Monday, December 19, 2011

A Merry Christmas Mega Post

It turns out I am related to Santa Claus. Who knew?

Maybe that's why we all get treated so much better than we deserve.

Not to complain about my children (who are absolutely wonderful) but sometimes when I as them to help with a video (like a birthday video for their brother in Mexico), they help a little bit and then they balk at the idea of being on camera. Then I ask myself, do I not know technology? And through the magic that is digital, I can "make" my kids sing and dance! So here is Macey's belated birthday video -- and timely Christmas Video:

Of course my kids may have an itty-bitty excuse for not being overly cooperative -- they have been overly busy this holiday season, which of course trickles down to me. I've had to do some fancy learning just to keep up with them. The following is a video of Cameron's technical and difficult trumpet recital piece. He held his nerves together much better than I did. What a fantastic musician!

Bobo had concerts in choir, orchestra, and band.

Her orchestra teacher always chooses a wide variety of pieces including some very cutting edge modern pieces. This one combines two of Bobo's loves: origami and music.

And Bobo totally nails her solo in Frosty the Snowman!

Speaking of solos, JoJo at long last got to combine two of his loves in one song -- Jazz and the Clarinet. Check out his solo in King Porter Stomp!

And Last but not Least, Naji has joined the holiday concert game. He has concerts in orchestra and choir. His choir concert is tonight (hopefully we will get footage of that) but to hold us over, here are two clips from his orchestra concert -- pretty good for only having played since September! Ahhhhh, maybe this is why Santa treats these kids so well!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Christmas Miracles

I have been dependent on Christmas Miracles for so long now, they are almost expected. I've seen some doosies. Somehow, every year I come up with the money to buy presents for my over-sized tribe. But this year I was resigned to not expect a miracle. No extra cash loomed on the horizon. In fact, to coin a nautical term, my morning skies were red ("Red Sky in Morning, Sailors take warning")

But I did not let that get me down, because this year I decided there would be no Christmas Miracle and that would be alright. In fact the true Christmas Miracle would be that even without the extra cash or presents Christmas is a magical time. I was determined to enjoy the holiday season, refuse to get stressed, and celebrate the joys of being surrounded by family and friends.

But it looks like I am going to have to put the "Miracle of no Christmas Miracle" Christmas off another year. I got an organ for Christmas. One with AGO pedals. One that I can practice Bach and Prelude and Hymns on every day of the year. But the circumstances through which I got the organ got me thinking.

As emotional as it was for me to finally get an organ (yes, tears were involved) I truly felt for the organist who had to let it go. It took her a couple of days, and some practicing, and some polishing, and some power naps before she could say goodbye. But it was at a time in her life when she needed to let it go -- and make a sacrifice for the Lord. Which leads me to think "For everything there is a time and a season under heaven." I am so thankful I still have time to practice and to learn and to indulge myself. And I am so thankful that the Lord giveth. And I pray that I will be as gracious and willing as those around me when the time comes for the Lord to take away.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

The Morning After

Yeah! I totally survived D-Day (Smiley Face). And it turned out ok. Jojo was pleased with his recital -- so I didn't get fired as an accompanist. I had been so nervous about his piece that by the time we played our Jazz pieces that night, I had no nerves left so I was able to just enjoy the enjoy the music and the party. For those of you who are interested, here's the footage. (PS I was a little sad that Macey couldn't be there, so I asked Bro Edie to play his guitar - Merry Christmas Mace -- hope your package gets to Mexico in time) (PPS Check out Bobo and Cameron on Trombone!)

Friday, December 2, 2011

1/2 of D Day Down

What???? Can't Naji even get half a day of fame all to himself??? Today is what I have termed "Dooms Day". I had to play for Jojo's student recital this afternoon. Tonight I play in the RiverRidge Jazz Ensemble at the Ward Christmas party. I have to say, the majority of my stress must have been at Joe's expense, because I feel better already. Here's how we did at the Student Recital.

Fourth Grade Rituals

Ahhhh Fourth Grade. Sure, third grade is great -- you learn your multiplication tables and how to write in cursive. But, in fourth grade you can get yourself initiated into the world of fine art. Naji has jumped in with both feet. He takes early morning Choir (Tues/Thurs) and early morning Orchestra (M-F). So by the time most kids are getting up, he's already attended two classes. And thanks to the Holiday Season, he's already had his first concert. This is a video of the Riverside Elementary Choir at the Dicken's Festival. (Naji's in the second to back row and is wearing antlers) Stay tuned over the next couple of weeks for more season concert footage.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A Peak Into the Future and a Blast From the Past

I am almost over (freaking) whelmed with practice now. We've spent the entire Thanksgiving Vacation and then some practicing. This Friday is Doomsday (or D-Day if you will). Jojo has his major student recital at the college. And what I want to know is why clarinet accompaniment music is always as difficult as the clarinet "solo" material. We also have the ward Christmas Party where we are all in the "River Ridge Jazz Ensemble" (Cameron also has a student recital coming up -- thank goodness that isn't until next week.)
Last week when Jojo and I played together at his clarinet lesson, I was sure his teacher was going to pull him aside and suggest that he fire his mother (much like Judea's Eagle Brother Wayne Newton fired his brother). But the teacher didn't. Instead he recorded the practice session and posted it to YouTube. As luck would have it, I have now posted it here. (p.s. Practice Room Pianos are the worst!)

