Thursday, January 31, 2008

Grab That Bow

What informed music teacher in her right mind would purchase this book of music activities for kids? Who knows? - the materials inside the book might actually be worthwhile. But the child pictured on the cover has clearly never had a lesson in her life. If the cover had so little effort put into it, why would anyone be confident that the content could be any better?

This type of thing is a pet peeve of mine. My alma mater had a photo advertisement gracing magazines for years featuring a student (not a violin major) who played fiddle just for fun. There she was, her violin tucked under her chin rather than held between her jaw and collarbone, the instrument sliding downwards towards her stomach, her bow held incorrectly... no prospective violinist would give the school a second thought upon seeing that picture!

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

"I Just Want You"

Anyssa pointed out that you can watch bits of Anne of Green Gables on YouTube. I'm not sure about the legality of this, but if you want to watch the sniffle-inducing bit, it's here. Grab a tissue and watch through the ending credits so you can hear the beautiful soundtrack as well.

While I've loved the Anne films for years, I've also loved the books for at least as long. L.M. Montgomery communicates the romance between Anne and Gilbert in terms that are at once both eloquent and simple:

Perhaps, after all, romance did not come into one's life with pomp and blare, like a gay knight riding down; perhaps it crept to one's side like an old friend through quiet ways; perhaps it revealed itself in seeming prose, until some sudden shaft of illumination flung athwart its pages betrayed the rhythm and the music; perhaps... perhaps... love unfolded naturally out of a beautiful friendship, as a golden-hearted rose slipping from its green sheath.

"Gilbert Blythe would stand on his head for me"

Last night, having spent the morning getting a small hole cut in my back - just over my shoulder blade - and then stitched up, I was taking it easy on the couch. Nathan, full of sympathy, put on 'Anne of Green Gables: The Continuing Story,' which had recently arrived from Netflix. I hadn't seen the most recent installment, and while I didn't hold hopes of it comparing to 'Anne of Green Gables' or 'Anne of Avonlea,' I was curious enough to want to watch it, and Nathan indulged me.

Before we started the movie, I attempted to summarize the previous two Anne films for Nathan. My summary went something like this (with all the right voices and inflection):

"Anne Shirley. Anne with an 'E'."

"You don't want me? You don't want me because I'm not a boy?"

"This is the most tragical thing that has ever happened to me!"

"She could talk the hind leg off a mule."

"What color would you call this?"
"Red. That's why I can't ever be perfectly happy."

"Mrs. Hammond told me that God made my hair red on purpose and I've never cared for Him since."

And in a broken voice: "He called me carrots!"

"Anne Shirley. What in heck are you doing here?"
"Fishing for lake trout."

"Puffed sleeves."
"The puffiest in the world."

"I'm afraid for her, Matthew. She'll be gone so long. She'll get terrible lonesome."
"You mean we'll get terrible lonesome."

"Why do people have to grow up and marry, change?"
"Oh, you'd change. If someone ever admitted that they were head over heels for you, you'd be swept off your feet in a moment."
"I would not, and I defy anyone who would try and make me change."
And with a smirk and a laugh - "You do."

And then Anne says, "He loves me?" And Marilla says, "Because you made Josie Pye and Ruby Gillis and all those wishy-washy young ladies who waltzed by him look like spineless nothings." "...Don't toss it away for some ridiculous ideal that doesn't exist."

"Anne, there's not going to be any wedding anymore... I called it off. It wouldn't have been fair to Christine. There will never be anyone for me but you."

And then - and here my voice got a bit teary - "It will be three years before I finish medical school, and even then there won't be any diamond sunbursts or marble halls..." "I don't want sunbursts or marble halls. I just want you."

After my summary of quotes, Nathan sighed with resignation and started the DVD with the ominous words, "No good can come of this!"

He watched the whole movie with me, but I'm not sure how much help either my summary or the film itself was to him, the uninitiated, since a few minutes before the end of the movie Nathan asked, "Wait, who's Gilbert?"

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Say Cheese

Snow = salt on the roads, and salt on the roads = a filthy car, so yesterday evening found me at the nearby automatic car wash. As the soap streamed down my windows, I noticed a sign on the wall just outside the driver's side. The sign read:

your on

Unfortunately, grammar and spelling like that cannot make me smile - whether I'm on camera or not.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Understanding the Bible

Yesterday in church the children's sermon was about Mary and Martha. As the sermonizer told the children how Jesus was pleased with Mary for resting at his feet, I whispered to Holly, "The moral of the story is, everyone should stop doing so much housework!" Holly replied, "Yeah, good point! 'I'm not going to clean up because Jesus would want me to sit and do nothing instead of working all the time like Martha.'" I added, "And if Mary had a TV, I bet she would have been watching a movie instead of doing housework, too."

