Friday, March 30, 2007

SarahMarie and the End of an Era

Today was officially my last babysitting job absolutely EVER.

Over the past ten years I have made thousands of dollars babysitting. Over the past year and a half (since I bought my car here in Massachusetts), I've babysat lots of brats and only one really adorable, well-behaved girl. Since graduation, as I've been acquiring more and more violin and piano students, I've no longer needed the additional income from babysitting. The last remnant of my old 'career' as babysitter extraordinaire was Maggie, the 18-month old I babysat every Friday morning from 8 am until noon.

When I was in high school, I loved babysitting. In particular, I loved babysitting for the Hilds, three wonderful children who became like younger siblings - and later friends. Their whole family was very special to me. But recently I realized that I no longer enjoy babysitting very much. You see, very few parents raise their children the way I would hypothetically raise my own, and it's just not worth the frustration to attempt to make positive headway with a poorly-behaved child who has no consistent behavioral expectations from his or her parents.

Take Maggie, for instance. First of all, I had to arrive at 8 each Friday morning even though Maggie's father seldom left before 9 or even 9:30. He came to the door in his pajamas - usually after I rang the doorbell at least twice - and slowly went through the motions of breakfast, getting ready for work, and preparing Maggie for the inevitable separation when he finally left. His presence was extremely awkward, and he drew out his departure to extreme extents - which only made Maggie's fusses and wails louder and more dramatic the longer he stayed.

Maggie's dad often left her with a peeled banana in hand, free to roam about the house as she pleased: mashing it into the Persian rug on the living room floor, squashing it onto the leather couch, and smearing it on my jeans before I caught the little devil's wrist in my hand to prevent further damage. As long as her dad was there, I was helpless. The minute he left, of course, I would tell Maggie she could either climb in her high chair and finish the banana or give it to me and be all done. You just don't let 18-month olds loose with bananas. She was also fed cheerios and milk. Milk! A bowl full of disaster waiting to happen. She would pour it on herself, pour it on the floor; she couldn't even raise a spoonful to her mouth and successfully get it inside without the milk pouring all over her face and clothing. As she splashed milk all over herself and the surrounding five yards of space, her dad would complain, "Oh, jeez, Maggie. What a mess." Well, daddy, you're asking for it.

Maggie's father had an extremely drawn-out departure ritual that consisted of kissing her a million times, asking her if she's okay, telling me he knows she'll miss him so much, apologizing to me for how she'll scream and cry, hugging her again, and doing anything but just walking out the door and letting it all be over. (She would stop crying as soon as he was out of sight, after all.) The only way to survive this inevitable parting was to let Maggie watch Elmo. She watched Elmo with absolute freakish focus. When Elmo was on, the rest of the world did not exist to Maggie. I could wave my hand in front of her face and receive no response whatsoever - not even a blink. She was an absolute TV junkie at the tender age of one and a half. Frightening.

It was impossible to get Maggie to obey the simplest of requests or commands, even though she was perfectly capable of understanding what I said. If she threw her blocks instead of playing with them nicely, I would remind her that we play gently and request that she go and pick them up. She would just stare at me. She knew exactly what I was saying, but she was completely unaccustomed to doing anything she didn't want to do.

For a post about another former babysitting job I held, you can read about my times with Tegan the Terrible here and here.

But as of today, those babysitting days are over. I'm free!

Thursday, March 29, 2007


FavoriteBoy: Where's my music for choir?
SarahMarie: On the bookshelf, in the stack with all the other music that is current rep for the people and ensembles you accompany.
FavoriteBoy: Oh. Cool.

FavoriteBoy: Have you seen my black pants?
SarahMarie: They're hanging up in the closet.
FavoriteBoy: Oh. Weird.

FavoriteBoy: I can't find my black sweater.
SarahMarie: It's in the drawer under the bed with all your other sweaters.
FavoriteBoy: Oh. Thanks.

FavoriteBoy: Have you seen my green and blue striped tie?
SarahMarie: I hung it on your tie rack.
FavoriteBoy: Oh. Imagine that.