And for the blast from the past -- practicing for the Ward Christmas Party has got me all nostalgic for when my kids were little and we played for the Christmas Party. I have a clip of that as well -- and while it isn't very good, I do treasure it especially now that the kids are older. I hope you can find something to enjoy in it -- A tiny Bobo singing and a baby Sam on Trumpet. Joe is on drums, Judea on Bass, and I'm on guitar because Macey had another concert to perform at that night. Hopefully, when I post this years concert you will see some musical growth.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Making Lists

I have a couple of kids (the Oh-Oh's) who like to make lists of how many instruments they play. In this quasi competition, we have not only had to define "instrument" but also "play". Because, apparently, "play" can mean "picked up once and plunked out a tune."

But after tonight's concert, I am about ready to concede to one "Oh-Oh" that he can indeed "play" multiple instruments. I've looked forward to seeing him in the flute choir for a long time now. The flute is such a lovely, sensitive instrument that I was afraid he would feel like the ugly duckling surrounded by glorious swans. But amazingly he held his own. Then he went on to steal the show with his clarion soprano sax and his jiving alto sax. (Don't believe me -- watch the instant replays below.)

Jojo and the Flute Choir

Simple Gifts

When the Saints Go Marching In

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Not So Lame

Hopefully, things are calming down a bit. Our "gig" for the Washington County School District Indian Parenting Action Committee (the WCSD IPAC) is now water under the bridge. And the thing I learned from this gig is that Ben is even shy as a camera man. He didn't start actually trying to frame the shot until the last song. So if you want to see Naji dancing (and not just sliding in and out of the frame) that's the video you should click on. (I realize he is dancing to a Girls Fancy Dance Song -- that's because he we are singing it for a girl who is out of frame. Naji is just dancing with her.)

The other, more important thing I learned from this gig is that I LOVE it when my kids work together. I love to see them enjoying one another's company. I guess I love the opportunities that we have to perform as a family because i truly believe it draws us closer together. Doing something is better than refusing to do anything just because you feel like you are not good enough -- because if we didn't do anything we wouldn't ever become "good enough".

I also love that my sister shares her family's talents with us. If you haven't heard her family sing you should check out her blog site (link in my blogroll to the right). But to hear how far her family has come is truly outstanding. Listen to their latest Christmas CD at It is the best yet!

I guess that's what comes from putting one foot in front of the other even when you feel like it is pointless because you can't see the final destination.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Lame, lame, lame

This week has me questioning. I am feeling a little worn out. Ragged. Exhausted. Pooped. I want to lay around and watch TV. Isn't that what people do? -- Come home from work, make a snack, and watch their stories on the big square box?

I took a day off from work. I figured that's just what I needed. It would give me a chance to catch up on some of my personal projects (like writing) and it would give me the opportunity to lay around and watch some of the shows I've recorded and not yet had a moment to watch.

By the time I practiced piano (I had to go with Joe to his lesson yesterday) and practiced the organ (Tuesdays are the only day I can get into the church to practice with pedals) and practiced singing around the Powwow Drum with the kids (it turns out the Thanksgiving Potluck I committed us to singing at is tonight) The day was shot and I am more exhausted than ever.

But all while I was practicing, I was asking myself, "Why?" Seriously why? Of all the things I can do there is always somebody or something that can do it better. I could plug my computer into my Yamaha Keyboard and it would play without missing a note. I could play a recording for us at the Dinner tonight. And nobody would care. They would enjoy it just as much. As I drove home after practicing the organ last night, I was determined to spend the last few hours of my day off watching TV. But just as I parked the truck, I thought of a round dance song we could sing -- so I dragged my fuzzy brain inside and gathered the kids around the drum (again) and we arranged one more song.

There is definitely something wrong with me.

PS Here is a video of Bobo playing in her first Orchestra concert. She looks lovely. I got her a pair of cello (Pallazo) pants to wear and I was thrilled with the results. Keep in mind, she has only been playing the cello since August.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Bleh is for Bach and Blogging and Bringing my piano up to the mountains

Bleh. I need to blog. And the funny thing that I am noticing is that when I get lax on my blogging it is not because I am getting lax on my music. It is generally when I get so engrossed in my projects that even my lips fail to stay above water. 

I have such a craving for practicing right now that I actually schlepped my Yamaha Keyboard to a ski resort in Park City so I can practice in my motel room while I attend a week long forensics conference. The motel room is smaller than I anticipated, but I made room for the piano/organ. (I am determined to keep up with Joe and Cameron when they play their student recitals next month - at least I won't be holding them back.) And yes boys, if you are reading this, I totally got four hours of practice in today. An hour and a half on each of your pieces and an hour on my Bach organ stuff (minus the pedals) I haven't even touched the Christmas Jazz and Brubeck I brought up with me to learn.

Speaking of Christmas, I've been asked to get a jazz ensemble together for our Church Christmas Party. That is coming along nicely. (Think Vince Guaraldi) I am narrowing down the music. Watch for more posts on that. If anyone is interested -- I am still looking for a bass player and a drummer. Let me know if you know anyone in the greater STG area that is interested in playing in a Christmas Ensemble.

Speaking of Bach. The Bach festival is just around the corner (February). I have spent the last couple of weeks choosing songs for the organ and the Ukulele Orchestra. Oddly enough,one of the songs I picked I love so much it is stuck in my head day and night. I can't decide between playing it on the organ and playing with the ukulele orchestra so I am going to do both. I am posting all of the parts I have arranged so far. I would still like to add a glockenspiel part and a continuo basso or chord strum. Those of you insisting on playing on guitar, the notation is for you. Keep in mind that a baritone uke is a guitar minus the lower two strings.

All of you readers out there that want to join in the Southwest Phretted Philharmonic's triumphant return to the Bach Festival - Learn Your Parts. We could even revist the Bourree we did a couple of years ago and play that as well. I will post the parts for that on the Ukulele Page of this blog.