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Orchestral Idol

I got my hair cut yesterday. I think it's about four inches shorter now, and I like it. The purpose of the haircut was largely to eliminate the following exchange from being heard at least thrice daily between myself and FavoriteBoy: "Ow, you're pulling my hair!" "No, I'm not." "Yes, your elbow is leaning on it." Or "Yes, it's caught on the button on your shirt sleeve." Or a dozen other possibilities.

The woman who cut my hair was chatty. Since I was getting my hair cut on a Friday morning around 11:30, it was reasonable for her to ask, "Do you have the day off from work?" When I told her I usually only work in the afternoons, she asked what I did.

"I'm a violinist and a music teacher."

"Oh, wow... do you play in a band or something? I used to play in middle school band."

"Well, I play in several orchestras in the area."

"Do you want to play with the Boston Pops someday?"

"The Pops? Not really... I'd like to play with a symphony, but positions in the big orchestras are really competitive."

"No way... really?" (I've noticed that it's often a shock to people that even though they're not interested in classical music, millions of other people are.)

"Yeah, they hold auditions. For every one seat available there are a lot of people competing for it."

"Oh, I get it. It's like American Idol."

"I guess maybe?

...Except that it takes talent, skill, and years of serious training..."

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Busy Week

Dear readers, most of you probably know what I do: I'm a musician and a music teacher. But it seems that those titles still leave the question I am often asked... "but what exactly do you do?"

Here's a sampling of my schedule from this week, which is a rather busy one.

Wednesday: teach public school group lessons; teach private lessons; C.A. Symphony rehearsal from 7:30-10:00 pm

Thursday (today): morning meeting; afternoon private teaching; S. Philharmonic rehearsal from 7:30-9:30 pm

Friday: 9:00 am C.A. Symphony children's concert; 10:30 am another children's concert performance; 2:30-5:30 private teaching

Saturday: 2:00 pm C.A. Symphony children's concert

Sunday: 1:30 pm S. Philharmonic rehearsal; 3:30 pm S. Philharmonic concert; 6:00-9:00 pm N.S. Philharmonic rehearsal

Monday: conduct beginning string orchestra rehearsal

Tuesday: teach private lessons


Add to that practicing and being a homemaker...


Musicians Against Hillary '08

Bad singing. A wrong word. Need I say more?

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Fermatas and Football

This past Sunday the New England Patriots played in an important football game of some sort. (Okay, okay, I like baseball, not football. I have no idea what made the game important; I just know lots of people watched it.) Unfortunately for musically-inclined football fans, the same afternoon also held an orchestra concert. From my seat in the first violins I noticed a trombone player with an ear bud in one ear, the cord dangling down into his lap. And I realized that this gentleman was listening to the game on the radio while he played his trombone in the concert.

Talk about multi-tasking.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Chocolate and Raspberry

Last month for Cara's birthday I baked her a chocolate cake with a raspberry filling. I used the same recipe I used before for Nathan's birthday cake, but while I made the ganache frosting, I didn't use it for the filling. Instead, I thawed, pureed, and strained two bags of frozen raspberries, stirred in sugar and cornstarch, and boiled the mixture until it thickened a bit. I used that for the filling, and kept the extra to drizzle over individual slices.

And now, thanks to Cara and Facebook, I have pictures!

The birthday girl:

The birthday cake:

Sunday, January 20, 2008

How Romantic

FavoriteBoy loves to trick me. He'll lean in to kiss my cheek and then blow a raspberry on my face instead, or hug me tenderly - and then scrape three days of stubble across my face while laughing. Tonight, after a raspberry on the neck, I made a sour face and muttered, "That's not romantic!" FavoriteBoy, laughing so hard he had muppet-eyes*, replied, "Why do women assume men are always trying to be romantic? Do they really think a man's number one goal is to be romantic? Obviously I blow raspberries on you because it's hilarious, not because I'm trying to be romantic!"

*When FavoriteBoy laughs really hard, his eyes squinch up and get puffy bits on the top and bottom just like the muppet Waldorf. Click the link to check out the picture, but imagine a FavoriteBoy grin instead of a solemn muppet face.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Sleep-Talking Again

Remember how I said FavoriteBoy sleep-talks? Here's one from last night:

I was pouring out my heart to him, telling him all about a young student I have in one of my group lessons who misbehaves dreadfully all the time. "I don't want to squelch this student's energy - I want him to be able to have fun in class! - but not at the expense of wasted lesson time for all the students in the group. How can I best be a good teacher with a disciplined classroom without becoming a drill sergeant the kids hate? All my other sessions of kids have a great time, but no one distracts from the task of learning the violin. This kid, on the other hand, is all over the place! In half a second he can get from his music stand to the other side of the classroom, where he's always getting into stuff he shouldn't be touching. And when I'm talking, he's constantly making the most dreadful sounds imaginable on his violin and he refuses to be quiet. I hate having to turn every lesson into a behavior lecture!"