FavoriteBoy: Where are my brown shoes?
SarahMarie: I put them in the closet on the shoe rack.
FavoriteBoy: Oh. Wow.

Some people have a hard time adjusting to organization.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

In Which The Odd Bedfellows Reconcile

I just realized that today marks three months of happy marriage, and I've decided that the occasion merits a post on married life.

Before I got married, no one warned me that it would be so hard to adjust to sharing my queen-sized bed with my new husband. I entered into marital bliss blissfully unaware of the sleeping trials that awaited me. Have I mentioned that FavoriteBoy is 6'3" and thin as a rail - all gangly arms and legs and poky elbows and knees?

During the first two months of marriage, I sustained numerous injuries that might almost qualify me as a battered wife, were it not for the innocent lack of criminal intent to be found in my sleeping husband. One night, a raised elbow in his sleep connected with the soft tissue of my ear, leaving it bruised and sore for days. Another night, a knee curled up towards his chest slammed into my spinal column. A third night, it was my eye that fell victim to one of his bony limbs. These are just a few examples of the more painful incidents that occurred; I won't go into detail concerning the painless but distressing things like taking all the covers and sheets or rolling entirely onto my side of the bed and nearly pushing me out of the bed onto the floor.

My dreams were all ones of violence for several weeks. One night I was fighting in the Revolutionary War, hiding in a foxhole with my brothers and taking cover from the Brits who were coming to stab us with bayonets. The foxhole dissipated and my brothers and I were hiding under a bed. The bed dissipated as the dream faded, and I awoke to find myself on the floor, FavoriteBoy sleeping peacefully on my side of the bed - from which he had just ousted me. Another night I was in a concentration camp.

FavoriteBoy was, of course, as happy as a clam through all of this. He slept on, unaware of the pokes and jabs he was so frequently inflicting on his poor wife. I had been accustomed to having my own queen bed since September, while he had married his way out of a twin-sized dorm bed and into my lovely queen bed! Naturally, he had nothing to complain about.

But as for me, needless to say, I couldn't get any restful sleep for weeks. Most nights I'd get up around 3 or 4 am, grab a blanket, and make my way to the couch to finish out the remainder of the night.

Well, dear readers, I am happy to announce that somehow between late February and the middle of March we have gradually acclimated to one another. There is room for both of us after all, and it is no longer just FavoriteBoy who sleeps uninterrupted through the night.

Fred and Freud

Last Friday morning while I was babysitting I was flipping through the channels to find Sesame Street, which Maggie's parents let her watch so she won't scream or fuss when they leave. Before I arrived at the desired channel, I caught a few seconds of Mr. Rogers. Having grown up without a television, I never watched Mr. Rogers as a kid. And I must admit, I didn't know that show was so... creepy. The one previous time I flipped past that channel he was talking and singing about expressing anger or frustration in appropriate ways, which struck me as a bizarre topic for a happy kids' show. This time, he was admonishing children that they cannot marry their parents when they grow up, however much they might want to.

I felt Freud and Oedipus colliding in the pixels of the television set. When I got home, I Googled the general theme of the show to see what I had missed prior to the admonishment. Apparently Mr. Rogers sings a song called, "I'm Going to Marry Mom." I downloaded an mp3. The lyrics are incredibly dull:

When I grow up I'm really going to marry,
really going to marry,
really going to marry,
when I grow up I'm really going to marry,
really going to marry


I got bored and couldn't finish listening to the song. I suppose it might end with Mom explaining that she is already married to Dad and telling her son that he will have to find someone else to marry. Or, perhaps the boy decides to kill his father and marry his mother anyway. A study in Freudian psychology and the Oedipus Complex brought to your children by PBS. I can imagine the next verse going like this:

Well in that case Mommy I'm really going to murder
Really going to murder
Really going to murder
In that case Mommy I'm really going to murder
Really going to murder

Except, that's not an appropriate way to express anger or frustration, is it?

Anyway, more Googling led me to discover another great song by Mr. Rogers entitled 'You'll Never Go Down the Drain.' What a comfort to children who are afraid of bathtime!

You'll never go down
You'll never go down
You'll never go down
The drain

Again, dull.