BMV 645 Ukulele

BMV 645 Ukulele 1 Notation

BMV 645 Ukulele 2

BMV 645 Ukulele 2 Notation

BMV 645 Baritone Ukulele

BMV 645 Baritone Ukulele

BMV 645 4-String Bass Guitar

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Bonus Post

I sure am lucky the kids love their missing brother. That's the only way I get them to let me film them. (i.e. "Your Brother would love to see this.") So here ya' go brother, proof that the girls miss and support you.

PS we all <3 you online

Happy Birthday

The Princess Bride, have you seen it?
It’s possibly the best show on the planet
For 25 years you’ve been taking it for “granite”
Shakespeare’s rhyme scheme it

Doesn’t have, but it does have
Pirates and Princesses
Giants, Sicilians and ROUSes

And Fighting, Kissing, Reciting,
Magicking, Running and Deceiting
 Happy 25th Birthday Buttercup

(anybody want a peanut?)

Maybe to celebrate I should learn this song :)

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Stages of Performance Anxiety

Last week I wrote briefly on the stages children go through. This week I thought I would mention the steps I have noticed them take when preparing to perform.

Stage One: Pie in the Sky. During this stage, the opportunity is key. It is full of hope ambition and anticipation. (e.g. "We're singing solos in a couple of weeks in choir -- I get to sing!")

Stage Two: Brain Storming. This is a fun filled stage with ideas buzzing around like Mosquitos on a car. (e.g. "So many songs, so little time")

Stage Three: The decision is made. And it is the best, most fantastic decision ever! (e.g. "I will survive!")

Stage Four: Practice. Practice. Practice. (e.g. "It's ok, I still have lots of time.")

Stage Five: Practice, Practice. Practice (e.g. "This is getting worse, not better.")

Stage Six: Practice, Practice, Practice (e.g. "Why did I ever think I could do this.")

Stage Seven: I can't. I don't want to. I give up. (e.g. MELTDOWN)

Stage Eight: The Performance (e.g. "That wasn't so bad. Maybe I'll do this again some time.")

All I can say is it's a good thing my kids smile when they're nervous, and smile when they mess up, and smile when they grit they're teeth. Nobody would ever guess the tears that went into Bobo's Choir Solo. Love you Bobo.

Also, thanks to Bobo's brothers for helping out (Joe on Sax and Cameron on Trumpet). They did such a great job, as an encore they were asked to help the middle school jazz band at the St George Marathon. I wonder if the runners were going through the stages of performance anxiety during their 26.2 mile lap.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Top 7 Reasons I live with Kids

Kids go through stages. Much has been written of these stages. I've even studied many of these stages. From my personal experience, however, I've learned to readily recognize these two stages: Whiny Little Girl Syndrome, and Temporarily Cooperative. The "Temporarily Cooperative" Stage (my personal favorite) often comes as a surprise and sometimes makes up for the "Whiny Little Girl Syndrome." It is always good (read healthy) for me to make note of the times the kids have surprised me. So here are the top 7 reasons (this week) that I live with kids.

Reason No. 7 - We totally made a wetlands biome out of construction paper and clay.

Reason No. 6 - Sitting through early morning orchestra so we can race to early morning choir as soon as it is over. This way I can be a "soccer mom" and work full-time. It's like having your cake and eating it too.

Reason No. 5- Listening to Bobo belt out "I Will Survive" on ukulele and realizing it would sound better with a horn section. Not only do the boys agree, they grab a sax, a trumpet, and a trombone and back her up. (More on this next week)

Reason No. 4 - Coming home, after working late, to find the kids have a concert in 10 minutes. When I say, "Give me one reason that I should attend," they give me two words, "Herald Trumpets"

Reson No. 3 - Watching kids improve through perseverance and hardship. All throughout high school, Jojo never knew how many clarinets were in the orchestra because he, "never looked behind." This year, as a freshman in college, he knows (that's the percussion behind him).

Reason No. 2 - Kids make great friends. I go to concerts to support my kids, but the bonus is that I also get to see my kids' friends perform as well. The more people I know in the concert, the more I love every minute of it. (Go Jenna!)

And Finally,

Reason No. 1 - It gets me out of the house and encourages me to tackle the hassles that I would otherwise pass by. The Dixie State College orchestra performed at Pine Valley, over an hour away -- listening to Aaron Copeland in the wide open spaces of nature was beautiful. But the most touching song of the set had to be the 1812 Overature. I've heard this song performed on multiple occasions and I know it is supposed to have a canon. But to hear church bells peel as the symphonic orchestra plays brought tears to more eyes than just this writer's.

As a post script to all of this. I would just like to add that I love old people too. I can't help but notice that the audiences of all these concerts I attend is more often than not composed of seniors and above. This is a cross section of people who do not let the hassles of age and stiffness keep them in the house. And when the National Anthem was played in Pine Valley, the conductor announced, "Stand if you are able." The entire audience laughed. They were not going to let a little weakness of flesh keep them from respecting their country's anthem. They all stood and sang.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Der Taktstock

The DocUtah 2011 is in the can. For those of you not acquainted with DocUtah, it is an international documentary film festival in part hosted by Dixie State College of Utah.  Judea wrote and directed last year's commercial. This year she directed the sequel.

Last year Judea entered her film "Blackfire: A Modern Warcry" (congrats on the honorable mention, sis). Here is a clip from that film.

My favorite film from last year was a German film entitle "El Systema". It was a documentary on the afterschool orchestra program for students in Argentina. This year my favorite film was also a music oriented film from Germany. "Der Taktstock" was an audience favorite. Judea talked me into seeing it a second time. And she snuck off for a third viewing.

If you get a chance to watch or purchase this film, I'd highly recommend it. It reminds me of the joke "How many conductors does it take to change a lightbulb?" The answer is, "Nobody knows, cause nobody watches."