After this lengthy diatribe FavoriteBoy responded very helpfully, "Tell him he can sell his artwork if he gives you half of the profit."


He paused, then continued, "Wait, I think I'm asleep. Your student isn't selling Native American artwork, is he? Okay, I'm asleep; bye now."

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Today: A Good Day

I taught four group violin sessions and two private violin lessons this afternoon, and I drove home thinking how the Christmas vacation and various other recent circumstances have done me good; I feel a renewed sense of enthusiasm for working with my lovely - but sometimes challenging - students. I had both energy and patience today in great quantities. (Sometimes the latter is called upon much more than the former, particularly in the group sessions!)

June, a first-year fourth-grade student in one of my groups, won the practice prize for for her session today. She practiced a total of 180 minutes during the past week! She went home with stickers and a chocolate chip cookie and left behind her a very pleased teacher.

I made homeade pizza for dinner tonight - FavoriteBoy's with meat, more meat, cheese, and more cheese, and mine with just sauce and roasted vegetables.

Now FavoriteBoy is sitting at the piano playing Broadway songs from Beauty and the Beast and singing all the different voice parts - now he's Lumiere... now he's the Beast... now he's Gaston... now he's... Belle!

And I'm sitting here thinking two things:

1) I haven't blogged in a while, and maybe I should


2) Our life together is full of blessings.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

An Open Letter

Dear St. Mary's of Beverly,

This morning on my way to church one of your priests stepped out into the street without warning not quite eight yards in front of my car. I was forced to slam on my brakes, sending my purse and all its contents flying off the passenger seat and causing my seatbelt to lock. At first I thought the priest was stopping traffic - albeit unnecessarily abruptly - to allow parishoners to cross the street, but then I saw that the priest was alone in the road. He continued to hold up his hand at me for a moment before eventually waving me on. The only conclusion I can draw from this bizarre and dangerous situation is that he thought I ought to slow down. Well, his means of enforcing this personal opinion were unorthodox to say the least.

Please inform your young clergyman that while he may believe my speed of 28 mph on an empty Cabot street at 7:20 on a Sunday morning to be excessive, it is not his job to act as a traffic controller - especially not at the risk of his own life. I don't know how I'd live with myself if I ran over a priest. Even a moronic one.

Very sincerely yours,

Sarah Marie

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Sallie Mae Owns My Firstborn Child

During my final year of college I added to a few other loans I had when I took out a loan through Sallie Mae, the Gordon College 'preferred lender.' If I had done my homework, I would have realized that the interest rates Sallie Mae offered were sky high and that Gordon endorsing the lender as 'preferred' was probably not entirely in accordance with the College Loan Code of Conduct - Gordon gets kickbacks from the college's relationship with Sallie Mae, and the financial aid office ought to do better by their students than entrapping them with some of the worst loans possible. In any case, I didn't know that 6 months after graduation I would be slammed with a 9.5% interest rate.

And I didn't know that in the first year of making regular payments on the loan, I would pay over $800 in interest alone.

And I didn't know that by the end of the first year of making payments I would have paid thousands of dollars...

...and be left with a balance higher than the amount I had originally borrowed.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Anniversary v. 1.2

Today marks what FavoriteBoy and I have dubbed "Anniversary version 1.2," or the first anniversary of our second wedding. Because celebrations are fun, we decided to observe both our anniversaries in some way. Tonight we enjoyed our first dinner at The Cheesecake Factory since they opened one here on the North Shore.

Prior to dinner I played a concert with my newlywed stand partner at the philharmonic. Midway through the concert - as we finished some Puccini and prepared to begin a medley from A Chorus Line - the seventy-some year old woman grinned at me mischeviously and asked, "Want to duck out and grab a beer? I'm sure no one would notice!"

Saturday, January 5, 2008

You Can't Buy Happiness?

... Actually, maybe you can. The December Gallup poll that revealed that most Americans are "very satisfied" with their lives also showed that those with higher household incomes are 20-30% more likely to be 'happy' or 'satisfied' with their lives than those with lower incomes.