Here's another odd one:

Some are fancy on the outside.
Some are fancy on the inside.
Everybody's fancy. Everybody's fine.
Your body's fancy and so is mine.

Boys are boys from the beginning.
Girls are girls right from the start.
Everybody's fancy. Everybody's fine.
Your body's fancy and so is mine.

Girls grow up to be the mommies.
Boys grow up be the daddies.
Everybody's fancy. Everybody's fine.
Your body's fancy and so is mine.

I think you're a special person
And I like your ins and outsides.
Everbody's fancy. Everybody's fine.
Your body's fancy and so is mine.

Disturbing. I'm just not sure about Fred Rogers.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Student

The problem with some people is that anything you could possibly say to describe them would only sound like an exaggeration.

Such is the case with D, the sixty-or-seventy-something year-old fellow who called me up five or six months ago looking for a violin teacher. "I've been playing around with violin for years," he explained, "and I've decided I ought to get serious about it before I die."

Well, okay, I thought. This could be fun. I imagined a grandfatherly gentleman coming for lessons each week, the two of us connecting and having a good time together. Of course, I knew his fingers wouldn't have the flexibility a child or young adult possesses, but I assumed that as an adult, his mental faculties would be at least par.

What I encountered instead was a unkempt, awkward old man with eyebrows that grow a full inch straight out over the rim of his glasses. And when he raises his bow to his strings and begins to play, the sounds that he draws forth from the violin are exactly the hellish sounds that made my dear Dad once say, "You're never playing the violin! It sounds like a dying cat!"

When my fourth grade students brush neighboring strings, play leading tones too low, and squeak over the bridge from time to time, I'm a wellspring of patience. But D's playing quite literally makes me sick to my stomach. And he doesn't improve. No superlative is strong enough to fully convey how horrible it sounds when he plays.

Before he begins, he has an odd ritual I can't help thinking of as 'winding up.' He plays a few slow bows on open strings, and then cranks his speed up faster and faster. After a minute of this, he nods to me, 'Ready.' He asks, 'Now, where were we?' This makes me fear that he hasn't practiced. I tell him we'll work on the Brahms Waltz (from Suzuki Book 2) again this week. He finds the B natural that begins the piece and 'winds up' on this note before beginning.

The rhythm we worked on for 30 minutes last week is still atrocious. The dotted quarter that begins the piece has become an eighth note indiscernable from the three eighth notes that follow it. Intonation is questionable at best, and more often painful. His fingers can't actually play half steps close enough or whole steps wide enough, so he equalizes all his intervals into 3/4 steps. His bow travels three inches or more up his fingerboard, squeaking and squawking as he saws away, usually brushing at least one extra string with each bow stroke. And perhaps most annoying of all, he cannot even begin to follow the marked bowings. The bowings are simple. They make perfect sense. They are clearly marked in the music. Two notes slurred on a down-bow, two notes slurred on an up-bow. D steamrolls through the piece, adding slurs wherever he pleases, clumsily separating in other places. It's illogical, it's un-musical; it's completely determined by the incorrect rhythm he insists on playing and by his very poor bow distribution. His bowings will never be the same twice. They are a product of blind chance.

I tell him the same things I told him last week and the week before that. Hold the dotted quarter for the full value. To do that, you've got to start at the frog. Save bow as you slur the first two beats. Spend bow on the one beat up-bow. Get back to the frog and do the same in the next measure. I attempt to help him correctly hear and execute this rhythm for ten minutes, all to no avail. He starts in the middle of the bow, his fingers holding the bow stiffly, awkwardly. He spends bow rapidly on the dotted quarter he plays as an eighth. The final eighth note in the measure he holds for the value of a half note, until he reaches the point in his bow where he feels ready to begin the next measure. I tell him the rhythm should determine how he distributes his bow rather than letting his bow randomly determine the rhythm. He looks confused. I explain several different ways before giving up. We move on.