This movie is great for anyone who aspires to conduct, any musician who has ever been conducted, or anyone who has ever gone to an event that involved a conductor. (And everyone whose mother wouldn't let them touch her baton.)

Monday, September 5, 2011

This Week, Last Week's Photo's

Naji on Carousel

Naji at waterpark

Naji finally smiling
Bobo's new grey contacts
I knew even when I wrote last week's post that it needed photo's. But that is one of the write blockers -- waiting until all conditions are met before posting. So this week is going to be mostly pictures with no text and then hopefully by next week, my narration and visualization will be back in sync.
Last week I talked about practicing, but as you can see below -- it's not all practice. Notice, however, there isn't much difference between the practice faces and the fun faces.
Bobo on Carousel
Bobo With Cello
JoJo with Tenor Sax (notice it's much bigger than his beloved alto sax)
Naji with viola
Bobo finally smiling

Monday, August 29, 2011

I Can Cur

I should totally post another blog entry. I have sooo not been in the mood lately. But today I am feeling it. School is back in session. It brings with it scheduling challenges and new things to try. Thanks to the "unexpected cello" we adopted this summer, Bobo is now in orchestra. Not to fear, she is still in band (and jazz band). Apparently the change we made to her schedule triggered an unexpected enrollment in choir as well. How cool is that? She is attempting the trifecta this year!

Naji, my fourth grader, has enrolled in early morning orchestra. He's talked me into observing the class for the last two days. 35 fourth graders have committed themselves to learning music at 6:50 every morning. What a great way to start the day. I love seeing how they respond to the conductor and sit up straight. They are working on open strings and pizzacato right now. And they sound surprisingly good. Naji is still on a full-size viola, but the 15-inch viola I bought him is a little too large, so the school is lending him a 14-inch viola. He is so over-the-moon about being old enough to study music that he is insisting that he also be allowed to take early morning choir. Starting next week, he will go straight from orchestra to choir, thereby having two classes under his belt before the school day even starts.

JoJo has been accepted into the music program at Dixie State College. He is majoring in clarinet, but he will be playing tenor sax in the jazz band, alto sax in the pep band, and flute in the flute choir. He is also taking sight singing and class piano.

I have to say I love to hear my kids practice -- and there has been alot of that going on these last couple of weeks, but hearing them practice the piano -- now that is heaven here on earth.

And last but not least, the old lady band finally came out of their month long hiatus and had a practice in Leeds last night. Yeah, we've still got it -- just like riding a bike.

This morning I noticed a tagline on one of the blogs I read. It says "Music self-played is happiness self-made." I concur.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Choosing between what is right and what is easy

The old lady band had another great band practice last night. We keep drifting towards harder and harder music. We are also challenging ourselves to work on memorization. I know it is good for the brain, but doesn't it seem like it comes so much easier to other people? MIII has a bazillion songs memorized. It is like he can play whatever he wants whenever he wants -- he is never slowed down by looking for the tabs or music or lyrics.
I on the other hand resort to mnemonic devices and association and what not to get things to stick. Of course I'm old enough some days I'd forget my name if it wasn't so foreign to my soul.

Jenna brought up a good point last night that I spent the night thinking about -- when I wasn't dreaming about BOBO who is at a "smart" camp. I had a nightmare that she wouldn't go to sleep. If that is my nightmare, then I truly do have ukulele size problems. Anyway, Jenna says she knows a woman with a beautiful voice and substantial range who is to afraid to sing to anyone. She wonders why that is and why that woman doesn't work to develop some courage to accompany her God given gift of voice.

I answered Jenna wrongly. We were both looking at the woman and wondering why she wouldn't take the talent God gave her and use it. But that kind of thinking misses the mark. I have an incredibly limited range and nothing remarkable in my voice and yet I am forever searching for ways and means through which I can play and sing. Yes (for those of you who read Pride and Prejudice -- I AM afraid I will turn into Mary.) But the core question for both my behavior and the behavior of the woman who will not sing is --

What do you value?

What do you treasure? Is it something that comes easily to you or something you work very hard at? I hate to say that is why we have trials, but there you have it. Those gifts that are just given to us -- we take for granted or "esteemeth them not." I like the poem that reader Ver shared with me. So I will share it here.

Be still, sad heart, and cease repining;
Behind the clouds is the sun still shining;
Thy fate is the common fate of all,
Into each life some rain must fall,

Some days must be dark and dreary.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Is it really camping if you can't hear the birds?

I go to girls camp in under three days, and although I love to camp -- I feel somewhat (I guess trepidatious isn't a word, but if it was it would go here). I have been so spoiled over the last few years. I can practice whenever I want for as long as I want despite what work lies in wait -- waiting for me to get it done. I don't think I will be so lucky at girls camp. Plus, I am very used to hours and hours of quiet. Again, I don't think I will be so lucky at girls camp.

Being around others is an exhausting activity for me. I can only truly be "on" for an hour or so at a time. But I am girding up my loins and preparing for three days of noise and companionship and being hap-hap-happy.

Music is not going to be totally out of the question. I am helping the girls with not only their "singing tree song" (see earlier post) but also a musical fireside in which combos of girls will intersperse music between the object lessons.

We've had roughly three practices, but we should be good enough for the mountains. (Maybe we can sneak in another practice when we are up there.) I know I've talked about the arrangement for I am a Child of God for beginning instruments -- here is some audio from our last practice with actual beginning instrumentalists.