Along with the wealthy, Republicans and churchgoers are also statistically happier. I've already seen a few political pundits touting the fact that Republicans are happier, as if registering to vote Republican instantly rockets your happiness into the stratosphere of percentages. But isn't it more likely that political viewpoints are incidental rather than instrumental in a person's happiness? Those who manage to work hard, earn money, and do well for themselves are pretty happy. They also see the value of free enterprise and capitalism and hold primarily Republican viewpoints. In other words, it still comes down to dollars and cents.

On the other hand, FavoriteBoy and I are Republicans who don't make $75,000/year, and we're still pretty happy - so maybe it does come down to your voting preference.

To be on the safe side, don't vote for Hillary.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Maya Angelou Supports Hillary

You may have thought you wanted to vote for Romney. Or maybe Obama, or Huckabee, or McCain. But after you watch this amazing video, you will vote for Hillary.

Or you might just find yourself fast asleep instead.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Freezing Cold and Newlyweds

Well, it's 5 degrees in Beverly, MA right now - and according to, feels like -6. According to Sarah Marie, however, it feels like -50! Despite the terrible cold, and the fact that cold + me do not mix well (it makes all my joints hurt, and once I get cold it's really, really hard for me to get warm again), I ventured out of the apartment tonight for a rehearsal with a local philharmonic orchestra. It was my first time playing with this particular orchestra, which rehearses at Salem High School - home of the Witches. (Yes, really.)

On the way into the auditorium I walked beside a violist who had parked next to me. "It's too cold," he muttered. "I hate living here! God knows why anyone would want to!" I shivered my assent before asking, "How long have you lived in the area?" "Oh, my whole life."

In the rehearsal I found myself sharing a stand with a sweet, chatty woman in her mid-seventies who played the violin pretty well. We struck up a conversation before the rehearsal began, and I quickly found that she has led a fascinating life. She observed my wedding band, asking, "How long have you been married?" "One year," I replied. Looking at me over her glasses she smiled happily... "Oh, you're a bit of a newlywed... so am I!"

I get to meet the most interesting people sometimes.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008


Nathan and I had a very happy Christmas in Pennsylvania with his family. We drove to Erie with a box of wrapped gifts, and returned home with different, unwrapped gifts. And in the in-between time we had a relaxing time. We did jigsaw puzzles, read books, played games, and watched movies.

After our very happy Christmas we had a very happy first anniversary as well. We went and browsed at bookstores all afternoon and treated ourselves to some bargain-priced books - the first anniversary is, after all, the 'paper' anniversary. After book-browsing and book-buying, Nathan took me to Olive Garden for dinner, where we ate altogether too many breadsticks and had a lovely time. We thought perhaps we should talk about our marriage and take stock of how things were going, and that conversation went something like this:

SarahMarie: So, what do you think of being married?
FavoriteBoy: It's pretty great.
SarahMarie: I think so too. Anything I could do to make you happier?
FavoriteBoy: Nope!

We're pretty happy, you see.

Incidentally, two friends and fellow Schola students (and daughters of the big Schola man himself!), Emily and Kate Callihan, were married in a double wedding on the 28th, our anniversary. So in addition to the fact that they are lovely and wonderful girls, I felt a particular affinity to that wedding. Best wishes to the brides, and congratulations to the grooms!

After our happy anniversary dinner, Nathan and I enjoyed the top tier of our wedding cake, which my mother-in-law had very kindly frozen and kept for us.

Or I should say, others enjoyed it and I enjoyed watching them enjoy it. I had about two bites, since generally I try to avoid refined sugars - when I'm being good. I wasn't always entirely good about this in the few days prior to and following Christmas, but now I'm back to being good again.

On Sunday FavoriteBoy and I played at Stevedad's church in Erie, and then friends of the FavoriteBoy family took us all out to lunch at a Japanese restaurant. We all had hibachi. It was the most exciting meal I've ever eaten! Our chef was tossing and flipping eggs in the air with a metal spatula and throwing and catching knives! And the food was delicious.

Sunday afternoon we started our long drive back to Massachusetts. Nathan said nonchalantly, "Since we're getting a late start, maybe we'll stop somewhere for the night and finish the drive tomorrow." Little did I know he had already made reservations at the Marriott in Syracuse, NY. We stayed in a Marriott after our Erie wedding celebration last January, and it was so nice - I loved it! I loved this one too. We even had chocolate-covered strawberries and champagne awaiting us. And a beautiful view from our room window:

We finished the trip to Massachusetts on the 31st and got back in time to spend New Year's Eve with our friends Gregg and Cara.

I have all kinds of New Year's resolutions, most of which involve getting healthier and getting FavoriteBoy (The Boy Who Will Not Touch A Vegetable) healthier. Here's to 2008.