls me in.  i explain.  she is livid.  she talks to bobo….kramer never told them of my issues, and they all agree that i am overloaded.  bobo says there is nothing they can do however, and i will still lose my scholarship (granted, i am on a presidential scholarship that covers all my tuition and most of my room and board–so i’m not completely upset).  there is discussion among the voice faculty since i am as an undergrad pretty much doing the job of a hired staff accompanist, so they give me a voice scholarship that covers half what i lost in piano….and i change my major to voice and not piano.  great weight off my shoulder.  no way could i ever have done a senior recital on piano since the norm is “all memorized”.

i did still have to take another semester of keyboard to fulfill my requirement for graduation.  i chose organ with dr. edwards.  we had a lesson, and then the second after a week of practice.  at the end of that lesson she says to me, “you aren’t nearly as hard to work with as i’d been told”.  gee, wonder who told you that?  the same person who failed to let you know my issues????  i did so well in organ that i played the opening at the spring scholarship recognition awards.  and, from second semester sophomore year on, i had only A’s on my report cards.

now my only playing issues were nerves….have i mentioned passing out the first time i played for a tower choir performance?  another day maybe.