Bobo and I are going to sing a duet of Sweet Hour of Prayer in Dakota. Sometimes making a video is a good way to practice. Sorry, in the end I had to either sync up the vocals or sync up the instruments. The next time I try a three-way, I will definitely use fewer instrument. Hopefully, instruments and voices will all be together when we play it live in the mountains.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Lights under a Bushel

ItI'm pretty sure I started playing the piano at age 5. My mom, my first piano teacher wouldn't start teaching kids until they were 6 and had learned to read. Luckily I had several older sisters who were willing to get me started. They say that most people have no memories before the age of five. That's me. No precognition before five. So and therefore I don't recall a time that I didn't play piano.

My peer group would use the word "talented" to describe me. But me, being me, and knowing how much time and trouble and work it took me to learn and continue learning the piano, I would never call myself talented. So while other girls recognized their God given gifts, I would secretly wonder what mine were.

For reasons I don't want to get into here on my blog, there was a period in my life where I wasn't able to play either the piano or the organ. Surprisingly, I didn't cease to exist as a person. In fact I grew. I grew to be a fair mother, a decent teacher, and something of a technopath.

In retrospect, I no longer chide myself for hiding my light under a bushel. In fact, if my passion for music had not been put on the backburner -- my other talents would have suffocated under its weight.

In times of trouble, when I find myself discouraged that I am not able to do more -- or that I am not the person I hoped I'd be, I turn to John Milton whose dream of being a cleric were dashed by the onset of blindness. How could God allow him to loose his sight when all he ever wanted to do was serve? But once that gift was gone, John Milton the poet was free to develop more. My favorite poem of his is below.

On His Blindness

When I consider how my light is spent
Ere half my days in this dark world and wide,
And that one talent which is death to hide
Lodg'd with me useless, though my soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker, and present
My true account, lest he returning chide,
"Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?"
I fondly ask. But Patience, to prevent
That murmur, soon replies: "God doth not need
Either man's work or his own gifts: who best
Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. His state
Is kingly; thousands at his bidding speed
And post o'er land and ocean without rest:
They also serve who only stand and wait.

On the music front, I am working with the Young Women to arrange songs for instruments anyone can play. Here is our rendition of "I Am a Child of God" for melodica, recorder, and dulcimer (We are practicing so we can play it at girls camp).

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Blow Up Your TV

Yeah! Here is my video response to Macey. This is how I raised my kids. I blew up the TV, Moved to the Country, Had a lot of children and raised them on Pizza -- I mean peaches. And Ben totally scammed me out of a slice. He was supposed to appear on camera, but something about a "tree in the way" kept him out of the shot. Apparently, he can't duck.

No matter. It was still a wonderful birthday, and I am still keeping all my kids. (At least all those who haven't flown the coop yet.)

Happy Birthday!

Generally, I think bloggers celebrate the birth of their blog. But today I am celebrating the birth of the blogger. I got a call from Sam in Texas -- he'll be spending time on a beach on the Gulf of Mexico soon. I got a call from Joe in Paris (He was talking about the great French food he'd had for dinner. We had just finished up with lunch.) And I got this wonderful video from Mason in Mexico. The green ukulele is the gift he sent me. I got it this morning, and it has a terrific tone :)

Mason's idea of appropriate holiday behavior is to make his mother cry. And I do love it when he sings this song. We (the kids and I) are hoping to make a response video that I will hopefully get posted today, but I am posting this now -- rather than waiting for the response video, because I may have "bitten off more than I can chew" with this latest idea I have.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Happy Independence Day

Happy Independence Day everyone! Sadly enough, I am celebrating the independence of my children today. 3/7 are gone. Mason is in Mexico. Sam is in San Antonio. And Joe is Jumping a Jet to Europe. It doesn't upset me to have them gone on the 4th of July. What does make me sad is that the 4th is so close to the 10th. Apparently they will also be missing my birthday.

Not to fear, however, Macey has sent me a video for my birthday and I will be posting it -- if the other two send me video songs for my birthday, I will post them as well (hint, hint).

What better way to celebrate my missing children then by singing the missing verses to Woodie Guthrie's classic "This Land is Your Land"?

Happy Fourth of July Everybody!

(P.S. stay tuned to the end of the video for Bobo's animated candy explosion)

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Music in the News

I was excited to see in the news last week that the Mormon Tabernacle Choir pulled off a flash mob activity. I love the concept of surprising people with good things. Life gives us way too many unhappy surprises, even without the influence of other people. The Tabernacle Choir is currently touring the Eastern seaboard. I missed my chance to see them this year (due to lack of liquidity). But how cool would that have been to be a tourist at Colonial Williamsburg when 300 members of your co-audience break out into song?

I hope a more polished video of this comes out. Part of the fun of watching a flash mob event is to see the reactions of the non-participants. For those of you not familiar with the flash mob phenomena I am including a post of one of my favorite flash mob videos below.

In other news, reader Ver shared with me a story of some singing Babushkas from Russia. Talk about your old lady band. The members in this group are in their 70's and 80's. It is nice to know that through all their hardships they have turned to music to lighten their load.

NPR's article on the singing Babushkas can be found here.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Hot, Hot, Hot

St. George is HOT, HOT, HOT. So hot we held our last practice in Leeds which is cool, cool, cool -- and not just because of the temperature. I wish I had taken some pictures of the Old CCC Camp or the goats and the chickens. But I did get a couple videos of our practice.

A really easy song to teach beginning instrumentalists is America's "Horse With No Name." Like Jambalaya, it only has two chords. Unlike Jambalaya, however, the chords are incredibly easy on a variety of instruments. I've taught it to a lot of kids, mostly because it is an easy chord progression and lends it self well as a song where kids can focus on strumming over notes. But in the end, it is also a song I like to sing.

For those of you interested in trying it yourself, here are the tabs for ukulele and guitar. And if you scroll down a little bit further you can hear the Phretted Phillies' rendition. P.S. look how cute Jenna's pony tail looks all sketchy like.