I tell him to quiet his shoulder motion and use his elbow. His bow travels up the fingerboard rather than staying over the f-holes because his elbow is stiff and he bows from his shoulder. I demonstrate the difference. He peers at me through his glasses.
'Eh? Use the shoulder you say?'
'No, your shoulder should be relaxed and nearly un-involved. Open and close your elbow, like this.'
'Oh, the elbow, you say.'
The idea is new to him; he has no recollection that we discuss it every week. He attempts to execute this concept with little success.

I tell him to slow down. Before I can get the words out of my mouth, he is playing again, rushing, speeding through the piece and leaving out-of-tune notes scattered behind him like hit-and-run victims. He won't stop and listen. He'll never slow down. I tell him to please learn the bowings carefully in the following week. But he thinks he is already doing the bowings exactly as marked. He cannot tell the difference.

We usually end the lesson by spending a few minutes on his 'tunes,' the Scottish fiddle pieces he loves to play. He tells me he's not good at Brahms, but his 'tunes' are what he really excels at. He excels so much that when he begins to play, I cannot tell which of the three pieces on the page he is attempting. Rhythm, meter, key signature, and melody are all equally indiscernable. When he finishes, I demonstrate a hooked bowing for the dotted rhythms by playing the opening of the tune on my own violin. 'Wow, these tunes sound great on your fiddle!' he exclaims. I don't tell him that it's not just my instrument that makes the difference.

I'd like to quit teaching D, but what reasonable excuse can I offer? I can't tell him my teaching schedule is too full; he's retired and can come for a lesson at any time of the day. And I don't have the gumption to tell him the truth: hearing him play makes me want to scream and tear my hair out.

I guess I'll just have to wait for him to die. I'm thinking it might not be long. After all, he practices at home. If his wife has any ear at all, I wouldn't be surprised if she brings this dreadful situation to a final cadence.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

A Generous Marriage

I could talk for hours about the things I love about being married to FavoriteBoy, but one thing I don't love is the sharing... at least, not when it comes to sickness!

FavoriteBoy caught a cold last weekend, and by Thursday I had a cold, too. I hate hate hate colds. I'd rather have the stomach flu than have a cold. I hate the constant discomfort and pain of a really sore throat, and I can't stand being congested. It makes it nearly impossible for me to sleep at night.

When you have the flu, you can lounge around and puke all day and everyone feels sorry for you. But when you only have a cold, it's not really justifiable to stay in bed, or watch movies, or get behind on housework, or cancel lessons or symphony gigs.

SarahMarie: I'mb sick. I think I'mb dying. I feel awful. Mby head is heavy and aching and mby throat is so sore. Poor Mbe.
FavoriteBoy: Sarah, what you have is called the common cold.

Now that's sympathy for you! Especially considering he was the one who shared it with me in the first place!

Wednesday, March 21, 2007


The night before last, I dreamed that a deranged killer donkey was after me and the only possible means of escape was to take the space shuttle into orbit, which of course, I promptly did.

Last night I dreamed about my Mom. She was well and healthy and walking around and laughing lots and making silly jokes with me.

Well, FavoriteBoy is sick and taking the day off work, and I'm afraid I'm coming down with it too, so you know what? After I got up at 8 this morning, I did a few things around the house and then crawled back in bed.

I dreamed that my brother came to visit along with a random curly-haired woman from England, only it wasn't my brother, it was some horrible person impersonating my brother. My real brother was held hostage in England, packing-taped to the ceiling of a messy bedroom, half-dead. Meanwhile, the imposter took his job, which was apparently answering kids' science questions over the internet in real time.

Really, aside from the nice dream about my Mom, stuff like this makes me think I'd be better off to avoid sleeping!

Monday, March 19, 2007


At the end of each day, FavoriteBoy peels his clothes off and tosses them on the floor inside-out.

Each time I do laundry, I turn all of his shirts right-side-out before putting them into the washing machine. By the time they come out of the dryer, they are inside-out once more.

I decided to out-smart my washer. Today, I left all of the T-shirts inside-out when I put them in the wash.

They came out of the dryer inside-out.

