Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thanksgiving Greetings

Happy Thanksgiving to all! I may not have been able to post every day about the things for which I'm thankful, but I'll do it now: Family. Friends. Friends who are as close as family. And of course to my Sinfonian brothers, who are such a big part of my life, whether I've known you for my entire time in the brotherhood or whether you were just initiated in the past week.

And music. One of the finer gifts from God--a wonderful form of expression, an uplift of the spirit, and the literal soundtrack of our lives. Also, the chance to teach and play it every day and actually make a living doing so, while working with the most wonderful people (students and teachers alike) in the process.

May you and yours have a blessed day!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Nephews Say the Darnedest Things

As many of you know, I adopted a cat over the summer. His shelter name, which I kept, was Austin, which is also the place where my sister and her family reside. I was talking at dinner with my oldest nephew about the newest member of my household.

NEPHEW: You have a cat?
ME: Yeah, I got him at the end of the summer, since the last time we saw each other.
DAD: And you'll never guess what his name is...
NEPHEW (after a long pause): Kevin Jr.?

Sometimes the Teacher Says the Darnedest Things, Too

There's a spot in the slow All-Region etude this year that I, as a high-schooler myself, played incorrectly until we got in the audition room; I heard the three kids before me play it "wrong" until I realized that I myself was wrong. (I quickly fixed it and beat all of them, so I dodged a metaphorical bullet there.)

All my students know about this mistake and how strongly I feel about them not replicating it. So when a kid made that exact mistake this morning, I said "Whenever somebody plays an Eb there, Satan kicks a puppy." (The kid dissolved in laughter, saying that he'd had a rough week so far and really needed that.)

Kids Say the Darnedest Things About Their Vacation Plans

As noted earlier, I always ask my students if they're going someplace exciting for the break. One kid came up with this gem...

KID: I'm going to Arkansas to go squirrel hunting!
ME: But you don't really need to go so far away to do that, do you? Couldn't you just sit out back and pick 'em off the utility wires?
KID: The ones here eat junk. We go where the tasty squirrels are.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Kids Say the Darnedest Things About Unfamiliar Places

Before a big holiday, I'll often ask my students if they get to go someplace exciting over the break. They will often return the inquiry, and I'll respond with the name of the Houston suburb where my parents currently reside. But those who are unfamiliar with that area don't always believe this place is real...

KID: So are you going anywhere?
ME: I am; I'm going to Sugar Land.
KID: Sugar Land--isn't that in a board game?
ME: That would be Candy Land.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Kids Continue to Say the Darnedest Things About Geography

The kid in yesterday's post with whom I was discussing Bach also knew of both Germany and Austria, and he knew that Austria and Australia are two different places.

So I complimented him on his geographical knowledge, and I mentioned how few people I taught last spring knew where Vermont was ("It's in Canada?" "It's in New Hampshire?"), hoping that he knew that correctly as well...

KID: Vermont...that's in Europe, right!
ME: Nope, it's in New England. One of the original 13 states.
KID: Well, I know where a lot of other countries are. Like Brazil. That's on the west coast of South America!
ME: It's on the east coast of South America.
KID: That's what I meant.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Kids Say the Darnedest Things About the Musical Alphabet

Here's a bonus KSTDT, since I haven't posted too many this week: The subject of how there once was a note called H came up with another student, and after explaining it to him, I noted that a lot of Bach's friends and peers made musical tributes to him by using the motif Bb-A-C-B natural (B-A-C-H in old-school notation). Before i explained that, I wanted to be sure that he knew who Bach was...

ME: You've heard of Bach, right?
KID: Yeah! Johann What's-his-face Bach!

Kids Say the Darnedest Things About School Holidays

A student hadn't yet paid me for this month and wondered exactly how much month was left...

KID: Are there any more lessons in November?
ME: No, because next Thursday is...?
KID: Spring break!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Kids Say the Darnedest Things About the Audition Process

I don't usually do KSTDT posts in weekends, but here's one in honor of the auditions I helped judge earlier today:  I was telling a seventh grader about the All-District process, where the kids go in one at a time to play. This is usually less "scary" than the high school process...

ME: It's not till 9th grade that you'll have to play with everyone in the room.
KID: Then I'll move to Oklahoma.
ME: Where they probably do the exact same thing!

UPDATE: I hope the kid has the moving van ready, because I found out this week that, starting this year, the middle-schoolers  do go in all at once now.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Kids Say the Darnedest Things About Numbers (and Other Random Stuff)

As often happens, a rhythmic discussion touched on the idea that the counting done by musicians isn't that hard compared to other uses of numbers...

ME: We do the easy math in here. You rarely have to count past 16 to be a musician. Maybe for other things in life, like spending money.
KID: But $16 is a lot of money!
ME: Unless you want to replace your iPod. You wouldn't really want a $16 iPod...
KID: Yeah, you probably couldn't even get it to turn on!
ME: Or if you could, it'd be loaded with all these really bad heavy metal songs that you can't take off.
KID: My dad loves that stuff! He's weird.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Kids Say the Darnedest Things About Musical Expression

Here's a bonus KSTDT since I forgot to post a few times this week: One of them recently put an unscheduled molto ritardando in his music, and it sounded really strange.

ME: What was that all about?
KID: I just really like to make my music sound deep and thoughtful.

Kids Say the Darnedest Things When They Forget Song Titles

Recently, a beginner regaled me with the following: "We learned a new song today: Swing Low Sweet Something Something." I can only assume that, since he said "something" twice, he initially heard the title as "Swing Low Sweet Cherry Ut."

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Kids Buy the Darnedest Things

A sixth-grader was very happy to find a used copy of the beginner method I use for lessons at Half Price Books for literally half price. And she was very surprised--as was I--that said book had my handwriting in well as my beginner outline, my attendance policy contract, and some random flute music.

(Considering that the attendance contract has my name, address and phone number on it, I'm glad that it was sold to my student and not a stranger, though I guess I could have potentially picked up a new student in the latter case.)

UPDATE: Just a clarification: The book in question has my handwriting in it because I taught a previous student out of it, rather than it being my own former personal book. I don't think I've ever sold back a music book; even my old Grout music history text is still on the shelf (though I did ceremoniously burn the paper cover when I finished that sequence of classes).

Kids Say the Darnedest Things When They Give Their Teacher Compliments

I was explaining the point system for All-District to a seventh grader who'll be going for the first time; the maximum possible score is 200 points.

KID: That's a lot of points. I'd have to be pretty much you.

(Everybody say "Awwwww.")

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Kids Continue To Say the Darnedest Things About Their Mistakes

A middle-schooler was trying scales from memory for the first time in preparation for All-District auditions in a few weeks, and one of them wasn't quite there yet...

ME: Don't forget--there's an A-flat in that key signature.
KiD: I memorized it wronger.
ME: Well, by all means, let's make it righter.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Kids Say the Darnedest Things About Local Rivalries

When a student mentioned something about an unusual echo in the practice room, I noted that it was even more pronounced at another one of my schools...

ME: You should hear what it sounds like at, you know...that "other" school.
KID: Which one is that?
ME: You know--your hated rival.
KID: We hate lots of other schools.

Monday, November 04, 2013

Kids Say the Darnedest Things About Holiday Decorations

With people staring to play Christmas music in band, I mentioned to a student that I used to work at a Christmas store in college, and we used to get shipments of multiple German trees in giant crates, and how long it took to unpack them.

KID: And these were real trees?
ME; Yeah, they chopped up the branches and you had to glue them back together.