Horse With No Name

We also worked on another one of my favorites "Spirit in the Sky". I get to play bass on that one which makes me look like I can play a bunch of different instruments, but most of the time I say, "Jenna, show me which notes to play." One thing about the bass, it makes you feel "cool" just playing it. I'm hoping to get a recording of Becky playing bass on "Last Kiss" (It has a much more difficult bass line)

I was going to leave with some cool jazz from Joe and Cameron -- just to keep us, you know cool -- but then I remembered it is Father's Day. I imagine Macey misses Father's Day here 'cause he won't get a Father's Day Primary gift from Naji. Naji totally gave his candy bar gift to Joe. I asked Naji if Joe was his new "Daddy." He said, "Yes, but only 'cause Sam is vegan and doesn't eat [milk] chocolate." takes a lot of sacrifice to be a dad, Sam.

In honor of Father's Day, I leave you with Macey singing a cover of Bad Religion's "Sorrow."

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Good Morning Friday -- I hope you are good and awake!

The discussion on the anti-folk movement continues -- because the anti-folk movement is really about taking music back and embracing what the Smithsonian refers to as "folklife". Somewhere deep inside all of us lies our cultural memories and the sounds that touch our hearts.

I am thinking about you, NORWEGIA! Yes I know I've never been. But people I know have and are and were. There's a part of my heritagible soul that sours whenever I hear my favorite Norwegian Band -- So this one goes out to Barbara who has part of herself in Norway as well.

And since we're in Europe, lets swing by France for some good ol' French pop. After you are done checking out the great instrumentation, try to clap along. Me and the kids spent hours (I mean days) doing this -- which may explain why Judea is hobbling around on one lung.

Back to anti-folk, here is another one of my favorites -- sung by Macey

That was filmed at his "Not Farewell" house show -- but for those of you who want to see some good ol' Utah culture, here's another favorite :)

One of the nice things about this blog is that it gives me a reason to post videos on YouTube and I've created a pretty substantial playlist by now. It is comforting to me as I work and study to listen to my family and friend sing the soundtrack of our lives.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

You are Braver and Stronger - The Anti-Folk Movement

Mainstream. It is a word I have been hearing a lot of lately. According to the media -- the tempered acceptance of Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman as presidential candidates indicates that "mormonism" is now mainstream. The adoption of the ukulele into Top 40 hits like Train's "Soul Sister" indicates that the ukulele is now mainstream. And yet on both accounts, I bristle to the term "mainstream" -- even though in this case I think "mainstream" is intended to denote "acceptance".

Acceptance. I suppose that's a good place to be, but I would still like to believe that I do what I do because it is what I want to do and not because it is acceptable in the eyes of the world. I believe whole-heartedly in freedom of expression. Music, for me, springs forth as a way to express my spirituality. Religion and music, for me, are intertwined. This grass-roots movement of freedom of expression is what fuels anti-folk.

Anti-folk. This is the type of music that circumvents convention and allows for all types of voices and expression and instrumentation as long as it is down to earth and "real". (Isn't "real" the concept that art chases round the world and through the centuries?) As I have been spending some time tabbing out some anti-folk songs, I thought I would share some tabs and videos that fall into that genre.

First off is a song by Madeleine Ava. The Ol' lady band (the Fretted Phillies) are working on this one.

Cheer Up Buttercup

Madeline Ava also wrote this little song we made a video for back when I worked in primary education :)

Another anti-folk song we made with in the Media Literacy Lab is Kimya Dawson's Tree Hugger.

As you can see, the anti-folk movement asserts that everyone can sing and make music. And I like that. I like when social norms don't hold us back from doing and making and creating and finding our own joie-de-vie!

I'm going to leave you with an anti-folk remake of an old folk standard (We'll talk more about melodicas in the blogs to come).

Monday, May 30, 2011

Making the Most of the Three Day Weekend

Ok. I did Sam's grosso dishes. The ones he was supposed to do before he left for Montana. But -- and here's the big butt -- Bobo was supposed to help me make a music video since I did the dishes. MIII has been asking for more Bobo footage -- and I thought we'd get a cute little video together before he emailed home -- cause that's when he gets the chance to check out the ol' blog page.

But no. Just as I predicted, because Bobo was so joyous and helpful yesterday, there was nothing left but blah for today. So, because I am an adult -- and I have too much going on in my brain to ever get "bored",  I decided to try my hand at another song.

I did cheat a little, cause I went through my (not-emo) poem book and chose one of my poems that I like and that nobody else seems too. This little "never wins an award poem" is apparently more meaningful to me than to readers.

I keep trying to capture the time I had three little babies who were trying to tell me we were about to drive through a rainbow, and before I could finish telling them the science behind why we will never be able to drive through a rainbow, we drove through the rainbow. And, cool, it was all sparkly and stuff. (Oh, yes. A couple of my kids have been know-it-alls since they were toddlers. Luckily I don't need to be eaten by pandas before I believe them.)

I really had to rework the poem before it fit as a lyric. The original poem is as follows.

The Way a Rainbow Moves

                        The way a rainbow moves
                        From place to place,
                        More logic than magic
                        Light refracts into space.

                        Three kids in a car
                        Believe we can drive right through
                        A rainbow of light fragile, sparkling, and new.
                        A belief so innocent and pure that magic overcomes logic,

                        And we do.

Here is the video of the song. They lyrics and chords follow.


Wednesday, May 25, 2011

JoJo Graduates!

Joseph (aka Jack) graduated high school tonight. He wore his pins and medals and an eagle feather. And he earned everything he wore.

He spent three wonderful years at Pine View High School wowing us with both his scientific and musical creations. (I now have a working catapult in my backyard -- thank you physics)

I think he surprised himself. This was not an easy road for him to travel.