This is proof that the universe and the laundry gods are against me.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Cinnamon Sauce

FavoriteBoy finds most alcoholic beverages quite distasteful. There's a rather strange and specific thing he likes, though: Goldschlager, a cinnamon schnapps liqueur. And he doesn't do shots of it; he likes it over vanilla ice cream. Weird, I know. Tonight he got a bit of a craving for vanilla ice cream, Danish butter cookies, and Goldschlager. Okay, whatever, but we don't have any Goldschlager and it's snowing out and I didn't particularly want to go to the liquor store and get some. So, I improvised. I decided that the cinnamon flavor of the liqueur is probably the distinctive flavor Nathan likes, so I made a cinnamon sauce.

Over medium heat, boil 1 cup water with 2 tablespoons of butter. Add 1/2 cup brown sugar and a little over 1 teaspoon of cinnamon. Stir, and let it bubble for a minute while you dissolve about 2 teaspoons of cornstarch in 2 teaspoons of water. Whisk the cornstarch mixture into the cinnamon mixture until it is smooth and blended. Add a little bit of vanilla if you want.

Serve it over vanilla ice cream as a fun and different alternative to chocolate syrup! Add some Danish butter cookies if you want the full FavoriteBoy experience.

Having finished his dessert, FavoriteBoy is now sitting at the piano playing the end of the Rutter Te Deum by ear just for fun. He's playing my favorite part, where the words are, "O Lord, in Thee have I trusted: let me never be confounded." I think the Te Deum is perfect.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Sarah Marie as Hostess

A recent comment made by a friend reminded me to blog about how much we've been having friends over since Nathan and I got married. During a pleasant evening out to a recital, my friend Holly commented, "It's funny, I think I've gotten to know you more since you started dating Nathan, then more when you were engaged, and even more now that you're married! With most couples, it's the other way around."

It's true, isn't it? Most people get married and immediately join the ranks of what Rebecca calls 'The Married Club' - when time isn't spent exclusively with one another, it's spent with other married couples. And for most dating or engaged couples, the pattern begins far before marriage. I've lost many a friend's frequent company to a current boyfriend, and seen many engaged couples become wrapped up in one another to the exclusion of other friends.

For Nathan and me, it's been different. Three days after we returned to Beverly after our honeymoon, we had Sarah, John, and Michael over for dinner. The prospect of guests served as a wonderful incentive: Nathan painted a wall in the bathroom, we both got gifts sorted and put away and boxes removed from the living room floor, and I scrubbed and cleaned and caught up on laundry. In the following weeks, we had guests like Lisa, Megan, Cara, Melissa, Holly, Krista, Kayla, and many others come for dinners, desserts, movies, chai tea, or just hanging out. I've made hamburger cheese-bake, pasta, hamburgers and potato spears, chocolate cake, giant pan-sized chocolate chip cookies, coffee, tea, and more. We've even had overnight houseguests - FavoriteBoy's brother came to visit, which was splendid, and this past weekend Holly and her brother stayed with us.

Back in February, we even had an official party. I felt like Gretel from The Sound of Music - "It'll be my first pahty, Father!" -- it was the first time I had entertained a large group of people, and I was nervous about being a good hostess! The party was in the evening after the Gordon orchestra/choir performance of Mozart's Requiem. Oh, and Nathan decided at about 11:30 that morning that we should have a party that night. So I made Mexican 7-layer bean dip, a fruit dip that turned out positively delicious (if I do say so myself), sausage-cheddar balls, and much more... and we even got out the chocolate fountain Wes gave us as a wedding gift! We had strawberries, bananas, and angel food cake for dipping. I'd say about 25 people came, which, considering our modest apartment, made the place pretty packed. It was a fun evening! Even friends we hadn't officially invited showed up, which was very flattering -- people wanted to hang out with us!

How have we avoided the traps and pitfalls of 'The Married Club'? I'm not sure I really know the answer. I think it's just that we're so happy and content together that it naturally spills over into wanting to share our happiness with others.

Jenn has a nice post up about hospitality, too!

Saturday, March 10, 2007

The Darndest Things

A few gems from the lips of my quotable young piano and violin students:

Sarah: Now, what are you going to practice this week?
Annalise (age 7, piano student): Um, nothing?
Sarah: Unfortunately, that's probably the truth, but what am I HOPING you're going to practice?
Annalise: Um, piano?
Sarah: Right. I was looking for something a little more specific, sweetie.
(I usually recap a bit at the end of each lesson, reminding the student specific improvements I hope to see by the following week, etc. Sometimes it's like talking to a brick wall!)

Sarah (pointing to a slur written beneath two notes): Okay, can you remember what we call this?

(Annalise has been featured in my blog once before for saying this.)

Anna is my nine-year-old 'Umm-er.' Flashcard drills go well for the most part, as she's quite a good little reader, but when we come to something that stumps her, she'll say, "Umm, um, uh, like, like, that's sorta, that's a, um, like, that's a..." before finally admitting with an impish grin, "like, I don't know."

At eleven years old, S. is my I-could-care-less student. I can't quote her, because I'm not sure she's ever spoken to me in a full sentence. She rushes through everything, making mistakes left and right and never bothering to fix them. It leaves me wondering if she can't hear the conspicuous absense of F sharps in her rendition of a piece that ought to be in D Major or if she just doesn't care. In any case, every lesson holds frequent reminders and exhortations to SLOW DOWN. "A little slower, S. You've got to make sure your brain can stay ahead of your fingers!" She looks at me blankly, as if to say, "Who are you, and are you sure you're cool enough to be sitting in my presence?" and begins again, altering the tempo not a bit. "Slower, S. Like this." I demonstrate the tempo I'd like her to take. Without listening, she begins again, possibly faster than before. And I find myself wondering how to explain that when I say SLOWER I mean SLOW DOWN THE SPEED AT WHICH YOU ARE MUTILATING THIS PIECE.

Anthony may be my most quotable student...

Sarah: Okay, let's try that part one more time... oh, fix those notes. Okay, one more time... etc.
Anthony (age 7, piano student): Augh, why me?!
Sarah: No, why ME?!
(I realized instantly that I shouldn't have let that one slip! But he laughed, and his mother did too, so all's well that ends well I suppose.)

Later in the lesson, I was introducing the concept of ties, comparing them to an addition symbol. Anthony suddenly burst out with a grin, "Yay, I'm learning!" An instant later he caught himself, altered his goofy grin into a bored expression, and intoned, "I mean, boo, I'm learning. Too much learning. Why must this happen to me?"

At another lesson, I sang a little passage from a song he was working on. He pointed to the accompanying notes in the bass clef and asked, "Why didn't you sing these notes, too?" I replied, "Because I can't sing two notes at a time!" "Why not?" "No one can. Try it." He attempted it and then concurred: "It's impossible. Except for God. He can do ANYTHING."

On Thursdays I teach group violin lessons to 4th-graders in an after-school program in a nearby school district. One week David, usually one of my happiest, most cheerful students, announced that he couldn't play without making mistakes and didn't want to try. I was busy assuring him that no one in the room was perfect when I noticed Lexie and Isabel whispering. I glanced over at them, and they looked up at me guiltily. "We were just saying," Lexie ventured, "that we think you're perfect. At the violin, I mean. We also think you've got really nice teeth."

Finally, a cute conversation with Rachel, a violin student from the group lessons who stays after for a private lesson of her own.

Rachel: Have you ever done something that you thought you wouldn't like at all, and then found out you loved it?
Sarah: Well, yes, actually.
Rachel: What was it?
Sarah: As a matter of fact, it was teaching here. I was nervous about teaching several kids at once, and thought it wouldn't be my cup of tea at all. I accepted the position with trepidation. But you know what? Now, I think Thursdays are my favorite day of the week. Why do you ask? Have you ever found yourself liking something you thought you wouldn't?
Rachel: Nope. Just wondering about you. But I'm glad you like teaching us. We like you, too.
Now I wonder where that question came from.