And it was with a little sadness that we listened to the PVHS Band play "Pomp and Circumstance" without him. Guess what -- the band played on!

And now his steady second chair will finally get the chance to become first chair.

And we got one more chance to hear Joseph perform at a high school event.

As a side note, Reader MIII has indicated that he has already seen "bunches" of Joe and he would like to see more BoBo. I aim to please -- so here is a parting shot (or two)

Monday, May 23, 2011

What were you doing in the 7th Grade?

What were you doing in the 7th Grade. I may have looked like this. But I am more likely thinking "This is me in 9th Grade Baby" -- which is a great Bare Naked Ladies song (btw).

I could play the piano. Obviously, I could play the piano. I'm pretty sure I was playing the organ in church (under my mother's watchful -- very birdlike eye). But could I get up in front of the whole student body and sing -- just me and my little ukulele? I don't recall being that brave.

Bobo, on the other hand, is brave. She paints a smile on her face and nobody would ever think that she had worries or has nerves or doubts or lack of support. I sure hope she was singing this song to me -- cause I'd like to be her favorite -- her favorite mom!

Love you Bobo!

How to Write a Ukulele Tune

Yesterday, I posted a song I wrote. I've actually written dozens of songs -- or a dozen songs. But those were just lyrics. Desert Willow was the first lyric I put a tune to (that's not strictly true either) So it's the first song I've put a tune to that I share with others. But, assuredly, it is my first ukulele tune.

What differentiates a ukulele tune from a song that can be played on guitar or banjo or mandolin? Ukulele Tunes include the word "ukulele". Yep. That's the kind of people we ukulele-ists are. We like to sing the word "ukulele".

Sure, I've written serious songs. Take for example the songs Joe sang at his Native Graduate Dinner. I've included the pdf's of these songs for your reading pleasure.

Rocky Point3

Grandpa's Words

While both of these songs can be played on the ukulele. Neither, in fact is a ukulele song. A ukulele song incorporates the word "ukulele" into its lyrics, as demostrated by these two videos.

Well I've got to run now and see my own little doe-eyed baby sing and play her ukulele at the Fossil Ridge Intermediate School Talent Show. Hopefully, they'll be more video to come :) But just to get us in the mood, here is the song she'll be covering.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Putting my money where my mouth is

I didn't realize that I had a question from Reader Ver. She asked if I had any original songs. For Band Members reading this -- we could add this original song into our repertoire (if you want to). BoBo likes to sing it slower. As written it has a melodica part which is fun. I am including the PDF and a video for your consideration.

Desert Willow

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Pop Culture - a stepping stone for expression

One of the interesting things I studied in college was the idea of "cultural memory". Each culture has an oral tradition that is passed on through the generations and impacts the context in which the following generations perceive events. For example, the Kennedy Assassination happened before I was old enough to be cognizant -- and yet I feel I partake of not only the loss of innocence that day, but the distrust of hope and prosperity.

Once upon a time, the oral tradition was geographically specific. It moved from person to person and from village to village with the population deciding what would be remembered and what would be shared -- but that was before technology made images and stories accessible to the world. Stories became mass media -- but the flow was controlled by distributors. Newspaper editors and motion picture standards boards decided what warranted remembrance and what deserved audience.

The internet, however, has placed distribution back in the hands of the populace. Once again any story can be shared. The only thing that remains the same is that these stories and events are building blocks -- shared cultural events -- that we as human beings use to cement relationships and expand upon in our own shared expression.

For those of you who haven't viewed Rebecca Black's YouTube video, I am providing a link here so you can fully appreciate the Pine View High School's performance of said piece. It also makes reference to a parody by Jimmy Fallon that can be found here.

On an interesting note, you can watch JoJo's face turn red as he plays this as he plays his clarinet. Apparently he usually plays his part on his Saxophone, but since he only had his clarinet on him, he had to transpose on the fly.

He was awarded Pine View's Instrumental Music Outstanding Student Award that day. He and his friend Cameron were also awarded the Louis Armstrong and John Phillip Sousa Awards -- meaning their names will be engraved on plaques that hang in the band room. It has been an awesome year for them. Cameron's grandmother remarked to me how lucky they are to have a band director who is so "bouncy" and lets the band also be "bouncy" -- but I am appreciative of even more than that. They have a band director who allows them opportunity. Thursday night's concert featured music arranged by and directed by students.

I know our family was excited to see JoJo's arrangement of The Troubadour come to fruition -- not just because we are so proud of him, but because we are so glad we won't have to listen to the hours and hours of his playing that song, playing along with that song, transcribing that song -- and then writing the arrangement.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Concert Season is Winding to a Close

I have two concerts left until the end of the school year (which is in a week). Joseph (aka Jack) has a band concert tomorrow -- which will be today in an hour. And Bobo (aka Tashiya) has a talent show on Monday. She will be singing a song and playing her ukulele -- I look forward to getting footage of that. (For those of you in the band -- No. She will NOT be wearing her steampunk goggles.)

End of year concerts are sad. I feel for the teachers. They've brought these kids soooo far. And then it's time to say goodbye and start all over again. The Pineview Orchestra has been outstanding this year. They are going on to compete at the State Level. (They play Salem, UT this Friday). I worry -- what will happen next year when all of the star seniors are gone. But then I remind myself it is time to let someone else shine.

Bobo loved the orchestra concert. Her favorite song was the Ping Pong song. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to record all of it -- but here's a taste (It's with the Middle School and High School combined orchestra)

Jojo (excuse me, Jack) got to play a clarinet concerto in the extended Saint-Saens stuff. It's always nice to see your kids featured, no matter the silliness. Although, I think if he's going to wear a tux, he should go by Joseph. Jack, Just tell your teachers, "I'm Joseph in a tux."

And then the redeeming finale to Saint-Saens ode to the animal kingdom, Carnival of the Animals. I know I've posted it before, but Joseph in a Tux totally nailed the clarinet solo. It is so cool to track the improvement of a school orchestra. Note how confident and assertive the violinists are. Majestic.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Holding Hands

When I was in elementary school, I had a very best friend. We had two things in common. Number one, we lived right next to each other; and number two, we both liked horses. Other than that we were fairly different. I found joy in practicing the piano and she found joy in running. She was fast -- she was the fastest kid at school. In a foot race, she could even beat the boys.

We walked home from school together, but a lot of the time she wanted to run. I told her I couldn't run. Even if I did run, I ran slow. One day she told me, take my hand and we'll run home together. I never ran so fast in all my life. It was as if she transferred all her powers to me through her hand.

Sometimes I think music is like that. I preach a lot that music is a skill, not a talent -- that anyone can develop a level of proficiency, if they want to. But that's not exactly the truth. That belief has two addendums. First, some people are blessed with a propensity. Some people have beautiful voices and some people have interesting voices while other people have mousey brown voices. Second, is the want clause. Not every one wants to develop a musical skill -- others are blessed with a burning desire.

The burning desire and the gifted propensity don't always coincide, but it can be magical when they do. For my part I am just grateful that I have friends who will grab my hand and pull me along at lightening speed.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Southwest Fretted Phillies

Yes, that's right. In my head I accidentally called the Southwest Fretted Philharmonic, the "Fretted Phillies" and I'm pretty sure it's because of this song.

Yeah, ok, Hurricane was fun. The audience was great and they even acted like they liked us :)

The only one who choked was me, so it's a good thing Becky has a cool head -- she pulled us through.

Jenna was in rare voice -- a total rock star.

Bobo and Tessa, our angelic sopranos, really came through for us. Especially on our Hymnal selections.

Bobo even threw in kazoo solo for us. Yep we totally psyched the listeners. They thought they were going to get some good ol' Woody Gutherie (not that there's anything wrong with that.)

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Jitters + Bug = jitterbug?

Let's hope my jitters (plus whatever kind of head cold I've got going) will come out all jitterbuggy cause the jitterbug equals a real good time for the older generation. Tomorrow (Creator Willing) the Southwest Fretted Philharmonic will make its folk debut at an old folks home in the down and folky town of Hurricane, Utah.

Bobo made us a flyer so we can be a cool as the Black Eyed Susan
(not that this is a competition). 

Here's our 45 minute set

Count Your Blessings
Horsey, Horsey
Swing Low, Sweet Chariot
16 Tons
Harvest Moon
When the World's on Fire
Didn't Leave Nobody but the Baby
Prickly Thorn, but Sweetly Worn
Nearer, My God, to Thee
Ring of Fire

Hey! It looks real good on paper :)

Monday, May 9, 2011

The Mother's Day Roller Coaster

What did you get for Mother's Day? I got Portal 2 (for the Playstation 3)  -- well not really, but kinda.

The unseasonal rain in Southern Utah reeked havoc on my yard -- because my yard is rocks. Apparently when the wind blows and and the autumn leaves fall, they can create a layer of fodder below the rocks and above the weed blocker tarp. My front yard had grown unsightly due to milk weed and dandylions, but it was nothing compared to the field of foxtails that sprung up in the back yard. I couldn't even see the rocks for the vegetation. It looked like a Kansas wheat field. After church one day, my youngest announced that my backyard was not wheat -- it was what his teacher referred to as "tares".

But how to motivate my boys to help weed something that could have been mowed if not for the landscaping rocks?

This is where music comes in. After watching the following video, I asked my boys why they didn't want the game "Portal 2'

They assured me they did. So a deal was struck. If we got the weeds taken care of, Judea would buy me Portal 2 for Mother's Day. So five Saturday morning hours and two trash bins and 10 garbage bags later, Judea sprung for Portal 2 and Pizza (bonus). Of course late that night Ben beat Portal 2.

Still it has hours of coop fun to offer -- and once the Playstation Network is back on line, the kids may be able to play online.

Of course working your kids to death and then letting them stay up all night to conquer a video game is not a good recipe for a happy and harmonious Mother's Day. But after a tense barbque'd lunch by Joe, everyone hunkered down for angry naps, and we woke to a call from Macy and a rescued Mother's Day.

I also had the best ol' lady band practice ever on Mother's Day. We went through all of the songs we intend to play at our first gig (this Thursday). It is great to see how far we have come and how many songs we actually have under our belt.

I hope everyone had a great Mother's Day!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Too Cool, or not Too Cool -- That is the Question.

Last night was the dinner celebrating the Washington County School District's Native American graduates. Of the 32 seniors that began the year, 20 completed the requirements necessary for graduation. That's a 2/3rds success rate. I guess it is higher than it has been before, I just can't help but think in this day and age it should be 100%. The seniors in attendance were amazing. It is always cool to see that much raw potential.

Our family was asked to provide the entertainment. It was an exciting opportunity for us as it was our first chance to sing powwow songs around a drum since -- well since our prior lives. We sang as Naji danced. We sang as Judea and Bobo danced. You will have to take my word for it as "Ben" is too "cool" to shoot video from a huge ol' iPad.

I am not cool, however, and so I was able to video tape Sam and Joe and Cameron singing Rocky Point.

Apparently, I am not the only one not concerned with what others think of me. Here are a couple of BoBo's self-portraits (that she took during the nicely catered event).

On the plus side, Joseph gave me a rose and told the audience how grateful he is for his mother. I guess motherhood has its perks. Happy Mother's Day everyone!