Friday, March 9, 2007

Jonah Day

I had a bit of a Jonah day a few weeks ago when I went to teach L. and M. their piano lessons. I've been teaching them for several months, and no progress had been made whatsoever. Lessons were painful exercises in patience and endurance for me and probably for them too. They never practiced, except perhaps to stumble through a song right before their lessons. I spoke with their mother repeatedly about my expectations, and two weeks ago, I was really ready to drop them. I mentally rehearsed what I would say, fully prepared to tell them they should look elsewhere for a teacher. And wouldn't you know it, that one week, those kids practiced. They played their pieces perfectly for me, from memory. (These are kids who had barely been able to stumble through two consecutive measures during any of the previous weeks of lessons.) They had even both put valiant effort into solving their unique and bizarre habit of depressing, say, a note to be held for two beats, and after pressing the key down chanting "One-Two" quite rapidly and in no semblance of rhythm whatsoever (a trick they somehow developed while studying with their former teacher).

I felt like Jonah, ready and waiting for God to punish the Ninevites and finding that instead they were to be spared. Sigh.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Starting Sourdough

Ooh, I made some sourdough starter last night. It's getting all bubbly and it smells somewhere between wonderfully yeasty and sourly fermented, so I think things are going well so far!

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Late-Night Silliness

FavoriteBoy: Hey, will you bring me some cookies and ice cream?
SarahMarie: It's getting late... don't you think we should get to bed?
FavoriteBoy: Oh. Well, I was testing you. You failed.
SarahMarie: Huh?
FavoriteBoy: Yeah. You're supposed to submit to me!

FavoriteBoy has always been able to make me laugh harder than I'd ever laughed in my life until I met him. Tonight we were both laughing for twenty minutes straight at one anothers' antics.

On another note, only my husband would sit at the piano, inspired by my violin practice and his own bizarre imagination, and begin to play the accompaniment to the Habanera from 'Carmen' and then, over that, play a modal 'What Child Is This?'

Big Hair and Bazzini

I know I denied being a YouTube junkie, but I may just have to eat my own words. There's just so much good stuff there if you can find effective ways to sift through the pointless stuff.

Here's Ilya Kaler playing the third movement of the Siblius concerto. (A bit out of tune at times, but still worth watching.) Kaler has the singular acclaim of having won gold medals in three of the world's most prestigious international competitions: the Tchaikovsky, Siblius, and Paganini competitions. Watching his left hand makes me envious. His double-stops look so effortless! (Also, his hair is awesome, and if he had kept growing it, he might have been able to rival Kissin. Or who knows, maybe even Levine. And by the way, if you like pianists with big hair, buy this album. Of course, not if you're bored by Schubert for four hands.)

I find it humorous to read some of the comments left on YouTube videos. I watched a video of another artist performing the same Siblius movement, and people left comments like, "This is awful in comparison to David Oistrakh. How could she even play in public. [sic]" and "interpritation? what interpritation [sic]? she just does what her teacher told [sic] her to do." This in response to a very good performance by a well-known violinist.

Comments I've seen on other videos of very accomplished violinists include, "give up, i played it twice as fast," while comments on mediocre performances of student pieces read like this: "OMG, you are amazing, you should take lessons from Kennedy and you would be even more amazing."

I'd venture a guess that the kids recording themselves playing Pachelbel fancy themselves terrific artists and make up a significant portion of the people going around leaving snooty comments. Me? I'll admit that this girl (not the criticized artist in question), for example, is possibly better than I am. And this kid, and this kid, oh, and this kid, too (Bazzini, anyone?) rival many college students I've heard. Depressing, but true.

In any case, I'd just be curious to know the credentials of those who so eagerly criticize.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

About Time

Yeah, I changed my template. I kept waiting for my friend Nate to make me a really nice blog template some day, and then I realized that in the meantime, I could just change it myself. For those of you thinking, "It was about time," well, I thought so too.

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Exquisite Technique

"My mother's idol among pianists was Paderewski. I knew that I would never be a Paderewski, so I searched among the other great pianists of the day, looking for a model, and I found one at last who seemed to be just right for me. He was Vladimir de Pachmann. His style was refined, and so was mine. He was distinguished for the fact that especially in the works of Chopin he struck a great number of wrong notes. It was here that I knew I could rival him, and perhaps even excel him. You see, he struck his wrong notes in extremely rapid passages; I worked at my technique until I was certain that I could strike great numbers of wrong notes in very slow passages."
-Robertson Davies, My Musical Career